Oh, suuuuuuuuuuure. Mere days after I say I'm not doing paranormal romance anymore, I pick up a book that ends up being just that - and I like it. I just can't win, can I?
In my defense, I didn't see The Body Finder advertised as a paranormal romance - I wasn't looking to set myself up for disappointment or anything. Okay, now that I look at the cover I see the blurb says "You'll be drawn in by the love story," but I wasn't looking at the blurb! I thought this was a more straightforward paranormal mystery, but ends up being a delightful mix of paranormal, mystery and romance.
Ever since she was a little girl, Violet Ambrose has had the ability to sense the bodies of murder victims. Usually it's just dead squirrels and rats - there's a sound or scent or taste that draws her to the body, and a matching one attached to whoever or whatever killed it.
Now a junior in high school, Violet is mildly bothered by her "talent," but is able to mostly ignore it - until a day out at the lake, when an oily sheen on the water catches her attention. When she goes to investigate, she's horrified to find the body of a dead girl.
Soon more girls start disappearing, and the community begins to panic. Violet knows that she's the only one who might be able to track down the killer, hoping to find him in a public place where the echoes of the dead girls are clinging to him.
Her best friend Jay, suddenly hot after a summer growth spurt, is fiercely protective of Violet and thinks her plan is a terrible idea - but knowing she's determined, he promises to stick by her to help keep her safe. Violet chafes under his watchful eye, as she's determined to not ruin their friendship by mixing it up with romance. But Jay sure isn't making that vow easy. Even as she's falling harder and harder for Jay, Violet knows she's getting closer and closer to finding the killer. But the question is, will she be able to find him before he finds her?
This book immediately throws you into the deep end of creepy. The prologue shows Violet finding her first human body - at the tender age of 8! And then just two chapters later, we get a glimpse at the REAL creepy strength of the book - glimpses into the killer's mind. He shows up periodically throughout the book, showing us what's happening on the other side of the coin. I always got jumpy during his short chapters - because while it's creepy to follow Violet as she's tracking an imprint, it's even creepier to be following the killer as he's tracking his next victim. So Derting gets HUGE points there, and I hope she keeps writing mystery thrillers!!!
Other great point: love, love, LOVE that Violet has a group of girlfriends which makes this book easily pass the Bechdel Test. We actually see the girls out having a good time, shopping for shoes and then later on at the Homecoming dance. Sometimes we're told that girls are friends, but we never see them actually doing anything together. Here there was no problem. So more bonus points!
For once, I didn't mind the romance. Jay isn't a creepy stalker boyfriend. Sometimes he's comes across as a little possessive, but usually Violet shoots back at him, standing up for herself. Violet is rarely the damsel in distress for long - and sometimes Jay is the dude in distress. All in all, very equitable.
My only minor quibble, and this probably comes from my background as a science fiction rather than a fantasy fan, is I either wanted an explanation for why Violet could find bodies or I wanted it completely handwaved as a mystery. There's a brief mention or two of her grandmother having a similar ability - but that's it. I'd rather have had a full explanation, or just ask us to go with it, no questions asked.
Okay, I guess there are actually two minor quibbles - it seemed weird that Violet considered animals killed as prey for other animals "murder." She makes it clear that she can only feel the echoes of people or animals that have been murdered - she can't find someone that died of natural causes. But the food chain is murder? That felt a little off. I mentioned this to my husband, who suggested that saying Violet could sense those who'd died violently would have been a better description, but it's intimated later that Violet can tell if a doctor or nurse has essentially committed euthanasia by administering too much pain medication or sedatives. So there doesn't seem to be an easy way to define exactly what bodies Violet senses, but "murder" doesn't feel like the right term to me.
But seriously - that's it. My only nitpicks. I really enjoyed this one - so much so that I considered staying on the train past my stop since I reached home EXACTLY when Violet had found the killer. I was really hungry so I didn't do that, but I practically ran home (yes, in the oppressive NYC humidity we're suffering right now), grabbed a snack, then sat on the couch to read the last bit. Definitely a "couldn't put it down" book!