Author: Kimberley Derting
Release date: 16th March 2010 US
Genre: Paranormal Mystery / Teen Romance / Speculative
Target audience: 12+
Summary from Amazon:
Violet Ambrose is grappling with two major issues: Jay Heaton and her morbid secret ability. While the sixteen-year-old is confused by her new feelings for her best friend since childhood, she is more disturbed by her "power" to sense dead bodies—or at least those that have been murdered. Since she was a little girl, she has felt the echoes the dead leave behind in the world . . . and the imprints that attach to their killers.
Violet has never considered her strange talent to be a gift; it mostly just led her to find dead birds her cat left for her. But now that a serial killer is terrorizing her small town, and the echoes of the local girls he's claimed haunt her daily, Violet realizes she might be the only person who can stop him.
Despite his fierce protectiveness over her, Jay reluctantly agrees to help Violet find the murderer—and Violet is unnerved by her hope that Jay's intentions are much more than friendly. But even as she's falling intensely in love, Violet is getting closer and closer to discovering a killer . . . and becoming his prey herself.
The Body Finder was one of my most anticipated books of this year. In debut novel terms it was my most anticipated. There is something so sinister about the blurb that on first sight this book shouldn't really appeal to me. Violet has a special ability to sense dead corpses. Each creature leaves a mark with its remains when its life ceases to be and Violet can sense that echo that's left behind. Sometimes she hears these imprints, sometimes she sees them, sometimes they can manifest as smells, vibrations or tastes that assalt her senses. Her gift has been carefully hidden away by her protective parents so that she lives a normal life despite having discovered a girl's body when she is just eight years old. Growing up Violet had one inseparable friend - Jay - who knew about this secret gift and helped her keep the truth hidden. Violet and Jay were two peas out of the same pod growing up and now that they are in their Junior year Violet wants nothing to change.
This book is characterised by a sense of foreboding that continually builds. The narrative is told in the third person and the main story is interspersed with chapters that follow the serial killer on his predatorial missions. The sinister intent and perverted thrills he delights in when snatching his victims made my skin crawl. This character is not good for my overactive imagination and is exactly the type of thing that makes me afraid to leave the house after dark. I am well known for saying "It isn't the dark that I'm afraid of. It is the scary axe-murderers that are lurking there". Yes, I am rather melodramatic but the whole point about fears is that they are irrational. Thus, the chapters that followed the actions of this warped individual left me feeling like my phobia demon was breathing on the back of my neck. One might also say that this just shows Kimberley Derting's magic with words when it comes to conveying the actions of a deranged psychopath or cold-hearted killer.
Characterisation is another huge strength in this book. Violet is going to prove to be a popular heroine with readers. She is stubborn, hugely likeable and most importantly has a huge amount of self-respect. She does not let herself be manipulated or ordered around by boys which is an issue in some contemporary paranormal romances. Jay also proves to be an enchanting character. There is a gentleness about him and an ease of just being which gives him this aura of comfort and familiarity. Violet's friendships are realistic and wholly positive although perhaps Jules, Chelsea and Claire are not so fully formed.
The single weakness that I found in this book is the fact that the reader could work out early on the big twist. I get the feeling that this was meant to happen but I would have preferred that there was more of a question still lingering before the climax over the stalker's identity. Either way it didn't detract from my enjoyment of the book. I kept my hand over the opposite page because I was so afraid of spoiling the ending for myself.
In an overall sense The Body Finder reminded me of the scariest book I have ever had the misfortune to read: The Collector by John Fowles. In relation to Violet's ability it brings to mind The Harper Connelly series by Charlaine Harris which I happen to love. The Body Finder really packed a punch. It was creepy and sinister and yet the trials and tribulations of teenage love gave it a really joyous feeling too. I loved it!