Author: Charlie Price
Release date: 5th August 2010 UK
Genre: YA Mystery
Target audience: 12+
UK Publisher: Random House Children's Books
Is Murray psychic? He talks to the dead and comforts them in their lonely graves, even as they provide solace for him-they are his best friends. When he hears a new voice in the cemetery, he's sure it's Nikki, the cheerleader who has been missing for months. But who will believe him? He's a loser. Can he even believe in himself? Along comes Pearl, daughter of the cemetery caretaker, who befriends Murray and tries to enter his world. Together they may prove the astonishing possibility that Nikki is closer than anyone thinks.
Previously titled Dead Connection, Hear the Dead Cry is a novel about several people who, quite unintentionally, help in the discovery of the truth regarding the disappearance of high-school cheerleader Nikki Parker.
The story begins with Murray Kiefer, a teenage outcast, who can hear dead people talk. He spends all his free time at a cemetery, listening to his dead friends - for he most certainly sees them as friends - talk about themselves, revealing to him their stories and even helping him in the end. Murray is happy when surrounded by the dead, as the living - especially his mother who brings home a new man every week and neglects her son massively - merely disappoint him and don't understand him. Then, there is Pearl, his first human friend and the daughter of the cemetery caretaker, whom he learns to trust eventually, but not without complications. When Murray first hears a new ghost's distressed cries for help, he and Pearl embark on a mission: to find what happened to the ghost and determine whether she truly is the missing Nikki Parker.
Murray and Pearl are not alone in their quest. The reader meets Detective Gates, a tormented cop, who wants to solve the case of the missing Nikki, but he has no clues. Then, he meets his only and sadly unreliable witness to the possible murder of Nikki Parker, a young recovering schizophrenic by the name of Mr Robert Compton. And then, there is the always drunk and aggressive Billup, a cop who often doesn't remember what he did the previous night and who happens to hate Murray for a particular reason. What could his role be in this mystery?
The novel introduces very interesting and well-rounded characters. Every one of them has a sad life story to tell, but these strangers have something in common: Nikki Parker. They just don't know it. The mystery and the suspense it entails build up very nicely and the ending is very surprising. Clues to the criminal's identity are given, but nothing is what it seems and the truth is quite shocking, in a good sense. The unpredictability of Nikki Parker's case truly was a delight. However, the story ends so very abruptly that I can say it does not even have a proper ending. That was another shock for me as a reader, but this time it was not a good shock. The criminal is discovered, but it is never revealed if he/she was arrested or charged with anything. The person simply requests for a lawyer and that is the end of the matter.
The policemen in the story reject clairvoyance entirely and although Murray knows exactly where the body of Nikki Parker is, his statement is ignored and the body is never recovered. I am glad the author brought up the issue of clairvoyance used for solving crimes. Clairvoyance is still very much frowned upon, but there have been cases when there was nothing else left but clairvoyance, so policemen allowed a psychic to join their forces. In this novel, clairvoyance is entirely ignored and although one must allow these policemen the benefit of doubt, it is still quite irresponsible to ignore a young man's statement that he knows where a body is. Clairvoyant or not, one does not ignore such a bold statement relating to a seemingly unsolvable case. But my complaint is not about clairvoyance being ignored in the novel. I like it that this issue was raised. My complaint is about the lack of an actual ending. The ending is not vague; it is just omitted, it seems.
Some parts of the novel that should be elaborated on are not explained much. Although the narrative is smooth and engaging, it is also dry and lacks some depth. For example, I would have liked to see Murray talk to the ghosts more often. He seems to be a clairvoyant and I would have liked to see this side of him better explored. The story is good, but it seems to be rushed, which results in a lack of depth and abrupt endings. I wouldn't mind if fifty or so more pages were added to the novel.
However, the story has a good plot and serves for an enjoyable read. I like the mystery, its suspenseful unravelling and the characters that are present in the novel. Especially the characters are very well constructed. I would not mind reading more from this author.
Becky says: Thanks for sharing your thoughts on Hear the Dead Cry Irena! And both our thanks go to Random House Children's Books for the review copy.