“This superb debut novel concerns two very different individuals trying to discover the fate of a high school cheerleader who disappeared from a small California town. Even the people in supporting roles are extremely well developed, especially the cemetery caretaker and his daughter, both of whom play crucial roles in Murray's maturation. Readers will find themselves rooting for these characters.” Publisher's Weekly, Starred Review
“By delving into the adults' problems as they meld with the mystery of Nikki's disappearance, Price has given the book an adult veneer. Readers will like the edginess and be intrigued by the extrasensory elements as well as the darker turns the mystery takes. This is something different.” Booklist
“There is a Crutcher-like sensibility in the balanced but unambiguous portrayals of adultswhile some are brutal, negligent, and blameworthy, others show nothing but compassion and understanding for the kids that these former monsters have messed up. Amidst the damage, then, there is love and courage in this page-turning mystery with a supernatural twist.” The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
“What readers think they know is often challenged, and no neat resolution exists. Though the story ends in an unusual and slightly awkward fashion, the realistic complexities explored are ripe for discussion.” Kirkus Reviews
“Twists and turns in this multi-perspective mystery keep readers guessing, and the denouement is genuinely surprising.” School Library Journal (FOCUS)
“This will be an easy sell to mystery readers, and will have lots of appeal to those familiar with that genre only through television or movies.” School Library Journal
This superb debut novel concerns two very different individuals trying to discover the fate of a high school cheerleader who disappeared from a small California town. When Nikki vanishes without a trace, her disappearance devastates the community. In brief, compulsively readable chapters, the author shifts the perspective among various interested parties. Murray, a loner in high school who quietly converses with the spirits of dead children and adolescents in the local cemetery, hears a new voice pleading for help, and wonders whether it could be Nikki. Deputy sheriff Gates thinks that a troubled 22-year-old who has come through social services may know more than anyone suspects. Throughout this suspenseful book, Murray and Gates work separately to discover Nikki's fate, confronting some of their own demons in the process. As the author traces their encounters with a wide variety of people, each of whom brings them a little closer to discovering the girl's fate, he also demonstrates how each exchange alters not only Murray and Gates but those with whom they are in contact. Even the people in supporting roles are extremely well developed, especially the cemetery caretaker and his daughter, both of whom play crucial roles in Murray's maturation. Readers will find themselves rooting for these characters. The unexpected twist at the end may well take readers aback, but will leave them with the impression that the community will recover-and serves as a reminder that appearances can be deceiving. Ages 12-up. (May) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Murray speaks to the deadand they speak to him. When Pearl finds him talking to gravestones in her dad's cemetery she thinks he's pretty weird. But then again, everyone finds Murray weird. The son of the town hooker, he has grown accustomed to being an outsider and finds it difficult to let Pearl in. When an investigation into a missing teen's disappearance leads the police to the graveyard, it is Murray and Pearl who help bring it to closure. Written in alternating chapters with different viewpoints, in this book we meet a cop gone bad, a schizophrenic boy who hears voices, the caretaker at the cemetery, a cop determined to find the missing girl, and Murray and Pearl themselves. A page-turning mystery with plenty of likely characters to point to as the killer. 2006, Roaring Brook, Ages 14 up.
Joan Kindig, Ph.D.
Murray, a shy high schooler with a drug-addict mom and no friends to speak of, spends his free time in the local cemetery "talking" with the dead-quite literally, he speaks and they answer. He is kind of a dead-whisperer. When Murray hears a new voice, he is convinced that it is a cheerleader from his high school who disappeared a few months ago. Pearl, the cemetery caretaker's daughter, is forging a friendship with Murray and encouraging him to solve the mystery of the girl's disappearance. Several members of the local police force, a man with mental health problems, and Pearl's father are all given their say in events as well. The mystery plot unfolds ss la Spoon River Anthology, with each person getting a chapter to tell his or her point of view. It is a first novel and it shows. Dialogue is handled awkwardly; when two characters have an argument it jolts the reader right out of the book, thinking, "No one speaks that way." Although the premise is interesting, the writing is not sophisticated enough to handle the subject matter. The language would be suitable for young middle schoolers if only it was not talking about rape, drug addiction, alcoholism, and murder. The mystery did keep this reviewer wondering until the end, but whether teens will stick with it or will be bored is another story. VOYA CODES: 2Q 2P J (Better editing or work by the author might have warranted a 3Q; For the YA with a special interest in the subject; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9). 2006, A Deborah Brodie Book/Roaring Brook, 240p., Ages 12 to 15.
Gr 8 Up-Teenage loner Murray Kiefer has found comfort and companionship by "visiting with" the dead in his local cemetery. Schoolmate Pearl is more outgoing and confident; she lives with her widowed father, the caretaker of the cemetery. A third teen, cheerleader Nikki Parker, has disappeared, and everyone speculates about whether she'll be found alive. Price weaves the stories of these characters-and those of a drunken cop, a trusting and loyal father, and a jaded but smart detective-into a murder mystery with compelling psychological and spiritual overtones. Neither Pearl nor Murray is interested in befriending the other but eventually a relationship develops. How long it will take the good cop to catch up with the bad one-and just how "bad" the latter might be-keeps the tension high. The cemetery setting and Murray's sensitivity to the dead aren't ghoulish, nor are these details played for laughs. At the same time, the teen's social awkwardness elicits sympathy in readers. He is simply who he is and is able to know just a little something about which others seem less aware, while being in the dark about things that his peers take for granted. Pearl is strong and eventually admirable as she gains respect for Murray. The degradation of the drunken cop adds a gritty edge to a story where most (but not all) of the violence takes place offstage. This will be an easy sell to mystery readers, and will have lots of appeal to those familiar with that genre only through television or movies.-Francisca Goldsmith, Berkeley Public Library, CA Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
A spectral mystery starts strong but ends differently. High-schooler Murray talks to dead people-and they talk back. Usually Murray finds speaking with the dead restful, a vast improvement over spending time with his prostitute mother. Lately, though, there's been a restless spirit disturbing the cemetery's peace, and Murray worries that it may be connected to a schoolmate who went missing a while back. Along with Pearl, the possessive daughter of the cemetery groundskeeper, Murray investigates the unhappy haunt. Intriguing secondary characters have their own puzzles to solve, usually compelling, though occasionally their stories dissolve in to educational lectures about drugs and mental health. The different voices add to the puzzle, as each follows his own path to solving the crime. What readers think they know is often challenged, and no neat resolution exists. Though the story ends in an unusual and slightly awkward fashion, the realistic complexities explored are ripe for discussion. (Fiction. 12-14)