Fans of the Charlaine Harris “Harper Connelly” books may recognize the general plotline of this series: a young woman who can sense the dead, and works with law enforcement to find out where the bodies are. There are differences though, that make the Derting series worth reading.
In Harris’s books, Harper Connelly, now an adult, got her ability from being struck by lightening when she was younger. Violet Ambrose, however – the heroine of Derting’s series, inherited her ability from her grandma, and is still just 16. Moreover, Violet cannot only sense “echoes” from the dead bodies, but can detect corresponding echoes from the killers. Because of this, there are some great suspenseful moments in the Derting books. The author also injects plenty of high school and coming-of-age elements into her series, which makes them much lighter than the Harris books.
Violet senses animals that were killed (as prey) as well as people. Somehow the dead call out to Violet by emitting an energy – “a sensory echo” that acts like a beacon so she can find them. The echo can be a smell or burst of color or taste or sound. The echo persists until she finds the source and provides or arranges for a proper burial.
She is aided in her efforts by Jay Heaton, who has been her best friend since they were six. Jay is the only friend who is aware of her abilities, but her family is also. Her uncle, the Chief of Police, knows that when Violet calls him, he needs to get there right away. Additionally, through his sense of humor he provides her with much-appreciated perspective:
“[Uncle Stephen hugged Violet after she found a body.] When he finally released her so she could breathe again, he slipped an arm loosely, but protectively, around her shoulders. ‘Geez, Vi, sucks to be you sometimes, doesn’t it?’”
Evaluation: I tore through this book like a package of M&M’s. It is both a fun YA book and a suspenseful mystery story, all in one package.
Published by Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, 2010