Erin Blake has one of those names. A name that, like Natalee Holloway or Elizabeth Smart, is inextricably linked to a grisly crime. As a toddler, Erin survived for three days alongside the corpse of her murdered mother, and the case—which remains unsolved—fascinated a nation. Her father's identity unknown, Erin was taken in by her mother's best friend and has become a relatively normal teen in spite of the looming questions about her past.
Fourteen years later, Erin is once again at the center of a brutal homicide when she finds the body of her biology teacher. When questioned by the police, Erin tells almost the whole truth, but never voices her suspicions that her mother's killer has struck again in order to protect the casework she's secretly doing on her own.
Inspired by her uncle, an FBI agent, Erin has ramped up her forensic hobby into a full-blown cold-case investigation. This new murder makes her certain she's close to the truth, but when all the evidence starts to point the authorities straight to Erin, she turns to her longtime crush (and fellow suspect) Journey Michaels to help her crack the case before it's too late.
Teen girl forensics investigator solving the murder of her beloved teacher? Oh yeah, had to listen to this one. This was my first encounter with author and narrator. I loved how the author caught the feel of a YA contemporary with a compelling murder mystery and narrator nailed it with the teen scene.
The story opens with Erin Blake discovering the grisly murder of her biology teacher. Erin and her teacher were working on a project personal to Erin- finding Erin’s father through DNA testing. Erin’s guardian ruses to talk about the unsolved murder in the past of Erin’s mother or help Erin figure out who her dad is. Erin loves Rachel, her guardian and her mom’s best friend, but she hates the blank slate that is her past. But now, her need for answers might have gotten her teacher killed.
The police think they have their prime suspect in another kid who was there that night and Erin helped point the finger at him. However, Erin is not convinced of Journey Matthews’ guilt and not just because she had a crush on him. So with the help of her best friends and even Journey and the knowledge she gains from her FBI forensics pathologist uncle, she decides to solve Ms P’s murder. Clues start pointing toward the fact that her mother’s killer might still be around and not want her digging into things.
I was engaged with this story from the beginning. The author did a good job of blending typical teenage life of getting along with parents, family and high school with a murder mystery. Erin’s forensics’ hobby and amateur detecting with her friends make for a fresh take on things. She’s a bright girl and I loved how she still has room to mature and grow throughout the story. She’s a tad arrogant about her knowledge in that she knows better than the adults and her friends, but the story is written in such a way that the adults are mostly oblivious too.
That’s brings me to a couple niggles about the story. I’m not fond of that take on adults especially since most of these were professionals in the field, but I guess it allowed for some liberties so that Erin could do her thing. And the other thing was there was a scene in the latter half that, while fascinating as it took step by step the process of matching DNA in a home-made sort of way, the scene dragged as a result.
As I said, Erin is a complex character and I loved that. She’s the narrator and the story hinges on her. The author did a great job of making her personable, strong, but vulnerable. And the story has many layers.
Erin has a troubling past with being a three year old found with her mother’s body, no other family so now living with her mom’s best friend as guardian. Erin is something of a novelty to the other kids and the small town and between that and Rachel’s refusal to allow her to talk about her feelings on the past, she is near the breaking point when the new trouble starts. Her friendship is fun in that she has strong ties to two other girls and the three must figure out how to work through their issues even while staying true through the tough moments. First crush and first love is a sweet and fun addition as Erin gets to share the case with Journey, the cute popular guy at school while learning Journey is more than a pretty face and has his own issues.
Teen Cautions: Language- moderate, Sex- none, Violence- moderate
As to Christy Romano’s narration, she was a solid match for this story. I felt she enhanced what was already a great book with her take on Erin and the rest of the cast. She caught just the right tone with a Young Adult story and one with such a gritty mystery attached. I would definitely listen to more of her work.
All in all, this was a fantastic story. I did not want to pause it for real life. I can heartily recommend it to those who enjoy Young Adult contemporary blended with a gritty mystery.
Romance Roundabout #47 YA
Literary Pickers #46 nail file
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