Friday, March 23, 2007

I Hear Dead People

Dead Connection by Charlie Price
4Q 4P J/S

(This review is carried over from a blog I had on Live Journal. Over the next few weeks I'll be copying those reviews over here, interspersing them with new reviews.)

I really liked the way this story is structured. It follows several characters, most notably Murray, a psychic who has conversations with dead people in the cemetery, Gates, a sheriff investigating the disappearance of a local high school girl, and Vern Billup, the alcoholic Public Affairs Officer in the local police station. Some readers may find it hard or frustrating to follow the storyline, since each (short) chapter alternates the point of view. We start out following Murray, then move on to various other characters, coming back to each several times. This really worked for me as a technique, particularly because the mystery and investigation aspects of the story lend themselves to following various leads to may or may not pan out. It also helps build the suspense, since some of the characters are considerably less stable than others. I do have a quibble with the ending, which relies on a revelation that comes pretty much out of nowhere. But I liked the book anyhow.

Murray's a loner. His mother is a prostitute (even if she probably wouldn't describe herself that way). He's a poor student. He has no friends, unless you count Dearly Beloved, Edwin, and Blessed Daughter, his favorite dead people at the cemetery. He has long, satisfying conversations with them. But of course, he can't tell anyone that's what's going on, because everyone will think he's crazy and ship him off to some psych hospital. That's what he thinks when Pearl Janocheck, the cemetery caretaker's daughter comes up to him in the cemetery to ask what he's doing. He blows her off, which ticks her off and makes her vow to get revenge. Her revenge is sweet but short-lasting, since her father quickly realizes Pearl has set Murray up for a crime he didn't commit. That's an unusual way for a friendship to develop, but it happens anyhow.

While Murray and Pearl are slowly developing a relationship, Murray is being watched by Billup. Billup can't stand the kid, because of an incident between Billup and Murray's mother a while back. Billup just knows the kid in the cemetery is up to no good, and he's gonna get the kid if it's the last thing he does. But first he has to deal with his alcohol problem and the blackouts that are happening almost daily now. If he could only remember what happened the night before...

Meanwhile, Gates is pursuing any scrap of a lead he can dig up on what happened to Nikki, the high school cheerleader who disappeared in October. One of those leads is Robert Barry Compton, a schizophrenic former crackhead who knows he saw something, but can't remember just what it was.

All of these threads begin to come together the day that Murray hears a new voice in the cemetery. It's a girl's voice, and she's saying something like "Find me."

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