Monday, January 18, 2010

Forensic Mystery series - a review

My friend Heather is a middle school teacher (currently a stay at home mom to toddlers) who enjoys reading young adult literature. When she was here in November, she recommended that I read The Christopher Killer by Alane Ferguson. I promptly requested it from the library.

I finished The Christopher Killer in a couple of days during Thanksgiving week. (I don't watch football.) The book had an open ending, so I checked our library and found out there were two more books in the series (known as Forensic Mystery series), and requested those also. (I've since learned that there are actually four books in the series and I just finished it too.)

The series is about a high school senior named Cameryn whose father is the town coroner in Colorado. She and her father live with her Irish Catholic grandmother who believes that forensics are a dark art and will darken your soul. This is unfortunate because Cameryn's wish is to be a medical examiner someday. The series opens with Cameryn asking to be her father's assistant because the town (population 700) can't afford to hire one for him.

The story is face paced, not even getting bogged down by the descriptions of the autopsies or the crime scene details. The storyline that connects the books is compelling and I found myself wanting to know what happened next with Cameryn's family life as much as I wanted to solve the mystery. One of the points that I find interesting is that the town where they live is near Ouray and Durango, Colorado which are both towns I have been through. I enjoy being able to place the scenery in my mind.

There are a few things I had issues with though. I do not understand why the grandmother discourages Cameryn's career choice. I've never heard of forensics described as something evil or twisted. I've always thought it was an important tool for solving crime. I also felt there were a few minor plot holes, but I've found those in some of my favorite mystery books - Kathy Reichs has plot holes far more often that I'd like to admit. For example, there is a phrase in the third book that is important to the plot and takes a third of the book for the characters to understand. The phrase is one that not only was I already familiar with, but that I felt the characters should have understood themselves. The meaning is also easily found by entering it into Google (I found it in seconds with no problem) so I don't understand why Cameryn (who uses her computer regularly) would have not only not figured this out on her own but needed someone else to explain it to her also. It may be a minor issue, but it completely took me out of the story.

This book is appropriate for older teen, but I wouldn't recommend it for teens younger than 14 or so. If your child isn't old enough to watch CSI, then she isn't old enough to read this book. Keep in mind, also, that reading the details is different than watching it on a screen. The autopsy and crime scenes are described in great detail. There is one kissing scene in the second book, but it doesn't last very long because Cameryn thinks it's too soon to kiss. There is a lot of discussion about God and sin during some scenes that are from a Catholic viewpoint. The family is clearly Catholic, so if your faith disagrees with the points made it probably won't be a problem. If you're reading this book with your child, then it can generate discussion on the different beliefs among different denominations.

These books are definitely page turners, and I recommend them if you enjoy mysteries. They aren't "dumbed down" as young adult novels are accused of being. They don't contain rough language or adult situations. Again, I would still only recommend them for at least a 13 year old or older though because of the grisley nature of the story.

If you are interested in the series, these are the titles in order:

1 comment:

Sharon Lovejoy said...

Good timing with the recommendations. I try to read recommended YA and middle grade novels to enrich my understanding of them. I've written one full length middle grade about an island girl in Maine who saves a fox, and am working on one about an 11 year old girl and a runaway slave. Love doing the research and reading other books.

Happy day,

Sharon Lovejoy Writes from Sunflower House and a Little Green Island