Book Review: The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting

The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting is one of those books that you’ll be thinking about days after finishing the last page. It’s sort of a haunting story, that catches you in its grip and refuses to let go.

What first struck me about The Body Finder was Derting’s careful crafting of sentences. Phrases like these stuck out at me from every page:

” … she listened to the harmony of sounds weaving delicately around her.”

“The sound of the alarm clock was an irritating intrusion into the comfortable haze of sleep that wrapped its arms around Violet […] the elusive whisper of her dream escaped her.”

“Sleep was hard to hold on to that night, elusive and slippery, evading her at every turn.”

“She wanted to breathe, to inhale his lethally musky scent, but she couldn’t find the air around her. She was suffocated in the strength, the warmth, of him.”

Derting also walks a delicate line in The Body Finder — by contrasting a horrific murder mystery/thriller with one of the most charming teen romances I’ve read in ages. She strikes a careful balance between the two contrasting elements beautifully. Each side of the story flows nicely into the other, until the two elements come together in the intense climax.

The Body Finder tells the story of 16-year-old Violet Ambrose — who has the uncanny gift of sensing the “echoes” of those who have been killed, and the lingering “echoes” of those who kill. Most of her life, this has lead her to find dead animals near her home. Until a serial killer begins murdering teen girls near her hometown and she suddenly finds herself in the midst of a criminal investigation, and possibly the target of the murderer.

And while all of this is going on — Violet has also discovered new romantic feelings for her lifelong best friend, Jay. And she’s not sure Jay feels the same way — after all, he did just get the phone number for the most popular girl in school.

The romance of the story sort of wraps itself around you like a blanket — while the murder mystery angle keeps you on the edge of your seat (both literally and figuratively). It’s the sort of book that you don’t want to put down, but that you have to — occasionally — just to catch your breath.

It’s also refreshingly unpredictable. Okay, sure, I thought I had it figured out at one point (and in the end, I was sort of right) — but Derting throws in unexpected elements that keep you on your toes. You never know where she’s going to take you next (even if you think you do; you don’t) — and it’s a journey you’ll feel compelled to see through to the very end.

Derting also takes advantage of her setting — the Pacific Northwest. The Body Finder takes place in Washington state, Derting’s home, and she takes full advantage of the location and the atmosphere it provides. Fans of the Twilight series know that the rainy Pacific Northwest is a pretty neat backdrop. But unlike Stephenie Meyer, Derting knows the Pacific Northwest first hand — really knows it — and the difference shows in her writing. Maybe I’m biased because I live in the PacNW, too, but I felt truly connected to Derting’s descriptions of the forests around Violet’s home; about walking up the gravel driveway; of the warm summer day at Bonney Lake. Reading Derting’s descriptions is a very sensory experience; she makes you feel cocooned by the environment while simply reading about it.

The Body Finder is one of those books you’ll read, then force upon your friends so you can talk to them about it. A word of warning to my own friends: you’re next.

Here is the official description, and the book trailer:

Violet Ambrose is grappling with two major issues: Jay Heaton and her morbid secret ability. While the sixteen-year-old is confused by her new feelings for her best friend since childhood, she is more disturbed by her “power” to sense dead bodies—or at least those that have been murdered. Since she was a little girl, she has felt the echoes that the dead leave behind in the world… and the imprints that attach to their killers.

Violet has never considered her strange talent to be a gift; it mostly just led her to find the dead birds her cat had tired of playing with. But now that a serial killer has begun terrorizing her small town, and the echoes of the local girls he’s claimed haunt her daily, she realizes she might be the only person who can stop him.

Despite his fierce protectiveness over her, Jay reluctantly agrees to help Violet on her quest to find the murderer—and Violet is unnerved to find herself hoping that Jay’s intentions are much more than friendly. But even as she’s falling intensely in love, Violet is getting closer and closer to discovering a killer… and becoming his prey herself.

(My review of The Body Finder can also be found at Portland Books Examiner.)

For the comments: Tell us your thoughts on The Body Finder.

7 thoughts on “Book Review: The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting

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    1. 327 pages. It’s published by Harper, and is intended for YA readers, though as an adult, I loved it, too.

  1. Great review! I felt the same way as you! I thought it was wonderful! And I agree that it’s a great one for all ages. Well 12 or so and up. I got to meet Kimberly Derting today and she is an awesome person. I look forward to many more signings!

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