December 18, 2006

A Savvy Anti-Nancy: Mystery at the Coroner's Office

This book is a 2006 Cybil Award Nominee for YA Fiction.

Cameryn Mahoney, daughter of Silverton's only coroner, wants more than anything to follow in her father's footsteps. Not as a coroner necessarily, but as a forensic pathologist, a person who puts together the disparate pieces of clues to recreate the facts surrounding a death. Cameryn is big on facts... science is the only thing she knows that doesn't get emotionally crowded and crazy when the going gets tough. Even death can be boiled down, in a manner of speaking, to science. When Cameryn's Dad allows her to be his on-the-payroll assistant, Cam jumps at the chance to get her hands dirty. Only -- she hadn't counted on her first case involving someone she knows... and she also hadn't counted on finding herself in the path of a serial killer in Silverton, Colorado, where nothing ever happens.

The Christopher Killer is a serial killer; he always leaves a St. Christopher Medal on each one of his victims, according to television psychic Dr. Jewel. He's coming to Silverton to help out the police -- and Cameryn's crystal-gazing best friend, Lyric, and her mother Daphne are determined to make a believer out of scientist Cameryn. Dr. Jewel is right about so many things... what if he really knows more about Cameryn than she thought?

This is definitely not your mother's Nancy Drew. The fast-paced, novelized mystery definitely aimed at teens who are familiar with crime scene shows and pathology detail from television. Some characters are left virtually undefined and the author uses a heavy reliance on scientific terms and techniques, showing her personal knowledge from attending autopsies. The detail and exciting-things-per-page quotient is high; the story is in some places implausibly thin, and personal issues are left unresolved (What is the deal with Deputy Justin and Cameryn's mother?), but all in all this is a quick-paced, riveting read which would be great for young adults who aren't that interested in books. And anyway, the unresolved personal issues leave no mystery that interested readers will be able to find more novels featuring Cameryn Mahoney in the future.

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