‘Desires of the Dead’ is the outstanding follow up to Kimberly Derting’s debut ‘The Body Finder’. While the story picks up a few months after the events of the first novel it works perfectly well as a standalone story. However, I can pretty much guarantee you’ll want to read both of them!
Once again the story follows the events in the life of Violet Ambrose. Violet is a girl with a gift: she has the ability to find the bodies of murder victims through the echoes they emit. The story plunges rapidly into the main action when Violet discovers a body in a shipping container. She decides to contact the police with an anonymous tip. Unfortunately it wasn’t anonymous enough and Violet finds herself firmly in the sight of the FBI.
There is a lot more to the story than the brief summary above but to write more would be to include spoilers –and I really wouldn’t want to ruin the story for anyone!
So, what’s so good about this book? Well, Kimberly Derting’s debut novel was accomplished and engaging but this book is so much more. Most of the issues I had with the first novel – few though they were - have been ironed out resulting in a tightly written and fast paced read. Violet Ambrose is a fully developed character who undergoes real growth and development in this novel. Her attitude to her ability is explored as Violet is forced to consider what her talent means to other people. Additionally, her growing relationship with her boyfriend Jay continues to develop in a realistic way. Unlike far too many leading ladies, Violet is no sappy heroine whose only focus in life is her relationship with her boyfriend (fill in the novel of your choice here!) Violet is the centre of this story and a lot of what she does and experiences does not involve Jay; she deals with things perfectly well on her own.
And this is where I have a problem. Violet wanders around at dead of night, drives her car into cities and deals with malicious calls all without parental intervention or informing her very worried and amazingly patient boyfriend. Yes, she leaves the odd note on the table telling them not to worry but, considering what happened to Violet in the first novel, the absence of parental involvement was unrealistic. Derting explains this by having Violet claim she wants to protect them from any more pain and worry on her account. This was really disappointing for me as one of the things I enjoyed so much about the first novel was the fact that Violet wasn’t alone but had a loving and supportive family, unlike so many other Young Adult characters who may as well be orphans.
However, what I enjoyed about this novel far outweighs any complaints. Apart from enjoying a really engaging story I also love Derting’s writing style which is incredibly visual. Her use of language is precise with not a word wasted or out of place. A particular strength is the way in which Violet’s ability to hear the echoes of the dead is brought hauntingly and achingly to life. The language and imagery is visceral in its intensity. As with her first novel, Derting doesn’t skirt around the horrors of Violet’s ability and the first body she discovered reduced me to tears. Violet certainly deals with it all better than I would!
In between Violet’s chapters, the story is, like ‘The Body Finder’, interspersed with chapters written from the point of view of another character, one who means harm to Violet. Unlike Violet’s chapters, these all have title headings taken from the seven deadly sins – envy, wrath etc. While interesting this wasn’t as effective as when used in the first novel. However, considering the disturbed nature of the serial killer from ‘The Body Finder’ that would be pretty hard to top.
Derting also introduces some now characters in her novel, the most interesting of which was a mysterious young man called Rafe who also has abilities of his own. While the story was complete in itself, Derting introduced enough new elements that I wouldn’t be surprised to see Violet’s adventures continued. I just hope she doesn’t go down the route of one girl having to choose between two boys. How tedious!