The Mountains of Instead

Championing fiction as an escape from pandemics, politics and bad TV.

Life Again Though Cold In Death (review: The Last Echo by Kimberly Derting)

The Last Echo
Kimberly Derting
Headline 2012 

Violet finds bodies and always has but the events of the last year have turned her morbid ability into something that increasingly tops her list of priorities. While her family and boyfriend Jay watch anxiously, Violet allies herself with the not-quite-FBI agent Sara Priest, the mysterious Rafe and their team of psychically strange waifs and strays.  Suddenly she finds herself neck-deep in the hunt to find a serial killer known only as The Collector. As she immerses herself in the case she faces the very real danger of an active murder investigation but also risks her gift isolating her from her friends, her family and even Jay. 

Violet really is one of the best written characters in YA fiction in large part because her every action screams teenager. She’s smart, gifted and sweet but her gift adds a darker edge to her character and she has a stubborn quality that highlights a slight immaturity on her part – particularly noticeable when she wanders off to investigate various dark doings herself.  She’s not only extremely believable as a 16-year-old but also as a young woman trying to deal with a difficult ability. The Last Echo is very much about Violet coming to terms with her gift and her deliberations on how to use it.  The introduction of other characters who feel as different as she does (with due cause) is interesting, as is her relationships with Sara and Rafe – both of whom are extremely well drawn.

Rafe takes time to develop but as his story unfolds it is clear that he and Violet share a bond that has, as of yet, not really been explored.  He’s an interesting character, brooding and not always likable but certainly compelling.  Sara also comes into clearer focus than in her first appearance in Desires of the Dead and is all the better for it.  In general, Kimberly Derting writes her adult characters extremely well and Violet’s family are an ever watchful and often vocal presence in the story – refreshing when so many YA parents are only notable for their absence.  Jay remains a strong influence on Violet and is possibly the character that develops most, being notably more mature in The Last Echo than in previous outings.  He’s as loveable as ever and the relationship between him and Violet is admirable in that it requires work and patience on both parts to make it work – and is all the more believable for it.  Violet’s female friends also continue to be very well written and, in The Last Echo, illustrate beautifully (yet with little drama or cruelty) how easily Violet could become isolated by her ability.

As in both The Body Finder and Desires of the Dead, Derting writes several sections from the point of view of her main antagonist – in this case the insidiously creepy Collector – and as before it is these sections that lend a real chill her latest title.  The Collector is an horrendously disturbed individual made worse by the fact that he truly doesn’t believe that he is doing anything wrong.  These sections of the book could come straight out of any good adult crime/horror/thriller and will have readers in two minds about whether to sleep with the light on.  Cleverly, by looking through the eyes of The Collector, readers are able to see his crosshairs narrowing on Sara Priest and her team lending a tension to the book that builds to a truly hair-raising climax.

In a climate where dozens of YA books are being optioned for film, it is astonishing that The Body Finder series hasn’t yet been optioned for TV (or perhaps it has?) as both the characters and the ongoing storyline are both compelling and clever. By the end of The Last Echo, Violet has made some difficult decisions only to be confronted with a completely different problem. It would appear that she, her team, her friends and her family are in for a bumpy ride as shadowy men and creepy conglomerates seem sure to surface in book four. In The Last Echo, Kimberly Derting has confirmed her place as YA’s leading writer in both the crime and thriller genre and The Last Echo, not to mention The Body Finder and Desires of the Dead are highly recommended by The Mountains of Instead.

This review was brought to you by Splendibird. The Last Echo is available in all good bookstores now.

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