Cameryn Mahoney returns in this, the third installment of the Forensic Mystery series, set in the small town of Silverton, Colorado. This is my favorite kind of mystery series, in which there is a mystery to solve, but the characters' lives are of equal importance, and the mystery itself is relevant to their lives. Because of this, it is essential to read this series in order to fully appreciate the events and characters. If you are interested in a gripping YA mystery that involves forensic evidence and pulls no punches when it comes to describing autopsies, you should definitely begin with The Christopher Killer, the first Forensics Mystery.
This book opens with Cameryn, assistant to the county coroner, and her father (the coroner) arriving at the scene of a brutal car accident. The driver, a teenage boy, has been decapitated and has been partially thrown from the car. If he'd been wearing a seatbelt, Cameryn's father points out, he'd probably still be alive. Camryn is clearly unsettled by the death - the boy was her age, and now his life is over, finished, and anything he might have wanted to do will forever be left undone. It makes her want to push her family for the truth about her mother, because she knows they've been keeping things from her, and she decides that has to stop.
Then the body of another, younger teen is discovered, and Cameryn has an ethical dilemma: she knows her mother had given the girl a ride in her car, but because of her mother's history, she doesn't think the is emotionally prepared to being questioned by the police. Surely the death is a suicide, just as it appears, and it won't matter that Cameryn is holding back information from the police. Unfortunately the police include her friend Justin, who seems more interested in Cameryn than her father would like, but who's become a good friend since his arrival in Silverton. It's hard to lie to him, but she feels that she has no choice.
Cameryn's decision means a difficult road for her in this novel. It is hard enough simply being a teenager, getting a hard time at school for being the coroner's assistant, recovering from the traumatizing events of the previous novel, and having to deal with her father and grandmother's silent disapproval of her mother. All the secrets make her feel very alone.
This is a tightly written mystery with a dark, psychological bent that will keep readers turning the pages (and possibly deciding against reading it during mealtimes, at least not during the autopsy scenes, which are quite graphic). I enjoy the characters in Cameryn's life, particularly her disapproving Irish grandmother, who adores her but can't come to terms with Cameryn's professional ambitions, and Dr. Moore, the acerbic medical examiner, listens to opera music as he cuts open the decedents. One of the strengths of this series is the fact that the adults are not two-dimensional constructs who happen to be in authority, but are complex people who can and do make mistakes, and who change and grow along with the younger characters. I am excited that the fourth book is due to be released in May.
Books in the Forensic Mystery series:
1. The Christopher Killer
2. The Angel of Death
3. The Circle of Blood
4. The Dying Breath
The Circle of Blood (#3 in the Forensic Mystery series) by Alane Ferguson (Viking, 2008)
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