ARC Review: When by Victoria Laurie
Expected Publication: January 15, 2015
Genre: YA Mystery
Maddie Fynn is a shy high school junior, cursed with an eerie intuitive ability: she sees a series of unique digits hovering above the foreheads of each person she encounters. Her earliest memories are marked by these numbers, but it takes her father’s premature death for Maddie and her family to realize that these mysterious digits are actually death dates, and just like birthdays, everyone has one.
Forced by her alcoholic mother to use her ability to make extra money, Maddie identifies the quickly approaching death date of one client's young son, but because her ability only allows her to see the when and not the how, she’s unable to offer any more insight. When the boy goes missing on that exact date, law enforcement turns to Maddie.
Soon, Maddie is entangled in a homicide investigation, and more young people disappear and are later found murdered. A suspect for the investigation, a target for the murderer, and attracting the attentions of a mysterious young admirer who may be connected to it all, Maddie's whole existence is about to be turned upside down. Can she right things before it's too late?
ARC provided by NetGalley
Whenever I read a mystery, I always play a game with myself: whether I could get the identity of the culprit in the first few chapters or I’d change my answer through evidentiary support throughout the book and be proven right or wrong in the end. So far, there’s a high rate of return when I trust my gut instincts with the answer – that or the bad guy was really obvious what with the right and left giving of clues.
But Victoria Laurie didn’t give the obvious in the first chapters nor did she let up with too obvious clues throughout not until the very end. Why then would I give my gut instinct the win and later deductions half a point when few to no clues were given? My first guess was correct. As soon as I met that character and -boom!- flashing lights. However, I was thrown off by the narrative as the investigation went along.
And that was why I loved it! I don’t like obvious solutions when it comes to my mystery reads. I want a puzzle, a quandary that I could solve alongside the main character. That even though I have my money pegged on one guy, the story would still enable to confuse me, rattle my theories and surprise me in the end.
Maddie’s ability weirded me out at first. It was probably what gave me pause and prevented me from reading this selection for a few weeks. Oh, the homicide mystery tantalized me but I was not comfortable with deathdates. It wasn’t when I was deep into the first pages that I realized that Maddie’s ability was a good plot device because it could really factor in greatly in the investigation. I was largely thinking along the lines of the Body Finder series by Kimberly Derting or the Forensic Mystery series by Alane Ferguson (this is my first Victoria Laurie title and wasn’t aware of her other books).
I am also pleased that this YA book wasn’t focused on romance, had romance play a huge part in this or had the girl hormonally-stalk a guy and force me to read the word ‘gorgeous’ every other sentence whenever he was in the scene. In fact, it wasn’t until the end that Maddie formally met the guy. Oh, I had my suspicions to his identity: from being the elder son of that first client to the (most likely) connection to an agent. That’s what half of the later deductions was for.
As I said, I was thinking along the lines of The Body Finder and The Forensic Mystery series - I thought this was going to be a series. There's potential for it but I guess the ending was really the end.