Dead Connection -- Charlie Price
Dead Connection is a short-chaptered multi-perspective paranormal murder mystery with a great cover.
Our characters are:
They are not graveyards. I hate it when people say that. They are cemeteries. The one I know best is Forest Grove. I spend most of my time there. That's where most of my friends are. I don't spend much time with the older people. I figure they deserved it. Not deserved it, really, but what could they expect? After forty, you're going to die. The ones my age and the children, they almost all need someone to talk to. I comfort them the best I can. They weren't ready. They'll tell you that. They're not jealous or mean or scary like you might think. Just really lonely. Everybody needs a friend.
Her dad did a nice job with the flowers and even the road. He blew leaves and weeds off the lanes and kept the vines off the big metal gates. Pearl liked the funny stone houses where some families put their relatives, and all the different types of crosses and the statues of angels and saints that watched over everybody. When she died, she wouldn't mind being put here. But she wouldn't want that kid sitting over her and talking. She was sure about that.
Janochek was curious what was going to happen if Pearl started pestering the boy. He didn't want his daughter to run the boy out just for target practice. Pearl reminded him of a cat he had once who was really sleek and lovely, very clever, cuddly most of the time, but had a mean streak that was unpredictable, and every so often, Janochek would get mauled when he wasn't paying attention.
Mr. Robert Barry Compton:
He was opening a Dumpster lid when a stock clerk came out of a back door to toss some cardboard boxes. The clerk hesitated when he saw Robert holding the lid and gave him the eye. Robert pulled a board from a broken packing crate. The clerk went back inside, closed the door, and locked it. Robert threw his board at the door. Jeez, he'd never done that before. It felt great. That must be why kids shoot people at schools, he thought. Because it feels so good.
He wondered why he had stayed with investigating. Morbid curiosity? A bitter upbringing that led to foolish notions of power and justice? A uniform that extended playing cowboy into adulthood? He knew he backslid into the job as a sheriff's investigator after his son's death. But not even the domestic violence, the senseless vandalism, the unsolved crimes, and the occasional gore could drive him to civilian work.
Billup didn't like the kid lurking around the graveyard. He had wanted to get even with the little freak since that day he had interfered with Billup's interrogation of his mother, Vera. He hadn't known the kid was home. He was in the slut's living room, slapping her around to get the name of her pimp or escort service. And then he figured she could buy her way out of the bust by giving him some satisfaction. He was just getting on her when the kid came out of the bedroom with a goddamn phone and threatened to call 911 unless Billup left. Standoff. So Billup split, but he knew that sooner or later, he'd get even. In spades. Billup hated to be embarrassed.
So. Yes. Murray hears dead people. When he's not at school, he spends most of his time talking to the young people buried in the cemetery. They're his friends. His only friends, really. Which is mostly okay by him, though he is worried that he might just be out-and-out crazy. Even more worrisome is that someone else will think he's out-and-out crazy and send him away somewhere.
One day, he starts to hear a new voice at Forest Grove. And it scares him. Because it isn't just a lonely voice. Someone out there is terrified and sobbing.
Yeah. So, Dead Connection isn't a simple, check-the-boxes sort of murder mystery. We've got a growing friendship between Murray and Pearl, a father/daughter relationship between Pearl and Janochek, who's also developing paternal feelings towards Murray, the investigating officer's perspective of the case, including his developing relationship with Mr. Robert Barry Compton, who might be a witness but who is also a suspect -- as are two of the other main characters -- and Officer Billup, who has some pretty serious anger, alcohol and woman issues.
As you've probably gathered from the Billup excerpt, it's pretty gritty -- multiple characters with alcohol and drug addiction/abuse problems, Murray's mother being picked up for prostitution, Pearl's mother sleeping around a whole lot before finally dying of leukemia, a decent amount of profanity, etc. Oddly, though, it didn't feel heavy. There were a few moments that felt chilling -- the Mr. Robert Barry Compton excerpt, for one -- but even with all of the issues, it never felt issue-y.
The book's real strength is in its characters. I ended up caring about most of them, and even almost managed to find some sympathy for Billup (but ultimately didn't, because, well... I guess I'm not a very sympathetic sort of person). And I didn't know where the characters would be at, relationship-wise, at the end, which was nice.
The mystery itself, I had some problems with, but I can't get into that without getting spoileriffic. My problems weren't so major that I won't recommend the book, though, and I'll definitely be watching for whatever Charlie Price comes up with next.