The Bottom Line: A standout serial killer novel tailor-made for fans of Alice Sebold and Tana French.
The aptly-named DEADSPEAK begins with testimony from 13-year-old Griff Lindon: “I don’t even know where or what I am anymore. I just sit in this perpetual darkness, wondering if I’ll ever be me again.” Griff’s questions are soon answered, as the murdered teenager witnesses the discovery of her body in a lake near the fictional town of Harbinger, Ohio.
Who killed her? And more importantly, why? Following in the tradition of Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones, but with the creepy darkness wrought by Tana French, author Ruth Bainbridge’s fully characterized teen victim is a standout. “Harbinger looked different when you were dead,” Griff observes as she drifts about town, visiting her grieving parents, unable to communicate or provide any comfort. In drawing Griff, Bainbridge manages to be emotionally resonant without ever drifting into sentimentality. That’s important because even while Griff gradually comes to terms with her own grief process, it should come as no surprise that she will be instrumental in bringing her own killer to justice.
But that’s something she can’t do by herself. Enter Detective Kimberly Trent, a local cop who is still haunted by the unsolved murder and necrophilic rape of her 13-year-old sister (teaser: there’s a method to Bainbridge’s numerology, and that isn’t the last time that number will come up). In addition to her personal baggage, Trent is a mean drunk, and a woefully inexperienced homicide investigator. But those shortcomings prove to be instrumental in creating the kind of page-turning suspense created in DEADSPEAK. Compelling from the very first paragraph, the book is exactly the kind of fare that pleases fans of serial killer fiction and as well as dark murder mysteries.