The Body in the Woods: A Point Last Seen Mystery
In THE BODY IN THE WOODS, three young adults join the Portland County Sheriff's Search and Rescue for very different reasons, but end up embroiled in the same dangerous plot that takes them face to face with a serial killer. Ruby --- smart and observant but also obsessive and lacking in social graces --- is the main organizer of the three, the force that pulls them into their own investigation of the mysterious deaths of homeless girls that they stumble upon. Desperate to prove himself to his family and his father --- a soldier who died in the Middle East --- Nick goes along willingly, excited at the chance to be a hero. And Alexis, normally reserved and guarded because of her mother, who suffers from a mental illness, finds in the group a purpose and a place where she can start to let her guard down.
The pacing of the book is classic detective murder fare. As an introduction to the genre, THE BODY IN THE WOODS is valuable for capturing the feel of the murder mystery, the red herrings and the slow reveal of clues, all the while keeping to the maxim of never concealing the evidence from the reader. For fans of the genre, it might come as little surprise when the killer is revealed, but that doesn't mean that it wasn't artful and entertainingly done. The action is intense and the story builds to a satisfying and dangerous climax, with moments for each member of the team to shine.
"For fans of the genre or first-time sleuths, THE BODY IN THE WOODS is a fun yet suspenseful read that seems well worth the price of admission."
As a ensemble mystery, the characters are really what helps THE BODY IN THE WOODS succeed, because Ruby, Nick and Alexis are all compelling. Each have their own quirks and flaws and strengths, and they work and play well off each other. The side stories concerning Alexis' mother and Ruby's overprotective parents also highlight some of the differences between the characters while giving them their own complications. I couldn't help but feel a bit, though, that Nick got the short end of the stick when it came to characterization. Out of the three, he suffered most from being a bit of an idiot at times, which while certainly believable, made him less likable for me.
Of course, as the first book in a series, THE BODY IN THE WOODS does an admirable job of setting up the characters and the stakes involved in search and rescue. Having the three investigate an actual serial killer was a nice hook, and while I personally hope that the series doesn't stick to just murders, the quality of the writing makes me confident enough that I will enjoy future installments. There was just enough question of who the killer was to keep me turning the pages, plus the added dramatic flourishes from the situation with Alexis' mom.
For fans of the genre or first-time sleuths, THE BODY IN THE WOODS is a fun yet suspenseful read that seems well worth the price of admission. The characters feel their age, and their voices are interesting and fresh. Additionally, the search and rescue angle makes sense and is original enough to help the book stand out from other mysteries and series, enough that I can recommend it without reservation.
Reviewed by Charles Payseur on June 17, 2014