To Catch a Killer
By: Sheryl Scarborough
Release Date: February 7th 2017
Publisher: Tor Teen
Format: Print ARC
Erin Blake has one of those names. A name that, like Natalee Holloway or Elizabeth Smart, is inextricably linked to a grisly crime. As a toddler, Erin survived for three days alongside the corpse of her murdered mother, and the case—which remains unsolved—fascinated a nation. Her father’s identity unknown, Erin was taken in by her mother’s best friend and has become a relatively normal teen in spite of the looming questions about her past.
Fourteen years later, Erin is once again at the center of a brutal homicide when she finds the body of her biology teacher. When questioned by the police, Erin tells almost the whole truth, but never voices her suspicions that her mother’s killer has struck again in order to protect the casework she’s secretly doing on her own.
Inspired by her uncle, an FBI agent, Erin has ramped up her forensic hobby into a full-blown cold-case investigation. This new murder makes her certain she’s close to the truth, but when all the evidence starts to point the authorities straight to Erin, she turns to her longtime crush (and fellow suspect) Journey Michaels to help her crack the case before it’s too late.
I am more and more into young adult thrillers and mysteries and To Catch a Killer was an excellent one. We follow Erin, who had an awful past. She witnessed her mother’s murder at 2 years old and since then she’s been famous for her surviving the tragic event. People in town look at her differently and her mother’s best friend, Rachel, Erin’s guardian refuses to talk to her about her mom or the past.
I found this to really give Erin a unique perspective and have her character stand out. I can’t imagine not knowing about my past and losing my mother at such a young age. Because of this Erin has an intense interest in forensics and spends her spare time bonding with her biology teacher and reading her Uncle Victor’s books about being in the FBI. Many times when a character tries their hand at forensics it comes off sort of cheesy and unrealistic. In this book, it’s done very well. I found it to be pretty believable and I honestly learned a thing or two. Each chapter has a quote from Victor’s book. These had some really interesting details I’d not ever heard. Like this one,
5o percent of human DNA is identical to the DNA of a banana (page 265 in the print arc)
I don’t know if I’ll ever look at a banana the same way. Honestly, Victor was my favorite character and I loved that Scarborough added those little quotes at the start of each chapter.
Some elements of the mystery were fairly obvious to me but it really didn’t take away from the story telling. I felt that it wasn’t obvious to the characters who the big bad was so I wasn’t frustrated that Erin wasn’t seeing blatantly obvious hints. Though this was a murder mystery there was a sweet romance that I felt was pretty realistic to high school. Yep, there’s some insta-love but it seemed pretty spot on to what I’d experienced as a teen. That constant drive to see your crush and the ever present thoughts of them.
The supporting cast of characters were well developed and I felt that they were easy to like. I felt they all had understandable motivations and Erin’s gal pals were very realistically portrayed. Journey, the love interest and basketball star, wasn’t my favorite at first but I’ll admit, the further I read the more I enjoyed him. He really grew on me and he was so much more complex than I expected at the start of the book.
To Catch a Killer was a fast paced and entertaining murder mystery. I felt that the big reveal was a bit anti climatic but it was still really well done and a fun read. The forensic details were really well executed and I learned a thing or two.
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