Dead Connection - Charlie Price 

Square Fish

Charlie Price's debut novel, "Dead Connection" is a slim volume aimed at the high school crowd, but that doesn't mean it isn't appealing to those out of their teens.

The premise of the book is interesting "? a high school dweeb with an equally dweeby name, Murray, spends a large portion of his time hanging out in cemeteries. Why? Simple: That's where his friends live. He calls them by the names that appear on their tombstones: Blessed, Dearly, Edwin.

Gawky, awkward Murray can talk to dead people "? and not in a creepy, childlike, Haley Joel Osment way, but in the comforting repartee of real friends. But, the appearance of a new voice in the graveyard "? one that is definitely not calm about their recent demise "? puts Murray in the middle of a search for a missing cheerleader from his high school.

The story is told in alternating chapters by a cast of characters, including Murray, a schizophrenic witness, an alcohol-addled cop and a depressed detective. Price does an admirable job of exploring the different levels of mental illness and its effects on all levels of the social strata. His spartan writing, however, and the short chapters that jump from character to character make it hard at first to develop a cadence, but once it does, it is a good read.

Right when it seems to be picking up, it ends. It just simply ends without much of anything being accomplished, with a lot of questions and story threads hanging. This could be seen as a good thing "? life, after all, Price seems to be saying, is never neat and tidy "? but it truly feels like there is still a good 100 pages missing in the story.

"?Jenny Coon Peterson

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