Published: February 7, 2017
Publisher: Tor Teen
Genre: Young Adult, Mystery
Pages: 320 (Hardcover)
My Rating: 4.5/5.0
A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
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.
Ohhh man, I could not have asked for a better YA crime novel than To Catch A Killer! Erin Blake has lived the entire life being the girl whose mother was murdered. This fact has shaped her life and her personality- she is determined to solve her mother’s murder and find out the identity of her father. This is all put on hold when her biology teacher and forensics confidante is murdered. Now she has a new case to solve and quickly, because she may be in danger as well.
Erin Blake and her friends Spam and Lysa were a great trio. Erin with her forensics skills, Spam with her tech skills, and Lysa with her knowledge of law and human psychology. These are, of course, only highschool students so their skills are middling at best, but they sure do come in handy when someone gets murdered. It’s good to see a strong, believable set of friends in YA fiction because most books seem to involve only a love interest. Spam and Lysa are supportive, judgemental in all the right ways, and aren’t afraid to tell Erin when she’s being crazy.
The investigation aspect of To Catch A Killer was surprisingly strong and featured tons of interesting information. It was like a crash course introduction to forensic science and it was cool enough that I think readers will want to do some more in depth research. After I finished up I went and researched the qualifications to become a forensics assistant, though sadly I lack the criminal justice background. One of my favorite parts was when Erin and Victor were running an impromptu gel in the kitchen. I can 100% attest to the struggles of running a quality gel and cannot imagine trying to do it in my kitchen without proper lab equipment, though I’m sure it is possible under extreme circumstances. Seriously though, don’t hook up your electric current backwards or all your hard work will be for naught.
Overall, this was a YA crime novel of superb quality. The only real young adult aspect was Erin’s crush on Journey Michaels, the most popular guy in school, but that’s completely believable! I had my suspicions about who the culprit was as I was reading the story, but Sheryl Scarborough kept me second guessing myself throughout. I hope she continues the great work because I’ll be keeping up with her future releases!