One night Rose’s mother and her live-in boyfriend Brendan went out for dinner. It was like any other night, something they had done many times before. Only this time, they never came home. Twelve year old Rose and her stepbrother Josh were split up, sent to live with relatives – Rose with the grandmother she never knew existed and Josh with his uncle. They struggled to stay in touch and eventually their contact dwindled away to nothing. Until now.
Joshua hasn’t been able to accept that they could have just vanished off the face of the Earth. He has created websites, trying to find someone that must have seen them that night, someone that must know something. Rose would almost rather things be left alone, but she has been enjoying her renewed contact with Josh and so she goes along with him after he gets several leads. Rose has her own problems though – she witnessed a boy from her year at college killed, viciously stabbed at a railway station. Not long later, the boy’s girlfriend Emma, who came to Rose for help thinking she must have seen something, must know something about Ricky’s killer, is fatally stabbed herself in a cemetery just minutes before Rose gets there for a meeting. Both times Rose is the one to discover the death and call the police. The first time she’s just unlucky but discovering two stabbed classmates in a matter of days makes the police look upon her suspiciously.
Rose is surprised when in investigating one mystery they seemed to have crossed over into the other one. They could be related and the discovery of a mysterious notebook with cryptic messages inside could lead Rose and Josh to the answer they’ve both been searching for five years – what happened to their parents?
Dead Time is the first novel in a new YA series known as The Murder Notebooks and I have to admit, I spent a huge portion of this book wondering why it was called that – but it all did become clear, right towards the end! In this book we’re introduced to Rose, 17 or 18 and in her final year at the local state college after several years at a boarding school. Rose’s mother disappeared five years ago and Rose has been living with her remote grandmother for most of the time, who she didn’t even know existed. She’s not happy – she has no real friends and her only pleasure seems to be the long emails she has recently been exchanging with Joshua, who was, for want of a better term, her former stepbrother. Josh draws her in to this plan he has of discovering more information on their parents disappearance and although Rose has other dramas going on in her life, Josh seems pretty uninterested in those and basically just wants Rose to do what he tells her.
And I think that was my biggest problem with this book and it severely affected my reading of it. I did not like Josh – at all. I found him sulky, stubborn, rude and uncaring. He basically bullied Rose into doing what he wanted, turning nasty and going to storm off when she showed reluctance to dig too deep into this and then rewarding her with affection when she backed down. He was also not supportive of what Rose was going through in reference to the deaths of two of her fellow students and when she wanted to investigate things regarding them he was dismissive of it as not important. But it clearly was important to Rose. I don’t agree with what she did – children taking police matters into their own hands is not my favourite plot device – but there’s no denying it was something that was important to her. Josh and Rose also only lived together for a short time as stepbrother and stepsister (or whatever the term would be, given their parents were not married) so I also had a little bit of trouble understanding Rose’s desperation in forging a relationship with him (that also seemed to cross a boundary, at least on her side into something that I found a little distasteful) given he was at times, very difficult to deal with.
Despite my issues with some of the plot and the weak establishing of relationships, I did find the ending quite interesting, where Josh and Rose discover how the two individual things they are both trying to solve are in fact linked and their ultimate discovery of the murder notebooks. That in itself has interested me enough to want to read the next book to see where the author takes this because I am very curious about the disappearance of their parents: why would two people with kids they care about vanish? How could that be justified? I want the answers to the questions in my head but I’m also hoping the next book is tighter and doesn’t waste a lot of time on something that is ultimately, in the end, unimportant to the main story.
Book #121 of 2012