One of my favorite YA series is the Body of Evidence featuring Jenna Blake, a college student working part-time as an assistant to a Massachusetts medical examiner. The series began with Jenna, a freshman at Somerset University starting work for Dr. Walter Slickowski, one of the top MEs in the country. Slickowski, a paraplegic who has lost the use of his legs, has adapted his work area to accommodate his handicap, soon has Jenna doing much more than clerical work. Jenna's curiosity and quick mind soon involve her in some of the strange deaths that come across Slick's autopsy table, including the murder of her best friend early in her freshman semester.
Head Games, the fifth book in the series, begins two days before Christmas. The smashed body Jim Kershak, the mayor of Somerset is found near the City Hall, where he had presumably jumped off the roof. The mayor's death has hit Slick hard; Kershak had been a close friend and Slick had even dated Kershak's sister some years before. The mayor, it turns out, was not a suicide; he had been dead for hours before someone threw his body from the roof of City Hall.
Shaken, Jenna returns home to start her Christmas break. She soon finds that some things have changed. She and her high school friends are moving into adulthood and, although they are still close, their lives had begun to move on. Even Jenna's home town has changed slightly and Jenna realizes that her college friends has more in common with her than her high school friends.
While Slick and the Somerset police are trying to discover the truth about Kershak's death, one county away in Jenna's home town, someone has been breaking into homes --not taking anything, but leaving something wrapped under the Christmas trees.
Following a Christmas Eve party, one of Jenna's high school friends returns home and butchers his sleeping family. On Christmas night, another high school friend bludgeons his family. Both young murderers were found in catatonic states. Jenna is convinced that someone controlled her friends, but who? And how?
I found this entire series to entirely engaging. The characters are well-drawn and believable. Golden has managed the difficult task of integrating the younger and older characters to make a seamless whole. The mysteries are puzzling, the deaths bizarre, and the reader never knows from book to book whether the mystery will be tinged with fantasy. A solid series I recommend without hesitation.
The Body of Evidence series consists of ten paperbacks published by Pocket:
- Body Bags (1999)
- Thief of Hearts (1999)
- Soul Survivor (1999)
- Meets the Eye (2000)
- Head Games (2000)
- Skin Deep (2000, written with Rick Haulata)
- Burning Bones (2001, written with Rick Hautala)
- Brain Trust (2001, written with Rick Hautala)
- Last Breath (2004, written with Rick Hautala)
- Throat Culture (2005, written with Rick Hautala)