Blood on My Hands is a YA thriller/murder mystery by author Todd Strasser.
It is with shock that 17-year-old Callie finds Katherine Remington-Day, her high school's most popular girl, dead in the dark woods during a keg party. Mindlessly, she finds the knife and Katherine's blood on her hands. Before she is fully aware of what is happening, her fellow classmates are snapping cell phone pictures of her in this guilty position.
Callie knows she's innocent, but she doesn't trust the police to disregard all the evidence and believe her. She believes the only way to clear her name is to figure out who the real killer is. Before the police find her first.
Especially since, with her history with Katherine - she had motive.
But so did many others...
As a longtime fan of Joan Lowery Nixon when I was younger (I'm sure I'd still love all the novels if I were to reread them today), I was enthusiastic about reading Blood on My Hands, since it is a teen murder mystery. I love that kind of story.
Blood on My Hands certainly cuts to the chase - the murder is immediate and conclusions of guilt are drawn so quickly that before you know it Callie is on the run. On the one hand, this is a fast-paced way of jumping right into the action of the story - but on the other hand, I felt it was too fast. I barely knew who was who or what was what before the plot was taking off, expecting me to follow behind blindly.
What helped to make me identify with the characters a bit more was how Strasser does take moments to slow down the pace and flash back to past incidents with these characters, memories and moments between them. Some of them reveal a shocking, unexpected, dark family past for Callie that explains to the reader why her panic is so palpable and understand her reluctance to go to the police and talk to them instead of flee, which is easy to dismiss as ridiculous and dumb. And who ever wants a dumb heroine? So even though it is still, perhaps, unwise as a decision - at least the author helps you to understand the motivation behind it.
It took me a while to really become involved or invested in Blood on My Hands, mainly because my first impressions of the characters and plot felt shallow. But as layers were peeled back in the narrative and we start witnessing first hand how Katherine was the ultimate mean girl with a violent streak, and the various secondary characters begin to form a shape more secretive and suspicious - the novel starts to finally pick up.
Patience was necessary for me to get into the story, but that might not be the case for you. But if it is, I implore you to continue reading - because Blood on My Hands does begin to have that ominous, suspenseful twinge you usually get from murder mysteries and sleuth novels. The clue finding revs up, as well as the tension of Callie's situation on the run.
A sense of danger and violence brews beneath the surface and paranoia takes forefront. I started to have some good ol'honest fun trying to figure out whodunit! And since Todd Strasser did, eventually, turn up the heat on character development, it stopped feeling so superficial and became where I did care about Callie and the people in her life. The narrative became more thoughtful and introverted in an interesting way.
As Blood on My Hands picks up MAJOR speed later one, with the persistence of a seasoned bibliophile I became quite desperate to get answers. I was riveted to the final page, breathless with the conclusion (though I was partially correct with my guess - I was also partially wrong, which is always good!), and left feeling pretty satisfied, overall, with the book.
Todd Strasser has another YA thriller that came out earlier in the year called Wish You Were Dead, and is apparently going to write another one here soon. While early on in Blood on My Hands I wasn't sure how interested I was going to end up being in reading more of his work, I can say that I definitely wouldn't mind it now. I personally had to keep with it with more patience than I necessarily prefer, but I did feel rewarded for it by the end. I think you might be too!
Special Note: Because I am still super duper busy with reading and reviewing, the Friday posts will continue in November! In fact, because there doesn't seem to be enough Mondays and Fridays in the month to post all the reviews I am writing I will now be adding in a temporary WEDNESDAY posting for November, as well. Please check back every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for new reviews and ramblings from a crazy bibliophile (me)!