Is Murray psychic? He talks to the dead and comforts them in their lonely graves, even as they provide solace for himthey are his best friends. When he hears a new voice in the cemetery, he's sure it's Nikki, the cheerleader who has been missing for months. But who will believe him? He's a loser. Can he even believe in himself?
Along comes Pearl, daughter of the cemetery caretaker, who befriends Murray and tries to enter his world. Together they may prove the astonishing possibility that Nikki is closer than anyone thinks.
About the Author
Charlie Price is an executive coach and consultant, an avid reader, a pretty fair free-throw shooter, and a hopelessly addicted fly fisherman. His book Lizard People was inspired by his years of working with kids in at-risk schools, and mental institutions and psychiatric hospitals. He lives in Redding, California, with his family.
Read an Excerpt
By Charlie Price
Roaring Brook PressCopyright © 2006 Charlie Price
All rights reserved.
DO THE DEAD CRY?
The wait of the dead was the loneliest thing Nikki could ever have imagined. Lonelier than thinking her friends were making fun of her. Lonelier than sitting by herself in the gym on a bottom bleacher while others danced.
Maybe she could endure the loneliness if she wasn't so angry — furious really.
He took her and hid her and no one would ever know what had happened. No one would find her. And the years would move away like a train abandoning a station. The tracks becoming covered with weeds, disappearing, with no one to stop there again.
Do the dead cry? Do they ache in sorrow? Do they weep in helpless frustration?
You know they do.
MURRAY IN THE CEMETERY
I'll be ready to die right after high school. Join my friends. Edwin, 1953, polio, says he was glad to die. He's a very nice guy and he was super in math. But he hated that iron lung. Get it over with, he says.
That's the way I feel, too. Mom doesn't really need me. I don't have a job. I don't drive.
Kids at school tease me about my name, Murray. Say it's expired, like out of date. And I don't know how they found out about my mom. Maybe some kid's parent saw it in the paper when she was arrested for prostitution. She didn't have to go to jail. And they ride me about my face. I've spent time looking in the mirror. I don't think I'm so ugly. I've had some trouble with my pimples, but I bet everybody has to work on their pimples once in a while.
Blessed Daughter, Born 1966, tells me not to worry. She says I'm cool anyway, but she doesn't realize the way kids in my classes rag on me. She says I'll grow out of it, but she died when she was eleven, brain tumor, so I don't think she's really an expert.
She's smart, though. She tells me what to say to the guys who tease me about my looks or my mother. "Don't get too close, I have AIDS." Cool, huh? They leave me alone now, which is fine with me.
My best friend is probably Dearly.
Born 1944 Died 1969
In Beauty Repose.
Car wreck, she told me. When she accepted the date, she didn't know he drank so much. She smelled it on his breath the minute she opened her front door. She stayed dry, not sure if she'd have to drive after the party. They didn't get that far. They hit a tree. He broke his neck. She went through the convertible's windshield and bled to death.
Dearly Beloved was perky. She brushed her hair and put on makeup in the filling station where she made him stop before the accident. She even considered taking off her underwear and putting it in her purse, but she was glad she hadn't, after what happened. He was a business manager for a national fraternity. Kappa Chi. He had long fingers.
They are not graveyards. I hate it when people say that. They are cemeteries. The one I know best is Forest Grove. I spend most of my time there. That's where most of my friends are. I don't spend much time with the older people. I figure they deserved it. Not deserved it, really, but what could they expect? After forty, you're going to die. The ones my age and the children, they almost all need someone to talk to. I comfort them the best I can. They weren't ready. They'll tell you that. They're not jealous or mean or scary like you might think. Just really lonely. Everybody needs a friend. Even James.
Taken in his Bloom
Born 1900 Died 1918
I figure the war got him. He doesn't talk to me yet.
I think of myself as The Comforter. That's what I want on my stone.
If I do kick, I'll be the first Kiefer to have graduated from high school in California. That's the promise I made to Mom, my obligation. She won't miss me. I'm more in the way than anything.
Mr. Janochek, the groundskeeper, has been real nice to me, but he still asks me to leave when they lock the front gate at nine at night. I tell him sure, and head out, but he knows I don't leave. I don't have to be home until eleven on weeknights, if then, and I don't have to come home at all Friday and Saturday. Mom thinks I'm out partying because that's what she does.
I don't even need a flashlight anymore. I know where the tree roots are that stick up between the shadier tombstones. Plus, real late at night and early, early morning are the best times to visit. It's super quiet. Easy to hear. Easy to concentrate. Nobody having a funeral or mowing or planting flowers. No cars. They don't even unlock the gate until eight in the morning, and if the weather's bad, sometimes I have the whole place pretty much to myself.
I have kind of a schedule. I start with the youngest because I figure they need the most company. I have about five or ten friends. I don't really count James, yet. And lately I've been hearing a new person, but I can't seem to locate the grave.
Or maybe I could be The Listener. That's better than "The Comforter." Jeez, comforter sounds like a bed cover. The Listener. That's mystic.
The Listener Friend to the Deceased
Two lines. It's all even and everything. I'm pretty sure Dearly will like it.
In about three or four years, you ought to come see me. Ask Mr. Janochek where "The Listener" plot is. He'll know. He keeps all the stuff looking good. He's probably the one who'll find me. He'll understand. I bet you anything.
Deputy Gates was over twenty years with the Sierra County Sheriff's Department out of Riverton, California. He was familiar with sorrow. His wife was long gone, a casualty of his earlier love affair with gambling. His son was dead, two years this coming August, from a speedball overdose the summer before he was going to be the starting middle linebacker on the high school football team. A mistake, Gates hoped ... an accident, he prayed.
Shortly after his wife left, Gates resigned from the Sheriff's Department and began an even faster slide downhill. Spending nearly every night in casinos, he bet away his house and the rest of his savings. He borrowed until he wiped out his pension, and then was arrested during an altercation with a loan broker. A trip to his own jail embarrassed him enough to start an ongoing recovery process with Twelve-Step meetings.
Now, years later, he sat in his car at Whiskeytown Lake in the foothills west of Riverton, California. The area was at the end of the Central Valley, dry and hot as a griddle through the summers, even though it was surrounded by mountains. Thankfully, it was winter now, and the temperature, fifty-five degrees, made the November day comfortable.
Sitting, quiet, thinking, Gates saw quail families combing through the manzanita. Saw a jack raise its ears as it hesitated to leave its crumple of boulders and chance open ground.
He wondered why he had stayed with investigating. Morbid curiosity? A bitter upbringing that led to foolish notions of power and justice? A uniform that extended playing cowboy into adulthood? He knew he backslid into the job as a sheriff's investigator after his son's death. But not even the domestic violence, the senseless vandalism, the unsolved crimes, and the occasional gore could drive him to civilian work.
He smelled the diesel of a tour bus in the parking lot behind him and heard the faint rumbling as its engine idled. For the hundredth time that week, he thought about the missing Parker girl.
On a rainy evening, October 17, Nikki Parker had left the school gym when cheerleading practice was over, about 6:00. She said good-bye to the woman faculty advisor and to her teammates, who were discussing which four girls made the sturdiest pyramid bottom for a football game stunt. She was always second from the top, so she didn't care what they decided.
Investigators assume that she left the gym and walked downhill toward the parking lot, where she had put her car that morning. The car still sat there the following day, and there was no evidence that she had reached it.
Police surmised that someone she knew had offered her a ride in the evening rain, and she got in with them and disappeared off the face of the earth. The high school grounds were grid-searched by hundreds of law enforcement personnel and volunteers. Not a trace. A list of her closer acquaintances was made, anyone she might have accepted a ride from, and all were interviewed and alibis checked. All school administrative, teaching, maintenance, food service, and transportation employees were interviewed and checked. No one could find an eyewitness to her activity once she left the gym.
The police suspect list was topped by her ex-boyfriend, Rudy, a nineteen-year-old who had dropped out of her high school a year before. He had given up his senior year to travel and work on the cars in his uncle's racing team.
Some said that, after he got back last summer, he ganged up with the town's main conduit for Southern California skag, a small group of bright, disaffected kids from wealthy families who could afford to ride Harleys and have "Dragoons" embroidered on the back of their lambskin jackets. Some said they were his boyhood friends, but that he wasn't really running with them. At any rate, he didn't have an alibi for the 6:00 to 7:00 time slot that day. Nikki's girlfriends thought he was really handsome and sometimes really mean, and that she probably would have gotten into a car with him.
Rudy's statement stank with bravado. "You know what you were doing two days ago, 6:00 to 7:00? Somebody says they know that, they probably did whatever you're asking about. I'm busy. I'm doing things all the time. I was with friends doing something. That's all I got. You know what else? I loved that girl. Anybody hurt her, I'd kill them myself, no shit. Give me a few days. I'll figure out what I was doing."
Next on the police favorites list was a young man named John Turner, who was Nikki's private tennis coach and trainer. He was seen as a marginal citizen who made his money by supplying a variety of needs for his all-female clientele. He was tan, facile, and few men who met him trusted him. Many of Nikki's friends, however, thought he was a "hottie."
Nikki's parents paid for the court lessons and the training. They had no idea about the man's character or how much time their daughter actually spent with him. "She has her own car, you know. She's away from home several hours a day and that's the way it is with all the girls now," her mother had told the investigating officer. Everyone thought she would get in a car with him if he invited her.
Turner was glib. "Of course I know Nikki, but I haven't set eyes on her since her lesson last week. She didn't show up for this week's," he told the investigating officer. "I don't have one bit of useful information for you and my next lesson is in fifteen minutes, so if you're through ...?"
* * *
The third candidate was an overweight school bus driver with a comb-over who should have been right in that area at the same time Nikki exited the front of the gymnasium building. The man, Buell Nostrum, had no criminal record, but word around the school was that he took a strong interest in pretty girls, trying to engage them in conversation, reaching to help them down the bus steps. Administrators were aware of Nostrum's interest but no formal complaint had been filed by either students or parents, and no administrative action had been taken. His supervisor suspected him of fudging time cards and stealing tools occasionally from the vehicle maintenance barn but could never marshal the hard evidence necessary to fire him.
Nostrum's story was that he didn't even know the girl. Possibly true because she never took the bus and he never drove for school sports functions. Police weren't able to confirm whether or not he attended games where he would have seen her cheerlead. He denied it and his wife corroborated. He said he had been doing errands that night and had gone the opposite direction out of the maintenance yard where he routinely parked.
"I didn't go out front at all. I was headed to that big Shopko out on Lake Boulevard. That's why I was late getting home, and you can ask my wife."
Police did. And she confirmed it. A search of the house turned up shopping bags from that market but no recent receipts to confirm dates of purchase.
At the end of October, investigators were left with a missing person, three possible suspects, and not a shred of viable evidence indicating what had actually happened. The parents could afford a $50,000 reward, and the community raised an additional $25,000 to go on top of it. The community organized bloodhound searches of every park and forest area within reason. Ponds and rivers were dragged, and scuba divers went deep into the two local lakes.
Over two thousand man-hours and nobody found a thing.
PEARL OF THE CEMETERY
Pearl didn't think about things. If your Dad worked in a cemetery, would you think about things?
Death just around the corner? Nope. She'd save her thinking for homework. She was a private person, and those backbiting queen bees in her classes weren't going to get a shred of personal information to use against her. She had a few friends but none she really trusted. School didn't feel safe in that way.
Today she didn't care about school. She was focused on that dorky kid who talked to graves. She knew he had seen her a couple of times, but he didn't know that she had actually heard him talking to the headstones.
She knew he was spending nearly all his time after school here. She knew that two or three times a week, her dad had to ask him to leave at nine, when he locked the gate. Her dad was the groundskeeper for the Forest Grove Cemetery. He didn't dig graves or anything gross like that, but he managed the landscaping, arranged the burials, and sold new plots to families who needed a pretty place to bury somebody.
Her dad did a nice job with the flowers and even the road. He blew leaves and weeds off the lanes and kept the vines off the big metal gates. Pearl liked the funny stone houses where some families put their relatives, and all the different types of crosses and the statues of angels and saints that watched over everybody. When she died, she wouldn't mind being put here. But she wouldn't want that kid sitting over her and talking. She was certain about that.
Pearl decided to bust him while he was doing his thing with the graves. She would let him know he wasn't fooling anybody, let him know she was the boss in this cemetery. She knew he was usually just down the hill in the late afternoon. Since her dad was still working, this was the perfect time.
She left the cottage, being careful the screen door didn't slam, walked quietly down the road and right up behind where he sat in front of a tombstone, and said, "They're dead, you know!" He jumped about a foot, which wasn't easy from a sitting position.
He started stammering at her. Totally irritating. She told him to calm down or she'd make her dad tell him to leave. Then she got mad at herself. Here's a ninth grader going to get her dad to come help her!
"What are you doing talking to a headstone?"
"I'm not talking to a headstone." He was looking at her like she was the idiot.
"You're talking to yourself?" she asked.
"Well?" she said. She had her hands on her hips like a traffic cop.
"It's really none of your business," he said, turning his back to her.
"Everything that happens here is my business," she told him. "My dad runs this place."
"You're Janochek's kid?" he blurted, surprising the heck out of her.
"How do you know his name?"
"What's your name?" he asked, before she could get back on top of things.
"Pearl." Shoot! She wanted to go on the offensive. "I've seen you slinking around here, day after day"— shaking her head like he was beyond help —"You're just a goofy grave sniffer!" There. That's more like it.
Murray gave up hoping she would just leave. He turned to face her. Pearl was standing right up close to him, looking belligerent.
"Damn it! Don't you have any manners?" He was losing patience.
"Me? I'm not the one creeping around a cemetery like a body snatcher. It's supposed to be quiet and dignified here."
Murray skidded back and forth between anger and amusement. He hated being talked to in that tone of voice, but on the other hand, she was kind of cute, trying to be so tough with her bad-guy pose, and at the same time leaking a smile at the corners of her mouth.
"I am not bothering you. Go do whatever it is you do and leave me alone!"
"No ...?" He was getting tired of this game.
"Tell me what you're doing."
"You'll just keep hassling me."
"No, I won't," Pearl said, taking her hands off her hips and softening her expression. "I'm not really trying to hurt your feelings. I just kind of like messing with you."
"Can you see that I don't like it?"
"Yeah, but you'll get used to it. I'm a lot of fun to be around."
Murray barked a laugh in spite of himself. "Who told you that?"
"Jeez, he has to say stuff like that. You're his kid."
"No, he means it."
Murray massaged his forehead. "You'll just tell and I'll get in trouble and everything will get screwed up."
Pearl looked him right in the eye. "Are you doing something bad?"
Excerpted from Dead Connection by Charlie Price. Copyright © 2006 Charlie Price. Excerpted by permission of Roaring Brook Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Do the Dead Cry?,
Murray in the Cemetery,
Pearl of the Cemetery,
Janochek: Keeper of the Grounds,
Robert Barry Compton: Street Warrior,
The New Voice,
Blood Is Thicker,
No Reason to Run,
Robert Barry Takes His Meds,
Billup Pieces the Night Together,
Meds Kick In,
Handcuffs and Pickles,
Sleeping in Pee,
Frogs in the Desert,
As If He Would Hit Her,
Just a Rumor,
Races and Chases,
Hunting the Voice,
A New Man,
"He Killed Me",
Run, Robert, Run,
One Hell of a Coincidence,
No Bottles, No Paper Plates,
Robert Holes Up,
A Small Mistake,
Facing His Devils,
The Gun and the Shovel,
The Unturned Stones,
Filling in the Blanks,
Back to the Grave,
Mr. Craddock's Legacy,
About the Author,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This book was in the library under YA, but I don't think I really think it is a YA book. It's rather odd. It revolves around the disapearance of a girl and the lives of many different people who become involved with discovering what happened to her. Odd, but intriguing. I enjoyed it, but it isn't a book I'd want to read again.
This book is about a boy who can see/talk to ghosts. One day, he hears a new voice, and it turns out to be the voice of a girl who¿s been recently murdered. So to help her find peace with her untimely death, he has to help the police catch who murdered her. The book is told in alternating viewpoints, by like, 5 different people. It got a little confusing in some spots, cause you have to try to keep all the characters in mind, but the mystery was actually rather good, and it wasn¿t who I thought it was going to be.
Teenager Murray likes to hang out in the cemetary because he can speak to the dead. After making friends with the caretaker's daughter, they determine to find out who the new voice in the cemetary is and whether it has anything to do with a missing girl. Quick, fast paced read. It will suck you in. Not too scary, but scary enough.
Lots of suspense in the "can't put it down" murder mystery.
Would you believe a teenage boy who tells you he can hear a missing girl talking to him? Those who enjoy "Medium" will like this.
I enjoyed this book. It's part mystery, part supernatural, and very compassionate without being too touchy-feely. Murray is a loner with a mother who's either high or with strange men all the time, so he started spending a lot of time in the local cemetary. Turns out he can talk to the people who are buried there, and he becomes friends with several of them. Then he begins to hear a faint voice who is calling for help, and he gets scared. Meanwhile, an officer is tracking a missing person case. Other compelling characters are also prominent and either add to the case or provide red herrings.
This was okay. The idea is pretty cool, although it's very reminicent of Gaiman's The Graveyard Book and Charlaine Harris' *very* adult Harper Connelly series, both of which are MUCH better done. There are a lot of characters (at least six) to keep track of - all of whom get their own point-of-view chapters - and in trying to give them all a voice, the author ends up blending them all together. None of them have a very distinctive voice. In fact, two of the characters are police officers of a sort and I had a VERY hard time keeping them straight.The story gets unecessarily convoluted, and the ending is a bit of a cheat, but Murray (the boy who speaks to ghosts) is an appealing character.
Kearsten says: This was okay. The idea is pretty cool, although it's very reminicent of Gaiman's The Graveyard Book, which is MUCH better done. There are a lot of characters (at least six) to keep track of - all of whom get their own point-of-view chapters - and in trying to give them all a voice, the author ends up blending them all together. None of them have a very distinctive voice. In fact, two of the characters are police officers of a sort and I had a VERY hard time keeping them straight. The story gets unecessarily convoluted, and the ending is a bit of a cheat, but Murray (the boy who speaks to ghosts) is an appealing character.
I really liked Dead Connection. It took me a couple of chapters to really get into the book. At first, you are presented with what seems like separate stories that don't connect in any way. Soon though come to realize that the individuals we are learning about are connected in more way than one.
Booktalk: Murray Kiefer is a loner with a weird name and a disaster of a mother. His real friends are at the cemetery. He sits at their graves and listens to the dead tell him their stories, and they listen to him. But now he hears a new voice crying out, asking for help, asking to be found. While Murray tries to find out who is calling to him so desparately, Deputy Sheriff Gates is on his own quest, searching for a missing teenager, searching for a killer.Dead Connection has a supernatural bent, but at it's heart it's a classic who-dun-it. Teenager Nikki Parker has disappeared, and while we know her ghost is crying out to be found, it's going to take some time to find her body, let along track down her killer. Price tells this story through multiple (living) viewpoints, among them, Murray; Gates; Pearl, the daughter of the cemetery caretaker; and Mr. Robert Barry Compton, a psychotic/meth addict who may have valuable information. The constant switches in point-of-view could be confusing, but Price does a good job of giving the characters distinct voices, so it's easy to keep track of who is talking. The story moves forward in short passages - some only a page or so - which keep the pace moving quickly.While the missing teenager take central place in the plot, there are other issues going on here. Murray's mother is a drunk and drug addict whose neglect is what drove him to the cemetery in the first place. And interestingly for a YA novel, several of the main characters are adults. We most closely get to know Deputy Gates, and see his struggle to investigate this crime in the wake of his own son's death. But Price also gives a strong voice to Officer Vern Billup, a drunk, abusive man whose relationship to the case is not immediately clear. This narrative technique adds to the complexity of the story, but teens may have a harder time finding a character to relate to.
We all have seen a Murray Kiefer around school. He is the kid who is made fun of, is into weird things, and has very low self esteem. Price turns Murray into the protagonist hero, by giving him a special attribute. This book is sure to keep the reader guessing who is after Murray, and who really hid Nikki Parker.
Murray can talk to the dead, in the cemetery. They are his only friends, until Pearl, the caretaker's daughter, takes an interest in his activities there. Murray hears a girl calling for help and finally realizes that it must be the girl who disappeared in the fall. Murray and Pearl know that she is there, but how do they get the police to investigate?Meanwhile, there are suspects that are heard throughout the story.The ending is a surprise, however.Good, but I don't think it is popular.
"He talks to the dead. The dead talk to him." This fast paced mystery novel will have you on your toes from beginning to end. The main character, Murray, is very different from the other kids in his school, instead of hanging out at the mall with friends, he hangs out in cemeteries with the dead. But when Murray meets Pearl, the nosy daughter of the cemetery's caretaker, his whole world turns upside down as he works to solve Nikki, a missing cheerleader's disappearance, which turns out it quite a surprise. Even through frights and fights the children won't give up until they can get Nikki found. Each chapter switches who the main character is, so you know each character's view on things, which leads you to really wonder about who killed Nikki and who was just an innocent passerby. Murray's ability to talk to the dead really helps spice up the story so it isn't just another mystery book. It is one of the most original mysteries with one of the most unexpected endings I have ever read. I definitely would recommend this book to you! -RSK
This is truly one of the best books I have ever read! It is such a quick read.... I would absolutley read all of charlie price's books, this one was so good! It's such a quick read.... all the characters are so unique and special in thier own ways.
Dead Connection is one of the best books I have ever read! It has a great polt, characters, and everything else! I didn't want the book to end!
I am soon to be a junior at Holt High School, and I am writing a review for English class. I read the book Dead Connection by Charlie Price. Friendship, fear, enemies are the themes through out the whole book This book is about 8 people whose names are Dearly, Murray, Gates, Pearl, Mr. Janochek, Billup, Drummond, and Robert, all trying to solve a mystery that has arisen not so long ago. They all are really helping each other solve the mystery but they don't even know who each person is. Murray's friends are not like the typical friends they are dead; however, he can hear and talk to them. One of them is Dearly and she is like his mother to him even though she is his age. He ends up getting a real life friend whose name is Pearl. Pearls is interested in Murray and she ends up helping him through tough times. Pearls dad is Mr. Janochek who is like a dad to Murray, because his mother is not there for him a lot of the time. Billup hates Murray because he walked in on him and his mother. Billup is an alcoholic and runs in to a lot of trouble in the book. Gates is the cop in the story tying to solve his case which affects all the characters in the book. Robert saw what had happened in the mystery but he can't remember what had happen because he has mental problems. Gates ends up helping Robert. Drummond is like the boss of Gates and tries to help him on the case. When I read this book, I liked it a lot. I give the book 5 out of 5 stars, because it was easy to read and follow through out the book; but also makes you think as you progress through the book. It was a very interesting book. I would recommend this book to all ages, because it is and easy book but it still challenges your ability to think what is going on in the book, it doesn't just come right out and tell you what happened. The book would go great with the series Scooby Doo because they solve mysteries with each other. The people that would not like it is the people that don't like to solve things and like to just be spoon fed every thing when they read.
Murray is an outcast, who talks to the dead. He visits the cemetery every day to talk to his friends. He stays away from most living people until he meets Pearl, the graveyard caretaker's daughter. She finds him strange, but is also drawn to him.
One afternoon, Murray hears a new voice. While he can hear her and sense her presence, he can't see her or talk to her. Meanwhile, the town scrambles to find out what happened to Nikki, a missing cheerleader. Murray and Pearl come to the conclusion that the new girl in the cemetery could be Nikki.
Is it possible that they've uncovered the biggest mystery in town? And if so, how can they tell someone who will listen to them and not think they're crazy?
Broken up into short chapters, DEAD CONNECTION takes several character perspectives, letting the reader unravel the mystery. I recommend this one to reluctant readers and mystery fans.