“We’ve heard it said that there is no justice in this world. But what if there really was? What if the souls of murdered children were able to briefly return, inhabit adult bodies and wreak revenge on the monstrous killers who stole their lives?
Such is the unthinkable mystery confronting ex-NYPD detective Willow Wylde, fresh out of rehab and finally able to find a job running a Cold Case squad in suburban Detroit. When the two rookie cops assigned to him take an obsessive interest in a decades-old disappearance of a brother and sister, Willow begins to suspect something out of the ordinary is afoot. And when he uncovers a series of church basement AA-type meetings made up of the slain innocents, a new way of looking at life, death, murder—and missed opportunities—is revealed to him.
Mystical, harrowing and powerfully moving, A Guide for Murdered Children is a genre-busting, mind-bending twist on the fine line between the ordinary… and the unfathomable.”
My Thoughts: There is a trend happening with my March releases, and I am not certain I like it. I do not know if it is a coincidence, a reflection of the current state of the world, or if publishers are deliberately selecting such novels to release at the same time. Either way, this trend is not for the faint of heart, weak of stomach, and sensitive in nature. To what am I referring? I am referring to the fact that almost every novel I have read that was published in March covers disturbing topics and does so without trying to soften any imagery. The latest in this trend is A Guide for Murdered Children.
Do not let the cover fool you. This is not a sweet novel with a happy ending for everyone. This is a dark, dark novel. Between the deaths of the adult landlords, the deaths of the children, and the figurative demons that haunt our hero, there is very little joy and too much pain. In addition, the language is stark, almost clinical in nature, which serves to enhance the feeling of bleakness that permeates the pages. To make matters even graver, Ms. Sparrow is unflinching in her portrayal of violence, especially of that done to the children. She may not describe every scene in great detail, but sometimes sentences which have the appearance of being throwaway ones contain much more information than we ever want, need, or anticipate. This all makes for a novel that you can read only during an emotionally removed state. To read it while fully empathetic is to open yourself up to too much pain and sorrow.
Yet, there is a real need to carefully read A Guide for Murdered Children for it is not an easy novel to understand. The story flits from Willow’s point of view to various deaths to the Porter who runs interference and guides the newly returned children through their last mission. At first, there is too much to absorb, and you are left with one too many WTF moments as you work to understand what is happening. Eventually, the shifts in perspective and narrative make sense, and you find yourself settling into the task of following Willow as he makes his way ever closer to his purpose. However, the chore that is reading the first few chapters means paying closer attention to everything, setting yourself up for heartache and stomachache.
A Guide for Murdered Children is not an easy book to like and it is most definitely not for everyone, yet I find myself strangely drawn to reflect upon the story and its commentary on justice. The crimes against the children, even though obliquely mentioned, still linger within my memory, but I cannot let go of this odd story. Ms. Sparrow raises so many questions and provides few answers, and I am okay with this. Her story about lost souls who are able to return to achieve a state of balance is hopeful, if bleak, and I think we need hopeful right now. Rather, I need hopeful right now. Besides, as appalling as the children’s deaths are, there is a strange satisfaction to be had by the fact that they are able to find peace. It is even more satisfying that Willow is able to find peace. It means that there is good to be found in this world, even if it is difficult to see.