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Cassandra “Cass” Caravello is a fifteen-year-old contessa living in Renaissance Venice whose elite life is suffocating. Outwardly, she benefits from wealth, prestige, and an arranged marriage. Inwardly, she recoils from her life being meticulously planned out for her. She wants to escape the social mores that plague society. She wants to choose her own destiny. She wants…freedom.

 When Cass accidentally discovers the mutilated body of a young courtesan, she is forced to find the killer before he finds her. With the aid of Falco, a handsome artist who seems to mysteriously appear whenever she needs help, they plunge into the darkness of elite society. As more girls turn up dead, they begin to unlock the mystery of who might be friend and who might be foe.  


**Note: For people who love this book, love the author, or find great pleasure in commonplace romances where they know exactly what will happen before they read a word, you probably want to stop reading.**

 Characterization: Cass is a shallow, dislikeable character. She spends most of the book whining about her life being planned for her. When she isn’t obsessing about how unfair life is, she’s obsessing about Falco – a character that we know nothing about, even after 431 pages. Probably the most disturbing part of Cass’s character is that the author attempts to use her to convey a strong female character bucking Renaissance conventions towards women; however, all she seems to think about is making out with Falco - or her fiancé Luca (another character that’s never developed), which undermines the whole “strong female” thing.

 Cass’s constant need for male companionship wears on the reader. Scene after scene she suspects Falco is the real killer (or at least an accomplice), but within a paragraph, he will smile at her, and she will change her mind because of his kissable lips or taunt muscles.  

Cass is supposed to be fifteen years old. There is no way. Her language, actions, and the basic context of this novel make the fact that she’s fifteen completely unbelievable. In fact, as I read, it seemed more plausible that she was at least seventeen or eighteen while Falco should have been in his early twenties. This leads me to believe that this novel might be geared more towards adult readers rather than young adult.

 Plot/Context: The book jacket promised a romantic suspense thriller. By definition, this book meets those guidelines; however, there was no originality to the plot at all. On more than one occasion, I felt as though I was reading a Harlequin romance novel that my grandmother had snuck to me while I was in high school. Just like Harlequin novels follow formulaic character and plot outlines, this novel did, too. There was little suspense, and the romance was really lust disguised as “love.” In fact, “lust” WAS the plot.

 Love Triangle: There was indeed a love triangle, but I could care less who won Cass. In fact, I was hoping that she would be killed off so that both men could find someone with some substance. 
 
I gave this novel two stars because the author managed to keep the identity of the killer a secret until the very end. Of course, the killer was so random that I almost forgot that that person was in the book. Which leads to another frustration. This book is 431 pages of cliché and predictable  storyline. To quote my student, “Someone needed to grab a scalpel and carve a plot out of all of those pages.”


 
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Jasper "Jazz" Dent is the son of the most notorious serial killer of all time. While growing up, Dear Old Dad taught his son valuable lessons, such as how to clean blood stains, how to slice through skin, and how to think like a serial killer. Now, several years after his father's apprehension and conviction, Jazz is trying to lead a normal, teenage life in the same small,
close-knit community that his father committed his final two murders. But, when women start getting murdered, and the killer is copying Billy Dent’s gruesome MO, Jazz is the only one schooled enough in the mind of a sociopath to help the police. The only problem is that Jazz isn’t sure that being around the victims won’t trigger his own need to kill. 

For people who enjoy TV shows like Criminal Minds or CSI, this is an exceptional read. The novel doesn’t go into detail about the killings. Instead, the plotline focuses on the inner workings of the mind of a killer. I know that several people were disappointed that there wasn’t more action and scenes with the murders taking place – they were always described after the fact – but with this type of story, it really would have taken away from the psychological aspect. 

There were a few times that Jazz’s constant whimpering about being destined to kill got old, but Lyga did a good job of using his spunky girlfriend Connie to call him out and voice what the reader was thinking: “Either put up, or shut up.” From that moment forward, Jazz became a stronger character for me. 

This novel alludes to multiple brutal killings and gives details about nailing bodies to a ceiling, vaginal and anal rape, and other forms of brutality. Because of this information, readers need to be mature; however, leaving it out would have taken away vital details from the story. Lyga wanted to show the cruelty to Billy Dent's murders without shifting the focus away from Jazz. Part of Billy's cruelty was making his child watch, and participate, in a number of killings. 
 
I know that Mr. Lyga conducted research to add authenticity to his novel, and his painstaking efforts show. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel because I’m intrigued with how the mind works, and the mind of a sociopath is probably one of the most mysterious to explore. I will definitely check out the sequel. 

*ARC was provided at 2011 NCTE Conference     
Book comes out in April 2012