Billy Zeets is a 15-year-old from the wrong side of town. From his hospital bed, he recounts the story of the disappearances and murders of teenage boys in his small town. Billy is a reformed juvenile delinquent. His mother recently died and
his father is losing their house because he needs to pay medical bills. Billy needs to make some money quickly to help his family. As Billy works around town to raise money, he starts to find clues that lead him to what is happening to the boys who are disappearing. But, due to his reputation around town, Billy must solve the mystery on his own, since he knows no one will believe what he has learned.
The beauty of this thriller is the narrator. I was drawn to Billy. I felt for him and his quest to change how the people of his town thought about him and the kind of person he was. The novel was more a suspense than a mystery for me. It had that Columbo feel where you know early on who was murdering the young men, but you didn’t have all the answers and you weren’t sure how it would all work out. I find these aspects of the novel flawed, wanting more of a mystery and not such a cut-and-dry and easily solvable mystery.
Still, it was a quick read and one that I appreciated. I loved that Billy was poor and uneducated and fell into the mystery while attempting to take care of his family. He was not working toward a greater good. And, his checkered past and unreliable narration made the novel more complex outside of the mystery. It is in these moments that I was most drawn to him. I wanted people to believe him and was rooting for him to be okay and make sure that his family was okay as well. Turner’s strength is his well-crafted protagonist and narrator that makes Ask the Dark, Henry Turner’s debut novel worth reading.
Note: This review was first published in PCA/ACA Mystery & Detective Reading List (Spring 2017)