I had never heard of this author prior to scrolling through NetGalley and coming across 14 Ways to Die but I am definitely interested in reading more from Vincent Ralph! Big thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the eARC in exchange for an honest review.
A page-turning new YA thriller for the social media age, perfect for fans of A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder and One Of Us Is Lying.
Ten years ago, Jess’s mother was murdered by the Magpie Man.
She was the first of his victims but not the last.
Now Jess is the star of a YouTube reality series and she’s using it to catch the killer once and for all.
The whole world is watching her every move.
And so is the Magpie Man.
This book is marketed as a YA thriller/mystery but it also touches a lot on grief and living in the wake of tragedy. I was a little surprised by this but really liked how much that element grounded the plot and humanized the characters, especially Jess’s dad.
The short length of each chapter really helped keep the pages turning and made it really easy to get through the book. The pacing as a whole, however, was pretty slow. I never really had that edge-of-the-seat heart-pounding feeling and was bummed out by that. There were definitely lots of interesting moments and intense scenes but the emotions seemed to stay plateaued through the entire novel.
The concept of a reality show that filmed each contestant for an entire day every week was really interesting and was one of the things that first drew me to this book when I saw it on NetGalley. I liked seeing how Jess utilized this unique platform to tell her story and catch the Magpie Man, and I liked how the show stayed constant throughout the book without taking over the story, because I was mostly compelled to request this book for the mystery element.
Jess was a fine character- she wasn’t annoying but I didn’t love her. Despite how brave it was to go on a reality show to catch a killer she seemed to make lots of dumb decisions. Not to be too spoilery or anything but I can only put up with so much “let’s go into the dark to chase down the strange figure I saw through my window” before I start thinking that she’s being dumb. Still, I liked her determination to find the killer and her dedication to her family. She wasn’t the kind of active main character that I always love but she got the job done!
Isn’t the name Magpie Man chilling? This book blended the emotional aspects of living after the murder of a family member as well as a slightly more clinical look at serial killers. I was disappointed that it didn’t go too deep into the serial killer aspect but that’s my personal preference as someone who devours true crime shows/podcasts and episodes of Criminal Minds like candy. The name Magpie Man and his inevitable return for Jess was promisingly creepy, however. The texts, and the other incidents that I won’t detail to avoid spoilers, definitely kept me curious about who the killer was. I’m not going to lie, the reveal was kinda…disappointing. I just didn’t feel like we had enough evidence to accurately guess who the killer was, but the guessing and Red Herrings were really fun.
The pieces of this book about grief added a lot to the suspenseful mystery of the Magpie Man. The author did a really great job of painting a family with a missing key member. Despite never meeting Jess’s mom as a character I still felt the absence of her presence in the book. The way Jess fixated on justice for her mother and the way her dad behaved emphasized this loss really well. I also enjoyed when the other victims’ family members were slowly introduced to the storyline. It created such a sense of community and healing and was a spot of beauty in a darker story.
This book wasn’t as thrilling or serial killery (let’s pretend that’s a word, OK?) as I’d hoped it would be but it was definitely suspenseful and emotional. Despite Jess not being a very strong character the rest of the book seemed pretty well-written. The pacing felt off at times but the overall storyline was interesting. I’d definitely be open to reading more from this author to see how his writing style develops and what other dark stories he comes up with!