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I See Dead People—No, Really, I Work In a Morgue

In John C. Ford's The Morgue and Me, a summer job at the morgue turns into an amateur investigation into a suspicious death.

I See Dead People—No, Really, I Work In a Morgue

BOOK REPORT for The Morgue and Me by John C. Ford

BFF Charm: Yay!
Swoonworthy Scale: 3
Talky Talk: The Big Sleep
Bonus Factors: Gumshoe, Nice Parents, Dexter
Relationship Status: Great Guy Friend

The Deal:

On a whim, Christopher gets a summer job at the county morgue in Petosky, Michigan after graduating from high school. He wants to be a spy some day, and figures he might pick up some experience -- and he does, in SPADES, y'all. His first stiff turns out to be a murder victim but the ME rules it a suicide, sending Christopher off into the world of Sam Spade, complete with hard-talking dames, grifters, danger in high places and a girl who got away.

BFF Charm: Yay!

Christopher's a sweet guy, and I'd help him solve murders any day. He needs a friend who'll push him out of his shell and give him the confidence to talk to girls, and he also needs someone who can rescue him from deranged killers. Christopher, I'm happy to help you find your inner mojo, and I'll bet we can get you a bodyguard from the yellow pages. Christopher's bff Mike is like a cross between Ferris Bueller and Cameron Frye -- rich kid with absentee parents who's also a bookie and aspiring smoothie king -- and Mike's ok, but Christopher needs a friend who appreciates his sweetness, brains and bravery.

Swoonworthy Scale: 3

Tina (the hard-talking dame) is a reporter for the local rag looking to get out of small town northwestern Michigan and into the big time -- and Christopher's mystery looks like the scoop of the century. To Christopher, she looks like the "insanely hot" (his description) bad older chick who could really help prepare him for college, ifyaknowwhatimean. Actually, Christopher's a sweet guy still reeling from rejection by the girl next door, and though Tina loves to tease, there's no real swoony action. The sparks between Christopher and Julia are definitely real, but since she's the one who got away, we're left wanting more (More? Will there be more?).

Talky Talk: The Big Sleep

Christopher reads a lot of pulp detective novels, and while he doesn't exactly clamp a cigar between his teeth and rant about stool pigeons (although the fabulous phrase, "a smile as tight as her skirt" is used), there's definitely an old-school private dick thing going on. Check out this description of the run-down lighthouse motel:

The doors were painted robin's-egg blue; the sun hit them head-on, revealing grimy streaks of dirt. A rust-stained waterslide drooled into the pool, where leaves gathered in the gutters. A single jet on the waterslide sent a wayward arc of water throbbing onto the deck, a sad little fountain of hope.

It's more Phillip Marlowe and less Nick and Nora Charles -- dark and a little scary in that way getting into real life before you're ready can be scary (um, and also in the way dead bodies can be scary). It won't keep you up at night, but there are more monsters under Christopher's bed than just the murderer. Bottom line: though there're some funny quips, this is not Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid.

Bonus Factor: Gumshoe

I love mysteries, and this is a nice one. It's much more serious and big than most YA mysteries, what with the whole dead guy thing, and there're enough twists and turns to keep you second guessing your guesses (but it's not as convoluted as Raymond Chandler). I also love the whiff of cigar smoke and glimpse of a gray fedora disappearing around the corner in this still very up-to-date story.

Bonus Factor: Supportive Parents

I'd say normal parents, but Christopher's parents are a little bit nutty in that crusading midwestern-university-professor way. they love him, though, and they act like reasonable parents of a recent high-school graduate -- they try to give him freedom while worrying themselves sick over his well-being. They're a nice contrast to the totally sucky parents his friends have.

Bonus Factor: Dexter

Not the serial-killing forensics expert dexter. I'm talking about the evil-genius little brother Dexter from Dexter's Laboratory. Daniel, Christopher's little brother, is a totally adorable evil genius, even when he's being totally annoying.

Casting Call:

Jeffrey Scaperrotta as Christopher

I really wanted to go with Kyle Gallner for Christopher, but can't get over the Beaver's disturbing turn in Veronica Mars, so I'm casting Dickie Stabler (aka Jeffrey Scaperrotta). I didn't picture Christopher as particularly hot, just nice and average, kinda cute but no F-O-X, and Scaperrotta fits the bill (plus, I get all my casting ideas from SVU these days).

Bianca Lawson as Tina

Bianca! You get to play a grown-up here! I think she can totally rock Tina's fishnets, trashy tshirts and black trans am, and definitely qualifies as "insanely hot."

Relationship Status: Great Guy Friend

This book and I are totally comfortable around each other. There's not a single bit of sexual tension or chemistry, but we have a blast hanging out and it's the first person I think of texting sarcasm and wit when I'm bored during the workday. It's always there to share a beer or two and to help provide a little insight into the simple-yet-convoluted minds of guys, but it also doesn't get all weird when the conversation gets serious about life when we're out driving around aimlessly at 2 in the morning. We may lose touch after high school, but we'll keep each other in the loop about the big stuff like jobs, weddings and kids as the years pass and I'll always think of it fondly.

Meghan Miller's photo About the Author: Meghan is an erstwhile librarian in exile from Texas and writer for Forever Young Adult. She loves books, cooking and homey things like knitting and vintage cocktails. Although she’s around books all the time, she doesn’t get to read as much as she’d like.