Soul Beach by Kate Harrison is a murder mystery novel with a twist – the twist being that the victim can still communicate with the world via Soul Beach.
The book begins with Alice Forster preparing for the funeral of her older sister, Megan, five months after her murder. Her sister was a reality TV star, known as the Songbird, and loved by millions for her beauty and girl-next-door personality. She was found suffocated, with her blonde hair brushed out around her like a halo, and the police are nowhere near discovering who killed her.
Alice is sixteen, and struggling to adjust to life without Megan. She is trying to continue as normal with her friend Cara and boyfriend, Robbie, but it is clear that she isn’t coping. The morning of the funeral she receives a strange e-mail from her sister’s e-mail address, dated with the date of her sister’s death. Alice thinks it’s a hoax, but she is then sent a link to Soul Beach, a mysterious online site that looks like a beautiful and serene beach scene, with palm trees and clear blue seas.
However, this site is definitely not ordinary, as Alice can hear her dead sister talking to her, and can actually communicate with her via the site. Her sister isn’t the only soul she can communicate with on the beach either, as the beach is full of pretty young souls in a never-ending party environment, but they can only see Alice if Megan introduces them to her.
Alice is only a Visitor to the site, but it is clear from her first entry to the site that her actions are being carefully monitored, as it is forbidden to ask residents how they died unless the resident starts the conversation about it. This leaves Alice to constantly fret over what she says to her sister, as she comes to rely upon the residents of Soul Beach more than her real life friends, and can’t bear the thought of losing it from her life.
It is clear that Soul Beach is not the paradise it is made to look like, as the residents are trapped there forever, described as a ‘limbo’ for souls with unresolved issues. As a Visitor, Alice is the only one who can help these souls to resolve their problems, which gives her even more mysteries to solve than that of her sister’s murder.
In her ‘real’ life, Alice is becoming more and more detached from her friends, breaking up with her boyfriend and steering clear of her parents and their arguments. However, she becomes determined to find out what really happened to her sister, as she doesn’t believe that Megan’s boyfriend, Tim, could have been behind it, and starts her own investigations.
Alice is a brilliant character, as the writer has given her such depth for a YA novel, especially with the grief she feels for her sister, and the attachment she forms for the beach. It is also easy to understand her self-destructive path with her friends, as Soul Beach becomes more real to her than real life, with her beginning to log on to the site more and more each day. And when she starts falling for Danny, a resident of Soul Beach, her life starts to get a whole lot more complicated.
I know. What kind of sick freak checks her email before she goes to see her sister being buried? But sometimes it hurts so much I feel like I’ve got acid in my veins instead of blood, and that’s when I go online.
The reader is left to make their own decisions about the nature of the beach, and I also loved the inclusion of the killer’s confession at certain points during the book. These inserts are told in first person, and give the killer’s perspective of Megan, but still don’t manage to give away any clues as to the murderer’s identity.
I loved this book, and I can’t wait to read the following books in the series, as I really have no idea who the murderer is, and have a feeling that any guesses I try to make are going to be totally wrong! This book was full of surprises, and I was absolutely drawn in to the world of Soul Beach. The only detail I had a slight issue understanding was how Alice could ‘walk’ along the beach when she was viewing it from a computer screen, but this was easy to overlook whilst reading.
I loved Soul Beach, as the story was gripping and a really innovative concept that I hadn’t anticipated. The character of Alice was easy to relate to and the murder mystery has gripped me, and I really can’t wait to read the next book in the series and get a step closer to finding out who the murderer is!
BOOKS IN SERIES ORDER
- Soul Beach
- Soul Fire
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