Book: “The Knife” (Fear Street 14) by R.L. Stine
Publishing Info: Simon Pulse, January 1992
Where Did I Get This Book: ILL from the library!
Book Description: Quiet—hospital!
Sshh. There are a lot of things they want to keep quiet at Shadyside Hospital. In fact, just about every private room holds a private secret of its own.
Poor Laurie Masters. The student volunteer innocently happened to stumble onto the hospital’s sickest secret of all.
Laurie has seen too much—and now the doctors and nurses are taking a close look at Laurie.
What they come up with is a deadly diagnosis. Laurie may not be sick, but she’s getting a prescription anyway—a prescription for horror!
Had I Read It Before: No.
The Plot: R.L. Stine has taken his “Fear Street” books through multiple horror tropes. You have the camping trip, the cabin in the woods, the prom court, the haunted house, and many many more. But with “The Knife”, we are finally treated to the evil hospital trope! We first see our protagonist, Laurie, being chased by a man, and she is worried about the knife that he’s holding. Then we go back a week and the story begins. Laurie and her friend Skye are volunteers at the children’s ward at the Shadyside Hospital, having given up their summer break for garnering karmic points. While Skye is delivering balloons, Laurie looks towards the newest wing that is being built, the Franklin Fear Wing. Yep, named for the Fear Family. Soon Laurie hears crying from another room, and lets herself in to find a crying little boy. She tries to calm him down, but to no avail. She checks his chart (not sure if she’s allowed to do that since she’s a volunteer and not a doctor….?), and finds out that this little boy’s name is Toby, he’s three, and has pneumonia. She decides to just hold his hand and keep him company, which is actually kind of sweet, but is interrupted by a mean nurse named Nurse Wilton, who tells her to get out.
While eating lunch in the cafeteria (and I gag because the meat is described as ‘blue’), Laurie and Skye chat to let us get to know them a bit better. Skye is juggling two boys and thinks that she’s destined to win a car in the hospital raffle. Laurie is dating Andy Price, the son of one of the hospital’s administrators, but he’s a real dud. Luckily for both of them, a handsome man walks into the cafeteria at that moment, and walks right up to their table. He says his name is Rick Spencer (which is gross now because Rick is short for Richard and Richard Spencer these days…. well….. yeah), and he’s a college student who is also volunteering that summer, though he is on the surgical floor. Skye is practically in heat over him, but he seems to be more interested in Laurie. Before Laurie can really gaze into his eyes, a Code Blue goes over the intercom for room 903… Toby’s room!!! Laurie runs off to check on that precious little boy, but when she gets to his room she instead finds Nurse Wilton who tells her the Code was for another room, 503, and kicks her out again. Laurie walks to the nurses station to talk to the kinder, gentler Nurse Girard, who is talking to…. Toby’s MOM!!! She says that she wants her son back. Where he went, I don’t know? Laurie notices Nurse Wilton going into the Fear Wing…. and then sees Rick follow her in. Odd.
That night Laurie is at her house, the one she shares with her Aunt Hillary in the part of town called North Hills. Laurie’s folks were killed in a boating accident when Laurie was a little girl, so now she lives with Hillary who is rarely home because of her job. While reading the phone rings. She answers, but hears nothing but breathing on the line. After hanging up, the phone rings again. This time it’s Rick, who has called to ask her out for that weekend. Laurie politely declines, as she has a date with Andy, and asks how he got her number. He says Skye gave it to him. But once they hang up, Laurie calls Skye, because OBVIOUSLY, and asks if that was true. Skye says nope, and now Rick is a liar as well as a college guy hitting on high school girls.
The next day Laurie finds a note from Hillary saying she’ll be late that night. Then the phone rings again, and this time it’s Dr. Price, Andy’s Dad. He tells Laurie to skip out on work and play tennis with his son instead…. because JUST KIDDING, it was Andy the WHOLE TIME!
Laurie declines, and says that she’ll see him after work when they go out for pizza with Skye and one of her boyfriends.
At work she buys Toby a teddy bear and intends to bring it to him, but she freaks out when she gets to his room and it’s empty. Because clearly the only answer is that he must have died tragically. In actuality he’s been discharged, and she sees him at the nurse’s station while his Mom talks to Rick. She gives him the bear and tells him to go with his Mom… and Toby says ‘she’s not my Mommy’. Okay, that’s weird, but before Laurie can question it too much his ‘Mom'(?) says it’s time to go, and Toby follows. She asks Rick what they were talking about, and he tells her she was giving her directions to the pharmacy. Laurie isn’t buying it, because he said he was new to the area so HOW COULD HE KNOW WHERE THE PHARMACY IS? The phone at the station rings, and he answers. Laurie starts to leave, but lingers, and sees that after he hangs up, he slips a pack of surgical knives into his pocket!!! Liar AND thief!
Laurie can’t stop thinking about Toby and decides to check up on him. After very illegally going through his file, she gets his address… which is, of course, on FEAR STREET!! She thinks that she can go there under guise of selling raffle tickets for the hospital, though she’s nervous about going to Fear Street alone, because, you know. All the horrible things that have happened there. Before she can make a clean getaway, Nurse Wilton plants herself at desk to the file room. Laurie manages to kind of sneak past, but Wilton sees her anyway and demands that she come back. Laurie, however, runs to the elevator and gets in, only to be kicked off on an unfamiliar floor (as a patient was coding maybe? It’s a plot device). She starts to explore, ignoring the ‘personnel only’ signs, and hides in the first room she can in case Wilton tracks her down. Sadly, it’s a room with a dead body in it….. and then someone locks her inside!! But she manages to get out (because it locks from her side), and once out sees Nurse Wilton and Dr. Price talking. Assuming it’s about her, she gets indignant that Wilton would rat her out…. But honestly, Laurie, you were violating SO MANY HIPAA LAWS THERE.
At the pizza place Laurie tells her friends about her ethics violation and convinces them to go to Fear Street with her. They all get into Andy’s Volvo and drive to Fear Street. Toby’s Mom greets Laurie and Skye with an angry ‘what do you want?!’, and they convince her to buy a ticket. When Toby’s Mom goes to find her purse, they hear crying inside the house. Laurie sneaks in further, and sees Toby on the steps looking a lot thinner and paler than he did earlier. His Mom catches them, throws money at them, and tells them to get the hell out.
The next day Laurie is told that she’s being transferred to another floor on Wilton’s orders. Hoping to convince her otherwise, Laurie hangs around until shift end to try and find her. SHe sees Nurse Wilton sneak into the Fear Wing, and then Rick does so as well. She decides to wait a bit for one of them to come out, but loses patience after probably about five minutes and goes in to find them. As she stumbles around in the dark, she trips over something….. and it’s NURSE WILTON’S CORPSE, WITH A SCALPEL STICKING OUT OF HER NECK! But when she runs to get help and comes back with Skye and Nurse Girard, the body, of course, is gone. They think she’s playing a joke on them. Laurie now believes two things: 1) Rick is the murderer, and 2) It has to do with Toby somehow. She tries to go check the files again, but they’ve up and absconded.
The next day Laurie puts on a disguise and goes back to Fear Street to stalk outside Toby’s house. She sees him at the kitchen table, and then sees him being whisked off with a suitcase into a car and driven away. Though she hears a child’s scream from inside the house, she decides to ignore it (?!?!) and talk to Dr. Price the next day. When driving home she is stopped by a car that blocks her path, and the driver is none other than Rick in a weird Batman tee shirt. Laurie turns around and drives off. She gets home to her empty house and calls Andy, asking to talk to his Dad. He wants to know why, and she lies saying she is doing a project that involves interviewing him. Andy invites her over for a hook up, and she hangs up to call Skye to see if she can crash at her place, as she’s scared to be home alone after the weird stuff she’s seen. She hears footsteps on the steps, and tells Skye never mind, Hillary is home… BUT IT’S NOT HILLARY, it’s some intruder!! But when Aunt Hillary does come home, the intruder runs away. Laurie is convinced it’s Rick, but Hillary says she saw Andy’s car in the street (maybe). Laurie tells her everything, and Hillary says that since she’s working with the Board of Trustees maybe she can talk to Dr. Price. Laurie gets upset and says she thinks she doesn’t need any help, but frankly Laurie…
Rick calls. Asks why she ran away from him on Fear Street. She confronts him about the knives, he tries to brush it off, and so she asks why he was even on Fear Street to begin with and he tells her to stay away from Fear Street, ominously.
Laurie meets with Dr. Price. Tells her that she saw Nurse Wilton’s dead body. He calls the hospital to ask why he didn’t hear about any of this, and tells Laurie that he was told that Wilton is on vacation. Laurie tells him she thinks Toby is in trouble, and to placate her he says that he’ll check the kid’s files. Laurie informs him that the files have gone missing and he tells her he’ll track them down. Later Laurie and Andy are talking about why she was talking to his Dad, and she tries the ‘extra credit’ excuse again, and Andy puts the moves on her and she says nah, which leads to a fight and she dumps his ass. When going to the mall to meet Skye, Laurie conveniently sees Toby and his Mom in the parking lot!! Laurie waves, and Toby waves back, but then he’s shoved into the car by his Mom and they drive away. Laurie hates seeing Toby hurt like that, but instead of calling the cops to report a possible case of child abuse, she resolves to figure it out on her own!
So she calls Toby’s Mom pretending that she has an extra raffle ticket. Toby’s Mom is not convinced and tells her she’s a ‘nuisance’. There’s a slap and a child crying right before hanging up, and so Laurie decides to drive to Fear Street and save Toby herself! To what end, idiot? She sneaks into the house through a window, but is knocked over the head and dragged to the basement where she is tied up by Toby’s Mom. Toby’s Mom goes upstairs to make a phone call, and Laurie overhears that perhaps they have nasty plans for Aunt Hillary! Laurie sees a pair of scissors, and tries to get them. But the someone is coming down the steps.. and it’s Toby! Toby cuts the ropes, and Laurie says that she thought he had been taken away…. and Toby tells her that that wasn’t him, that was his twin brother Terry. Because OF COURSE IT WAS. They sneak up the steps and out of the house and get in her car and drive away. At a payphone Laurie tries to call Hillary to warn her, but can’t get an answer. So she calls the hospital, and gets a message that Hillary left for her: her car won’t start so please come pick her up from her meeting at the hospital, and she will be at the nurses station. So she and Toby rush for the hospital, and on the way they hear a radio report that Nurse Wilton’s body has been found. To make matters worse, Rick’s car is following them!! They get to the hospital and it looks like maybe they lost him.. but as they get into the building Rick pulls in the lost. Laurie and Toby get in the elevator and the doors close JUST AS RICK IS ABOUT TO GET IN TOO.
They get to the nurses station and Laurie leaves Toby with a nice nurse. Hillary isn’t present, and Nurse Girard tells her no one has been by for nearly two hours. Laurie tries to use the phone, but then Rick is there! He’s distracted by Nurse Girard, so Laurie runs into the Fear Wing (of course) to try and hide. While dicking around in there she finds a random trap door, and surmises that’s how Rick moved Nurse Wilton’s body. So Rick enters and we’re back to the prologue, with him grabbing her and her worried about the knife he must have. Turns out he grabbed her to keep her from falling down a broken elevator shaft she almost ran into. Someone else enters the wing, and Laurie screams for help. Rick shoves her away so he can tangle with whomever it is, and Laurie hears a fight. She sees Dr. Price, who tells her she can come out now. She runs to him, jumping over unconscious Rick… But Rick is waking up! And he tells Laurie that it was Dr. PRICE who killed Nurse Wilton! Because Nurse Wilton found out that Dr. Price and Toby’s Mom (not really his MOm!) were selling children in an illegal adoption scheme, and she was blackmailing him! Dr. Price and Rick fight again, and this time it ends with Dr. Price falling down the elevator shaft.
Rick and Laurie leave the Fear Wing and are reunited with Hillary, who explains that Dr. Price thought that she was getting too close to his secret and that’s why he wanted her dead. Rick and Laurie kiss. The end.
Body Count: 2. You get Nurse Wilton and Dr. Price (I think? I have to imagine).
Romance Rating: 4. Rick is fine and he and Laurie are an okay couple with similar interests. But Andy is obnoxious and having her have to spend ANY time with him is upsetting.
Bonkers Rating: 5. A complex conspiracy theory in a hospital that involves selling children and then the fact that there is a set of twins as well gets it a bit of a boost. But it feels more Lifetime Movie, plot wise.
Fear Street Relevance: 8. The wing in the hospital that seems to cause the most trouble is named after Simon Fear. So it’s The Fear Wing, and THAT is pretty great. Also, Toby is being kept in a house on Fear Street.
Silliest End of Chapter Cliffhanger:
“Then she had a sickening new feeling. Something in the room behind her was moving!”
… But nope, it wasn’t. She was alone the whole time.
That’s So Dated! Moments: Laurie and Skye first see Rick and the comparisons to Tom Cruise are thrown around pretty readily and heavily. I’m not so certain seventeen year old girls these days would be making THAT reference when trying to describe a cute boy.
“He grabbed the front of the shirt, his face filled with mock horror. ‘Get rid of my bleeding knife t-shirt? Are you crazy?’
‘Get rid of it,’ she insisted.
‘But it’s so… so totally cutting edge!’ he cried.”
YEAH YEAH, I LAUGHED, OKAY?
“The Knife” was pretty lame. Less conspiracy, more GHOSTS, dammit! Next up is “The First Date”. I can only imagine how this is going to be.