Book: “The Mind Reader” (Fear Street #26) by R.L. Stine
Publishing Info: Simon Pulse, 1994
Where Did I Get This Book: ILL from the library!
Book Description: A bony hand beckons from a shallow grave…
But only Ellie Anderson can see the skeletal hand. Ellie has visions—visions of past secrets and future horror. Her visions have led her to the body of a girl who was killed two years before. Now her power may help her find the murderer…unless he finds her first!
Had I Read This Before: No.
The Plot: Ellie Anderson is sitting in Alma’s Coffee Shop visiting her best friend Sarah Wilkins, who works there. I miss Pete’s Pizza, it hasn’t been seen in a few books, but maybe this was when coffee was starting to become the hip thing for teens and Stine saw an opportunity to connect with the youth. Ellis is also there to boy watch. She and her Dad have just moved back to Shadyside after being gone for fourteen years. They moved away when Ellie was two and her mother died, but Dad’s work brought them back. Lucky for her boy watching purposes, a cute older guy walks into the coffee shop. Noticing Ellis noticed, Sarah acts as wingman and goes to take his order, and brings back intel that his name is Brian Tanner. Ellie feels like maybe he’s watching her, but instead of excited she’s suddenly overcome with fear, and leaves the coffee shop abruptly.
While out walking her dog by the Fear Woods later that night, Ellie thinks about her old school and her old boyfriend Tommy. They broke up because Ellie is a psychic, and had visions that Tommy was cheating on her with her best friend Janine. She’s had these visions of the future and the past all her life, and it’s made life difficult. Awww, it’s just like Patricia Arquette as Allison Dubois on “Medium”! I love that show! Allison never took shit!
As she and Chaz are walking, the dog suddenly retrieves a long, suspicious bone, and then he drags her to a spot where he continues to dig. BAM, human remains. Ellie and Chaz run out of the woods, and Ellie hails down a car of her classmates (with names maybe I’m supposed to recognize from previous books, but I don’t), and they take her to the police station. She is eventually handed off to Sarah’s father, Lt. Wilson, who questions her about what she saw, and asks that she take him to where she found the body. After stumbling around a bit and building the suspense, she does lead him and the other officers to the grave. Eventually word gets around that a dead body was found in Fear Woods, and Sarah shows up to see if Ellie is okay. In the crowd of officials and gawkers, Ellis recognizes Brian Tanner. But before she can dwell too long, a piece of red fabric is pulled up from the grave, and Sarah, seeing it, passes out. Wilkins then insists that Ellie needs to go home, and has another officer take her away from the scene.
At school classmates Frank and Patty pepper Ellie with questions, and then tell her that Sarah had an older sister named Melinda who disappeared a couple years prior, and she was last seen wearing a red sweatshirt. Ellis is now convinced that since she’s become friends with Sarah, Melinda is trying to reach her from beyond the grave. At her job at the Public Library after school (YESSSSS!), Ellie notices that she’s being watched. Brian Tanner is there, and he asks her if she knows where he can find information and books on primitive weapons. He lets slip that he knows that she’s new to Shadyside, which is fishy, and Ellie would be more suspicious if he wasn’t so hot. But then while they’re talking she has a vision of a bloody knife on the shelf. That combined with her unease when he’s around makes her walk away, and I say GOOD FOR YOU, ELLIE. He calls after her by her name but she ignores him. She then thinks that maybe just the title of the primitive weapons book triggered a false vision. NO, ELLIE. But THEN she realizes that she never actually told him her name….. so why did he know it?
After work Ellie decides to swing by Sarah’s house to check on her. No one is home, but a vision of a creepy ass skull is in the window!! Ellie is jarred, but calms down, and realizes that Sarah may be at work. As walks, a strange car drives up next to her, and lo and behold, it’s Brian Tanner.
He offers to give her a ride, and she says that she doesn’t accept rides from strangers. YES, ELLIE. But thinks to herself that he’s SO CUTE and is clearly tempted. Ellie, FFS. Eventually he asks why she won’t and she says that it’s because he knew her name when she never told him, and he claims that Sarah gave it to her. She still has a weird feeling, and says no before running towards the coffee shop. She wonders why she is so creeped out by him, and it’s called INTUITION, ELLIE, READ “THE GIFT OF FEAR”! She goes inside but finds no Sarah, so she asks Ernie, another employee, where she is. He says she hasn’t come in and hasn’t called, and that’s not like her. He also doesn’t know much more about Melinda. Just then, who should sit down, but BRIAN FUCKING TANNER. And Ellie isn’t at all freaked out by this?! He says that he lives with his grandparents in Waynesbridge, and says he was at the scene of the crime looking for ‘cheap thrills’. Lt. Wilkins comes in to tell Ernie that Sarah is going to be staying with her aunt for a few days, and then Ellie realizes that Brian has ditched out, right around the time that Lt. Wilkins came in…
When she gets home she decides to tell her father that it was her who found the grave. Her Dad is totally spooked that she’s involved, and tells her that she needs to stay out of it. And since apparently it’s a night of sharing, Mr. Anderson one ups her completely by confessing that her mother didn’t die of appendicitis like she was told, but that she was MURDERED. Then he breaks down into sobs, which sends Ellie into sobs and wow. This shit just got pretty real. Ellie locks herself in the bathroom and pukes, and her Dad begs for forgiveness for lying to her. She tells him she’s okay, and decides to take a shower. While thinking about all these things, she suddenly has a vision of not only a knife dangling above her head, but the tub filling up with blood! She slips and falls, and splashes blood everywhere (this is starting to sound a bit like “It”), and then hears a woman’s voice calling her name. It’s her mother!!! But soon the cries stop, the vision disappears, and her Dad is calling through the door telling her she has a phone call from some guy named Brian.
She tells her Dad to tell him she can’t talk, and once she is all dressed and ready to go to bed she asks him how her mom was killed. He says he can’t tell her right now, and she goes to bed.
Before her shift starts at the library, Ellie decides to do some research. Though she doesn’t know the month her mother died, she uses her psychic powers to discern that it was October. She finds the right year and month, and starts microfiching! She finds the right article: her mother was murdered by a man who lived in Shadyside, and he stabbed her to death. AND two year old Ellie saw the whole thing! And since her gift is also a curse, she relives the moment in one of her visions. After her shift she goes to the Wilkins’s house to find Sarah, as she is convinced that Lt. Wilkins is lying about her whereabouts (because when she called from work, someone picked up the phone, but then hang up). She finds the door unlocked, and goes into the house. She finds Sarah in her room, and shakes her away, afraid she is dead. But she’s not, she’s just deeply, deeply depressed, as the body was indeed Melinda. After she cries herself to sleep again, Ellie goes a’snoopin’, and goes into Melinda’s room. There is a framed photo in there of the dead girl, and her face seems to come to life and scream right at Ellie, who high tails it out of there.
And who does she run into??? YOU GUESSED IT. BRIAN. She actually demands why he’s following her, and he tells her that he wants to apologize for the night before when he ditched out on her. Apparently JUST as Lt. Wilkins walked in he remembered that he was in a no parking zone, and decided to move his car lest he get a ticket. SURE. She also tells him that Sarah’s sister was the body. He then asks her out on another date, and she hesitates, and he asks her if it’s because of how her old boyfriend hurt her so badly. HOLD THE PHONE, HOW DOES HE KNOW ABOUT TOMMY? she asks, and he says that he figures she’s so skittish that it must be because of an old boyfriend. He then suggests that they have a romantic picnic on Fear Island the next day. And, for reasons I cannot fathom, she says yes.
The next day Ellie sees a news expose on Lt. Wilkins and Melinda, and he tells the reporter that he had assumed that she ran off with her boyfriend Brett Hawkins, as she had told her friends that she was planning to do so. She wonders if the visions are also trying to tell her if she herself is in danger. But no matter now, she has a date with Brian Tanner! To her credit, she brings good ol’ Chaz with her. They walk through a very picturesque Fear Street Woods (Autumn is in full swing I guess) and he kisses her gently before suggesting they rent a canoe to go out to the island. They get to the island and actually have a really nice picnic, and he offers to cut her an apple slice. But, when he reaches into the basket, he pulls out THE SAME KNIFE SHE’S SEEN IN HER VISIONS. He says it was his grandfather’s knife, and she excuses herself to go panic in the woods a bit. Eventually she calms down, but when she returns to the beach, Brian is gone! Wait, no he isn’t, he packed up the canoe and went looking for her. She’s convinced he knows something’s amiss, but gets in the canoe anyway, and who can blame her, really, as there are no other options. As they are paddling, Chaz acts afool and knocks her into the water. Ellie tries to swim to the surface, but a hand pulls her down! When she does surface, she sees that Brian is unconscious. Luckily, a passing fisherman gets them all up in his boat. After they are back on shore and the fisherman goes to get his truck, Brian tells her that when she fell in he dove in after her, but then panicked and got disoriented, grabbing for anything he could, and pulled her down more. All seems fine to Ellie, until he makes a passing comment about how he’s supposed to be saving her. She asks him what that means, but he’s fallen asleep, I guess? Then he mutters the name ‘Melinda’. Did he know Melinda? Did he hurt her? Is he trying to hurt Ellie?
The fisherman drops her and Chaz off at home, and she changes clothes and goes straight to the police station. She first asks Lt. Wilkins why Sarah won’t talk to her, and he says it’s because she’s depressed. Then she asks what he knows about Brett Hawkins. He says that Brett is probably dead too as he’s been missing for two years, and that whoever killed Melinda probably killed Brett too. She asks if Melinda knew a Brian Tanner, and he says no. Oh, but then he pulls up a photo of Brett Hawkins, and shock and awe, it IS Brian Tanner! Which then sparks off a vision of the murder weapon in a deep deep hole, a knife, not unlike the one that Brian had. She tells Lt. Wilkins what she saw, and admits that she has visions, but doesn’t tell him about Brian just yet. He takes her out to the grave site, as she thinks the knife may be there, and she remembers a twisted up tree from her vision. He gives her gloves to reach inside, and she pulls out a knife with a silver handle, with rust and grime on it. Lt. Wilkins confirms Brett had a knife just like this, and Ellie is finally ready to face the fact that Brian is a goddamn creeper. She tells him that she may know where he is, and that he’s going to a false name. Lt. Wilkins says to try and get an address if she sees him next, but warns her that he could be dangerous and to be careful. Ellie starts to walk home, going up Fear Street, when someone jumps out of the bushes! It’s Sarah, who looks totally unkempt. Ellie tells her everything, and Sarah freaks out and runs away.
When Ellie gets home, she walks into the living room to find BRIAN there, livid that she showed Lt. Wilkins the knife. She runs for the door but he slams her body against it, pinning her, and clamps a hand over her mouth. He asks again about the knife, and she tries to play dumb but he tells her he knows about the knife in the tree, which must mean he put it there! She keeps trying to escape, but he keeps begging her to listen to him and honestly, roughing her up, and I’m getting flashbacks to “The New Boy” and I have feelings about this. He admits that he is Brett Hawkins, and that two years ago he and Melinda were going to run away together because they were in love, and Ellie finishes his thought by saying she changed her mind and he killed her because of it. THen the police show up because a neighbor heard screaming, and Wilkins arrests Brett. So obviously, it’s all over…. Except it’s not, because later that evening Ellie’s Dad tells her that Brett escaped custody and may be coming for her!
Ellie wants to help the police, but her father is insistent that she not because of what happened to her mother. Apparently, his wife also had visions, and had a vision of a man who killed a little girl. The man was the girl’s uncle, and Ellie’s Mom went to the police with the vision. The police arrested the uncle but couldn’t hold him, and the man ended up murdered Ellie’s Mom as an act of revenge which makes NO SENSE because it sure sounded like he was off scott free, so why kill her in broad daylight? Ellie understands his fears, but tells him that like her mother she has to help. So he lets her go to the police station. Wilkins keeps asking her for any visions that she may have, but nothing concrete comes to her outside of a shimmery image of gold, so she gives up and decides to go home. But she stops at Sarah’s house first to finally confront her. Sarah doesn’t want to talk, but then confesses that SHE was the one who killed Melinda!…. Well, indirectly, because she helped Melinda plan her escape from home because she was jealous of her and wanted her gone, so she blames herself for helping her get in touch with Brett. Get therapy, Sarah, it will do you wonders. Ellie is still not sure WHY Brett killed Melinda… THen she has a vision of being in a grave, grasping something in her hand as she is buried alive. She interprets it as Melinda telling here there’s a clue in the grave still. Then she tells Sarah about her powers, and Sarah is super supportive and grabs one of her Dad’s guns, just in case they need it.
MAN GUYS! THIS IS SERIOUSLY MAKING ME MISS “MEDIUM”! Not only was Allison great but the girls who played her children were all adorable, and Jake Weber, who played her husband Joe, was HOT.
They go to the site and start digging, looking for something small and round. What they find is a gold button, and Ellie postulates that perhaps the killer dropped it. But the BRETT SHOWS UP and asks them ‘did you find the button?’, and ALLISON DUBOIS COME SAVE THEM!! Ellie has a vision of Melinda fighting with someone, and then Lt. Wilkins shows up and aims is gun at Brett!!… But then, SARAH SHOOTS HER DAD!!! BECAUSE SHE REMEMBERS THAT HE WAS FRANTICALLY LOOKING FOR A MISSING BUTTON SHORTLY AFTER MELINDA WENT MISSING. Turns out, he found her before she left and they argued, and he shoved her in the moment and she fell and hit her head, dying instantly. So he staged the stabbing (I’m not clear on how Melinda got Brett’s knife, but I’m sure I just missed that detail), and buried her, thinking he could pin it on Brett, but Brett zipped pretty quick. He tries to shoot Brett again, but is too wounded, so Sarah goes to call for help. Brett and Ellie talk, and he confesses that he too is a psychic, and he’s been having visions of her standing in the woods with Melinda, who was begging him to help her. In fact, he’s having a vision now, and he bets he can guess what she’s thinking. Then he kisses her. And she says “You’re right.” The End.
Body Count: Just the one off page.
Romance Rating: 2. It’s nice that Ellie has found another mind reader, but Brian/Brett was a total creep for most of the book and I can’t say that I’m pleased they ended up together.
Bonkers Rating: 4. It was actually pretty straight forward. The final twist was more tragic than anything else.
Fear Street Relevance: 8. From Melinda’s body being found in the woods to the picnic on Fear Island, this one was pretty Fear Street heavy.
Silliest End of Chapter Cliffhanger:
“She was a few feet from her car, when the dark figure burst out from the bushes and leapt on her with a furious grunt.”
… And it’s just her dog Chaz. Who was somehow let out of the house just for this moment.
That’s So Dated! Moments: My very absolute favorite one was when Ellie is told that they are hoping to be able to track down Brett using ‘new computer technology’. WHATEVER THE HELL THAT MEANS!
“Shelving books at the Shadyside Public Library didn’t pay much, but Ellie loved being there. She loved the musty, old-book smell of the library. And she loved the quiet.”
Conclusion: “The Mind Reader” gets props just because I love the Psychic Trope, and it felt like an episode of “Medium”. But ultimately it fell into the trap of toxic boys and why that’s perfectly fine, and I’m really not here for that anymore.