Kate’s Review: “I’ll Be Gone in the Dark”

35068432Book: “I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer” by Michelle McNamara

Publishing Info: Harper, February 2018

Where Did I Get This Book: The library!

Book DescriptionA masterful true crime account of the Golden State Killer—the elusive serial rapist turned murderer who terrorized California for over a decade—from Michelle McNamara, the gifted journalist who died tragically while investigating the case.

“You’ll be silent forever, and I’ll be gone in the dark.”

For more than ten years, a mysterious and violent predator committed fifty sexual assaults in Northern California before moving south, where he perpetrated ten sadistic murders. Then he disappeared, eluding capture by multiple police forces and some of the best detectives in the area.

Three decades later, Michelle McNamara, a true crime journalist who created the popular website TrueCrimeDiary.com, was determined to find the violent psychopath she called “the Golden State Killer.” Michelle pored over police reports, interviewed victims, and embedded herself in the online communities that were as obsessed with the case as she was.

At the time of the crimes, the Golden State Killer was between the ages of eighteen and thirty, Caucasian, and athletic—capable of vaulting tall fences. He always wore a mask. After choosing a victim—he favored suburban couples—he often entered their home when no one was there, studying family pictures, mastering the layout. He attacked while they slept, using a flashlight to awaken and blind them. Though they could not recognize him, his victims recalled his voice: a guttural whisper through clenched teeth, abrupt and threatening.

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark—the masterpiece McNamara was writing at the time of her sudden death—offers an atmospheric snapshot of a moment in American history and a chilling account of a criminal mastermind and the wreckage he left behind. It is also a portrait of a woman’s obsession and her unflagging pursuit of the truth. Framed by an introduction by Gillian Flynn and an afterword by her husband, Patton Oswalt, the book was completed by Michelle’s lead researcher and a close colleague. Utterly original and compelling, it is destined to become a true crime classic—and may at last unmask the Golden State Killer.

Review: I woke up on April 25th to a story I never thought, but I had long hoped, to see: there was an arrest in the Golden State Killer case. The Golden State Killer (GSK), aka The East Area Rapist (EARS) or The Original Night Stalker (ONS), was suspected of fifty rapes, a dozen murders, and more than 100 burglaries, all committed in California over the course of a few decades, and it was long thought that he wouldn’t be caught. As a huge true crime fan, I knew this case fairly well, thanks two big factors. The first was the podcast “My Favorite Murder”, and that led to the second: the book “I’ll Be Gone In The Dark” by Michelle McNamara. McNamara was a true crime writer with the blog “True Crime Diary”, and had been doggedly pursuing The Golden State Killer (a phrase she created) at the time of her tragic death in 2016. Earlier this year “I’ll Be Gone In The Dark” was released, in part to Bill Jensen, a co-investigator and investigative journalist in his own right. So when an arrest was made, the news spread like wildfire, and while the police were reluctant to give McNamara any credit outside of raising awareness, many think that that very awareness (starting with her blog and various articles she wrote) was vital to putting pressure on, which in turn led to an arrest. I read “I’ll Be Gone In The Dark” before Joseph DeAngelo, a former police officer and seventy two year old man, was arrested for the crimes. But now that he has been, I want to shine a light on this great book, especially since the story has finally found some closure.

What stands out immediately about this book is how personal it is. While McNamara herself didn’t know anyone who was hurt or killed by GSK/EAR/ONS, an unsolved murder of a childhood neighbor always stuck with her throughout her life. As she started to learn about The Golden State Killer, she began to feel a deep sense of injustice for the victims that he left behind, and started to investigate it herself. She made connections with investigators, she dove into online groups of fellow armchair investigators, she visited locations and dug through box after box of evidence. Her almost obsessive commitment to this case is juxtaposed with the crimes themselves, and the horror that GSK/EAR/ONS brought upon his victims. But she is always sure to be respectful, and to keep the details vague enough to be respectful, but precise enough to paint a picture of just how awful these crimes were. She gives voice and context for the people that GSK/EAR/ONS raped or murdered, and always puts them at the forefront and the fact that justice eluded them and those they left behind for so long. In many true crime books (with a few exceptions, of course, like Ann Rule) the focus is primarily on the murderer, and the victims merely objects in a salacious story. But with McNamara, she wants the reader to know the victims and makes their voices the most important ones. Would this be different had DeAngelo been identified at publishing? Possibly. But I do get the sense that for McNamara, the identity was only important for justice purposes; this wouldn’t have been a story to give him any glory or to make his crimes entertainment.

As you read, McNamara instills actual terror into you. I had to stop reading this book after dark, because any noise and anything out of place sent me into a paranoid spiral. Her writing is that immersive, pulling you in and keeping you engaged. She also makes herself vulnerable by being fully aware and honest with her own obsession, and the toll that it takes on her life and her own mental health. Unlike the book that Robert Graysmith wrote about The Zodiac Killer, McNamara knew that she was treading towards obsession, and that it was deeply affecting her life. The sad fact of the matter is that when Michelle died unexpectedly in her sleep, she could have been seen as, in a way, GSK/EAR/ONS ‘s last victim. She had been having trouble sleeping, and her husband (comedian Patton Oswalt) had suggested she take some Xanax and just sleep until she woke up. And she didn’t wake up, because of an undiagnosed heart condition in tandem to the Xanax and other prescriptions. The tragedy of her death lingers on the page, as there are sections with editor’s notes that explain that they were originally unfinished, or that they were pieced together by her notes or previous articles. It’s so great to see that this book and story she was so dedicated to was finished by people close to her, but the loss is still palpable.

So how does the new information about John DeAngelo affect this book? If anything, it makes it more poignant, and it certainly doesn’t diminish it. I say this because of a specific moment in the epilogue, entitled “A Letter To An Old Man”. It’s a final moment that is essentially a letter from Michelle to GSK/EAR/ONS, and it works as a powerful cap off to a wonderful book. The final paragraph is all the more powerful now. I’m going to quote part of it here to show you what I mean, a quote that’s made the rounds on social media a lot in the days after DeAngelo’s capture.

“The doorbell rings. No side gates are left open. You’re long past leaping over a fence. Take one of your hyper, gulping breaths. Clench your teeth. Inch timidly towards the insistent bell. This is how it ends for you. ‘You’ll be silent forever, and I’ll be gone in the dark,’ you threatened a victim, once. Open the door. Show us your face. Walk into the light.”

And as Patton Oswalt and many others have pointed out, this is exactly what happened on April 25th, 2018.

“I’ll Be Gone in the Dark” is a stunning true crime book and an opus for a voice that left us far too soon. It will surely be considered one of the greats of the genre in the years to come, and Michelle McNamara will be remembered for all the good that she did in her help to bringing closure to the victims of a horrible monster. But it’s also just well written book about confronting darkness in life and in ourselves, and how to battle it as best we can.

Rating 9: A tense and well written true crime opus by a voice gone too soon, “I’ll Be Gone in the Dark” is a tribute to perseverance, and will stand the test of time as not only a true crime classic but as one that probably helped bring justice to the victims of a monster.

Reader’s Advisory:

“I’ll Be Gone In The Dark” is included on the Goodreads lists “My Favorite Murder Books”, and “Best True Crime”.

Find “I’ll Be Gone in the Dark” at your library using WorldCat!

Serena’s Review: “Song of Blood and Stone”

36347830Book: “Song of Blood and Stone” by L. Penelope

Publishing Info: St. Martin’s Press, May 2018

Where Did I Get this Book: ARC from the publisher

Book Description: Orphaned and alone, Jasminda lives in a land where cold whispers of invasion and war linger on the wind. Jasminda herself is an outcast in her homeland of Elsira, where her gift of Earthsong is feared. When ruthless soldiers seek refuge in her isolated cabin, they bring with them a captive–an injured spy who threatens to steal her heart.

Jack’s mission behind enemy lines to prove that the Mantle between Elsira and Lagamiri is about to fall nearly cost him his life, but he is saved by the healing Song of a mysterious young woman. Now he must do whatever it takes to save Elsira and it’s people from the True Father and he needs Jasminda’s Earthsong to do it. They escape their ruthless captors and together they embark on a perilous journey to save Elsira and to uncover the secrets of The Queen Who Sleeps.

Thrust into a hostile society, Jasminda and Jack must rely on one another even as secrets jeopardize their bond. As an ancient evil gains power, Jasminda races to unlock a mystery that promises salvation.

The fates of two nations hang in the balance as Jasminda and Jack must choose between love and duty to fulfill their destinies and end the war.

Review: I was super excited when I received this in the mail. For one, look at that gorgeous cover? I’m not usually a fan of covers with models, but I’ll make an exception for this one. Beyond that, I was intrigued by the premise and am always stoked when I can find fantasy fiction featuring a diverse cast of characters. And while there were some slower moments, overall, I really enjoyed this read!

The world is literally split in two by an impenetrable magic force field that has kept two warring civilizations separate for as long as anyone can remember, with only brief breaks of warfare every few centuries when the field falters. On one side, Elsira, a technologically advanced civilization has risen, longing for the day when their sleeping Queen will again awaken. On the other side, Lagamiri, a nation full of magic wielders who can control the elements, but who are ruled by a tyrannical and vicious God King. The prejudices are strong on each side. Jasminda, a daughter of both races, has grown up in a country where her skin marks her as the enemy, as an Earthsinger. She’s kept to herself these long years, finding isolation to be her best bet for a quiet life. That is until she meets Jack, an Elsiran soldier with his own secrets, but who also shows her that there are those out there who see her as more than just an “other.”

I loved the world-building in this story. The idea of magic users vs. technology isn’t anything new, but what really added to this take on it was combining it with other prejudices, on both sides, and the fear and ignorance that can come from these sorts of long-standing built up generalizations about people. Throughout the story, we are also given glimpses into the ancient history of this world, and this is really what solidified the concept for me. Through these, we see that the world wasn’t always this way, and in fact many things had been turned on their heads. The origin story was compelling and each chapter was intro’d with little parables from this almost forgotten time. I particularly enjoyed how each parable loosely connected to the happenings of each chapter.

Through this history and the current situation, Jasminda and Jack both portray different roles and experiences of segregation and prejudice. Jasminda has lived a life of not belonging. She’s grown up in a country that judges her for her skin color and her power, but it is her home. I enjoyed how much this fact was hit home. Just because she looked like those on the other side of the wall, didn’t mean she would be any more welcome there or that that should in any way be her place, based on only one part of her being. Jack, as an advocate and an example of a more tolerant and enlightened individual, still must learn to understand the true battles that those like Jasminda face. His idealism is often based in naivety. But through him, Jasminda, too, learns that not everyone is as they seem, and that there may be a way forward for both peoples together.

The story also had a strong through line on the experiences of refugees, and the terrible choices they face. Here, many Lagamiri secretly cross the border, hoping to escape the terror that is their homeland. This choice isn’t only leaving behind all they have known, but is to willing walk into a country knowing they will face a different kind of persecution there. They live in camps and face many injustices at the hands of a struggling nation looking for someone to blame. And yet, this is still a better choice than the horrors that wait back home.

For all of these positives, I did struggle with a few things. While the story took on some big concepts, giving detailed focus and attention to these challenges, I never quite felt connected to the story. Jasminda and Jack, while interesting protagonists, were each a little too perfect to feel real. They were just kind of…fine. I wasn’t hugely invested in their individual struggles, but happy to go along for the ride.

The story also isn’t helped out by a few strange choices with pacing and explanations for the magic system. The plot would zip through a few key moments, with very little clarity on what was actually taking place, and then suddenly move very slowly through other, more character-driven scenes. I think this is likely a show of where the author’s true interests and talents as a writer lie, but it makes for a rather bumpy reading experience.

Also, at different times, it felt like distances on the map changed drastically, or didn’t match with the expanse of the world that we’re told exists. It seemed, at times, that the entire country could be traveled in only a few hours, which doesn’t make sense given the references to geographical elements and the population that is hinted at. Further, while the magic system was interesting, I struggled to understand how it actually worked. For example, it was referenced several times that Earthsingers couldn’t kill with their magic, but could use the elements in every other way. But what does that actually look like? If they sent fire at someone, wouldn’t that still be killing with their magic? Or does it do nothing, and if that’s the case, then what power does that actually give them? I found it confusing, especially given the fact that this restriction was referenced more than once.

The romance, kind of like the two main characters, was also a bit too perfect. For all of theirs struggles, Jasminda and Jack’s love is never really the complicated or tragic “Romeo and Juliet” story that we’re promised. I enjoyed the romance, don’t get me wrong, but I think the misleading description played against it, in the end.

All in all, I very much enjoyed “Song of Blood and Stone.” It’s a great example of fantasy fiction tackling bigger topics like diversity, prejudice, and the challenges faced by refugees. However, there is a large focus on romance, so readers who don’t enjoy those elements might want to avoid this one, and the characters are also a bit flat.

Rating 7: Even with some missteps, would still recommend it based on the strengths of the challenges it addresses, especially set against an interesting fantasy backdrop.

Reader’s Advisory

“Song of Blood and Stone” can be found on these Goodreads lists: “Non-Caucasian Protagonists in Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror, and Paranormal Romance” and “Fantasy Romance.”

Find “Song of Blood and Stone” at your library using WorldCat!

A Revisit to Fear Street: “Dead End”

176579Book: “Dead End” (Fear Street #29) by R.L. Stine

Publishing Info: Simon Pulse, 1995

Where Did I Get This Book: ILL from the library!

Book Description: Natalie Erickson and her friends share a terrible secret. They were all in the car that foggy night — the night someone died at the dead end. 

Now someone knows too much, and there’s danger ahead. Natalie just wants out of this nightmare. But that’s the problem with dead ends — there’s no way out!

Had I Read This Before: No.

The Plot: We open with an unnecessary prologue about how accidents happen, as told to us by the narrator of this book, Natalie. Then we cut to her at a raging party at Talia “I’m a plagiarist” Blanton’s house. There we meet Natalie’s other friends: nerdy Carlo, sexy Gillian, sweet Randee, and macho Todd. Also, there’s Natalie’s boyfriend Keith who is more interested in getting a beer than hanging out. Randee and Natalie talk about how Todd may be jealous of Carlo because of his flirtations with Gillian, and Natalie laments that Keith is boozing. Then Keith falls down the steps, cementing his place in the doghouse with his girlfriend, and then he goes to vomit. Puke and rally, Keith, it’s gonna serve you well in the future. As he vomits Todd badgers Natalie into dancing with him, and we find out that he’s a real creep who has long blond hair that’s ‘long on the top but shaved on the side’, and I can’t decide if he’s supposed to have a mullet or a fashy. Either way, yuck. Keith returns and seems to be better, but two hours later when everyone is starting to go home Natalie says she’s NOT riding with him because he’s too messed up. I like that she doesn’t want to get in a car with him, but I question that she doesn’t seem to mind him driving SO LONG AS she isn’t in the car with him. Regardless, she decides to hitch a ride with Randee, Todd, Carlo, and Gillian, with Randee driving.

While they’re driving home a major fog worthy of Carpenter rolls in. As Randee drives she has a harder and harder time seeing, and though she claims she knows where she’s going she clearly doesn’t. They turn down Fear Str- wait. River Road? What the FUCK is River Road?! How is the terrible peril not on Fear Street within a FEAR STREET BOOK?!

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(source)

Randee drives past Cedar (I guess Todd lives on that street. Whatever) right by a DEAD END sign, and then Randee loses control of the car somehow and they slam right into another car. Natalie sees someone move inside the car, but Randee throws the car into reverse and peels the hell out of there, therein committing a hit and run. When Natalie says they need to go check on the other car, Randee says that she’s grounded and isn’t supposed to be out, Gillian is the same boat, and Todd agrees that his Dad will kill him if he finds out that they hit someone. Especially since his father just got a new job in the mayor’s office and this will be a nightmare! And Carlo’s Dad is in the hospital, and Carlo doesn’t want to stress him out. So they flee the scene. You know, this sounds super familiar to me…..

OH THAT’S RIGHT, THIS IS THE PLOT TO “I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER”!!! If “One Evil Summer” was vaguely lifting themes from “Summer of Fear”, this one is straight up ripping Lois Duncan’s masterpiece off. And making it SUPER lame.

The next day Natalie is awakened by the phone in her room ringing. When she answers it’s Todd, and he has some REALLY bad news: the woman in the car they hit? She’s dead. She was also the mayor’s sister, so you know that Mayor Coletti is going to be on the hunt Liam Neeson style. Natalie is more wracked with guilt than worried about her own ass, and wishes that they would have stayed, or called someone, or something, but now is going to live a life of paranoia that the next phone call will end her. Then the phone rings, but luckily it’s Keith, and he’s just calling saying that he needs to talk to her, but she brushes him off because she has bigger problems. She meets Carlo, Todd, Gillian, and Randee in the park that afternoon to reconvene and recalibrate in light of this news. Todd vacillates between bad jokes and dark brooding, and when Carlo says that they have to confess everything Randee balks and Todd threatens his life. So okay, Todd is the Barry in this story, and just as wretched. He says that if he confesses his Dad will lose his job with the Mayor and then Todd will be in serious trouble (like, outside of participating in a conspiracy and cover up of vehicular manslaughter?). Everyone (except Natalie) acknowledges that they have a lot to lose, and Todd says that he can keep an eye on things through his Dad so they can keep ahead of the investigation. They take a vow to not tell anyone about what happened, not even Keith (Natalie is fine with this). And then narrator Natalie informs us that people are going to die because of this secret. To which I say no shit.

That evening Natalie tries to take her mind off of the whole thing by writing some free form poetry. That’s her thing, you see. But for whatever reason she just isn’t feeling too poetic. Then she sees that Keith is in the doorway to her bedroom, and he tells her that her mother let him in. He says that he knows her secret, and Natalie momentarily panics, but lucky for her he’s the type that thinks of himself first because he thinks she wants to dump him for Todd. Natalie assures him that’s NOT the case, and that she’s actually kind of scared of him. Keith scoffs at that, proving that he’s also the type of guy to brush off women and their legitimate fears about toxic men, so that’s great. He then says that they still have to talk about something, but Natalie worries she’ll break the vow she made and tells him that she can’t talk right now. He then asks her if she’s going to Carlo’s uncle’s cabin for the big weekend that was coming up, and she says she forgot about it. Sadly, Keith can’t go, but says that Natalie still should. After he leaves Natalie calls Todd to see if he has any updates and he yells at her not to call him and hangs up.

We jump to Tuesday and Todd says that the mayor is OBSESSED with finding his sister’s killer. Well, no shit, asshole. Then we jump to Friday and Natalie is getting ready to go to the cabin, and Todd gives her a call. He says that they have to do something about Carlo, because he seems like he’s about to crack. He says to meet him and the others at Pete’s Pizza in fifteen minutes. When they all arrive, Gillian says that Carlo said that he was definitely going to the cops, and Todd says that maybe Carlo should have his own accident. When Natalie asks if he’s joking, he says a lame ‘yeah sure’.

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He and Barry are two sucky peas in a dickweed pod. (source)

That Saturday they’re all driving up to the cabin and talking about hunting. I smell some foreshadowing. Todd says something about how girls don’t hunt and have to wait for the men to come home with the kill, and I want him to have an accident. Randee says that she’s actually a great hunter, and Natalie says she’d rather hike. They arrive at Carlo’s uncle’s cabin and things are going okay for awhile. Natalie and Gillian tell the guys that they aren’t going to hunt for pheasants with them but will hike along instead, but Randee says that she’s in. Natalie thinks that it’s to impress Todd, and my big question is WHY. While Natalie goes back to her room to get gloves, there’s a booming noise and a scream. She runs back outside and Todd accidentally(?) shot off his rifle, scaring everyone but not hurting anyone. They all go into the woods. And I guess Natalie doesn’t like the woods because once when she was eight she got lost overnight in a forest. Oh, okay. A legitimate trauma is just kind of thrown out there like nothing. But it’s a device, because that afternoon on the hike she gets separated from the group! And as she’s stumbling through the woods, she fins a horrific sight: Carlo. He’s dead. And his head is basically gone because of the birdshot? Okay, I guess we’re doing this again.

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Trinity Taylor is not here for this BS. (source)

I do not doubt that getting shot in the face with birdshot could have deadly consequences. Hell, at point blank range I bet it could mess your face up but good, as it is intended to kill smallish animals. But to practically blow one’s head off? Do you REALLY want ammo THAT powerful if you’re trying to shoot pheasant?! I’m seriously asking, I have no clue about how any of these things work, but I DO know that Dick Cheney shot a guy in the face with birdshot and THAT guy ended up apologizing to HIM, so…..

Anyway, Carlo is dead and I feel awful for his family. His Uncle must feel terrible, as his brother is in the hospital and that brother’s son is now dead. Jesus Christ. Todd stumbles up behind Natalie and grabs her close, and says ‘don’t tell’. It’s unclear if it’s in a threatening way or a desperate way. So Uncle George has gone full catatonic and I hate this book. The next day back at home Natalie reads in the paper that it’s speculated to be an accident, and Natalie thinks that maybe Todd did it. When someone comes into her room she freaks out thinking it’s Todd but it’s just Keith, there to comfort her after hearing what happened. Natalie spills the beans on everything, and feels a weight has been lifted. But then the doorbell rings and it’s TODD. He asks if he can come in and Natalie says nah, and then she asks him if he killed Carlo. Todd goes off, saying that there’s no way that he did and the joke from Pete’s Pizza was JUST A JOKE, and he clearly wonders how much Keith knows. As he leaves he tells Natalie that he wasn’t the only person in those woods with a gun.

The next night Randee and Natalie are trying to comfort Gillian, who is sad about Carlo since they were tight. Natalie starts to wonder if Randee could have done it, but brushes it off because they’re BFFs after all. But maybe she and Todd did it together? Gillian pulls out her backpack to study, but when she opens it a nasty smell wafts up into the room, and a rotting piece of meat slides out, along with a note. It says ‘you can be close to Carlo again. In the grave. This is you. Dead Meat. If you talk.’

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This is far more panache in it’s simplicity. (source)

Gillian freaks, Randee tries to convince everyone its just a joke (in spite of the fact that Carlo is VERY dead), and Randee gets defensive for Todd. Again, WHY. Gillian says it has to be him because no one else knows, but Natalie admits that Keith knows. Gillian doesn’t think it’s him, but Randee isn’t so sure, but she’s pretty biased right, given that she wants to get with him? As Natalie is picked up be Keith she asks if he told, and says no, and that it’s been two weeks and the police have no leads so it’s going to be over soon. But omnipotent narrator Natalie tells us that isn’t the case.

At school that week Gillian and Natalie are leaving math class and Gillian says that she can’t take it anymore and is going to the police. She tells Natalie that she and Carlo had a long talk the night before the hunting trip and he told her ‘everything’, but before Natalie can find out what that means Todd and Randee show up and the talk ends. Later, Natalie and Keith are at the ice rink and are talking about this turn of events. Natalie asks Keith if Carlo said anything to him, and he says no, and asks Natalie if she knows what it was that Carlo told Gillian before he died. No such luck, and Keith gets all upset about Carlo and says he has to go, and she says she’ll get a ride from someone else, and skates awhile longer. As she’s leaving the ice rink though, Todd and Randee track her down. They say that they have to go to Gillian’s house because she’s going to tell and they have to stop her. So they drive out to Gillian’s, but when they knock on the door no one answers. Natalie suggests that they’re all asleep and Todd says it’s only ten thirty. Fun fact, when I was in high school my house was usually asleep by ten thirty but we were lame. They let themselves in, and oh no, Gillian is at the bottom of the basement steps and her head is turned all the way around. Todd surmises that it must be an accident as Randee calls the police, but Natalie thinks they did it.

That night after she gets home Natalie is convinced that they pushed Gillian down the steps and then brought her there as a warning to her. She decides to go to the police station and confess, and as she’s about to leave Randee shows up. Randee tells her that she’s decided to go to the police too, and they should take her car because it was the one that was used in the accident. Natalie isn’t sure whether to trust her, but gets in and they start driving. Though Randee gets all turned around (is it because she’s going to kill Natalie? Nah, she’s just nervous), but they eventually get to the station and fess up. They tell the police everything, the hit and run, the timing, the fog, everything. The cops have them show them the car, and then ask them if they’re playing a joke on them. Because they couldn’t have killed Mayor Coletti’s sister!! The paint left behind was blue, not green, and the tire treads don’t match. The girls are in trouble for leaving the accident scene, but are going to look into Carlo and Gillian’s deaths. Todd shows up, as Randee had told him that she was going to the police, but they assure him that they aren’t murderers, just reckless douchebags! Randee and Todd suggest that they go hang out, but Natalie isn’t interested, wanting to be alone.

She walks home in the rain, ready to tell her parents everything, when she sees Keith’s car in her driveway. She’s happy to see him and runs to him telling him she went to the police…. but then realizes that HE HAS A BLUE CAR!! AND A DENTED BUMPER AND FUNKY TIRES!! IT WAS KEITH!! He then tells her to get in the car, and he practically forces her in but says he wants to explain as they drive in the rain. He tells her that he followed her and the others the night of they party, and that he was definitely too drunk to drive (don’t drink and drive kids), and he got messed up and smashed his car into the mayor’s sister’s car, killing her. Oh, and he killed Carlo and Gillian too. He killed them because 1) he confessed to Carlo after Natalie had hung up on him the morning after, as he needed to tell SOMEONE, and Carlo was going to rat him out. Todd’s threat (that Natalie told him about vaguely) gave him the perfect out, and 2) Gillian called him and told him that Carlo told her everything, and so he started threatening her and then killed her after the meat incident. Which makes NO sense, because she adamantly said that Keith couldn’t have done it when the rotting meat fell out of her bag, so why hadn’t she just said then and there KEITH DID IT?????? This is garbage.

So now he’s giong to kill her too by driving his car off a cliff and jumping out right before, so it can be another accident. As he drives super fast in the rain, the spare tire pops on his car (the one that made the tire tracks funky), and in the surprise and confusion Natalie jumps out the passenger door, and then watches the car go off the cliff. The reason Keith couldn’t jump out she figures, is that his driver door sometimes stuck. Super convenient. Just to confirm that he’s dead, there’s an explosion, and Natalie realizes that when she stood up she grabbed onto the “Dead End” pole. She then starts the walk back to town to tell the cops. The End.

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IT EVEN ENDED UP BEING THE MAIN GIRL’S BOYFRIEND. You owe Lois Duncan SO MUCH, STINE. (source)

Body Count: 3 (4 if you count the mayor’s sister). Carlo’s death was particularly gruesome.

Romance Rating: 1. Keith turns out to be a killer and there aren’t really any other solid relationships, outside of maybe Randee and Todd and he’s a dick.

Bonkers Rating: 3, and that’s only because Carlo was practically decapitated by a birdshot blast somehow. Everything else was stolen from Lois Duncan and gets no credit.

Fear Street Relevance: 2. Not even mentioned, but it gets more points than “Truth or Dare” since at least it was in town this time.

Silliest End of Chapter Cliffhanger: 

“I started to answer. But I was interrupted by some kind of commotion. Talia, Randee, and I moved to see what the noise was about. A girl’s shrill, frightened scream rose over the music. And I stepped into the room in time to see a body come tumbling down the basement stairs.”

… And it’s just a drunken Keith tripping down the steps. Which I suppose would be a little scary, but he’s fine.

That’s So Dated! Moments: Honestly there wasn’t too much this time around, outside of references to CDs and some pretty gnarly fashion sense descriptions. I think that Stine started trying to be a bit more timeless as the books went on.

Best Quote: 

“‘Come with me. Have a beer.’ ‘No way!’ I tugged myself free. ‘You know I hate beer. It tastes like soap!'”

Conclusion: This is just a total and blatant rip off of “I Know What You Did Last Summer”. Don’t waste your time and go read Lois Duncan instead. Next up is “Final Grade”.