Publishing Info: Knopf Books for Young Readers, March 2019
Where Did I Get This Book: The library!
Book Description:It’s a school completely off the grid, hidden by dense forest and surrounded by traps. There’s no electricity, no internet, and an eye-for-an-eye punishment system. Classes include everything from Knife-Throwing and Poisons to the Art of Deception and Historical Analysis. And all of the students are children of the world’s most elite strategists—training to become assassins, counselors, spies, and master impersonators. Into this world walks November Adley, who quickly discovers that friends are few in a school where personal revelations are discouraged and competition is everything. When another student is murdered, all eyes turn to November, who must figure out exactly how she fits into the school’s bizarre strategy games before she is found guilty of the crime…or becomes the killer’s next victim.
Review: Adriana Mather is one of those authors whose books I am probably always going to pick up no matter what. I so enjoy the “How to Hang a Witch” series, and when I saw that Mather had a new book that started off a new one I was a little bummed that I had to wait a bit longer before she revisits Samantha and Elijah, but excited at the prospect of a new series with new characters. And, lo and behold, this new series takes place at a BOARDING SCHOOL WITH A SHADY SET UP!! Bring on the drama! I will gladly bask in all of it!
“Killing November” is definitely more focused on being a thriller and mystery that Mather’s previous series, and I think that this is both a strength and a weakness. The reason it’s a strength is because of the character of November herself. We know that her father has been involved with some espionage and secret government work, so when she awakens in a strange room and at a strange school she’s never heard of, we know that while she’s heard of shit and seen some shit in theory, she will still have some adjusting to do. November is a fun protagonist, because she’s both pragmatic in her personality (aka I completely believed her as being a bit more cynical and world weary thanks to her family background), and yet still in the dark enough that she has HUGE adjustments to make at this new, bizarre school that focuses more on combat, violence, and duplicity than your average educational institution might. November finds herself having to learn about knife throwing, poisons, and psychological warfare, without being given any kind of background, so she is the perfect stand in for the reader in terms of learning everything she can, with severe consequences if she can’t catch on fast enough. Because of this gulf between her and the other students, watching connections and friendships form was more unique than we might usually expect from a story with a similar premise, mostly because of the inherent distrust between the students based on social structures and the violent skills they’re learning. November’s closest ally is her roommate Layla, who is astute and sharp and cunning, but doesn’t hold friendships at the same value level as November, and therefore the readers, do. Because of this, watching their social interactions (along with the social interactions between November and Layla’s brother Ash, who may or may not be hiding his own motivations) was fascinating and rewarding as they slowly unfolded, in spite of the inherently distrustful setting of the school. Along with that I liked how the underlying social structures of this school worked. It’s a bit of a spoiler to go into it in too great of detail, but think of it like Hogwarts Houses, but revved up rivalries to deadly degrees. Throw in some good old fashioned blood feuds and you have for a plot line that I could sink my teeth into.
I think that the biggest drawback, however, is that while Mather is great when it comes to building these foundations and relationships, the main question of who is trying to hurt November and why didn’t pull me in as much. I cared about her as a character and wanted her to be safe, but I didn’t feel all that invested in who the killer at the school was, and why they would be going after November specifically. It wasn’t even that the ultimate solution was bare boned or too predictable; it was well plotted out and I found it to be believable as well as a surprise. It was just that ultimately, this plot wasn’t where the storytelling was richest for me. I liked the characterizations and the world building far more than the main plotline of this first book. My hope is that, should this series continue, in the next books with all the world building and November’s alliances and trustworthy cohorts established (as of now), I will be more interested in the twists and turns that are thrown into whatever adventure she and her classmates go on next.
“Killing November” has some very solid promise to be a fun new series from Adriana Mather. And while I’m still waiting for the next “How To Hang A Witch” book, I can now add the next “November” book to my list of anticipated reads!
Rating 7: With interesting characters and a compelling background story for the school, “Killing November” has promise, even if the main mystery didn’t grab me as much as I’d hoped it would.
Book: “The Lady from the Black Lagoon: Hollywood Monsters and the Lost Legacy of Milicent Patrick” by Mallory O’Meara
Publishing Info: Hanover Square Press, March 2019
Where Did I Get This Book: The library!
Book Description:The Lady from the Black Lagoonuncovers the life and work of Milicent Patrick—one of Disney’s first female animators and the only woman in history to create one of Hollywood’s classic movie monsters.
As a teenager, Mallory O’Meara was thrilled to discover that one of her favorite movies, The Creature from the Black Lagoon, featured a monster designed by a woman, Milicent Patrick. But for someone who should have been hailed as a pioneer in the genre there was little information available. For, as O’Meara soon discovered, Patrick’s contribution had been claimed by a jealous male colleague, her career had been cut short and she soon after had disappeared from film history. No one even knew if she was still alive.
As a young woman working in the horror film industry, O’Meara set out to right the wrong, and in the process discovered the full, fascinating story of an ambitious, artistic woman ahead of her time. Patrick’s contribution to special effects proved to be just the latest chapter in a remarkable, unconventional life, from her youth growing up in the shadow of Hearst Castle, to her career as one of Disney’s first female animators. And at last, O’Meara discovered what really had happened to Patrick after The Creature’s success, and where she went.
A true-life detective story and a celebration of a forgotten feminist trailblazer, Mallory O’Meara’s The Lady from the Black Lagoon establishes Patrick in her rightful place in film history while calling out a Hollywood culture where little has changed since.
Review:As someone who loves horror movies, I’m actually not very well versed in a lot of the Universal ‘Monster’ Flicks. Though we watched all of Karloff’s “Frankenstein” and parts of Lugosi’s “Dracula” in a college class, I am dreadfully uneducated when it comes to the lion’s share of the film canon. That said, I have seen “Creature from The Black Lagoon”, and it’s one that has a special place in my heart if only because The Creature, or Gill-man, or what have you, is such a tragic figure in this “Beauty and the Beast”-esque tale. As opposed to his Universal Monster counterparts, Gill-man looks more sad and lonely than frightening and foreboding. As the weird girl in middle and high school who had her fair share of crushes on more popular guys, I feel that longing and loneliness the Gill-man kind of has.
What I hadn’t realized was that The Creature was designed by a woman named Milicent Patrick, so when “The Lady from the Black Lagoon” by Mallory O’Meara came upon my radar I was immediately interested in learning about her story. What I wasn’t ready for was how personal this part biography, part investigation story would be, for O’Meara AND for women in Hollywood AND horror.
O’Meara is the perfect person to tell Milicent’s story, in that not only has she been invested in Patrick’s life’s work since she was a teenager, but she herself has certain parallels to Patrick. Like Patrick, O’Meara is a young woman working in Hollywood, specifically as a producer of horror films. And like Patrick, O’Meara has faced rampant sexism and misogyny in her day to day life at her job, from people assuming she isn’t a producer based on her age and gender. So this story isn’t just an interesting biography of a woman whose contributions to horror have been lost, but also an investigation into her life led by another woman who still sees the same problems within the industry. While Patrick’s life is undoubtedly fun to read about (for example, she was one of the ink and color animators for the “Night on Bald Mountain” segment in Disney’s “Fantasia”, which has ALWAYS been my favorite sequence in one of my favorite Disney movies!), it’s also a familiar and frustrating look into how women were treated in show business during this time period… and how they still are treated today. Patrick was ultimately black balled from design after Bud Westmore, a famous designer who was jealous of her success, insisted that she not be given credit for the monster that SHE CREATED. Even recently people still argue that she wasn’t the actual creative mind behind it, in spite of the evidence that she was. O’Meara successfully takes it upon herself to get her legacy out there, and the reader not only gets to read about the life of a pretty neat woman, but the time, effort, and experiences of what it took to uncover the story. From Hearst Castle to Hollywood to Las Vegas, Patrick’s life is laid out because of O’Meara’s hard work and diligence.
But the part of this story that I found I was the most invested in, and the most galling, was the sexism and misogyny aspects of this story, both experienced by Patrick AND O’Meara. It’s not a big secret that Hollywood can be incredibly toxic for the women who work there, but that doesn’t make both Patrick’s AND O’Meara’s experiences any less upsetting. Though O’Meara hasn’t lost her job due to jealous male colleagues, she has her own personal stories to tell of others mistreating her, the most glaring being a story about an actor working on one of her movies making sexual innuendos about her in a ‘does the carpet match the drapes’ kind of way (and I did a little digging and have a theory as to just who this actor was, as she left his name out out of fear of retaliation. Sadly, it doesn’t surprise me if I’m right). Given that women are STILL shut out of so many opportunities when it comes to film and television behind the scenes, especially genre films like horror and fantasy, hearing that those who ARE there get treated like this is very upsetting, especially as a lady horror fan. While O’Meara’s experiences certainly aren’t unique, that is the exact reason that these experiences need to be shared.
“The Lady from The Black Lagoon” was a very interesting and rewarding read for this horror fan. I definitely think that horror fans everywhere really ought to give it a go, if only so Milicent Patrick can continue to finally get her due long after it was stolen from her.
Rating 8: A thorough, eye opening, and emotional book that tells the story of a forgotten creative mind, and how the problems she faced in her industry are far from fixed.
Book: “The Betrayal” (The Fear Street Saga #1) by R.L. Stine
Publishing Info: Simon Pulse, 1993
Where Did I Get This Book: The library!
Book Description:The Secret is Out!
Why do so many horrifying things happen on Fear Street? Nora knows.
She knows how the terror began. She knows about the young girl who burned at the stake–and the bloody feud between two families that caused the unspeakable horror that has lasted 300 years!
She knows, and she wants to tell.
Are you sure you want to hear it?
Had I Read This Before: No
The Plot: I thought that the best and most appropriate way to end my “Fear Street” re-read would be to read the trilogy that gives an origin story to Fear Street itself. So we’re going back in time!
We start in the Village of Shadyside in 1900. A girl named Nora Goode is watching Fear Mansion as it burns to the ground, hoping that her beau Daniel Fear will come out. But it looks like everyone is trapped inside. As the other neighbors speculate that the fire will burn forever and that the family is cursed, Nora holds the necklace that Daniel gave her in her hands. In a fit of desperation she runs to the window to look inside, and inside she sees a lot of distorted faces in agony, including that of a young girl tied to a stake. The window explodes outwards thanks to the heat, but Nora still stares inside.
Now we’re going even further back to the Wickham Colony of Massachusetts in 1692! We’re now following a teenage Puritan named Susannah Goode, who lives with her mother Martha, her father William, and baby brother George. Martha dotes on the baby and already sees Susannah as a nuisance it seems, and I’m getting shades of the dysfunctional family in “The Witch” here because CLEARLY teenage girls are sinful or some shit. That said, Susannah has been thinking a lot about a certain special boy in town.
Susannah says she needs to got get firewood and her mother says that walking outside alone is dangerous these days because the local Magistrate, Benjamin Fier, has been targeting young women as witches for doing ANYTHING suspicious, like living their lives. The most recent ‘witch’ is Abigail Hopping, whom Benjamin claims was singing songs of The Evil One (honestly same). Susannah can’t believe that her friend is a witch, but promises to be careful. She goes to gather firewood and passes Benjamin Fier as he’s going to no doubt interrogate Abigail because she was probably not wearing her cap right or something. But Susannah knows that Benjamin is not only a ‘fair and righteous man’ (GAG), but he is also the richest man in town along with his brother Matthew. And obviously they are so successful and prosperous because they are SO RIGHTEOUS. Benjamin Fier also has a history of conducting other witch trials and executions across Massachusetts, and insists that the witches have to burn as opposed to hanging, probably because it sounds more brutal. Also, Susannah has a thing for Benjamin’s son Edward, who is almost assuredly NOTHING like this tyrannical father or anything like that, right?
Susannah decides to take a quick detour into the woods, even though she’s been told that the witches in town like to go there to worship The Evil One. I mean, it’s not like random girls are being persecuted as witches for any old thing, right? No problem! Suddenly someone grabs her, but instead of The Evil One it’s Edward! He scolds her for even thinking that he could be The Evil One because the village is full of witches no according to his father. Susannah says she’s so upset about her friend Faith, who had just recently been burned as a witch, and Edward assures her that his father no doubt has AMPLE proof of her evil ways! She says that they have to stop meeting in secret, because it could get her in trouble, and he brushes that off in the way that only a certain kind of privilege can bring. She jokes that what if The Evil One is watching them and he straight up scolds her for joking about that, and he sure seems like a fun date to bring to parties. They hear the townsfolk getting ready to burn Abigail, and when she expresses sadness about it he says that if she’s a witch she deserves to burn. She asks when he’ll tell his father about them, and he says when the time is right he will, and hey buddy, that’s all well and good for you because YOU won’t be accused of being a witch just for looking at a person of the opposite sex in a way that isn’t deemed ‘righteous’! She is excited that she’s going to be married to Edward Fier, and I think it sounds like a raw deal for her.
Over dinner that night the Goodes wonder aloud how it is that even though they grow in the same soil the Fiers always have bigger and more plentiful vegetables than they do. Martha also casually wonders just where it is that this new family came from, because they know it wasn’t England. William then confronts Susannah about the fact he’s seen her meeting with Edward in secret. He tells her that’s super dangerous, but Susannah insists that they’re in love and doing nothing wrong, and that he’s going to marry her. But William has to break the news to her that Benjamin Fier told him just that morning that Edward was engaged to be married to a girl from Portsmouth! Heartbroken, Susannah goes to bed and cries her eyes out. Cut your losses, Susannah. YOU CAN STILL GO TO THE WOODS AND JOIN THE WITCHES! LIVE YOU BEST LIFE!
Meanwhile, across town, Edward is talking with his asshole of a father Benjamin, saying that he refuses to marry Anne Ward. Benjamin tells him that Anne Ward is a good match for the families (I assume it has to do with wealth and land ownership), but Edward tells him that he’s not in love with Anne. No fucking duh, you moron, this kind of thing isn’t about love, and Benjamin tells him as much when he reminds his weenie son that when he and Matthew first came to America they had to eat rats to survive, and doesn’t want that for his kid. By marrying Anne he will get access to a tea importing fortune and become even MORE wealthy, in spite of the fact that Benjamin is already town Magistrate and Matthew is the most successful farmer. Edward confesses that he loves Susannah, and Benjamin says that she’s poor as fuck so THAT’S not going to do. Edward says he intends to marry for love, not money, and Benjamin tells him he’s not marrying Susannah and that’s that.
Some time later Martha and Susannah are preparing dinner, Susannah still sulking about Edward’s engagement, when Benjamin and a couple of Puritan thugs bust into their home. He tells the thugs to watch the women as he looks for proof, and he reaches into a pot and pulls out a vial with a chicken’s foot, a charm, and perhaps blood. He says that this proves that they are witches! Susannah says that they’ve never seen that before, and Benjamin says they’re lying and they’re going to be taken to the jail. Martha and Susannah are horrified, but manage to pass baby George off to a neighbor named Mary Halsey as they’re hauled away. And honestly, this seems pretty accurate given that it’s said that sometimes accusations of witchcraft were done for political gains during this time period. Hell, during ANY time period!
Mom and daughter are standing together in a prisoner’s box in the town hall, and will be tried and convicted and burned before the week is done. Susannah says that the people in town KNOW they aren’t bad, but Martha is far more pragmatic and knows that they’ll see what they’re told to see. When a bat flies into the room, Matthew Fier accuses the women of conjuring it. William stands up and demands that his family be released as Matthew KNOWS that they aren’t witches, and Benjamin says that they don’t put innocent women on trial. They try to goad the ladies to confess, but they both refuse, and Susannah STILL thinks that Edward will come and save her. John Halsey, who has been watching baby George with Mary, says that they need to let William speak but he’s ignored and William is removed from the courtroom, but not before getting roughed up a bit. Benjamin shows off a bag of items he has deemed associated with witch craft, and Susannah and Martha still say it isn’t theirs. When they refuse to confess, he finds them guilty and sentences them to death by burning the next night.
As Susannah and Martha lie in their cell, Edward suddenly appears at the cell window. Susannah asks if he’s come to save them, but LOL NO WAY, he’s come to yell at her about being a witch!
He asks how she could betray him, and OH BOY IS THAT A JOKE. He says that she tried to lead him astray with The Evil One, and when she says she’s innocent he says that there’s no WAY because he told his father his feelings about her and would his FATHER HURT HIM SO BY FALSELY ACCUSING HER? NO WAY! He tells her off and ditches her, leaving her heartbroken.
Across town William is probably trying not to have a nervous breakdown, and Matthew Fier knocks on his door. Matthew says that he can help change his brother’s mind, but it’s going to cost William money to do so. 100 pounds, to be exact. William says that he only has 80 pounds to his name, and Matthew says that that won’t be enough, but is more than willing to accept a fancy belt buckle and whatever else William has instead. William gives Matthew the money and the finery and Matthew says he’ll take care of everything. William notices a fancy amulet around Matthew’s neck, and it has the phrase ‘Dominatio per malum’ engraved on it. William asks him what it means, and Matthew doesn’t give an answer. When William asks him about the bird claw design and says it’s sometimes called a demon’s claw, Matthew freezes, and then says that HE knows nothing about that and neither should William. He then rides off.
The next night William is elated that his wife and daughter are going to be freed, but, in a big fucking surprise, he gets to the town commons and Martha and Susannah are STILL being led off to be burned! William confronts the officers and tells them that he paid the Fiers to let them go, where are they so they can confirm it? And haven’t you heard? THE FIER FAMILY DISAPPEARED INTO THE NIGHT! No one knows where they are, and they didn’t give any word about stopping the execution. So Susannah and Martha are burnt at the stake anyway. William, absolutely devastated, returns to his home. He thinks about how not only did they die for things they didn’t do, but how he was totally bamboozled by their accusers. Mary brings George back and tells William that the baby needs his father, and William says that she has to hold onto him a little longer because he has something to do first. And THIS is where things get interesting. William enters a secret room in the house, one that Susannah and Martha never knew about, and PULLS OUT HIS OWN MAGICAL ITEMS!! William Goode IS a practicing Warlock (though I’m still pretty sure that those Fier assholes planted the witchcraft evidence because it sounds like William hid all his shit in this room, so fuck them)!!! And now he’s seeking his revenge!!!
Quick stop back to 1900, as we find out that Nora Goode is writing out her family history, trying to trace her lineage and the curse that is upon the Fear Family that as of now they have so richly deserved. She doesn’t remember how she got from the lawn of the burning mansion to safety, but knows that there was a reason for it.
Jumping back to 1710, we meet up with the Fier family once more. They’ve moved to Western Pennsylvania, and have made quite the lives for themselves. Edward didn’t end up marrying Anne Ward, but he did marry some woman named Rebecca and now they have a bratty son named Ezra. Matthew and his wife Constance now have a teenage daughter named Mary. They all seem very pleased with themselves, in spite of the fact Benjamin has been muttering that he feels like the family is cursed, mostly because the new shingles on the roof came off in a storm. Edward says he’ll take a look after supper, and assures Mary that the only curse the family has is his ‘crotchety old father’. I would argue psychopathic zealous father, but hey, potato, potahto. Meanwhile, someone is standing outside, hiding behind a tree. It’s William Goode, and after twenty years of searching he’s finally found the assholes who ruined his life. He watches Edward as he climbs up onto the roof, with Mary holding the ladder for him. She asks him to be careful and he brushes her off, so it’s no big shock when he manages to plummet off the roof. Mary screams, and everyone rushes out of the house (and Constance accidentally cut her wrist when she heard Mary scream, so she’s bleeding like a stuck pig). Edward is alive but his arm is broken. Benjamin keeps muttering about a curse.
After breakfast the next day Mary is returning from the henhouse (and thinking about the chaos from the night before), when she’s approached by a handsome young man on the road. He says that he’s looking for the owner of the estate, and she says that it’s her father Matthew Fier. She says she’ll take him to see him and he carries the egg basket like a true gentleman. She tells him that the farm has been growing steadily since before she was born, and Matthew lumbers out like some oafish bear on quaaludes. The man says his name is Jeremy Thorne and he’s looking for work, and while Matthew first tells him they don’t need help Edward comes out and is like ‘hello, my arm is broken?’. Once Jeremy tells them all that his father is ill and he’s the only one who can bring in income, Matthew decides to hire him. Mary is excited because he’s a hottie.
That afternoon Mary finds Jeremy by the well and they do some light flirting, and just as he’s about to kiss her Rebecca comes running out asking Mary if she’s seen Matthew or Edward, as something terrible has happened! Mary follows her back to the house and Benjamin in collapsed on the floor, staring up at the ceiling as if in a trance. He snaps out of it as Edward arrives, and while he’s not dead his left leg is suddenly paralyzed for no discernible reason. I’d say it’s karma, but we know it’s far more intentional.
Three days later, Mary has snuck off to meet Jeremy in a field where he’s clearing brush, and it seems that they’re already head over heels for each other as they’re already talking about how they can’t live without each other. Mary says that her uncle would never approve of this, but given that his entire left side is paralyzed at this point he has bigger worries to think about, I’d say. They kiss, and Mary is head over heels. Later that night she and Edward are walking through the woods on the property, and he is saying that not only is his father ill, but now Rebecca is acting sullen and distant, and maybe it’s because you leave her to care for your shitty child as if you didn’t have some hand in his creation. As they’re walking, however, they see that some of the trees are on fire! But when they get closer, it’s not trees that are on fire, it looks like a girl! A girl is ablaze and Edward starts to scream that it’s Susannah Goode! As the vision fades, Edward continues to scream.
Two days later Mary is telling Jeremy about what she saw, and he says it was probably a trick of the light, but she insists that it was something far more sinister. She says she’s going to bring sweet rolls to Rebecca to lift her spirits, and Jeremy asks her if she’s told her father about them yet. She says no, because when she told him about the girl in the fire he reacted very poorly, in that he grabbed the silver amulet around his mouth and got very quiet. She says she needs to get to Rebecca and Edward’s before the incoming storm starts, and then asks Jeremy if HE’S told HIS father about HER? He says no. So they’re both dragging their feet. When Mary gets to her cousin’s house, it starts to rain. She hopes that the sweet rolls will raise the spirits of her cousin, as his father’s paralysis got worse in the night and now Benjamin can only move his head and his right arm. As she searches through the house for her family, she stumbles upon something really upsetting: Rebecca has hung herself from the rafters! Mary screams, pukes, and then runs outside into the rain like a lunatic. She calls frantically for Edward, but then runs into what she thinks is a scarecrow. Except, it’s not. IT’S BENJAMIN, PROPPED UP LIKE A SCARECROW AND DEAD AS A DOORNAIL!
A couple days later the funerals have happened. Edward is practically catatonic and Ezra is now in the care of Constance because, once again, why would a father parent his own child when a woman can do it? Mary saw her father late at night chanting ‘Dominatio per malum’, but doesn’t know what it means, because not only do girls not get educated, they certainly aren’t educated in Latin. Mary sees Jeremy at the edge of the group, and follows him to the toolshed. He tells her that he knows who killed her uncle and Edward’s wife: it’s his father! His father isn’t a sick old man, his name is William Goode, and he is evil, but only because evil has been done to him! He’s been obsessed with the Fier family ever since Martha and Susannah were murdered, so much so that Jeremy’s older brother George returned to Massachusetts to escape his anger. Jeremy tells her about Benjamin murdering Susannah and Martha, Edward doing nothing to stop it, and Matthew stealing the money. He says that his father will keep seeking revenge unless they stop him, and he says that can do this if they get married. That way the families will unite in goodness. Mary accepts, and they embrace, but unfortunately Edward had followed her like a creep and now that he’s seen everything he fully intends on narcing on them because even STILL he believes his father was right in burning Susannah and her mother. PRICK! Though, he thinks about the vision he saw in the woods, and starts to have doubts. So he goes to confront Matthew (making sure to shove his son away when the little boy wants to see him, like the model father he is), who of course denies it all. But when Mary arrives Matthew relents, and then confesses everything to both of them, though he says it was all in Edward’s best interests. Why that had to involve stealing all of William’s money remains to be seen. Mary says she wants to marry Jeremy Goode, and Matthew says NO WAY, he’ll never marry her off to the son of a murderer. Edward and Mary remind him that he is ALSO a murderer, but they were poor WOMEN so who gives a shit, right? They fight and Mary says that she loves Jeremy and intends to marry him, and then Matthew suddenly relents, and says that after the mourning period has passed they will invite Jeremy AND William to dinner, and the feud will end. Mary is ecstatic.
So after a week passes Jeremy arrives and Mary is convinced that Matthew is going to give him her hand in marriage. But when Matthew enters the room, instead of shaking his hand, he yanks off his amulet and chucks it at Jeremy’s head… which in turn EXPLODES with graphic detail of brains and blood and everything. And up comes the head of someone else. WILLIAM GOODE! There never was a Jeremy, it had been William the whole time trying to steal Matthew’s only child away from him! But Matthew, who is ALSO a warlock, was too clever, and a wizard fight ensues, as Mary keeps calling out for Jeremy, Constance looks on in horror, and Edward just kinda stands there. Eventually Matthew yells out ‘Dominatio per malum, power through evil!’, and the spell turns William into dust. Matthew starts laughing, and once he starts he literally cannot stop. As Constance begs him to stop, Edward grabs Mary and Ezra and runs out of the house.
Another time jump, this time to 1725 in the Pennsylvania wilderness. Now Ezra is an adult, and reflecting upon what has happened since they ran away. Edward tried to raise him and Mary up on his own, but he eventually died of exhaustion and Mary, who was driven crazy by what happened that night, killed herself. Ezra blames the Goode family for everything that happened, and unfortunately he wasn’t privy to how his grandfather and father and great uncle were complete assholes. Hoping to get any info he can, he goes back to Matthew and Constance’s farm, not sure of what he’ll find. The place is basically abandoned. He does eventually find the skeletons of Matthew and Constance, and a diary left by Matthew talking about how he walled them in for safety and bashed Constance over the head when she tried to escape. The last pages are about how the Goodes and their treachery did this. Very convenient that he made NO mention of two innocent women who were burnt at the stake, hm? Ezra swears that he’ll get his revenge.
We end this book back in the Village of Shadyside in 1900 as Nora continues to write out her family history. She thinks about how the story is long and awful, but she is compelled to tell it. To Be Continued…
Body Count: 5 (nine if you include the off page deaths of Matthew, Constance, Edward, and Mary)! Some weren’t the most historically accurate of deaths, but whatever. If Stine wants to burn his witches, who’s to stop him?
Romance Rating: 2. I feel like Norah and Daniel are going to be something significant, but we haven’t seen them interact yet. But Edward was a piece of shit to Susannah and Jeremy was a big ol’ lie.
Bonkers Rating: 7! I was legitimately caught off guard by the William Goode reveal, Jeremy’s head exploding is pretty hard to deny as being bonkers.
Fear Street Relevance: It’s gonna get 10s across the board! This is the history of the Fear family, guys!
Silliest End of Chapter Cliffhanger:
“‘Edward Fier is engaged to be married,’ her father said. “Edward is to marry a young woman of Portsmouth. His father told me this morning.'”
… Cliffhanger maybe, but Edward sounds like a true dink so Susannah should have cut her losses and went to join a REAL coven to free herself from the idiot men in her life.
That’s So Dated! Moments: Given that these are historical fiction novels that doesn’t really apply here.
“Innocence died today, But my hatred will live for generations. The Fiers shall not escape me. Wherever they flee, I will be there. My family’s screams shall become the Fiers’ tortured screams. The fire that burned today shall not be quenched – until revenge is mine, and the Fiers burn forever in the fire of my curse!”
Gotta say, this fired me up and made me solidly #TeamGoode.
Conclusion: “The Betrayal” was a dark and solid start to the three part origins of the Fear Family and Fear Street! It will be interesting to see how this Hatfields and McCoys-esque feud will escalate, as I have to imagine it’s just going to get worse. Up next is “The Secret”!
Where Did I Get This Book: The publisher sent me an ARC.
Book Description:For fans of Ruth Ware and Tana French, a shivery, atmospheric, page-turning novel of psychological suspense in the tradition of Agatha Christie, in which a group of old college friends are snowed in at a hunting lodge . . . and murder and mayhem ensue.
All of them are friends. One of them is a killer.
During the languid days of the Christmas break, a group of thirtysomething friends from Oxford meet to welcome in the New Year together, a tradition they began as students ten years ago. For this vacation, they’ve chosen an idyllic and isolated estate in the Scottish Highlands—the perfect place to get away and unwind by themselves. They arrive on December 30th, just before a historic blizzard seals the lodge off from the outside world.
Two days later, on New Year’s Day, one of them is dead.
The trip began innocently enough: admiring the stunning if foreboding scenery, champagne in front of a crackling fire, and reminiscences about the past. But after a decade, the weight of secret resentments has grown too heavy for the group’s tenuous nostalgia to bear. Amid the boisterous revelry of New Year’s Eve, the cord holding them together snaps. Now one of them is dead . . . and another of them did it. Keep your friends close, the old adage goes. But just how close is too close?
Review: Thank you to William Morrow for sending me an ARC of this novel!
Though we’re pretty much now fully into summer here in Minnesota, to me one of the best seasons for a tangled mystery to take place is the wintertime. There’s something about the snow and cold that really gets a plot going. So while it took me a little while to get to “The Hunting Party” by Lucy Foley, I felt like I saved it for the exact right time. I don’t like the weather that comes with summer, so a story set during colder months was exactly what I needed.
I think that the comparison to both Ruth Ware and Agatha Christie is spot on. The setting itself, in a remote lodge area in the Scottish Wilderness, is the perfect backdrop for a story like this; it’s isolated, it’s haunting, and the vast wilderness feels like a cage when it comes down to it. Throw in a harsh snowy winter and you get an even harder place to escape should you need to. The characters, too, feel like people out of a Christie or Ware novel, as they are a group of friends who have known each other for years, but conflicts, secrets, and resentments are starting to boil over. We get a few different perspective chapters, some told in the past (the days leading up to the death) and some in the present (the discovery of the body and beyond). In the present we have Heather and Doug. Heather is the manager of the lodge, who has been trying to forget a tragedy from her recent past, and Doug is the gamekeeper, and he seems like he could be mysterious or dangerous. In the past we hear from Miranda, the effervescent queen bee of the group, Katie, her dutiful and passive best friend, and Emma, the woman who joined the group late and is trying to put together the best retreat she can. It becomes clear as time goes on that all of these characters are hiding something, and Foley slowly and effectively teases the answers out of them while also giving the reader satisfying and interesting characterizations. I was especially taken with Miranda’s POV chapters, as while she is definitely a bit spoiled and has a true mean streak, we also get to see into her mind and how her own insecurities and personal tragedies have made her into the person she is now. It would be easy to make her simply a cruel bitch, but more often than not I found myself sympathizing with her. One might think that juggling all of these perspectives would be tricky, but Foley does a great job of it, seamlessly keeping all the balls in the air and revealing what she wanted about them only when she was ready.
The mystery too was well done and kept me going. We know from the get go that one of the guests has been found dead on the property, but we don’t know who it is. By slowly peeling back the story in both present and past orders, it carefully becomes clear who is dead, but the motivation to kill could be coming from any character, and many hints are misdirection. There were a number of times where I was probably falling right into the trap Foley set with my guesses, and while I did ultimately guess the correct answer before it was revealed, it wasn’t too far from the big reveal moment. It was also still fun seeing all the puzzle pieces slowly fit into place, especially since there were a number of other secrets to be revealed along the way. I was also legitimately surprised by a couple of these secrets, which is always fun!
“The Hunting Party” may take place in a cold climate and could be a good fireplace read, but I think that it’s also going to be a great beach read for the summer traveler.
Rating 8: A suspenseful and well plotted mystery with compelling characters and many twists, “The Hunting Party” is a fun thriller just in time for summer!
Where Did I Get This Book: I received an ARC from the publisher.
Book Description:A poignant and suspenseful drama that untangles the complicated ties binding three women—two sisters and their mother—in one Chinese immigrant family and explores what happens when the eldest daughter disappears, and a series of family secrets emerge, from the New York Times bestselling author of Girl in Translation
It begins with a mystery. Sylvie, the beautiful, brilliant, successful older daughter of the Lee family, flies to the Netherlands for one final visit with her dying grandmother—and then vanishes.
Amy, the sheltered baby of the Lee family, is too young to remember a time when her parents were newly immigrated and too poor to keep Sylvie. Seven years older, Sylvie was raised by a distant relative in a faraway, foreign place, and didn’t rejoin her family in America until age nine. Timid and shy, Amy has always looked up to her sister, the fierce and fearless protector who showered her with unconditional love.
But what happened to Sylvie? Amy and her parents are distraught and desperate for answers. Sylvie has always looked out for them. Now, it’s Amy’s turn to help. Terrified yet determined, Amy retraces her sister’s movements, flying to the last place Sylvie was seen. But instead of simple answers, she discovers something much more valuable: the truth. Sylvie, the golden girl, kept painful secrets . . . secrets that will reveal more about Amy’s complicated family—and herself—than she ever could have imagined.
A deeply moving story of family, secrets, identity, and longing, Searching for Sylvie Lee is both a gripping page-turner and a sensitive portrait of an immigrant family. It is a profound exploration of the many ways culture and language can divide us and the impossibility of ever truly knowing someone—especially those we love.
Review: Thank you to William Morrow for sending me an ARC of this novel!
While I can’t deny that I love me a good sudsy, melodramatic thriller, there is also something to be said for thriller/mysteries that have layers of pathos, introspection, and character exploration. A literary thriller can not only keep me entertained, it can also get me to thinking about deeper issues that I may not otherwise associate with the genre. Because of this, I was pleased to see that William Morrow had sent me an ARC of “Searching for Sylvie Lee” by Jean Kwok.
“Searching for Sylvie Lee” is absolutely a mystery. A Chinese-Dutch/American woman named Sylvie vanishes while visiting her dying grandmother in the Netherlands, and her younger sister Amy takes it upon herself to try and retrace her sister’s steps. She discovers many things about her sister that she never knew, along with things about her family that she never new either. The story is told through three perspectives. The first is Amy, who is searching for her sister. The second is Ma, Amy and Sylvie’s mother who is dealing with fear and grief in regards to her missing daughter. And the third is Sylvie, as we see her journey to The Netherlands and the things that were going on in her life before and during her trip, and up to her disappearance. The three perspectives come together in a way that tells a broader picture, and shows how and why Sylvie would vanish in the way that she did. Kwok did a masterful job of balancing all three perspectives, and made sure that they all added something to the final story in meaningful ways.
I also enjoyed the setting of this book. While there are a number of parts in New York City, it’s the setting of The Netherlands that made this book feel more unique to me. I admittedly have not much cultural knowledge about this country (though I do hope to visit and learn someday), but seeing Amy and Sylvie and their distant relatives living day to day lives and situations was something that was unexpected for me. So too did I enjoy Kwok’s examinations of race within this cultural context, as Sylvie and the Tan family are perhaps not always targeted, per se, but always noticed for their appearances, and not necessarily in positive ways. The little cuts of microaggressions within the narrative were effective and upsetting, and Kwok never felt a need to explain, just to show, which to me was all the more powerful. All three women focused on have their experiences of being Othered, but have experiences beyond that that are also damaging, be it because of their gender, the cultural expectations, or their expectations they have for each other.
And that is why the true heart of this book is that of the three women themselves. Seeing their different perspectives also added a layer to the narrative that elevated this book from simple mystery to familial tragedy. Ma is an immigrant who has been in a tumultuous marriage, and has watched her two daughters grow up and away from her. She had to make hard decisions to support her family, and those decisions have haunted her as her children have pulled away. Amy has always felt like the disappointment child, as Sylvie has been a vivacious, beautiful, and successful presence in her life, and has self esteem and confidence issues. But in turn Sylvie has had to come to terms with being raised away from her immediate family for so long, only to be ripped from the life she knew and thrown back in with them, and had to contend with the emotional trauma of it. She doesn’t feel like she fits in anywhere, as she feels Dutch in America but is seen as the Other in Holland because of her race. It’s Sylvie’s story that packs the most emotional punch, as she appears to be caught between the different expectations of those around her, and the life that she has versus the life that she wants. All of these women have held secrets from each other, and when they come out bit by bit the fallout and damage is almost too much to bear. This is a mystery, but it’s also an examination of identity, be it familial or cultural, and that makes it all the more emotional.
“Searching for Sylvie Lee” is a heart-rendering novel that I really enjoyed. The writing is superb, the themes are intense, and the mystery is well plotted out.
Rating 8: A story about family, secrets, identity, and sisterhood, “Searching for Sylvie Lee” is both a mystery and an examination of the conflicts we face alone, and the things we hide from our families.
Book: “Stay Sexy and Don’t Get Murdered: The Definitive How-To Guide” by Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark
Publishing Info: Forge Books, May 2018
Where Did I Get This Book: I own an Audible Audiobook/ was given a partial ARC by a friend.
Book Description:The highly anticipated first book by Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark, the voices behind the #1 hit podcast My Favorite Murder!
Sharing never-before-heard stories ranging from their struggles with depression, eating disorders, and addiction, Karen and Georgia irreverently recount their biggest mistakes and deepest fears, reflecting on the formative life events that shaped them into two of the most followed voices in the nation.
In Stay Sexy & Don’t Get Murdered, Karen and Georgia focus on the importance of self-advocating and valuing personal safety over being ‘nice’ or ‘helpful.’ They delve into their own pasts, true crime stories, and beyond to discuss meaningful cultural and societal issues with fierce empathy and unapologetic frankness.
Review:I’m a Murderino and have been a Murderino for about two years now. For those who may not be familiar, a ‘Murderino’ is the name for fans “My Favorite Murder”, a true crime comedy podcast hosted by Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark. I know I’ve spoken about it on this blog before, as I highlighted this book for the month of May, put the podcast in a “Not Just Books” post, and have referenced it on and off, here and there. I first discovered “My Favorite Murder” when I was going through a bit of a hard emotional time. I was feeling stagnant and unappreciated at one of my jobs, I was having anxiety about the future and big decisions that I knew needed to be made sooner rather than later, and one of my aunts (whom I had been close to) was dying of cancer, which sent a number of other family members into a turmoil. My friend Amanda recommended MFM to me, and I started it on the plane ride out to visit my ailing aunt/start preparing her house for hospice/getting other affairs in order. MFM became my comfort during that trip, as Kilgariff and Hardstark were able to talk about dark (yet eternally fascinating) topics with wit, empathy, and humor. I’ve been hooked ever since. And when I found out that Kilgariff and Hardstark were writing a book, I was PUMPED. I was very lucky to be given a partial ARC (thanks to my friend Carol! THANKS CAROL!), and read the first half of this book a couple months before it came out. But I knew that when the book came out in full, I had to get it on audiobook, as Kilgariff, Hardstark, and Paul Giamatti (it’s a long story) were the narrators. So I did a dual read/listen. And it mostly lived up to all I wanted it to be.
I will say, first and foremost, that if you are going into “Stay Sexy and Don’t Get Murdered” thinking that it’s going to be focused on true crime, you are mistaken. Whlie Kilgariff and Hardstark DO make references to various cases within it’s pages, and do share their own experiences that may have been close calls, this is definitely more essays/memoir about who they both are as people, and the various life experiences that shaped them into the true crime junkies that they are today. So if you are a fan of the podcast but consider yourself a ‘skipper’ (aka you skip the first third of the show where they are bantering and conversing to get to the cases), this book may not be what you’re looking for. But while this isn’t a book about true crime at its heart, what it does have to offer is a personal and relateable set of essays/memoirs that show the lives of two women who have come a long way and gone through a lot of hardship in their lives. Both women has struggled with their mental health, eating disorders, drug addiction, and various personal losses as time has gone on, and they are both very reflective on these things that they have had to endure and overcome as time has gone on. Both Kilgariff and Hardstark talk about their experiences with candor and grace, and while they definitely can find some humor in these things they never feel like they’re making light of these experiences, nor do they make them self-exploitative. While they touch on these issues here and there on the show, in this book their vulnerability is on full display, and I found it to be very relatable in a lot of ways. Given that both women have talked about putting up defenses, seeing them put it all out there was very admirable.
The book is also very funny at times. Both Kilgariff and Hardstark have fun senses of humor, but Kilgariff especially has a wry tone and a knack for making me laugh hysterically. She has always been my favorite of the two, and it’s no surprise that it was one of her sections, about a childhood memory involving her and her older sister in their latchkey kid days, that had me laughing so hard I was crying. Both women have a very conversational tone in the writing that works both in audiobook form AND in print form, and none of the humor felt out of place or forced. And the bonus with the audiobook is that you get to hear their voices, and their intonations of how they wanted their words and stories to sound. In some ways I felt that this was better than the print book, but honestly, you can’t go wrong with either of them.
I did have a couple of criticisms with the book, and though they may not be limited to this book specifically I do want to address them. The biggest one is that both Hardstark and Kilgariff fall into a familiar ‘self help’ trap of not thinking about how accessible their advice is for their readers. This comes out the most in their advice on how to tackle mental health, as both of them are huge proponents of therapy being a be all end all and something that everyone should do. As someone who has benefited from therapy greatly, I also believe that therapy is wonderful for those who have access to it. But the sad truth is that the ability to seek out therapists/therapy, and mental health care in general, is not something that everyone can do, be it because of financial reasons or other inhibitors. It’s very easy to say ‘everyone should go to therapy!’ when you have the financial means to do so, but sadly, that isn’t the case for many people, so to make it seem like it can be achieved by anyone is rather tone deaf, or at the very least reeks of privilege. Now this certainly isn’t something that is unique to Kilgariff and Hardstark, as MANY ‘self help’ books trot out solutions that fall into this trap. But given that the sometimes blindness to certain privileges is a common critique of this show and both authors, I was a little disappointed to see this advice, especially since in so many other ways they were quick to check other kinds of privilege blind spots that they have had in the past. And I do kind of wish that they’d done a little more with the true crime angle. What we did have was interesting and they certainly don’t HAVE to rehash cases we’ve heard time and time again, especially since they admittedly don’t do deep dive research. But a reference here and there felt more tacked on than anything else.
All of that said, I really did enjoy “Stay Sexy and Don’t Get Murdered”. Kilgariff and Hardstark are still a couple of my favorite podcasters out there, and I’m glad that they have come so far and have been able to overcome so much while still staying true to themselves. And remember everyone: Stay out of the forest, buy your own shit, and most importantly
Rating 8: A fun and enlightening memoir from two of my favorite true crime podcasters, “Stay Sexy and Don’t Get Murdered: The Definitive How-To Guide” is sure to delight MFM fans!
Book: “The Dead Lifeguard” (A Fear Street Super Chiller) by R.L. Stine
Publishing Info: Pocket Books, 1993
Where Did I Get This Book: An eBook from the library!
Book Description:In too deep…
The lifeguards at North Beach Country Club know they’re lucky. While other kids are flipping burgers, they’re sunning themselves by day and partying by night. So what if some people say the place is cursed, haunted. This is the life!
And then, one by one, the lifeguards start to die horrible deaths. Someone—or something—evil is stalking them. They all know how to save other people’s lives…but who will save theirs?
Had I Read This Before: Yes.
The Plot: We start with one of R.L. Stine’s patented Killer Talking To Potentially Imaginary/Dead Friend Intro®, with someone named “Mouse” talking to someone named Terry (with the ‘don’t talk just listen’ bit to make us think that maybe Terry CAN talk, but we all know better, right?). Mouse informs Terry that not only have they passed the lifeguard test, but they can’t stop thinking about that last summer, and how Terry is dead because of the lifeguards. So now it’s revenge time as Mouse is heading to North Beach Swim club to kill the lifeguards, as it’s their fault Terry is dead. Auspicious start!
We now move onto Lindsay Beck arriving at North Beach Country Club. She’s excited for the summer, so excited that she forgot to pack her sunblock! She’s a lifeguard again this summer, as she was the previous summer, and she wonders if anyone else has come back. As a rain storm starts up she rushes to the gate of the pool area, and she can see at least one of her fellow lifeguards inside the guest house. She tries to open the gate but it’s locked, and she remembers that she has an ID card that she can swipe to give access. But it too doesn’t work. She decides to start calling towards the guest house in hopes someone will hear her, but then she looks in the pool and sees a girl drowning in the pool. She screams.
Note: This book is split into multiple POVs per chapter, and while I tried to tackle them independently it just became too convoluted. So just know that sometimes narrators change and their reliability does too.
Danny is the head lifeguard and he’s having a meeting with his team. There’s Cassie, who has white blonde hair and a ‘sexy whispery’ voice and I’m just picturing Joey Lauren Adams (have I just dated myself?). Cassie is afraid of the thunder from the storm that’s just started. Then there’s Runty Arnie, who makes bad jokes; Deirdre, whose main feature is being ‘hot’ (I get that this is Danny’s POV but sheesh, that’s all the girl gets huh?); May-Ann, who is quiet and shy; and Pug, who sounds like a stereotype of a lifeguard with curly blonde hair and a meat head attitude. They suddenly hear screaming from outside. Danny and Arnie go running outside to see what Lindsay wants, and she tells them about the girl who is floating in the pool. But when they look they don’t see anything. Danny and Arnie lead her inside and she meets the other lifeguards. She tells them that she SWEARS she saw someone, there really was no one there. They ask her what she’s doing there and she says she’s a lifeguard like them. When Danny looks on his roster, he doesn’t see her name. She insists that she does TOO belong there, and shows him her ID card. Danny asks if this is the one that was just sent to her, and she says yes, but he points out that it’s two years old. While everyone else is looking at Lindsay like she’s a nut, May-Ann offers to let her get changed into dry clothes in her room. Lindsay asks everyone if everyone is new, and they confirm that they are, so no one will remember her from the year before. Pug says he was a guest the year before but doesn’t remember her, and they figure that Pete the athletic director will be able to clear it all up when he arrives. May-Ann lets Lindsay get changed and visits with her pet mouse Munchy (why you brought your pet to your summer job is kind of beyond me, but I get missing one’s pets), and then Lindsay asks May-Ann how all these things could be going so wrong, the ID card, the list, the girl she thought she saw. May-Ann says they will get it all sorted out. They go back into the main room, and after Arnie kills the conversation with another bad joke, May-Ann tells Lindsay that she knows who she saw in the pool: it was one of the resident ghosts. When pressed, she tells them that every summer a person dies. The summer before a fourteen year old boy drowned, and two summers ago one of the lifeguards drowned. May-Ann says that these ghosts haunt the club now, and while most of the people don’t believe her they all get a little freaked when the door to the room opens and no one is there. But then someone is there, another lifeguard who says he’s Spencer Brown and his ride was late. Lindsay is convinced that she recognizes him, and when she says hi he kind of balks, but then says he recognizes her too. Then Pete arrives and FINALLY, and adult presence. He asks Danny if he’s assigned rooms to everyone yet, and Danny says he has. But he also says that Lindsay is here and she isn’t on the list. Pete doesn’t remember her either, and asks her when they talked. She doesn’t remember. Pete thinks it’s weird that he doesn’t remember her either, but he says that since she’s passed her tests she can be alternate lifeguard, and Danny says she can bunk with May-Ann. While Deirdre and Cassie fight about assignments (but they’re really fighting about Pug because Deirdre likes him for some reason but be likes Cassie), Lindsay is relieved she can stay, but realizes she doesn’t remember ANYTHING about Spencer.
Cut to Mouse talking to Terry (aka talking into an off the hook phone as a busy signal no doubts shrills). Mouse asks Terry if they should kill their roommate first. After all, everything Mouse is doing is for Terry.
Over dinner Danny is jealous that Pug is getting all the attention from the ladies, Cassie is insisting upon building a fire even though it’s the dead of summer, and Lindsay is obsessing. She asks Spencer if he was the lifeguard when the kid drowned that past summer, but he says he wasn’t even on the property at that time and it sounds like he’s really worried about liability or something. She asks him if he has seen the ghosts, and he seems confused, but May-Ann insists they’re real. May-Ann is pretty much me as a tween and I really love her for that. Cassie screams and says she sees a ghost, but she’s just joking, which pisses May-Ann off and she storms out of the dining room. Danny asks his team to lay off May-Ann but no one seems to want to listen except Lindsay, who says it was her fault for asking Spencer about it. Soon Pug and Spencer are taking out the tried and true dick measuring contest by arm wrestling, and as Pug is pressing against Spencer’s arm there’s a huge CRACK sound. Spencer looks like he’s about to lose it, but SURPRISE, it was just Cassie breaking a piece of kindling! What a character! Everyone laughs as Spencer tries to stop his heart from beating through his ribcage, and he says that he would have won had Cassie not scared him. Pug then stuffs Arnie in a wastebasket and that’s the end of the night. When Lindsay goes back to her and May-Ann’s room to see if she’s okay, May-Ann isn’t there. Then a lame cliffhanger moment happens (more on that later) that establishes that May-Ann REALLY likes mice…. I smell seafood. Red herring, specifically.
Mouse POV again. Mouse is now telling Terry that everyone laughed at them tonight and that just won’t do. Revenge, Terry, killing, blah blah blah.
On Lindsay’s life guard shift the next day she’s lamenting her sunburn and noticing that Cassie and Pug have officially hooked up. Lindsay notices May-Ann getting all primped and asks her if she’s going out, but May-Ann doesn’t answer. Later that night, Lindsay is awakened from sleep by a voice outside the door of someone calling for help. May-Ann heres it too and they go to investigate, worried that someone is hurt or in danger. But NAH, it’s just Cassie and Pug again, playing a pretty dumb and reckless trick on them. Cassie gives May-Ann crap for thinking that she was a ghost, and hey Cassie, maybe she thought that you were someone in actual need of help? May-Ann tells her that she’ll be sorry, and rushes to her room crying.
At breakfast the next day Cassie has told everyone about her dumb prank and they tease Lindsay as she eats. She leaves for her shift before she can see what they do to May-Ann, and so much for roommate solidarity! While on her shift she notices all the ladies in the pool fawning over Pug and Cassie looking mad about it. After Artie relieves Lindsay she runs into Spencer, who is doing a great impression of a privileged rich woman who gave him a tip of twenty five cents and told him to put it towards his college fund, and if THAT doesn’t still sting I don’t know WHAT does. She tries to figure out how she knows him, as she still can’t remember, but he runs off before she can prod him. Later, she wakes up in the middle of the night, and sees May-Ann is missing. It’s so hot in the room she decides to go for a midnight swim in the pool. But when she goes outside, she sees the floating girl again! She doesn’t hesitate and jumps in, hoping to save her. But when she pulls her up, the girl’s face is HER FACE! It whispers ‘I’m Lindsay’, and then starts to decompose until it’s just a skull. Then Lindsay wakes up. Yep, it was just a dream. But May-Ann is still not in bed AND now there is another voice calling Lindsay’s name. Lindsay wonders if it’s May-Ann, and decides to follow it. She eventually winds up in the dining hall, and someone has built a HUGE fire in the fireplace. And…. in the fireplace… IS CASSIE! FACE FIRST! Lindsay pulls her out but yeah, it’s far too late, the girl’s face has been burned off. So now we know that Cassie was sultry, mean spirited, and decidedly NOT the Dragon.
The police arrive and start questioning everyone. Officer Malone asks Lindsay why she was in the dining room in the middle of the night, and Lindsay says she heard a voice, and Malone seems to be suspicious. Eventually the cops tell everyone they can go back to bed. May-Ann reiterates that someone dies every summer, and Danny thinks that she is smiling a little too much.
Mouse again. Mouse tells Terry that they killed one of the lifeguards and that they’ll let Terry know when they kill again. Yawn.
A couple days later Lindsay is trying not to think about the horribly mutilated body she found or the fact that the cops seemed suspicious of her. She then realizes that she hasn’t talked to her parents at all since she arrived, which is odd because USUALLY they’re all about communication. So she goes to her room and calls her number…. But the number is out of service. She tries again and again, but still no connection. She even tries calling information, but there is no one in Shadyside listed under her parents names. Thinking something is terribly wrong, she decides to drive down to Shadyside that day and see if they’re okay. Danny gives her permission to go, and she’s off. By the time she makes it to her home on Fear Street she’s in a panic. But she sees a woman through the screen door and bounds up the steps, relieved to see her Mom… but it isn’t her Mom, it’s a random woman. Lindsay says her family lives her, and the woman says there has to be a mistake. When Lindsay drops her name, the woman suddenly looks like she could pass out. She then informs Lindsay that Lindsay Beck is DEAD.
Understandably distraught, Lindsay returns to the country club and feels the need to find clues as to what the FUCK is going on. She sneaks into Pete’s office and finds her file. But when she opens it, she does see her status as ‘deceased’. There is also a newspaper clipping that details Lindsay Beck as drowning at the Country Club pool two years ago. LINDSAY IS THE DEAD LIFEGUARD.
Mouse again. Mouse hasn’t been talking to Terry for awhile because they’ve been so busy with their lifeguard duties. But don’t worry, they are still working on killing them all, they just have their tan to think about as well.
Two days after Lindsay’s trip to Shadyside she’s stewing and refusing to believe she’s dead. While Pug and Artie continue to display preenings of toxic masculinity by rough housing and sniping at each other, May-Ann tries to bring up the ghost talk again. Then Pug turns his unchanneled and unhealthy anger her way, and starts yelling at her (and if you think he’s still traumatized about Cassie, I can assure you he’s not; he’s already flirting with other girls). As everyone starts yelling at each other Arnie suggests that he and Lindsay go get some air. Lindsay agrees, but before long Arnie is shoving her up against a tree and trying to kiss her, and HOLY SEXUAL ASSAULT. Spencer then comes up the path and pulls Arnie off of her, and Arnie rushes off. Lindsay thanks him and they get to talking. She tries again to ask him if he can tell her anything about their friendship, and he evades the questions. He tells her that she left so suddenly that they didn’t have time to get to know each other, and then won’t tell her what that means.
The next day Lindsay is on duty, and we have a particularly cringey moment where Arnie comes up and tells her that he’s sorry about the night before, but that he’s not a bad guy, he just made a mistake. To make it even worse, Lindsay concedes that she may have ‘overreacted’, and I could have thrown my smartphone in disgust when I read this. Arnie then asks her if she wants to go on a date, and she turns him down. And he keeps pushing because GUYS, HE IS A PREDATOR. She doesn’t have to answer as he’s called away, and then Lindsay notices a woman staring at her. The woman says she recognizes her and asks her how she’s doing, but looks shocked to see her. Lindsay wants to yell at her that she is, in fact, alive, but the woman rushes off.
Dinner that night is tense, and while trying to take a walk to settle her mind Lindsay sees Pug and May-Ann arguing by the weight room, with May-Ann telling him to keep his big mouth shut. Is he about to reveal that he knows she’s a killer, or is it perhaps that he’s just a creepazoid asshole who has been picking on her ever since they arrived? Regardless of what it’s about, Lindsay can’t catch all the details, and Deirdre comes up behind her and bitches about how Pug is now hitting on May-Ann. Lindsay doesn’t think they’re romantically involved, as May-Ann has better taste than that I’m sure (projecting? Maybe). But then she sees them walk off together with his arm around her shoulders. Lindsay goes back to her room and tries her parents once more, but still nothing. She doesn’t think she’s dead, but also doesn’t know WHAT is going on. She falls asleep, but wakes up in the middle of the night again, and AGAIN May-Ann isn’t in the room. But that voices outside the door is back, and it tells Lindsay to follow. So, like a dummy, she does, and it eventually takes her to the weight room. And LO AND BEHOLD, there is Pug, and his windpipe has been crushed by a barbell! And then Lindsay turns around and sees Pete in the doorway!
The police come again, and Pete says that he found Lindsay standing over Pug’s body. Lindsay notices a spider crawling into Pug’s nose (YUCK). They all go to the common room for questioning, and Officer Malone really starts to press Lindsay about the voice she heard, and Lindsay shouts at her that she must think that Lindsay killed Pug! Always a good strategy, going apeshit on the police. Officer Malone says Lindsay needs to calm down, and when another officer asks her why she looks so familiar Lindsay wants to yell that she’s a ghost of a girl who died a couple years ago. Which also wouldn’t be sound, strategy wise. Lindsay then overhears May-Ann saying that she believes Lindsay, but also saw Lindsay looking at her and Pug right before Pug died with a strange look on her face.
MOUSE AGAIN. Bragging about Pug, saying they have the next target in mind, etc etc etc.
A few nights later Lindsay can’t take it anymore. While the police think that someone broke onto the property and killed Cassie and Pug, Lindsay feels like everyone thinks that she did it. She asks Danny to borrow his car keys and just decides to drive. Unfortunately, Arnie hid in the back seat, and when she confronts him about this unacceptably creepy behavior he said that he wanted to cheer her up. He tells her that he doesn’t think that she’s a killer, but then starts to put his hands on her again. She pulls over, gets out, goes around the car, opens his door, and DEMANDS that he get the FUCK out or else she’s going to flag down a car and call the police on his entitled, disgusting ass.
Lindsay gets back to the club and everyone is poolside. Danny is happy that she’s back okay, and she tells him that she left Arnie on the side of the road. They tell Lindsay to get in her swim suit and join them, and she agrees. They’re all having fun, until May-Ann pushes Deirdre into the pool. Deirdre is fine, but Lindsay starts to scream. When they all rush to her side, she says that she’s NOT Lindsay!! Her name is Marissa and she KILLED Lindsay! Well, kind of. She and Lindsay were lifeguards at the pool two years prior, and were thick as thieves. But one day they got in a petty argument by the pool and it turned physical. Marissa shoved Lindsay a little too hard, and Lindsay fell in the pool in just the right way that she hit her head on the concrete, cracking her skull open. Marissa was so traumatized she assumed Lindsay’s personality, unable to believe she was dead. She went to a mental hospital for a few months, but was discharged and everything was okay. But then she ran away and began thinking she was Lindsay again, which is how she came back here. Spencer asks her why she killed Cassie and Pug, and Marissa says that she didn’t, or at least doesn’t remember doing it. Spencer suggests that she blocked it out. But then Marissa remembers something. When they met up each other this summer, he did in fact say that SHE was Lindsay. He says that he didn’t realize that her name wasn’t Lindsay as he didn’t really know her and got confused since that summer was such a blur. Without questioning any of this Marissa decides she needs to call her parents. So she goes to Pete’s office. But when she gets there the phone is ringing. She answers, and the woman on the line says that she needs to explain why her son Spencer hasn’t shown up for his lifeguard job. Marissa is shocked but listens. Spencer was MURDERED!!!
Marissa goes to confront ‘Spencer’, and he says that the real Spencer HAD to die, because he HAD to be a lifeguard to avenge Terry. Folks, Spencer is Mouse. And now Marissa remembers. Mouse and Terry were kitchen staff, and Marissa and the other lifeguards would look down on them because they weren’t lifeguards. They made Mouse and Terry do dives and laps and hold their breath, but then told them that they couldn’t actually certify them. and Terry was SO distraught about this that instead of actually looking into how to get certified, he KILLED himself. Now Mouse is going to kill Marissa because 1) she was mean to them, and 2) she knows too much about Spencer and his involvement in Cassie and Pug’s deaths. Spencer also admits that he was the one who lured Marissa out both nights that Cassie and Pug were killed, as he realized she didn’t remember who she was and that he could make her the perfect patsy. He then drags her to the pool and starts to hold her head under the water. She pretends that she’s lost all her breath, but then pulls him in as well. They struggle, but then it’s my girl May-Ann to the rescue! She jumps in and helps subdue Mouse! Then the others all show up and help hold Mouse down while they call authorities. Marissa explains everything, and May-Ann explains that the reason she wasn’t in the room those nights was that she and Pete were sneaking around (HE’S TWENTY, SHE’S A MINOR, INAPPROPRIATE!). That was what she and Pug were arguing about. Lindsay says that she needs to go call her parents to tell them that she’s okay. The End.
Body Count: 2! From a face in a fireplace to a graphic description of a spider crawling into a dead guy’s nasal cavity, these were pretty nutty deaths to be had!
Romance Rating: 1. There wasn’t really any romance in this one outside of Pug hopping from girl to girl.
Bonkers Rating: 7. The forgotten identity was a fun twist that was executed pretty well!
Fear Street Relevance: 2. Lindsay/Marissa mentions living on Fear Street, but all the action is in a beach town forty miles away.
Silliest End of Chapter Cliffhanger:
“I started toward the phone, but stopped when I saw Mary-Ann’s dresser top. ‘Ohh!’ I let out a low cry as my eyes tried to focus in the dim light.
The dresser was crawling with mice!”
…. But it’s just mouse figurines that Mary-Ann has collected over the years in the most heavy handed misdirection ever.
That’s So Dated! Moments: Sadly this book didn’t have many moments that stand out as dated. Sure, one could say that an Internet search could have been beneficial, but that could be said for most of the “Fear Street” books.
“Cassie and Deirdre both came on to Pug all through dinner. I admit it, I was turning as green as the steamed spinach that no one touched. I’m the big cheese, after all, the main guy. Those girls were supposed to come after MY bod!”
Conclusion: “The Dead Lifeguard” actually held up from my youth and felt like a fun way to start the summer! I remember liking it as a kid and I was entertained as an adult. Up next we start our final “Fear Street” Trilogy, with “The Betrayal”.