March 24, 2012
SVH Super Thriller, A Stranger in the House: Stranger Danger
Summary: Ten years ago, when Ned was an ADA, he put a man named John Marin in prison for kidnapping and killing two women. As he was taken away, Marin vowed revenge on the twins. Now Marin’s out, and he’s coming to collect.
(That summary sounds a lot more interesting than what actually happens.)
The twins are working as waitresses at a marina café for the summer. There’s a contest for tips, but that’s not important. Also, their boss keeps calling them the wrong names, but that also isn’t important. What’s important is that Ken is away and Elizabeth is once again bored with Todd, and both girls fall in love with new guys. Jessica’s guy is Scott, who’s interning for a TV mini-series to be set in a California high school. He starts hanging out with Jessica under the auspices of getting her input on the show. Elizabeth’s guy is Ben, a writer with a boat.
Unbeknownst (I have to use big words in this recap to make up for the brain cells I lost reading this book) to the twins, Ned keeps finding notes and various other clues indicating that Marin has been in the house. For example, Jessica’s lavaliere disappears, and Marin sends it to Ned to let him know how close he can get to the girls. Ned gets more and more freaked out, even though he has a private investigator watching the girls at work. He asks the twins if they’ve met any new people, but neither wants the other to know about her new guy, so they both say no.
There are also some
red herrings other strange people hanging around the marina, like a creepy guy who keeps staring at the twins, and a sailor who always orders a peanut butter sandwich for breakfast. Since Ned hasn’t told the girls what’s going on, they have no reason to think that anyone’s a threat. Then one night Jessica sees someone with a knife in the storage room, and when the twins ID him as the creepy marina guy, they’re told it’s Marin. Only he’s been in lockup since the previous night. Oh, and he’s not really Marin, but a guy Marin hired to watch the twins, then planted the lavaliere on to frame him.
Ned goes to see the PI to find out about the mixup and instead finds him dead. Jessica heads home while Elizabeth goes out with Ben. The police go to the Wakefields’, and Ned finally tells Jessica about Marin. When she sees his mugshot, she realizes he’s Scott. But at least Elizabeth’s safe, since that means Ben is the real deal. Except he’s not, as another waitress IDs him as the same guy Jessica was seeing. Yes, both twins were dating a murderer who wanted to kill them. Neat!
The ending is the only good part of the book. The Coast Guard takes Jess, Ned, and some cops out to the boat Elizabeth and Ben are on. Elizabeth realizes her new man is no good and starts to jump overboard. She gets knocked out, but Jessica saves her. Marin jumps in a dinghy, which the police find shredded; they believe he was killed by sharks. The Wakefields go home…and are greeted by Marin, who escaped and was hiding in the basement. He knocks out Ned, but Ned eventually overpowers him and Marin goes back to prison. Supposedly…
Thoughts: It kind of makes sense that both twins would fall in love with a killer. We already knew Jessica was a horrible judge of character, and Elizabeth is totally the kind of person who would write letters to a serial killer.
Elizabeth: “Somehow I’m going to find a way to have a summer full of adventure, risk, and life experiences!” Didn’t you have that last summer, when you went to London and almost got murdered? Wasn’t that enough for you? Maybe you should stop dating killers.
Someone needs to write a book where Marin and Margo team up. It would be the best SVH book ever.
“He’s a writer, for heaven’s sake. What could be duller than that?” I’d say something mean about Jessica for that, but I’m too busy deconstructing Proust so I can experience his work through a post-modern lens.
I liked the horror movie-ish twist toward the end, with Marin coming back, but they should have ended the book with him escaping, not getting arrested. They needed a cliffhanger to lead into the next book.