May 20, 2014

SVU Thriller, The House of Death: The Haunting of Lila Fowler

Posted in books tagged , , , , at 6:41 pm by Jenn

I don't know what that's supposed to be, but she ain't Lila

I don’t know who that’s supposed to be, but she ain’t Lila

Summary: Lila’s aunt Katherine has just been murdered. Apparently she and Lila were pretty close, despite the fact that we’ve never heard of her until now. It looks like she was killed in a home invasion, and the burglar/murderer took some giant diamond Katherine owned. The diamond was one of three things Katherine left Grace; everything else is left to Lila, including Katherine’s house. Too bad she didn’t die a few books ago when Lila and Bruce needed a place to live, eh?

Lila doesn’t really want the house, since it’s where Katherine died, but Bruce convinces her to take a look at it. They make plans to meet there, but Bruce is delayed by football practice, then when he helps a little old lady change a flat tire. You read that right. Bruce Patman is a Boy Scout. Lila thinks she hears Katherine’s voice summoning her to the attic, and as she’s going up, there’s an earthquake. Lila’s knocked out and pinned under an armoire. What is it with earthquakes trapping people under things in Sweet Valley?

By the time Bruce gets to the house, he can’t make it up the road, so he calls 911 to get someone to help him rescue Lila. The 911 operator tells him that since he doesn’t have proof of an emergency, there’s no emergency. Hopefully that operator was then fired for not doing her job. Bruce makes it to the house, where Lila’s unconscious, so is that enough of an emergency for you, Ms. Operator?

Lila ends up in a coma, and for a few days it looks like she might not live. As she’s waking up, she sees a guy named Porter Davis, who’s allegedly a psychiatrist and has been interested in her since she was brought into the hospital. Lila thinks he’s an angel, and that he saved her. As she recovers in the hospital, she starts pushing Bruce away, mad that he wasn’t with her at the house when she was injured, and gets closer to Porter, who helps her through the aftermath of having a near-death experience.

By the time Lila’s released from the hospital, she’s basically broken up with Bruce and moved on to Porter. Yet she doesn’t sense that there’s something not quite right with Porter. For instance, he says he worked at Mass General, but he’s not familiar with Katherine’s late husband, who was a bigshot doctor there. Lila’s too blinded by love to realize that she shouldn’t be so trusting of a guy she just met a couple days ago. And she’s so blinded that when she asks to stay with Porter but hears that his place is too small for two, she suggests that they move into Katherine’s house together.

Porter quickly makes himself at home in the house, redecorating because he doesn’t like Katherine’s tastes. Lila likes all the stuff in the house because it reminds her of her aunt; she has cookbooks and aprons everywhere because she was a popular chef. Porter claims a study for himself and tells Lila to stay out of his space so she doesn’t accidentally see any of the confidential medical files he shouldn’t have in the house anyway. Lila’s way too naïve and trusting in this book, but she did suffer a head injury, so I guess we should forgive her.

Then things start getting weird. Porter gives Lila a locket but tells her not to open it, since the hinge is broken. When they go to a store to get it fixed, Lila can’t find it. Porter thinks this lapse is proof that she’s not well enough to be out and about. From then on, Lila’s basically confined to the house without being told she’s confined to the house. Porter just tells her it’s better for her health if she doesn’t go anywhere. He also hires a housekeeper named Nancy to take care of all the domestic duties Lila was never going to do anyway, because she’s Lila.

Meanwhile, Bruce is smart enough to know that something about Porter is suspicious. He thinks that Katherine’s murder and Lila’s strange behavior are connected. The police are no help; they don’t have any leads on the murder and don’t seem motivated to investigate. Bruce then teams up with Elizabeth, and they investigate Katherine’s murder on their own. They learn that the diamond Katherine owned was a present from her late husband, Chester Cage. More on that later.

Lila finds she has lapses in her memory, or at least that’s what Porter’s leading her to believe. He tells her he got ballet tickets and is surprised that she doesn’t remember. Lila decides to make cookies (as if Lila Fowler would do something so plebeian), and in one of Katherine’s recipe books she finds a letter to her from a man named David Carrier. Bruce and Elizabeth also find something about David – he and Chester were medical partners, and together they developed a procedure to remove brain tumors. So the question is, was Katherine fooling around with him?

Porter accuses Lila of taking pills from his study, and Nancy backs up his claims, so now Lila thinks she’s losing it. Since she’s clearly getting worse, Porter pretty much puts her on lockdown, not letting her leave the house or speak to her friends. (By the way, if anyone ever does this to you in real life, that person is an abuser and you need to GET OUT.) Since we know Lila is most likely sane (or if she’s not, she’s being drugged), it’s a little disconcerting when, after Porter leaves to go to work at the hospital, Lila starts hearing noises in the attic – noises Nancy says she doesn’t hear.

Jessica and Elizabeth go to the house to visit Lila, but Nancy won’t let them in. Lila’s currently freaking out about the noises in the attic; those combined with the voice she thought she heard right before the earthquake make her think Katherine’s ghost is trying to warn her about something. She tries to call Jessica, but since Jessica’s at the house, she doesn’t answer her phone. Poor Lila feels really alone.

Bruce approaches the Thetas, who are also worried about Lila. He asks them to seat the two of them together at some upcoming gala. Porter RSVPs that they won’t be attending, but when he sees how badly Lila wants to go, he relents. At the gala, poor Bruce has to watch his ex with her new man, who definitely wants nothing to do with Bruce. Porter makes Lila think she took his watch, which causes her to lose four of the six strands of sanity she’s still holding on to. Bruce realizes that being with Porter is making Lila worse.

Somehow Bruce ends up with one of Porter’s cufflinks and noticies that the intials on it are D.C. He and Elizabeth quickly (especially for characters in this series) determine that Porter is really David Carrier. They head to the house in time to see Porter, who’s supposedly leaving for work, go into the attic. So Lila’s not crazy, and the noises she’s been hearing are from a real person – a real person looking for Katherine’s missing diamond. Bruce tries to get into the house, but Nancy keeps him out. Lila’s so upset not to be able to communicate with him that she smashes a window, cutting up her arms. Porter thinks she tried to slit her wrists.

Bruce does some more smart thinking, figuring out that Porter probably tried to get close to Katherine to get the diamond. He thinks Katherine’s killer didn’t take it at all – it’s still in the house, and Porter’s trying to find it. Bruce goes back to the house, and this time Lila’s able to talk to him. He tells her that Porter is making the noises in the attic, not Katherine, and that Porter is really David.

We switch to Porter’s point of view for confirmation: He accused Chester of taking half the credit for their medical breakthrough, even though Porter did all the work. Chester used their newfound wealth to buy Katherine the diamond, but since Porter did the work and earned them the money, he thinks half of the diamond should be his. When he asked Katherine about it, she told him he’d never find it. Porter killed her and has been searching for the diamond ever since. Lila was just his ticket inside the house. Now that she seems insane, he wants to have her committed.

Porter manages to find the diamond, which Katherine stashed in one of her aprons. Little does he know that Bruce has called the police. Unlike the last time he tried to get help in an emergency, they actually show up. Porter emerges from the attic and, seeing that someone broke the lock on his desk, turns on Lila. She tells him it was Bruce, but Nancy says Bruce was never there. Porter fires Nancy and starts to try to kill Lila.

Nancy finally does something good, telling Bruce and the police that Porter’s inside with Lila and should probably, you know, be arrested. The police turn dumb again, because I guess they need more evidence of a crime being committed than an eyewitness’ testimony. Bruce goes inside, finds Lila unconscious (this is not a good book for Lila and consciousness), and chases Porter as he tries to leave the house. Lila picks a good time to wake up, and she helps Bruce out by hitting Porter over the head with a rolling pin.

Bruce subdues Porter, tying him up, and while he’s outside getting the police to actually do their jobs, Lila faces off with her boyfriend. He tries to convince her to untie him, telling her that he only said she was crazy as a test – I guess if you respond to being called crazy by acting crazy, you’re…sane? Nice try, Porter. Lila finds her missing locket, which I guess convinces her that she’s not crazy. How about the fact that the guy telling you you’re crazy is really the crazy one? Okay, I’m going to stop saying “crazy” now. Anyway, Porter goes to jail, and Bruce and Lila get back together.

The B plot involves Tom and the twins. Thanks to the earthquake, Tom’s dorm has become unlivable, so Elizabeth offers to let him move in with her and Jessica. (Apparently SVU has no obligation to find its students a place to live.) Keep in mind that she doesn’t ask Jess first, and this comes right after Elizabeth passive-aggressively made a list of rules about their room, which include giving permission for overnight guests and respecting each other’s space. Jessica learns of the new living situation when she gets home in the middle of the night, after hanging around the hospital to hear how Lila is, and finds Tom in her bed. She literally throws him out of it, which is awesome.

Jessica and Tom declare war on each other, subjecting each other to little pranks. Jess puts hair gel in Tom’s toothpaste, which is a weird way to go, and he retaliates by putting green hair dye in her shampoo. Instead of going ballistic, which we would all expect, Jessica does something kind of brilliant: She turns on the kindness and charm. She buys Tom donuts, does his laundry, and tells him she won’t try to retaliate for his prank because she could never top it.

Tom is suspicious, as he should be. Jessica then starts flirting with him and even kisses him while he’s sleeping, trying to make him think she’s Elizabeth. He believes she’s actually interested in him. Jess is really just trying to make him decide to leave on his own, because who wants to live with your girlfriend’s sister when she’s coming on to you? Then Tom’s dorm gets fixed and he moves out, so there isn’t really an ending to the plot. They probably also never mention Jessica flirting with Tom ever again.

Thoughts: “I don’t need any more money!” Guys, there’s definitely something wrong with Lila.

Hey, 911 operator, I’m pretty sure you’re not allowed to HANG UP ON PEOPLE.

Tom has Snoopy bedsheets. I repeat: Tom has Snoopy bedsheets.

Since when does Bruce play football?

Jessica’s scheme is actually pretty brilliant. It’s unexpected, since Tom thought she would retaliate, and she can always say it’s Tom’s own fault if he feels uncomfortable.

Jessica’s friends brainstorm nicknames for her, and Denise’s is the Loch Jess Monster. Awesome.

1 Comment »

  1. kate said,

    “The police are no help; they don’t have any leads on the murder and don’t seem motivated to investigate.”

    A super-rich white lady (presumably somewhat famous if she’s a “popular chef”) married to a bigshot doctor is murdered, and the police don’t really care to investigate? Somehow, ghost writer, this rings false to me. 🙂

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