August 18, 2015

SVU Thriller, Don’t Answer the Phone: Sweet Valley Is Still the Murder Capital of the World

Posted in books tagged , , , , at 8:15 pm by Jenn

I thought Enid decided against plastic surgery at that death spa

I thought Enid decided against plastic surgery at that death spa

Summary: Good news, people who have been dying for an Alex book – your day has come. Alex is still dating Noah, though things aren’t going very well for them. She has a habit of being late to meet him, and he blames her tendency to spend too much time with her sorority. He doesn’t like the person she’s become. Alex, however, likes who she is. She hated herself as Enid, but in college, she’s been able to reinvent herself. She’s the person she always wanted to be, especially since she’s quit drinking.

Alex still works at the SVU substance-abuse helpline, which is how she met Noah. She’s able to use her own experience abusing alcohol to connect with the callers. She takes a call from a guy calling himself Rodin, after the sculptor, and helps him stay strong while he tries to lay off the booze. Then she meets Rodin face-to-face in art class. He’s a guy named Luke who’s in love with her, even though they’ve never spoken.

After another big fight with Noah, Alex goes to the helpline hoping to put in some extra hours. She meets Fred, the new supervisor, who’s a huge jerk. He wants to schedule everyone’s time (even though they’re all volunteers) and dictate how they speak to callers. Alex talks back to him, which is partly awesome and partly dumb, because you don’t want to tick off someone who has that much power over you. But I guess it’s just another example of the kind of person Alex is now compared to who she was as timid, always-follows-the-rules Enid.

Alex takes a call from someone she thinks is pulling a frat prank. He guesses what she’s wearing and calls her “baby” and is generally someone you wouldn’t want to talk to. She tries to brush off the incident. However, she can’t brush off Fred, who’s mad that she’s listed as Enid in his files but uses the name Alexandra. Apparently this is a big deal to people, which I don’t get. It’s like using a nickname.

Another call comes from the creepy guy, who tells Alex that she’s supposed to be his. She’s still not sure this isn’t a prank, but she’s definitely freaked out, as she should be. As he calls more frequently (and accidentally IDs himself as Travis, though it’s not clear if that’s his real name), Alex considers calling the police, but she’s incredibly mistaken about the helpline’s confidentiality policy. She’s been told that under no circumstances is she allowed to tell anyone what someone has told her on the phone. Alex, dear, this doesn’t count. A guy threatening you is no longer subject to confidentiality. Your personal safety is not more important than his anonymity.

Here’s where things really start going off the rails. The caller goes to the sorority house and murders someone he thinks is Jessica. It’s actually a pledge named Susan, Alex’s “little sister,” who had borrowed Jessica’s sweater. She was also wearing a pair of Lila’s earrings, which the killer rips out of her ears (ow) and later puts in Alex’s room. Alex thinks the killer is targeting her friends, so she breaks up with Noah to protect him. She should really break up with him because he’s a jerk and thinks she’s psychologically screwed up because she has two personalities, Enid and Alex. Shut it, Noah.

Alex decides to sculpt a limestone memorial for Susan (just go with it), and the extra hours in the art classroom have her getting to know Luke better. They have a lot in common, between their love of art and their experiences with drinking. Alex is late to her next shift at the helpline, where Fred is upset that a girl who used to have a drinking problem is now giving advice to people with substance-abuse issues. Apparently Fred doesn’t know that tons of recovering addicts work in these kinds of positions. Fred asks Alex out, which is really weird, but she tells him off.

Not long after, Alex gets a call from Travis and starts thinking he’s Fred. She finally decides to call the police. She has to make the call from her dorm, since the phones at the helpline don’t make outgoing calls (what?), but in her room, she finds Fred’s body. Minutes later, Noah arrives, claiming he found Alex’s keys (which went missing days earlier). Alex now thinks Noah’s the killer. After all, he’s been showing his temper more and more, he’s been verging on violence, and he had access to Alex’s room to leave the earrings and Fred’s body.

Alex tries to distract herself by working on the memorial sculpture and hanging out with Luke. The two of them kiss, and Alex thinks she’s made a great new love connection. After she leaves the classroom, Travis calls a nearby pay phone (sure, of course). He announces that he’s behind her and grabs her. He’s wearing a ski mask, so Alex can’t see his face. She asks if he’s Noah, then Luke. But Travis has already kidnapped Noah, tying him to a chair, and there’s what looks like a body in the classroom, which Travis says is Luke. With Fred dead, Alex has no other suspects.

Travis decides that he’ll give Noah one chance to save his own life. If he can correctly answer a question, he’ll be allowed to live. The question is: If Enid had a sorority party the same night she needed to study for a test, what would she do? Noah says that she would put in an appearance at the party, then go home and study. Alex is thrilled because that’s exactly what she would do – her boyfriend knows her after all! But Travis says that’s the wrong answer. He wanted to know what Enid would do, not Alex. Semantics!

Alex tries steering into the crazy, as I call it – telling Travis she wants to be with him, and that she’s Enid and not Alex anymore. Travis still wants to kill Noah, so Alex begs him to just let Noah go. Noah promises to leave them alone and let them ride off into the sunset together. Fortunately, Travis is so far gone that he falls for it, and Alex manages to overpower him. The memorial statue falls on him, and just before he dies, he seems to become sane again. Alex unmasks him and realizes that he’s Luke; there’s no body in the classroom. So I guess he had multiple personalities? I don’t know. Alex and Noah are back together and everything’s good again. No one mentions the irony of a person being killed by a memorial.

Thoughts: Noah calls Alex’s sorority house a “Victorian house of ill manners.” Shut up, Noah.

I think Trina’s supposed to be annoying, but I like her. She’s the smartest person in the book.

How does Luke know random pay phone numbers? I mean, I know that’s a strange thing for me to fixate on, but I still want to know the answer.

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