November 1, 2016

SVT Super Chiller #5, The Curse of the Ruby Necklace: Ghosts on Film

Posted in books tagged , , at 5:12 pm by Jenn

I kind of like this cover

I kind of like this cover

Summary: Jessica finds the ruby necklace of the book’s title on the beach and quickly forms an attachment to it. She doesn’t even want to let Elizabeth hold it. The girls get distracted when they pass the old Keller mansion and see that a movie’s going to be filmed there. It’s called Dead Little Rich Girl, and somehow it’s not a trashy Lifetime movie. It stars a preteen actress named Shawn Brockaway and is being directed by a woman named Becka Silver. Take that, 21st century and your lack of female directors! The movie needs extras, and Becka wants the twins, since you can use them for longer amounts of time than regular child actors. Jessica’s thrilled, and Elizabeth’s just along for the ride.

Jessica drops the necklace in the water on the way home and dives in to get it, even though a storm has formed and the water’s become dangerous. She can’t explain what compelled her to risk her life for a necklace. She soon becomes even more Gollum-like with it, cleaning it and refusing to let anyone else touch it. That night, she has a dream about being in the Keller mansion and seeing someone dig around in a jewelry box. She falls off a balcony onto rocks on the beach, waking up just before she would have died in the dream.

Jess takes the necklace to school with her, losing track of time while she’s cleaning it off in the bathroom. That afternoon, the twins and a bunch of their classmates go to the Keller mansion so the movie crew can pick extras. The twins are shoo-ins, and Maria and Mandy are chosen as well. Lila gets rejected because her face is too modern for a movie that takes place in the 1930s. Only then to the girl learn what the movie’s actually about. It’s the true story of the murder of a 12-year-old girl…by another 12-year-old girl.

Even with the excitement of the movie and the fact that spring break is coming, Elizabeth notices that Jessica’s been a little off lately. It gets worse when she falls asleep in class and wakes up screaming from a nightmare. Jess is sent to the nurse, so Liz grabs her backpack, unknowingly taking possession of the necklace. She does some research on the Keller mansion, learning that Lillian Keller died there on her 12th birthday in the ’30s. How did she die? She fell from a balcony onto some rocks.

Since the twins only got one page of the movie script (the only scene where they have lines), they don’t know much about the plot. I was going to say that I can’t believe their parents let them accept a movie role without knowing anything about the movie, but…it’s Ned and Alice. They probably don’t even think the movie’s real. Liz wonders if Lillian’s death is what the movie’s about. Gee, Liz, you think? How many murders do you think occurred in that house?

Elizabeth tries to give the necklace back to Jessica, but Jess is suddenly uninterested in it. That’s fine with Liz, since she’s now pretty attached to it. That night, she has the same nightmare Jess did, with an additional detail: She can see that the man reaching into the jewelry box only has four fingers on that hand. Elizabeth’s new obsession with the necklace leads her to ask a science teacher about cleaning it, then borrow some chemicals to get the barnacles off of it. She accidentally loosens one of the stones, which was covering an engraving of the initials J.K.T.

It’s super-convenient that the movie starts filming just as the twins are out of school for spring break. Their cousin Robin comes to visit and get involved in their shenanigans. The girls get a crash course in filmmaking, partly from a lighting tech named Harold Brooks. Later, they learn that both twins had the same dream, though Liz doesn’t think it’s a big deal. She’s much more interested in writing an article on the movie and the history of the Kellers, which involves interviewing Becka. Becka sure has a lot of time to sit and chat with a 12-year-old.

Anyway, here’s the story of Lillian’s death: During her 12th birthday party, she got in a fight with a girl named Hilda Tomlinson, an orphaned cousin who lived with the Kellers. Lillian ran up to her parents’ bedroom, Hilda followed, and moments later, Lillian fell from the balcony. Hilda was immediately branded a killer and sent to an institution. No one knows what happened to her after that.

The scene where the twins have lines (well, really just Jessica, since Elizabeth doesn’t care much about acting and is going to let Jess play their role as much as possible) is the scene where Lillian and Hilda fight at the party. Shawn is playing Lillian, and she’s the biggest diva anyone has ever encountered. By the way, there are no parents or guardians on the set to look after all these child actors, so no one has any control over Shawn’s behavior. She’s nasty to everyone but nails every take, so I guess her amazing acting skills make people ignore her brattiness.

That night, Elizabeth dreams about Lillian and Hilda fighting, then running upstairs. Lillian says she’s going to put something in her mother’s jewelry box. When she gets to the room, the four-fingered man is there. Lillian seems to slip and fall over the balcony while the man tries to grab her ruby necklace. So Liz puts some pieces together – the girls were fighting over a necklace Lillian got for her birthday, which Hilda thought belonged to her mother. The twins decide that the necklace is so important that it’s caused them to try to protect it. They think the necklace is causing the nightmares, and Lillian’s ghost is trying to tell them something.

To make sure they’re right about the connection between the necklace and the dreams, the twins convince Robin to wear it to bed the next night. She reluctantly agrees. I think they should have given it to someone who didn’t know what was going on, since Robin knows the details of the dreams and could have them herself unrelated to the necklace, but this isn’t a formal psych experiment, so whatever. (It would have been funny if they’d snuck the necklace under Steven’s pillow to see what happened, though.)

At the mansion the next day, Elizabeth goes up to the Kellers’ bedroom, which looks just like it did in her dream. She runs into Mr. Brooks, who claims he came there to smoke because the other crew members don’t want to smell his cigarettes downstairs. But right after Elizabeth leaves, she runs into other crew members, including Becka, smoking. Hmmm, do you think there might be something suspicious about Mr. Brooks?

Robin does, indeed, have a nightmare that night, and is suddenly attached to the necklace. She fills in another blank in the dream, saying that the four-fingered man grabbed the necklace from Lillian as she fell, but he dropped it. Lillian was able to grab onto the edge of the balcony instead of falling right onto the rocks, and Hilda was there but doesn’t seem to have had anything to do with Lillian’s fall.

Becka lets the girls watch footage from their scenes the day before, and the three of them see a girl in the scene who wasn’t actually on set. She touches the actress playing Hilda, then points to a picture over the fireplace of Lillian’s mother at her wedding. They think they’re seeing Lillian’s ghost. After some brainstorming, they decide that Lillian was trying to tell them that Hilda got married and changed her last name, which is why no one can track her down. They manage to find her wedding announcement, which gives them her married name. After they look her up in the phone book (aw, a phone book), they decide to go see her. Well, the twins decide this. Robin thinks they’re nuts, since Hilda could very well be a murderer.

Hilda isn’t too thrilled to talk to girls who think she might have killed someone, but when she learns that they have the ruby necklace, she opens up. She confirms that she thought the necklace belonged to her mother, and she got upset when her aunt gave it to Lillian. Elizabeth remembers the initials J.K.T., which were Hilda’s mother’s initials, and agrees with Hilda. Hilda claims that Lillian had already gone over the balcony when she followed her (to apologize, not to fight more or, you know, kill her). She tried to pull Lillian up but wasn’t strong enough, and Lillian fell.

The Kellers’ chauffeur, Harry, was the next to arrive, and he told everyone he saw Hilda push Lillian. Hilda thinks he just thought he saw that when she was really trying to help Lillian. There are some details in Hilda’s story that don’t match the girls’ dreams, but they don’t really have a reason not to believe it. Hilda mentions that Harry always had one hand in his pocket (and the other was playing the piano…no, wait), which Liz finds odd. Hilda explains that he was self-conscious about only having four fingers on that hand.

No dummies (well, this time, at least), the girls figure that Harry the chauffeur is now Harold Brooks the lighting tech (who also tends to keep one hand in his pocket). It’s easy enough to confirm that Mr. Brooks only has four fingers on that hand, so the girls’ next step is to find out if Hilda’s story about trying to reach Lillian on the ledge makes sense. It does. So the theory the girls are going with is that Lillian caught Mr. Brooks trying to steal jewelry, and he pushed her off the balcony to keep her quiet. Becka tells the girls that Mr. Brooks retired from movies years ago, but he begged to work on this one when he heard about it. The girls think he wanted to make sure nothing about his crimes came out.

With help from Becka and a security guard named Tony, the girls come up with a plan to confront Mr. Brooks. Jessica dresses up as Lillian, putting on the ruby necklace, and reenacts the party, getting Mr. Brooks to follow her up to the bedroom. He’s smart enough to know he’s not actually dealing with a ghost, but he’s dumb enough to tell Jess that he’s going to kill her like he killed Lillian. People will just think she was playing in the room and fell off the balcony. He goes for the necklace, which is worth a ton of money, and Jessica gets backed up to the edge of the balcony and falls. Fortunately, there’s an air mattress already set up below for the stunt in the scene where Hilda kills Lillian.

Mr. Brooks ends up with the necklace, but Lillian’s ghost comes to him and shames him into feeling back about killing a 12-year-old and trying to kill another one. He’s arrested and confesses to all his crimes. This means the plot of the movie has to change, which makes Shawn mad – she’s not really the star anymore. Jessica silences her by throwing cake at her and starting a massive food fight. And I’m sure Shawn was never mean to anyone ever again. The girls then give Hilda the necklace and show her footage from an empty set so Lillian’s ghost can have one last conversation with her. TOTALLY NOT WEIRD AT ALL.

Thoughts: This was another of my favorites as a kid. I’m glad it came up right around Halloween.

Becka casts the twins, then asks if they can actually act. Good job, Becka.

“Excuse me, but catching killers is a job for the police, not for sixth-graders.” Robin’s too good for this series.

“What’s a stunt coordinator?” It’s the guy who does the catering, Elizabeth. What does it sound like?

Mandy, while the girls are talking about how they can’t stand Shawn: “Where’s Elizabeth? She should be here to not stand Shawn too.” Mandy is also too good for this series.

April 28, 2015

SVU Thriller, Channel X: Red Light, Green Light

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

Good book, lame cover

Good book, lame cover

Summary: Nina and Bryan are boring. No, wait, sorry – Nina and Bryan are bored. They never do anything fun, and even if they found fun things to do, they can’t afford to do them. So when they find out that a psychology experiment on campus is looking for paid volunteers, they decide to give it a try. After all, they just have to watch some ads for a couple hours a day, and they walk away with $50. For some reason, neither thinks there is anything suspicious about this, even though $50 is a lot of money for a university experiment, let alone one that ends up having almost a dozen participants.

The students report for the first session, where they meet Dr. Akre, the professor running the study, and his assistant, Christian. Christian is hot, and Nina can’t help staring, which makes Bryan mad. Oh, shove off, Bryan. Like you’ve never admired someone attractive. A group called EFC is funding the experiment, supposedly to learn how to design ads around what people respond to when they watch them.

Everyone is separated and hooked up to wires. Nina chats a little with Christian, who’s very nice. Everyone watches the commercials, which are for a variety of products like food and makeup. Afterward, Bryan’s mad at Nina for checking out Christian, so they don’t talk. It doesn’t help that Akre implied to Bryan that Christian was hooking up Nina’s wires. At the next session, Bryan spends half the time watching ads and the other half fuming over Nina, who, let’s remember, hasn’t even done anything. He decides he can’t trust her. Well, sure. Girls who allow their eyeballs to drift toward guys they’re not dating are always deceitful.

Nina doesn’t have much time to think about what’s up with Bryan, because at dinner, Kerri, a girl from the experiment, starts acting weird. She eats a bunch of food and causes a scene, getting herself thrown out. Nina thinks she just has bulimia. Then Elizabeth encounters a guy who seems to think he has bugs all over him, and is scratching himself to get rid of them. Liz thinks he’s on drugs (a fair assumption).

Bryan watches more commercials, fixating on one about a sale, with the phrase “everything must go.” He’s getting angrier and angrier. Nina runs into another participant in the bathroom and sees her putting on a brand of makeup they saw an ad for. Nina’s starting to see similarities between the ads and the actions of the people who saw them. Things get even weirder when she runs into Kerri again, and Kerri pulls some self-defense moves on a guy who hassles her. Kerri then says that Nina must have sent the guy after her. Another participant holds a snack-bar employee at knifepoint while Elizabeth is present.

Nina tries to talk to Bryan about the weird things going on, but he’s too far gone now to listen to her. Later, there’s a fire in her and Elizabeth’s dorm, and Bryan and the girl who set the fire (who is, of course, from the experiment) get excited about watching the building burn. Nina tells Christian everything that’s been going on, but he tells her she’s paranoid and implies that she needs psychological help.

Later, though, Christian asks Nina to meet him at a diner. Neither of them know that Bryan’s stalking them. Christian tells Nina that there’s definitely something wrong with the experiment – it’s not monitoring people’s reactions to the ads, it’s altering them. EFC wants to make people crave products by stimulating their adrenal glands. The violence, paranoia, and other weird behaviors are unfortunate side effects. Christian was afraid to confirm Nina’s suspicions on campus because there are cameras around. He assures Nina that he didn’t know about this until just recently, and tells her she hasn’t been affected by the experiments. Bryan’s not happy that Christian is working against Akre.

It’s too dangerous for Nina to drop out of the experiment or to confront Akre with what’s been happening, so she pretends everything’s totally fine. But when she goes in for the next session, Akre, not Christian, hooks her up to the wires. She asks about Christian, and Akre denies that he exists. He tells her that she must be confused – Akre has always been the one to hook up the electrodes. Nina plays along, but later she asks the other participants if they’ve seen Christian. No one knows who she’s talking about.

This is the part where I would have gone to the police, but no, it’s Sweet Valley, and the rule in Sweet Valley is that you have to go to a Wakefield first. Nina fills Elizabeth in on all the weirdness, and the two of them try to track down Christian. He’s basically vanished off the face of the earth, with no indication that he ever existed. Then they investigate EFC and learn that it’s been accused of brainwashing experiments before, with something to do with the military industrial complex.

Nina manages to grab a tape with some of the ads on it, so she can show it to Elizabeth and they can analyze it. If I were Liz, I’d be like, “No, thanks; I saw The Ring,” but she watches it. The two of them encounter Kerri, who’s definitely off the deep end now – she pulls a gun and shoots a student in the leg. Fortunately, the police arrive quickly and take care of things. While this is happening, Akre decides to make Bryan his new Christian, and tells him all about the experiment.

While studying for biology, Nina reads about genetics and traits. This is all for us to learn that Nina is red-green colorblind. She realizes that this could be the reason the experiment hasn’t affected her the way it has everyone else. While Bryan goes looking for her, Nina does some snooping and finds the recording Akre plans to use to explain the whole experiment to EFC. There have been pulses of red and green light in the commercials that cause the participants to either crave a product or behave hostilely. Because Nina can’t see the lights, her behavior hasn’t been modified.

Bryan finds Nina and tells her that Akre filled him in, and he now knows that they’re being brainwashed. At this point I wondered how Bryan had suddenly stopped being affected by the brainwashing. It turns out that the ghostwriter has, for once, pulled off a nice twist – Bryan is faking. He’s there to stop Nina from exposing the truth about the experiment. He knocks her out, ties her up, and shoves her in a room (with poor Christian’s dead body).

While Nina tries to pretend she was affected by the ads, the brainwashing starts to lose its hold over Bryan. I guess his love for Nina can break through even psychological conditioning. Akre reveals that he knew Nina was colorblind (he researched her when he realized the ads weren’t altering her behavior), but he kept quiet so she would stay in the study as an accidental control subject. I love that Akre risked his scheme being compromised because he was all excited about the scientific process.

So there’s a standoff for a while, with Akre ordering Bryan to shoot Nina while Bryan wrestles with his inner demons or whatever. Bryan does eventually fire off a shot, but it misses. Bryan and Akre scuffle, Bryan wins, Akre is arrested, and Bryan is somehow miraculously cured, I guess. Nina has no problem making up with him, though if I were her, I’d probably be traumatized by the fact that my boyfriend almost shot me.

A few days later, Nina and Elizabeth go to the psych facility where Kerri’s being treated, but they’re told that there’s no one there with her name. Elizabeth is supposed to air a story about the whole experiment on SVU’s TV station (this is out of order with the regular books, since she’s working for their newspaper now), but there’s no footage. The girls wonder if there were technical difficulties, or if the EFC conspiracy is now being covered up.

Later, Nina learns that Akre’s being charged with Christian’s murder and with trying to kill Nina and Bryan, but not with the conspiracy. Nina’s torn between being happy it’s all over and being suspicious that all evidence of the conspiracy has seemingly been destroyed. Bryan’s like, “Well, sometimes there’s no happy ending.” Bryan, are you new to Sweet Valley? In this town, there’s always a happy ending. In this case, the happy ending is that you didn’t die.

Thoughts: I really, really wanted Jessica to be in this book so I could call my recap Infinite Jess. (For those not familiar, David Foster Wallace’s book Infinite Jest has a plot about a video that changes the behavior of the people who watch it. It’s just the opposite of this book, because the viewers get all lazy and apathetic. Kind of like I felt after I made it through all 1,080 pages of Infinite Jest.)

If Bryan’s that upset about Nina just looking at another guy, wait till he finds out about her summer hookups in the Sweet Valley Shore miniseries.

Nina smells smoke, but when the fire alarm goes off, she thinks it’s a drill. Stay in school, Nina.

I’m sure there’s something in a previous book to refute that Nina’s red-green colorblind, but I don’t care enough to go hunting for it.

March 3, 2015

SVU #32, The Boys of Summer: The Least Interesting Boat Theft Since Rory Gilmore Stole a Yacht

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

Hey, lifeguards, maybe do your job and make sure people aren't drowning?

Hey, lifeguards, maybe do your job and make sure people aren’t drowning?

Summary: Elizabeth is understandably upset that Jessica has snagged Ryan just minutes after Liz dumped him. She warns Jess not to get involved with him, but Jessica thinks she’s just jealous, and also thinks for some reason that Liz thinks she’s not smart enough to date Ryan. For some reason, Elizabeth doesn’t straight-out tell her that Ryan is an alcoholic and that their relationship is going to be a big mess. When she does eventually tell Jessica, Jess laughs, thinking it’s a last-ditch effort to break them up.

At first, Jessica thinks Ryan is just a big partier. Then he ticks her off by calling her Elizabeth when he’s drunk. Not long after, Jessica finds out firsthand how far gone he is. After he learns that Patti, his AA sponsor (who also relapsed), has put herself in the ICU by driving her car into a wall (possibly on purpose), Ryan goes on a bender, steals a boat, and takes Jess for a joyride. A bunch of lifeguards have to take another boat out and save them. Ben and Priya are there, and Priya and Jessica end up calling a truce.

But Jess and Ryan are definitely not on good terms, and he’s still a huge mess. Elizabeth babysits him that night, finally getting him to tell her that he’s gone off the deep end because of Patti (who, by the way, ends up dying). By the morning, Ryan has decided to quit drinking so he doesn’t end up like Patti. He doesn’t get back together with either twin, which is a little surprising. Jessica and Ben agree to be friends, and Jessica decides to try to move on with another lifeguard.

I was going to say that Nina has baby mama drama, but I’m really way too white to pull that off. While Rachel is over at Stu’s, telling him how excited she is that they’re going to be a family, Nina breaks into Rachel’s apartment to look for proof that she’s lying. She finds a bunch of negative pregnancy tests, plus a picture of a boy who looks a lot like Stu. The boy’s name is David, which is what Rachel wants to name the baby.

Nina and Stu confront Rachel, who’s fully nuts at this point, trying to kill Nina and all. In the middle of her psychotic break, she reveals that she saw her childhood best friend David get hit by a car and die. (David’s resemblance to Stu is never really explored; I think it’s just what put her over the edge to begin with.) This comes with Rachel reverting to being ten years old, so there is clearly something really, really wrong with her.

Nina wants to let the authorities handle Rachel, but Stu feels sorry for her and wants to pay for her to get some top-notch psychiatric treatment. Then there’s a random bit where Nina and Stu run into Paul, Nina’s love interest from the previous beach trilogy, who’s now a cop and knows a little about Rachel’s legal troubles. Then I guess Rachel gets committed and Stu forgives her for all her actions. Also, I don’t remember Rachel’s family being mentioned at all, so…what’s up with that? Shouldn’t Stu and Nina try to reach them?

With Pedro back in town, Winston is determined to get him and Wendy back together, partly because they still love each other and partly so Winston doesn’t have to deal with Wendy’s newfound crush on him. The two guys scheme to make Wendy think she’s visiting a psychic who can channel people’s feelings, or something like that. She’ll tell the psychic how she feels about Pedro, and the psychic will be able to tell her how Pedro feels. Except the psychic will really be Pedro. Wouldn’t marriage counseling be a lot more efficient?

Pedro puts on a great show as the fake psychic, and Wendy tells him that she still loves Pedro. He reveals himself to her by singing the song he wrote her. Suddenly everything is great between them, and Wendy will be going back on tour with Pedro for the rest of the summer. Pedro also hires Winston as a roadie. I guess it won’t be awkward that, five minutes ago, Wendy was all in love with Winston? Or that Winston will now be taking orders from a guy he considers a good friend? Are these people ever even mentioned again? How many alternate universes are there in Sweet Valley, anyway?

Thoughts: Pedro, trying on costumes to play the psychic: “I look like a deranged Pomeranian trying to pass itself off as Elvis!” If Wendy doesn’t want him, I’ll take him. I keep picturing him as Enrique Iglesias.

Rachel thinks the baby will be blond because Stu is and because she’s dyed her hair blond. So yeah, she’s definitely not playing with a full deck.

“Ryan had a few shots of whiskey last night and he was fine. How could only twice as many beers do him in this way?” Maybe because, assuming “a few” means three or more shots, twice as many would be t least six beers, which is a lot? I don’t drink and I’m bad at math, but even I get this.

Nina doesn’t like that Stu wants to finance Rachel’s stay in a “sanitarium.” First he’ll need to finance the construction of a time machine so they can travel back to when people still used that word.

February 3, 2015

SVU Thriller, Killer at Sea: Sail Away With Me, and Also This Psychotic Kidnapper Who Wants to Kill Us

Posted in books tagged , , , , at 8:14 pm by Jenn

Nick, buddy, we need to talk about your haircut

Nick, buddy, we need to talk about your haircut

Summary: I have no idea where this book falls in the series, or why it’s in the middle of a three-part arc. Jessica’s dating Nick, but there’s no mention of Todd, Tom, or even Ryan. Plus, we just had a thriller a couple books ago; there wasn’t really a need for another one so quickly.

But anyway, Nick wants to take Jessica out on a yacht for a week-long vacation. He’s been working on a kidnapping case that hasn’t been going well. It has him in such a bad mood that he’s mean to Jessica, which makes Elizabeth worry about the two of them stuck on a boat together for a week. She gives Jessica Nick’s phone, which he’d asked Liz to hold on to, in case she wants to bail early. I don’t know how Elizabeth would get to her in the middle of the ocean, but okay.

Nick teaches Jessica a little about sailing, which I imagine is similar to that Friends episode where Rachel tries to Joey about sailing but he just wants to eat sandwiches and yell at the Coast Guard. Despite some bickering, Nick relaxes a little, though he admits that he’s on the trip because he was forced to take a leave of absence. He botched the ransom drop in his kidnapping case, letting the kidnapper get away with his victim.

The next day, however, the lovebirds are fighting again. Nick even lets Jessica get hit in the head with a boom. Jessica’s understandably upset and calls Elizabeth to tell her how miserable she is. The connection is bad – a 1997 cell phone in the middle of the ocean would most likely be awful – and all Elizabeth can hear is Jess crying and saying Nick is mad. She thinks something’s seriously wrong, and that Jessica could be in danger.

She has no idea how right she is. Just minutes later, as Nick and Jess make up, they come across a guy in a rowboat, escaping a schooner that’s caught fire. They help the guy, Eric, onto their yacht and learn that the boiler on the schooner exploded, knocking over a refrigerator and trapping the guy’s girlfriend, Katie. Eric left her there, which…jerk, but that’s not the point. While Eric calls the Coast Guard, Nick makes plans to go to the schooner and try to rescue Katie. Except Eric doesn’t call the Coast Guard. He calls time and temperature, then tells Jessica and Nick that the Coast Guard will try to get out there after taking care of a bigger emergency.

At some point Jessica must have read The Gift of Fear, because she thinks something about Eric is off. Yes, he’s hot, but he’s a little too interested in her for a guy whose girlfriend is currently in a life-threatening situation. He brushes against her, then walks in on her while she’s changing. Eric supposedly goes to take a nap, so Nick thinks Jessica will be okay alone with him for a little while. Meanwhile, Nick will check out the schooner and try to save Katie. Jessica takes the extra precaution of jamming a broomstick against the lock on Eric’s door, just in case.

This turns out to be a good move, because Eric quickly flips out and reveals himself to be dangerous. He breaks the door down and chases Jessica around on the yacht. She tries to radio the schooner, but Eric tells her the schooner’s radio is broken – as is the yacht’s, after he destroys it. Jessica tries to call the Coast Guard, hitting redial on the phone, and realizes that Eric never called them. She calls Elizabeth again, since she doesn’t have the Coast Guard’s number (pssst, Jess, try 911), and tells her that someone’s after her. As Eric knocks Jessica out and tosses the phone into the ocean, Elizabeth starts panicking.

Liz heads straight to the marina and tries to get in touch with the yacht, but obviously can’t since the radio’s busted. Time for a hot guy to come to her rescue! This one’s name is Matt, and he’s game to help Elizabeth get in touch with Jessica and make sure she’s okay. It’s a good thing the twins are hot; otherwise I’m not sure they’d have so much male attention right when they really need it.

Nick makes it to the schooner and is able to put out the fire. He finds Katie, and she’s definitely dead…but the fridge isn’t the culprit. As he’s about to leave, he sees the yacht take off. Meanwhile, Jessica wakes up and does possibly the smartest thing she’s ever done: She pretends she’s on Eric’s side. She makes him think she’s into him and happy that Nick is gone. She secretly finds a dart gun, but Eric spots it as well and grabs it before she can. Jessica then tries to drug Eric with sleeping pills, but they don’t do the job. A for effort, though.

Eric has left a video playing on the schooner (I don’t know how he knew this would all work out; don’t question it), featuring Katie. This is so Nick (and the readers) can figure out that Katie is the kidnapping victim, and Eric is the kidnapper Nick has been trying to catch. He feels responsible for Katie’s death, since he would have rescued her if he hadn’t screwed up the ransom drop. Nick remembers that he just left his girlfriend alone with a psycho, so he gets to work fixing the sinking schooner so he can go after the yacht. Meanwhile, Matt and Elizabeth see on his radar that there are two boats nearby, one of which is stalled.

Jessica gets so creeped out by Eric that she decides she can’t keep up the charade anymore. She locks him in a room again and goes out on deck, which is a bad idea since there’s a storm a-brewin’. She grabs the dart gun and decides to sail back to the schooner to save Nick. Eric escapes the room via skylight, grabs the yacht keys, and throws them in the water. Jessica tries to shoot him with the dart gun, but it misfires. Eric starts to use some karate moves on her (he keeps doing karate and it’s really dumb), but a wave makes him lose his balance. Jessica manages to get the dart gun again, hits Eric over the head, and knocks him overboard, unconscious.

Jess is upset over killing someone but is more worried about Nick, so she sails back to the schooner. On said schooner, Nick isn’t able to bail out the water, which is steadily rising. The cold is getting to him, making him hallucinate birds that tell him how to get himself out of the room he’s trapped in. As he frees himself, Eric – not dead, of course – gets back to the yacht.

Elizabeth and Matt get to the schooner as it capsizes, and pull Nick onto their boat. He’s unconscious but alive. When he wakes up, he tells Liz that her sister’s on the yacht with a murderer. Matt’s boat makes it over to the yacht, and everyone reunites happily, especially Jessica and Nick, since she thought he died on the schooner. The four of them try to enjoy themselves a little – why call the trip short on account of a brief homicide-related detour? – not realizing that Eric’s back on the yacht.

Eric finally makes his presence known, grabbing Elizabeth (who he thinks is Jessica) and knocking her out. There sure is a lot of unconsciousness in this book. It should have ended with everyone in the hospital. Anyway, Nick and Eric fight each other, and Eric grabs the dart gun. Just as he’s about to shoot Nick, Jessica pops up. Eric’s confused because a) he thought Liz was Jess, and b) he thought he killed her. Jessica pretends to be a ghost there to get revenge for her murder. This works for a while, and is enough to distract Eric so Nick can try to get the upper hand, but it just leads to another Eric/Nick battle. By the way, Matt has been over on his boat the whole time, just driving around, and hasn’t heard any of the commotion, so he has no idea what’s going on. It’s a fun visual.

Eric smacks Nick around for a while, then chokes him until he’s unconscious. Jessica pretends to be in love with Eric again and makes out with him so Elizabeth can come up behind him and knock him out with a deck chair. Nick regains consciousness during the making out and rubs Jessica’s leg, which she thinks is his approval for her plan. He tells her later that he was trying to get her to come up for air because they were kissing for so long. Heh.

Eric gets tied up until they can all get the police there to arrest him. Matt’s like, “Why are all these cops here? And why does Nick’s face look like hamburger?” Elizabeth tries to gauge his interest in her, and I’d say he’s interested, but he’s heading to Mexico for a few months, so they’re not going to have a relationship right now. Thanks for all your help, Matt. You were…not completely worthless, I guess.

Thoughts: I have to laugh at the idea of Elizabeth not finishing her homework until right before class. She would have had it done five minutes after the previous class ended.

Jessica doesn’t know that you’re supposed to add water when you make soup. How did she make it to 18? Whatever happened to survival of the fittest?

“Elizabeth couldn’t let anything break her concentration, not when she was on the verge of explicating how Willem de Kooning’s Woman II, while being a vile affront to the sense on a purely feminist level, could also be seen as a fascinating synthesis of analytical and synthetic cubism.” That was the bad thing about being an English major. PEOPLE ACTUALLY SAY STUFF LIKE THIS. And it makes perfect sense to them.

If Eric had been telling the truth about how Katie died, killer fridges would have been 2 for 2 in Sweet Valley.

“Jessica floated a tea bag in a mug of cold water and put it in the microwave for ten minutes.” There are so many things wrong with that sentence.

Nick: “I work with crackpots every day, Jess. Don’t you think I’d recognize one if I saw him?” No, because then you wouldn’t be dating Jessica.

I assume a dart gun shoots tranquilizer darts? But why would there be one on a boat? To knock out sharks?

January 6, 2015

SVU Thriller, Dead Before Dawn: Life Imitates Art

Posted in books tagged , , , , , , at 5:23 pm by Jenn

Love!

Love!

Summary: This book is surprisingly awesome.

Bruce and Jessica have been taking a screenwriting class from an actual Oscar-winning screenwriter, Dennis Gordon. Bruce is really into screenwriting, and thinks the screenplay he’s written, The Victim, is good enough to be made into a movie. It’s about a guy who’s poisoned and tries to find out who wants him dead. He spent two weeks working on it, even skipping time with Lila to work. Lila doesn’t appreciate this.

Bruce decides to try to make it up to her by letting her read his screenplay. (I don’t get how Bruce’s mind works, but okay.) He prints out a copy to turn in to Gordon, then a second copy for himself. He runs out of white paper and prints part of the screenplay on pink paper. Then he prints a third copy all on pink paper. This is actually important to the plot.

Thanks to how distant Bruce has been, Lila has no problem flirting with a guy she meets named Marcus Stanton. He’s hot and he went to a prep school Lila’s familiar with, which means he’s rich. Not long after they meet, Marcus leaves some flowers outside Lila’s door, earning Bruce’s wrath. There’s a note from Marcus asking Lila to dinner, so Bruce trashes the note and takes credit for the flowers.

Gordon invites his class to the opening of the Beringer Wing at SVU’s film school. Belinda Beringer was an SVU student who allegedly committed suicide after emptying her trust fund. Jessica thinks her story is interesting enough to turn into a screenplay. She tries to talk to Gordon about Belinda, but he’s not feeling chatty right now. While Bruce tries to make friends with Gordon, Lila learns that Bruce didn’t give her the flowers after all. She decides to get some payback by going on a date with Marcus.

Gordon tells Bruce that his screenplay is a mess and not even worth a rewrite. Bruce should just get rid of it. The main character is okay, someone the audience should root for, but the plot is unbelievable. Yeah, that’s always a dealbreaker for a movie. Bruce and Gordon (…did the ghostwriter watch Batman before writing this book?) drink Scotch together before Bruce leaves to mope about how he’ll never be a famous screenwriter.

Lila goes out with Marcus, though now she feels bad about sneaking around behind Bruce’s back. She admits to Marcus that she has a boyfriend, so they can’t go out again. Marcus is furious that she didn’t tell him about her boyfriend sooner. Lila is smart enough to know that it would be a bad idea to spend any more time with this guy, so she tries to get a ride home from someone else. Meanwhile, Bruce realizes that he left his pink and white copy of the screenplay in the film library.

Bruce ends up at a bar called the Blue Lagoon, where he runs into Marcus. The thing is, Bruce doesn’t know that he’s the guy trying to woo Lila, or even what his name is. They start drinking together, and Marcus drunk-chats that he thinks his previous girlfriend was murdered. He won’t tell Bruce why he hasn’t expressed that to the police. Later, after Marcus leaves, Jessica arrives; she was supposed to hang out with Steven and some of his friends, but they’ve already left. Bruce takes her to a frat party, where he drinks some more, then protects her from a skeezy frat boy who can’t keep his hands to himself.

Jessica and Bruce end up spending the night in Jessica’s dorm room (Elizabeth’s out of town and, blessedly, not in this book) after Bruce passes out there. Jess takes advantage of his faulty memory by letting him think they slept together. Lila arrives, thinks the same thing, and bolts. Bruce goes home and finds that she’s left him some coffee. He thinks that means Lila has forgiven him. Which is weird, because why would she suddenly figure out that nothing happened without even talking to Bruce or Jessica? Whatever.

Bruce tries to go see Lila, but he blacks out and ends up in the hospital. There, he learns that he was poisoned. The ER doc, Dr. Martin, tells him he probably has fewer than 24 hours of life left. Bruce wants to leave so he can find out who poisoned him – just like the protagonist in his screenplay. Dr. Martin doesn’t try very hard to keep him there or to connect him to the police. Instead, she gives him a pager so she can contact him if she has any new information or somehow figures out the antidote.

Bruce does go to the police, but since he can’t tell them who poisoned him or what was used, they say they can’t help him. Apparently detectives in Sweet Valley aren’t expected to do any actual detecting. Bruce then catches up with Jessica, who agrees to help him find his poisoner. Bruce’s first suspect is Marcus; Marcus could have poisoned his beer at the Blue Lagoon, and he could have taken Bruce’s screenplay from the film library, maybe to pass it off as his own.

Jessica and Bruce go to the dedication for the Beringer Wing, where Marcus happens to be…because he’s giving a speech. He was Belinda’s fiancé. Once Bruce learns his name, he realizes that this is the same guy who was trying to get his hooks into Lila. Now Marcus could have another motive for wanting to get rid of Bruce.

A brief fistfight ensues, followed by a car chase. Bruce is feeling so sick that he actually lets Jessica drive 1BRUCE1, the lucky girl. She accidentally drives it off a cliff, but at least she had a few good minutes there. Elsewhere, Lila runs into an old friend who went to the same prep school Marcus claimed he attended. The friend has no idea who Marcus is. Lila wonders if Marcus lied about everything he told her.

Jessica and Bruce survive their plunge over a cliff (of course), though 1BRUCE1 doesn’t. RIP, 1BRUCE1. The pager is also gone, so Bruce has no way of knowing if Dr. Martin has made any progress trying to save his life. Bruce tries to call Marcus, but there’s no one by that name with a listed phone number in the area. Bruce then tries to call Lila, but she doesn’t answer because she’s just been knocked unconscious in her apartment.

Bruce has an actual good idea – get Marcus’ address from the florist where he bought the flowers for Lila. He and Jessica pose as siblings trying to buy flowers for their parents’ anniversary, and Jess distracts the florist while Bruce sneaks a peek at her records. However, Jessica refuses to take Bruce to see Marcus. She insists that he go back to the hospital, since he’s getting worse. Bruce lets her take him to the hospital, then asks her to get him a wheelchair. While she’s gone, he takes off.

Marcus lives in a crappy neighborhood, so there goes his lie to Lila about being rich. Bruce learns that Marcus took Belinda’s trust-fund money and was going to use it to finance her screenplay. Unfortunately, he gambled it all away. Also, he insists that he didn’t kill Belinda. Bruce is suspicious, especially since Marcus has his pink and white screenplay. There’s another fight, and Marcus produces a gun. There’s a shot, and suddenly Marcus is dead…but Bruce didn’t kill him. Someone fired from outside the window, then left with the screenplay.

Bruce next goes to Lila’s, where he sees that someone burned the pink screenplay in the fireplace. Then he discovers Lila unconscious and calls an ambulance. She’s able to tell him that she was attacked by someone she didn’t see, and that he said, “See you at the movies.” Bruce tells her about his poisoning and vows to find her attacker and/or his possible killer. For some reason, Bruce decides it’s time to pay a visit to Gordon. This is a great idea, though not for the reason Bruce thinks.

But Bruce quickly figures out that Gordon is more involved than he thought. He’s crossed out Bruce’s name on his screenplay and written in his own. Bruce also sees Gordon’s Scotch and realizes that that’s how he was poisoned. He grabs the decanter so he can take it to Dr. Martin and help her figure out what he was given, but Gordon stops him. Then he does that thing dumb villains do, where he reveals way too much. He killed Belinda, took her screenplay (the one he won the Oscar for), and was going to do the same to Bruce. He killed Marcus because Marcus had figured things out, and he attacked Lila so she couldn’t reveal Bruce as the real screenwriter.

Speaking of Lila, she and Jessica are at the hospital, discussing Bruce. Lila mentions that her attacker said, “See you at the movies,” which Jess remembers Gordon saying before. Jessica goes to Gordon’s office, where he and Bruce have just wrapped up a big battle. Gordon is about to strangle Bruce with a lamp cord when Jessica knocks him out with the first heavy object she can find: the decanter. There goes the Scotch that Dr. Martin could have tested. But somehow, miraculously, Bruce’s glass from the other day is still there, so Dr. Martin can test that.

Bruce and Jessica rush to the hospital, where they hand off the Scotch just before Bruce collapses. But don’t worry – Dr. Martin gets the antidote, and Bruce recovers. Professor Gordon is caught, and eventually confesses to his crimes. Then Bruce becomes a hot commodity in Hollywood, as everyone wants to turn his screenplay into a movie. Mm-hmm, sure.

Thoughts: This book unfolds like a movie plot, which is part of the reason it’s so awesome. I’d watch it as a movie.

Jessica’s screenplay, Supermodel Shop-a-thon, is about models vacationing in Paris. Is she 18 or 8?

Of course the detective Bruce talks to has a “gravelly” voice. Detectives in books and movies aren’t allowed to have any other kind of voice.

How and why does Bruce know how to hotwire a car?

If I were looking to buy a screenplay, I’d be more interested in one about Bruce’s experiences in this book than in the one he wrote. Plus, it has the built-in punch of being a true story.

July 22, 2014

SVU Thriller, Running for Her Life: Hollywood Homicide

Posted in books tagged , , , , , at 6:54 pm by Jenn

Jessica, this is no time to feel up your sister!

Jessica, this is no time to feel up your sister!

Summary: Julia Reynolds is a big movie star with auburn hair, so I think we’re supposed to see her as a version of Julia Roberts. The biggest difference between them is that Julia Roberts is alive, and Julia Reynolds will soon be dead.

This Julia is starring in a movie called Deadly Impact, which is supposed to come out in a few months but still needs some work. The movie is being produced by New Vision Studios, though Julia previously had a contract with Mammoth Pictures. She broke the contract to work with New Vision, and a guy named Ronald Bishop, who works for Mammoth, is ticked. So ticked that he wants to kill Julia to send a message to any other actors who might want to leave Mammoth for New Vision. He hires a guy named Pierce to do his dirty work. (There’s also a whole conspiracy here involving the police and the governor, but it’s pretty underdeveloped, so I’ll just skip it. Just know that this is a Big Deal.)

Pierce gets himself on the movie set, and happens to be there the same day Julia’s doing a dangerous stunt that involves jumping out of a window. What are the odds?? Before they do the jump, movie star Matt Barron (who happens to be Julia’s fiancé) notices a problem with the air mattress Julia’s supposed to land on. While everyone’s waiting for the mattress to be fixed or replaced, Julia jumps. Clearly, Pierce signaled her that it was time, but everyone thinks she committed suicide.

Everyone except Elizabeth Wakefield, that is. One of her journalism-class assignments is to write about something currently in the news. Elizabeth picks the story of Julia’s death, since Jessica is a big Julia fan. Liz somehow puts together the entire conspiracy, which means either she’s super-smart or the conspirators are super-dumb. Matt is also suspicious, especially since he found a letter Julia wrote to her mother, talking about how happy she is to be getting married, which isn’t really an action a suicidal woman would perform.

Elizabeth’s professor loves her paper and passes it along to an old reporter friend. Somehow it winds up in Bishop’s hands, which means everyone who read the paper needs to die. He kills the professor with a mail bomb and sends Pierce to shoot the reporter. Liz smells another conspiracy, but since the police are in Bishop’s pocket, they’re not helpful. In fact, one of them tells Bishop where Elizabeth is going to be so he can kill her. Bishop tags in Pierce to assassinate Elizabeth, but Pierce mistakes Jessica for her and shoots at the wrong twin. Also, Pierce thinks Jessica is too pretty to die and misses on purpose. Awww, what a nice murderer.

The twins are smart enough to know that they should maybe lie low, so they hide out in a motel while they figure out their next step. They consider changing their appearances, but Jessica objects to the color of the hair dye Elizabeth buys, so that doesn’t go anywhere. I’d suggest that Liz dye her hair alone anyway; identical twins are going to be memorable, but if the girls look different, people might ignore them. Eh, whatever.

While this is going on, Matt is contacted by his very own Deep Throat, a guy named Gomez who tells him that Liz is on to the conspiracy. Matt hits the road while Pierce tries to track the girls down and kill both of them. They realize they’re being watched and go out the window of a diner, just like in Wanted for Murder. They then run into Matt and mistake him for the killer. Elizabeth contacts Tom so he can meet them in Santa Monica and give them some stuff to take on the run with them. Matt overhears the location of the meet-up and heads to Santa Monica as well.

Eventually the twins and Matt all figure out they’re on the same side and team up. Matt is, of course, drawn to Jessica, despite the fact that his fiancée was buried, like, two days ago. He tells the twins that another actress, Candice, may be Bishop’s next target, since she’s considering ditching Mammoth for New Vision. Matt and Elizabeth send Jessica to the set of Candice’s new movie to keep an eye on her, and there’s a sort of fun section where Jess is picked for a walk-on role in the movie and she has a big freak-out because she’s so nervous. But then Candice gets jealous of her youth and beauty, or something, and has her fired. There goes Jess’ big break.

Gomez arranges a meeting with Matt, but when he and the twins arrive, Gomez is dead. They find a gold Mammoth Pictures pen on him and decide that he must have been an executive. After some research, they get his real name, Gilbert Bradley, and go talk to his widow. Somewhere in here, Elizabeth calls Tom to give him an update, but Pierce has bugged Tom’s phone (of…course?) and tries to intercept her when she goes to a mall to meet Tom. Tom awesomely leaps at the guy and helps Elizabeth escape.

Bradley’s wife gives Jessica and Matt a key to her husband’s safe-deposit box, which contains a letter outlining Bishop’s conspiracy. The next actor on Bishop’s list is Philip Markham, and Pierce is supposed to kill him at the Oscars the next night. Matt gets Elizabeth a job escorting the winners off-stage, and invites Jessica to be his date. I’m sure the press won’t find it strange that a guy whose fiancée died less than a week ago is taking a hot 18-year-old to the Oscars. As Elizabeth and Tom make tapes outlining the conspiracy, which Tom will give to reporters (in case Elizabeth is killed), Pierce poses as a cameraman to get admission to the Oscars.

On the big night, Markham wins an Oscar, and as Elizabeth is taking him off-stage, Pierce starts shooting. Liz jumps on him, but there’s some confusion in the middle of the chaos, and she ends up with the gun, making the police think she’s the shooter. Yeah, because millions of people weren’t just watching her and would have noticed if she’d opened fire. Elizabeth is briefly arrested, but Tom saves the day with her tape, and the truth about the conspiracy comes out. Pierce confesses, so enjoy prison for killing a bunch of people. The ending is kind of anticlimactic, but at least Jessica gets to briefly make out with a grieving movie star we’ll probably never hear another word about.

Thoughts: Everyone thinks Julia killed herself – only Jessica thinks her death might have been accidental. But that seems a lot more likely, considering the circumstances and the fact that Julia hadn’t displayed any suicidal behavior. Wouldn’t an accident be more likely than murder, too?

Elizabeth researches and writes her paper in two days, and it’s 30 pages long. First of all, no. That’s impossible. Second, I bet her classmates hate her.

Since when does Jessica eat things like sprouts and fried zucchini? And who puts sprouts on a burger?

When you’re on the run and probably don’t have easy access to a lot of money, maybe you shouldn’t be spending what you do have on Skee Ball and cotton candy.

Elizabeth: “You can’t hide from an FBI agent.” There’s a whole list of most-wanted fugitives that says you’re wrong.

There is absolutely no way an actor was nominated for an Oscar for a movie called Carnivore II – Medium Rare. Shut up, ghostwriter.

May 6, 2014

SVU #17, Deadly Attraction: Running Away Is the Solution to Every Problem

Posted in books tagged , , , , , , , , , , at 8:26 pm by Jenn

That bathing suit is hideous. Jessica is supposed to be the fashionable twin

That bathing suit is hideous. Isn’t Jessica supposed to be the fashionable twin?

Summary: It’s not long after Elizabeth was blackmailed with photos of Jessica and Louis kissing, and she quickly tells Jessica that she’s been busted by the administration. Jess has more important things to worry about, since, you know, Chloe tried to kill her. Louis rushes over to check on Jessica, and she confronts him for not telling her he’s married. He tells his whole sob story about how, as soon as he figured out Chloe was a psycho, he ditched her, but she followed him and won him back over. Instead of calling the police like a normal person, he’s just been running from her every time she does something crazy and tracks him down.

This time is no different, as Louis has decided that the only way to keep Jessica safe is for him to leave town. Jessica decides to go with him, even though that means she might never see her family again. As she’s packing, Elizabeth goes out to their Jeep and Chloe grabs her, thinking she’s Jessica. She tells Liz to tell Jessica to stay away from Louis or she’s dead.

Jessica and Louis hit the road, but after a couple days, Chloe tracks them down. They get away. Then they’re on the run again. It’s boring and goes on for a while until Louis locks Jessica in the house where they’re staying and goes outside to confront Chloe. He bluffs that he wants to get back together with her and would be glad to leave with her tonight (since that’ll get her away from Jessica). But Chloe’s smarter than Louis and has actually lured him into a trap. She wanted him out of the house so she could turn on the gas.

Louis rescues Jessica just before the house explodes and takes her to the hospital. He finally tells the police what’s been going on, but they think Chloe was killed in the explosion. They’re at least 99 percent sure. Considering the number of times people have come back from the “dead” on soaps, I’d be like, “I don’t care if you’re 2,000 percent sure – show me a body.” But the police won’t listen to Louis and don’t think he and Jessica are in any more danger.

But yep, Chloe shows up with a nice and tries to kill Jessica, who’s still unconscious. As Louis is pulling her away, Chloe accidentally stabs him instead. She panics and runs away. There are so many smart things Louis could do (including simply letting someone know Chloe was there, getting himself checked over by a doctor, or calling the police back), Louis patches himself up and follows Chloe. He’s decided he’s going to die, and he’ll just kill Chloe, too. I don’t know why he thinks he’s doomed, since he’s IN A HOSPITAL and all, but whatever, this plot needs to be over. So Louis gets Chloe in his car and Thelma and Louises both of them. Better luck next time, Jess.

Now that Mark is back at SVU, Santos wants him to help keep Todd and Elizabeth in line. But they don’t need much keeping in line, since Elizabeth has decided to drop the investigation, thanks to the blackmail photos. Then Liz randomly decides to resume things, and asks to spend the night in Todd’s room since Chloe’s lurking around. The next day, they discover that Santos had someone break into the twins’ room and steal Liz’s computer and files with all the investigation stuff on it.

So now Elizabeth and Todd have to go on the run. They manage to crash at Lila and Bruce’s apartment for the night (more on that later), making Bruce and Lila think they’re back together and looking for a sex pad. Gin-Yung spots them pretending they’re dating again and gets mad. She calls Tom, who’s still in Vegas, being really boring and getting ready for some wrestling match.

Elizabeth goes to the TV station to get some investigation stuff Santos couldn’t get to, but one of Santos’ henchmen spots her and tries to grab her. Gin-Yung swoops in and saves the day with a getaway car. She blasts Elizabeth for stealing Todd, but Liz assures her that there’s nothing going on between them. She also invites her to help her and Todd, even though Todd previously didn’t want Gin-Yung involved in something potentially dangerous.

While Elizabeth goes to see Daryl again, Todd and Gin-Yung figure out that Santos is laundering gambling money through his construction company, which is supposed to be doing work on SVU’s campus. Elizabeth decides it’s time to go to the authorities with this information; Daryl has agreed to come forward, so they have enough evidence to bust everyone. Gin-Yung also introduces Craig, the wrestler who will be competing in Vegas, to Daryl so he can get an advance warning about what’s about to go down. Meanwhile, in Vegas, more henchmen (there sure are a lot of them) warn Tom to make Liz back off or Daryl’s brothers and sister will get hurt.

Just before Tom does his big interview with Craig, the story breaks. Liz calls Tom to let him know that Daryl is making a statement; once he does, Santos won’t be able to threaten anyone. Tom doesn’t get a chance to warn her that Daryl’s siblings are in danger. But it doesn’t matter anyway, because Daryl changes his mind and says that Elizabeth and Todd’s accusations are false. So the threats reached Daryl after all, and he backed down to protect his siblings. Todd tells Tom to spread the word to Craig so he knows what kind of danger he could be facing.

Tom does so, but Craig decides to do the right thing anyway, announcing on live TV that he was offered money to throw his big match. He was blackmailed with the threat of a positive steroid test a year ago, which could hurt his father’s senatorial campaign. It looks like the jig is up, but Santos tries a Hail Mary pass (I figured a sports-related storyline could use some sports references) and kidnaps Elizabeth, Todd, and Gin-Yung, locking them in a basement. They manage to grab them in a roomful of people, by the way. Still not the most ridiculous thing about this book.

Elizabeth and Todd spend their time in the basement arguing, which delights Gin-Yung, since it means they really don’t want to get back together. Priorities, Gin-Yung. Worry about your love life later (if you survive). Santos arrives with Mark and some henchmen, offering the investigators money to retract heir story. The investigators won’t take his bribe, so Santos threatens to kill Daryl’s siblings. Fortunately, Mark, who everyone thought was working for Santos, has actually turned on him and helps the investigators take out the henchmen. Yay for Mark being a good guy!

Lila and Bruce are making do with their hovel, but their money situation is just getting worse. Lila’s credit card is declined and Bruce has been totally cut off from his trust fund. Bruce eats dinner at the frat house and hangs out there for a while, making Lila mad since she’s supposed to know where he is all the time and they’re supposed to do everything together and he didn’t bring her any food (okay, that last one might be a fair gripe). So now they’re broke, hungry, have no hot water (their landlady sucks), and are mad at each other.

What does any regular college student do when he needs a meal but has no money? He goes home. Bruce suggests that he and Lila go to her place for dinner, which works out well. Then she says they should spend the night at their respective families’ houses, which would be a lot more pleasant than enduring another night in their horrible apartment. Both are secretly relieved to be away from each other because all that closeness is driving them nuts.

The night apart turns into multiple nights, with both delaying the return to the apartment because they’re enjoying the luxuries of home (and being away from each other) so much. Finally they decide that they shouldn’t live together. You think? They’re still dating, though.

Remember how Winston and Denise joined ROTC? Did you think that might be an interesting turn of events? Ha ha ha ha ha no. Denise excels while Winston hates every minute of it. He also keeps accusing Denise of having a crush on their drill instructor. The drill instructor is up for promotion and has to have all his recruits perform perfectly in an upcoming inspection. Winston’s a threat to that, so he assigns Denise to get him up to where he needs to be. This means Denise gets to yell at Winston and say she’s following orders.

Winston is so annoying in this book that Denise agrees to go to a ball at the Officer’s Club with the drill instructor. There, she realizes that he’s a jerk and only cares about his inspection, not the recruits. At the inspection, Denise purposely performs poorly to embarrass the guy, which would probably get her kicked out of ROTC if she wasn’t already planning to quit. I don’t get the point of this plot, so I’m glad it’s over.

Thoughts: Elizabeth is all judgmental of Louis for sleeping with a student, like, you just got blackmailed by the dean. If we’re grading on a curve, Louis is a prince among the rest of the SVU staff.

“Alex was working out in a yellow unitard.” Oh, ALEX.

“Gin-Yung was possessive and territorial.” No, she’s not. You’re projecting, Tom.

Why didn’t Louis just kill Chloe? He didn’t have to kill himself. I choose to believe he preferred death over having to put up with Jessica.

April 22, 2014

SVU #16, The Other Woman: Jessica Wakefield’s 568th Poor Relationship Choice

Posted in books tagged , , , , , , , , at 8:19 pm by Jenn

Um...where exactly are you looking, Louis?

Um…where exactly are you looking, Louis?

Summary: Jessica and her new honey, Professor Louis Miles, have no willpower, so they make out in his car, despite his protests that he shouldn’t be dating a student. Jessica gets very “he is my one true love and if I cannot be with him, I shall surely perish.” Some of the Thetas develop crushes on Louis, which just makes Jessica feel worse. Then Jess sees Louis with another woman and feels even worse.

Louis tracks Jessica down on the beach and they…well, it’s not said explicitly, but I’m pretty sure they have sex. Then he swears her to secrecy and makes her leave. Nice guy. He thinks his mystery woman is approaching. Jessica mopes around her dorm room for a while, waiting for Louis to call. Angsty, lovesick Jess is easily the most annoying version of that girl. Liz thinks she’s in love, but Jessica denies it. That’s the kind of relationship every girl dreams of – the one you can’t even tell your sister about.

Louis tells Jessica straight out that they can’t be together. She thinks it’s because he’s a professor, but he’s trying to keep her away from his mystery woman (whose name we learn at one point is Chloe). Jessica gets more and more ticked at him, and blows up at him after a class about chivalry. Later, she goes to his house for more possible sex (the book is really vague about it), and these two are starting to remind me of Liv and Fitz from Scandal, with all their “we can’t be together! But let’s just sleep together one last time!”

On her way to her dorm, Jessica realizes that a car is following her. She tries to flee, but the car just speeds up and chases her. Louis gets a call from Chloe, who brags that she’s chasing Jess and is going to kill her. She does try, running Jessica off the road, but Jess is fine. Chloe approaches and warns her to stay away from Louis…who’s her husband. Yep, Jessica’s sleeping with a married man. Raise your hand if you’re surprised. (I’m only surprised this is the first married man she’s dated.)

Elizabeth and Todd’s investigation into the possible SVU sports scandal is heating up. They question Daryl, a former basketball player, about why he left the team, wondering if it was because of drugs. Daryl takes them to his house to show them that he’s the only adult taking care of his brothers and sister. His sister also has physical problems and therefore big doctor bills. Daryl dropped out because he didn’t have time to practice, and because he needs to make sure his brothers stay out of trouble. Elizabeth still wonders if Daryl fixed games because he needed money.

Todd doesn’t want Gin-Yung involved in the investigation, since it’s already proven to be dangerous, but Elizabeth convinces him to bring her on board since she knows so much about sports and SVU’s sports program. Todd and Liz meet with Santos (the guy Todd was supposed to meet with in the last book when he was attacked), and he agrees to let Todd rejoin the basketball team – if he and Elizabeth stop snooping around and calling former players. Todd says no.

Mark is back in the picture, so Todd suggests that they and Elizabeth talk again. Mark continues to deny that he accepted any money or bribes while he was at SVU. Todd won’t let up, and Mark gets so mad about his accusations that he punches him. Ha! Now you know what it’s like, Todd.

Liz and Todd go back to Daryl’s, and this time he tells them that he’s still getting money from the school, even though he no longer plays for them. Basically, he was paid off to leave the team. Next, Elizabeth and Todd talk to a former SVU student who now goes to art school. He’s happy not to play basketball anymore – and in fact, SVU financed his transfer. Todd realizes that a bunch of students were paid not to fix or throw games but to leave the team altogether.

Meanwhile, Mark asks Santos to let him rejoin the team. Santos easily agrees, not least because Mark is mad at Todd and Elizabeth for snooping. Until Mark can transfer back to SVU, he’ll be an assistant in the athletics department, and get paid to keep an eye on other students. After he leaves, Santos enlists someone else to follow Elizabeth. But apparently he doesn’t know she’s a twin, because he just tells his minion to keep an eye on a freshman girl named Wakefield who drives a red Jeep. This leads to a nice fake-out when Jess is being followed by Chloe but we’re led to believe it’s Santos’ minion.

Elizabeth is summoned to see Dr. Beal, the head of the administration, who tells her to back off of Santos or he’ll have Jessica expelled. He accuses Jessica of helping Winston cheat, since she was the one who let him into Stark and Louis’ office. He also has another card up his sleeve: pictures of Jessica and Louis making out in his car. If Elizabeth doesn’t drop her investigation, everyone will find out about Jess and Louis. While she’s leaving, Liz runs into Mark and learns that he’s working at SVU. Mark sees the photos, and Beal warns him not to make any trouble.

Lila and Bruce move into their new beach house together and quickly start decorating. But then the landlady tells them that Bruce’s check bounced. It turns out that, though Bruce has a trust fund, he’s only allowed a certain portion of it every month. His uncle holds the purse strings and doesn’t like that he’s moved in with Lila. Bruce asks for more money, but his uncle refuses. Lila doesn’t have access to her money either, since it’s all in Italy, and can’t get more from her father. For the first time in their lives, Bruce Patman and Lila Fowler are broke.

This means they can’t stay at the beach house, so they have to scramble to find a place to sleep. Lila, to her credit, tries to be optimistic; it might be romantic for them to have to suffer and struggle together. The lovebirds get a little apartment together, but right from the start, things are bad. Lila almost blows the place up because she doesn’t know the difference between a gas oven and an electric oven. They barely have money for food. The roof starts falling apart, and since it’s been raining, everything gets wet. The hot water goes out. They lose phone service because the last tenant has an outstanding bill. And the landlady’s out of town, so she won’t deal with the repairs she should be financing.

But Lila remains optimistic and even enjoys herself, despite the crumminess of her living arrangements. (Seriously, if it were me, I’d be on the phone with my landlady demanding that everything get fixed, and I wouldn’t hang up until it was.) I’m mostly surprised that Bruce and Lila are both willing to slum it for more than two hours.

Winston feels guilty about stealing the physics test, but not guilty enough to not cheat. After all, if he fails the class, his parents will make him leave SVU, which means he won’t be able to date Denise anymore. (His parents would make him leave school for a bad grade in one class? Huh?) Winston aces the test, but his professor knows he couldn’t have gotten so smart overnight, so he’s immediately accused of cheating.

Winston won’t come clean, only saying that he went to Stark’s office to get the study guide, and that Jessica let him in because she was there to see Louis. Stark calls in Winston’s parents, warning that this could lead to expulsion. Winston breaks the news to Denise, who has zero sympathy for her boyfriend. She tells him to be a man and deal with the consequences. Those consequences involve being placed on academic probation, which, frankly, is better than Winston deserves. Mr. Egbert agrees, announcing that Winston will be joining ROTC to learn how to develop character and be a man.

Instead of the Mulan-like music montage I was hoping for, we get a scene of Winston showing up for his first day in ROTC and discovering that Denise has also enlisted. I look forward to Winston failing miserably at even the smallest tasks while Denise gets to be a star.

There’s some stuff about Tom while he’s hanging out with other student journalists in Vegas, but unless he hooks up with one named Christine, I don’t care. At one point he calls Gin-Yung to find out if Elizabeth and Todd are hanging out. Gin-Yung promises that it’s all platonic, and Tom hopes she’ll let him know if that changes. I hope that Tom stays in Vegas forever because he bugs me.

And now I have that Mulan song stuck in my head.

Thoughts: Elizabeth: “[Tom’s] not Superman, and we’re not Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen.” But wouldn’t it be fun if you were?

“I’d give my life for you.” Jessica, you’ve known him for five days. Tone it down.

“He’d never liked Elizabeth much. He thought she was uptight, sanctimonious, and humorless. The type who was always sneering at people who weren’t like her.” I’m not really a Mark fan, but the enemy of my enemy is my friend, so…

“I’m so glad I didn’t die. Not now that I’ve found Louis.” Because life is only worth living if you’re in a relationship. If Jessica were single, SHE MIGHT AS WELL JUST KILL HERSELF.

March 25, 2014

SVU Thriller, Kiss of the Vampire: Vampire Journalists Give New Meaning to the Word “Deadline”

Posted in books tagged , , , , , at 6:47 pm by Jenn

Scary for the wrong reasons

Scary for the wrong reasons

Summary: Elizabeth and Tom both apply for a journalism mini-fellowship that will send the winner to New Orleans to help a famous journalist with some research. Tom wins and gets to spend the weekend in the Big Easy with Nicholas des Perdu. Wow, a whole weekend! He and Elizabeth act like he’s going off to war. Of course they’re one of those couples who can’t go ten minutes apart without talking about each other the whole time.

Nicholas is super-rich, with a driver named Fortune and a housekeeper named Marielle. Nicholas is doing a story on Halloween and All Saints’ Day in New Orleans, but I’m not sure how much work actually gets done. As soon as Nicholas sees a picture Tom brought with him of Elizabeth, he’s distracted. We get a flashback to 1788 in France, and what do you know? Nicholas was alive back then. The flashback is to his wedding to a woman named Lisette, who looks like Elizabeth. Seriously, how many lookalikes do the twins have?

Tom and Elizabeth are supposed to talk on the phone while he’s gone, but he forgets to call her the first night he’s in New Orleans, so they have to suffer for, like, 12 hours with no communication. Elizabeth tries to call Tom, but the phone number he gave her doesn’t work, and Nicholas’ number is unlisted. When Tom finally gets around to picking up the phone, he suddenly gets drowsy. Marielle’s lurking around, and the two of them start making out. Marielle tries to bite him, but Tom suddenly realizes that he’s doing something wrong and makes Marielle leave.

Nicholas has another flashback, this time to when he had to leave Lisette to go deal with some pesky peasants. While he’s reminiscing, Elizabeth has a dream about Nicholas, though she’s never met him. The next day, Tom’s supposed to head back to Sweet Valley, but bad weather delays his flight. Oh, no, now he and Elizabeth have to wait even longer to see each other! How ever will they survive?

Tom kills some time by reading about women being killed in New Orleans and found with their blood drained. He goes exploring in Nicholas’ house and discovers a coffin in the basement. Of course. Tom heads back to Sweet Valley, and not long after, Nicholas follows, wanting to meet the woman who looks so much like Lisette.

Back at SVU, the twins are throwing a big Halloween party in an abandoned house on campus. No, I don’t know why there’s an abandoned house on campus. No, I don’t know why it hasn’t been turned into a dorm or a frat/sorority house. No, I don’t know why the administration would leave an empty building there for students to easily throw big parties in. Stop asking me questions! Anyway, the money’s going to charity, so the party is a Nice Thing, because Elizabeth isn’t allowed to just be normal and have some fun.

When Tom gets back to town, he goes to the house (Hollow House – ooh, spooky) to help Elizabeth set up for the party. The lights have been acting up, and when they go out, Tom leaves Liz alone to check the fusebox. Elizabeth thinks he comes back and makes out with her in the dark, but obviously it’s Nicholas.

Eventually Liz meets Nicholas for real, and he tells her he came to Sweet Valley to keep working with Tom on the story. He takes Elizabeth out somewhere, to “talk about Tom,” so now Tom’s confused about why his girlfriend, formerly so clingy that she couldn’t stand to be away from him for two days, is spending time apart from him. Also, Nicholas doesn’t want Liz to tell Tom he’s in town, which should be a major red flag, but we all know Elizabeth has no instincts about that sort of thing. Tom tries to get Elizabeth’s attention back on him, but she’s having too much fun with her new boy.

Jessica spots Elizabeth getting into Nicholas’ car and thinks she’s cheating on Tom. She kind of is, though it doesn’t seem like she’s acting under her own control. There’s another flashback, and we learn that when Nicholas returned home to Lisette, she’d been told that he was dead, so she killed herself. Nicholas starts drinking, and one night he meets Marielle, who turns him into a vampire. Back in the present day, Elizabeth comes to her senses enough to stop making out with Nicholas, who goes to a bar and kills someone else because Elizabeth ditched him.

Tom and Elizabeth finally get some alone time, but they go to a vampire movie and Elizabeth freaks out and bolts. Nicholas isn’t happy that his long-dead non-wife is seeing someone else. He goes to Liz’s dorm and tries to make her jump out her window, but Tom manages to save her. He and Jessica are starting to realize that something weird is going on. Tom also reads in the paper that there have been killings in Sweet Valley similar to the killings in New Orleans, so he wonders if Nicholas is in town. Meanwhile, Nicholas sends Elizabeth flowers – white with one red – and a note saying he’ll see her that night. Then he calls to tell her they’ll be together forever. Ohhhhhkay…

By the way, Jess is now in Theta, and there’s a single room available in the sorority house. Alison also wants the room, and of course, since these two hate each other, there’s going to be a fight to the death to determine who gets it. Jessica tries to claim her territory by moving furniture in, but Alison one-ups her by putting a sleeping bag in there to indicate that she’s spending the night. In fact, both girls end up there overnight, but neither trusts the other enough to fall asleep in the same room.

This subplot is only important because of what happens the night of the Halloween party. Alison locks herself in the room, so Jessica goes outside to taunt her through the window. She yells some threats about wanting Alison to die, so of course that means something bad is going to happen. As Jess is leaving, she sees someone else outside the window but thinks Alison has a gentleman caller.

So: party! It’s awesome. Tom’s not there, since he’s discovering that Nicholas is staying in a hotel in Sweet Valley under the American translation of his French last name. Meanwhile, Denise and Magda find Alison in the sorority house, minus a lot of her blood. Guess who Alison’s visitor was? Go on, guess!

Tom goes to the party to tell Jessica that Nicholas is in town and may have something to do with why Elizabeth’s been acting weird. Jessica tells him about the flowers, which she’s sure were from Nicholas. They hear about Alison, who’s been taken to the hospital, so now they’re pretty sure Nicholas is a vampire. They can’t find Elizabeth, though, since Nicholas has whisked her away, planning to take her to New Orleans, then on to Paris.

So we head back to New Orleans, but Nicholas and Elizabeth get there first since Jessica and Tom can’t get a flight. Nicholas plans to spend the night in his coffin, then consummate things with Elizabeth the next day. At this point the ghostwriter isn’t even trying to pretend the whole story isn’t a metaphor for sex. (Just like Twilight. Ug.) When Elizabeth wakes up, though, her head is clearer and she realizes that she wants to be with Tom. Too late! Nicholas wants her to wear Lisette’s wedding dress and become his eternal bride. I can’t believe I just typed that sentence.

There’s some making out, and now Nicholas makes his move, biting Liz. Of course, that’s just when Jessica and Tom arrive. Tom rescues Elizabeth while Jessica fights Nicholas off with a candelabra. I guess that was the only weapon handy. Meanwhile, Elizabeth has accidentally started a fire, so between that and the vampire, things are getting a little dangerous. Jess has an advantage, though, since Nicholas thinks she’s Elizabeth/Lisette. She uses that as a bit of a distraction, allowing Tom to come in and knock him out. Then Tom and the twins flee the house. Nicholas most likely gets out, too, but they can’t be sure.

Tom and the twins go back to Sweet Valley, and Jessica decides not to move into the sorority house after all. I guess it would be pretty creepy to live in a room where someone almost died. A guy delivers some flowers for Elizabeth, and Jess accepts the delivery, seeing that they’re the same roses Nicholas sent before. Jessica’s smart enough to throw them out.

Thoughts: “[Elizabeth] raised one leg and examined a tiny bleach spot on her jeans. Should she change? No. Not for an evening with Nina.” Sorry, Nina. You don’t warrant clean clothes.

“Maybe I really NEED to go to some club, toss down a couple of diet Cokes, and then flirt outrageously with some good-looking airhead.” Whoa, Liz. Put the brakes on before you get out of control.

Jessica has a wicker dresser, so I automatically question her taste in everything ever. Clearly Alice didn’t pass on her interior-design genes.

Jessica packs a suitcase before she and Tom chase Elizabeth and Nicholas to New Orleans. I’m sure that didn’t make them lose any time. Also, you’re not going there for a vacation, Jess. I don’t think you’ll need a change of clothes.

January 28, 2014

SVU Thriller, He’s Watching You: We All Wear Masks

Posted in books tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 9:17 pm by Jenn

I don't remember a scene where William projects his face onto a wall

I don’t remember a scene where William projects his face onto a wall

Summary: Despite the fact that William revealed his name to Elizabeth in his last stalker note, she hasn’t put 2 and 2 together yet. Not that she would worry if she had, since she believes William is tucked away in an institution, not out and about following her and plotting the deaths of all her friends. He still has an employee, Andrea, under his thumb, and keeps borrowing her car to run errands. Evil errands.

Todd is also out and about, running into a supposed former Big Mesa student, Henry, who thought Todd was a good basketball player in high school. They get coffee together and talk about sports. Todd has to go back to campus for class, so Henry offers to loan him his car. Todd doesn’t find this TOTALLY WEIRD. He borrows the car, but something’s wrong with the steering wheel and he crashes it. When the police show up, they tell him the car was reported stolen and arrest him.

Elizabeth and Alex see the whole thing and go to the police station with Todd. Noah worries that this means Alex still likes Todd (remember, they hooked up a bunch of times), and that Alex isn’t interested in guys who aren’t surrounded by drama. See, girls, guys get insecure, too! Todd’s behavior after the crash doesn’t help him out; he’s angry and even makes his lawyer wonder if he has mental problems. Elizabeth wonders, too, and even thinks that Todd’s the one who’s been leaving her notes. It turns out that Henry was actually William! He loaned Todd the car he keeps borrowing from Andrea, and he rigged it to crash. I’m not really sure why, though.

While Liz is at the police station, Tom and Jessica hang out at a park, and Tom ends up playing some football. He admits that he misses it. Back on campus, a guy named Bob calls Tom, saying he knows he’s a reporter and wants him to do a story about sports at SVU. More specifically, he wants Tom to find out how the other football players feel about James being kicked off the team for raping Maia. He suggests that Tom rejoin the team so he can report undercover. Tom decides this is a great, NOT AT ALL WEIRD idea. Elizabeth is mad that Tom made the decision without consulting her, like he needs to get her permission or something. I’m surprised he doesn’t tell her about going undercover.

The SVU mascot is something called Braino, and the guy who usually plays him has to have surgery, so he’ll be out of commission for a little while. Denise encourages Winston to try out to be his replacement. This is all contrivance for the second half of the book.

William leaves Elizabeth more mutilated dolls, which she still thinks are from Todd. I don’t know why he would get released from the police department and then bring her dolls, but whatever. Todd’s been suspended and has to move off campus. He has no idea what dolls Liz is talking about. More dolls show up later, and Elizabeth tells Jessica that she thinks Todd is messing with her. Jess is the first to suggest that it might be William.

The twins call his institution but are told that he can’t come to the phone. Their strange logic makes them think that that means he’s there. I don’t know. It’s really because Andrea is still keeping William’s little escapes secret, and has been keeping his messages from Celine from him.

Speaking of Celine, she’s still trying to help William, even though she can tell he’s getting creepier and creepier. He asks her to get rid of the wheelchair he was using while he worked at the library. She’s not sure she wants to keep helping him, so he uses a Barbie to threaten her. Celine goes to the institution to see William, and Andrea sees them kissing. When she confronts him later, he kills her. Then he steals a car, drives it into the gorge around the institution (I knew it was a bad idea to have one of those!), and fakes his death.

A guy named Tim calls Danny to suggest that he get a bunch of Tom’s friends together to go to the football team’s big game against State. I’m not sure why none of Tom’s friends thought of this, since the game is a pretty big deal. Nice friends, huh?

Liz still thinks Todd is leaving the dolls, since William is “dead” and Todd is still hanging around. “Dead” William is actually back at the library, drinking champagne with Celine to celebrate his freedom. Except the champagne is just a way for William to poison Celine and get rid of anyone who can rat him out. Later, Todd spots William (who he thinks is “Henry”) at the bar where he’s working and living, and chases him but can’t catch him. When he gets to his apartment, he finds Celine’s comatose body. When the police show up, Todd bolts.

William goes to the hospital to pay Celine a visit (and finish her off). He disguises himself to look a little like Todd so if anyone sees him, they’ll think that’s who he is. He almost finishes Celine off, but he gets spotted and has to run. His plan works, however, and everyone thinks Todd was at the hospital to kill Celine. Elizabeth and Alex disagree about whether he’s capable of something like that. Noah goes to the institution to talk to William’s doctor, Dr. Hemphill, but that’s just another contrivance.

Anyway, football! The twins, Danny, Isabella, Alex, Noah, Denise, Winston, Nina, Bryan, and Maia are all going to go to the game together and surprise Tom. But Winston and Denise will be going as Braino and…Braino’s assistant, I guess – Winston gets the role. Later, he sort-of-jokingly-but-kind-of-seriously proposes to Denise, who only gets the sort-of-jokingly part of it. Whatever, Winston, you’re too young.

Football fever spreads across campus, and everyone buys Braino masks. This works out well for William, who can move around undetected. He alters his plan a little, deciding to spare Jessica. Todd also tries to move around undetected, trying to find out who’s leaving Elizabeth the dolls. He’s not much help.

On game day, Tom confirms that this story he’s doing for Bob is totally legit and he’ll get paid and everything. You keep telling yourself that, Tom. Everyone else prepares to take a van to the game, except Winston, who has to drive the Brainomobile. While he’s getting that car ready, William knocks him out. Jessica shows up to give him something and gets knocked out, too. Later, Winston delivers the van to the others, but it’s clearly William pretending he has a sore throat. Darn those Braino masks, concealing everyone’s features! He tells the others that Jessica’s not going to the game.

The only problem with this plan is that now William has to be Braino. He screws up his act with Denise, who thinks “Winston”‘s mad that he has to work with a partner. Dude, he told you he loved you and proposed! What’s your damage?

Then there’s football, but before things can get too boring, Tom gets a concussion and has to leave the game. While Danny and Noah are chatting with him in the locker room, they realize that Bob, Tim, and Dr. Hemphill all have the same last name. They decide that Elizabeth is in danger, so they tell “Winston” to take her back to campus in the Brainomoble while they head back in the van. Oops! They’ve done exactly what William wanted them to do.

In the car with “Winston,” Elizabeth slowly realizes that something is off. When she tells him he’s acting crazy, he flips out, because there’s nothing a crazy person likes less than being called crazy. The others load up the van and find someone in the luggage compartment: Winston. Poor guy was stuck there the whole day. Unfortunately, the group still thinks Todd is the one they’re trying to protect Liz from. Meanwhile, back at SVU, Jessica is freed from the closet where William stashed her, but she doesn’t see her savior. My money’s still on Mike.

Back on the road, which happens to be winding and treacherous and on a cliff, of course. William reveals himself to Elizabeth and commits the ultimate villain sin: telling her his plans. He was going to kill everyone, frame Todd, and flee the country with Liz. Elizabeth thinks fast, pulling William’s mask down so he can’t see, then grabbing the steering wheel and crashing the car. They drive into the side of a cliff, where William is killed. Allegedly. (Hey, I know two of the books in this series have his name in their titles. I’m not as dumb as Liz.)

But the drama isn’t over! Todd was suspicious the whole time, so he went to the game and followed the Brainomobile when William and Elizabeth left. The people in the van catch up with Liz and Todd, but it soon becomes clear that William tampered with their brakes. Then they see Todd and think Elizabeth is in danger. Todd and Liz try to direct the van to a road away from the cliff, but Danny (driving the van) thinks Todd kidnapped Elizabeth. Liz tells Todd to take his hands off the steering wheel so everyone can see that he’s not holding her at gunpoint. That Liz, always thinking.

In case you were worried that this book would end with a dozen fiery deaths, it doesn’t. Elizabeth gets Danny to realize that he needs to let Todd pass so they can follow him. Despite his reservations, Danny does so. But then there’s more drama! They’re going up a hill, and they’ll start rolling backwards and off the cliff! I…don’t understand. It would have made more sense if they almost drove off the cliff, and everyone had to get out of the van before it fell.

No time for logic – we need more drama! Everyone’s getting out of the van when Danny suddenly has an attack of the chickens. Tom can’t get him to budge, so he punches him in the face, knocks him out, pulls him out, and ends up knocking himself out. I’ve lost count of how many people lose consciousness in this book. A while later, Elizabeth wraps things up with some exposition that doesn’t really matter. And then she finds out that William left his whole estate to her. Which doesn’t matter, since we know he’s not really dead, but that’s for another day.

Thoughts: For Christmas, Ned and Alice gave Elizabeth gold silk pants and a matching jacket. Do they hate her?

William has convinced Andrea that he’s a political prisoner and the country’s trying to keep him from exposing terrorists in the government. Well, yeah. I mean, who wouldn’t fall for that?

Everyone rides to the game in a purple van. Was it Crunch’s?

I have to quote melody_powers from 1bruce1 re: William and Barbies:

Okay, time out. I want you all to do something with me. Close your eyes and visualize a busy Toys ‘R’ Us. Something by Hannah Montana is playing over the sound system, little kids are running around and screaming, and there are people with plastic nametags selling loud electronic toys to frazzled parents.

Now, standing in a long line at a cash register is William White, looking kind of crazy but holding it together because he’s in public. His arms are overloaded with hot pink Barbie doll boxes, stacked so high they almost reach the top of his head.

Seriously, imagine it. Hannah Montana. Screaming kids. William White. Barbies.

Awesome.

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