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Recap #136: Nightmare Hall #9: The Night Walker by Diane Hoh

Diane Hoh - Night Walker, window looking into a girl in a sports jersey with her arms out in front of her

Diane Hoh – Night Walker

Title: Nightmare Hall #9: The Night Walker by Diane Hoh

Summary: Quinn Hadley is sure she must be the only sleepwalker at Salem. It’s so embarrassing, especially since she never remembers where she was or what she was doing. But it’s never been a problem. Until now. Because someone is roaming the campus, attacking people in the middle of the night. No one knows who the crazed night stalker is. But all the clues point to Quinn.

Tagline: None.

Notes: I will now refer to the bad guy as “Muffin Man” because of The Mall. It doesn’t necessarily mean they’re male.

Initial Thoughts

Apologies for the delay in this recap. I have spent the last month fighting an infection in the big toe of my left foot. A small little scratch has led to two visits to hospital (one of them a week long), several combinations of antibiotics, and wearing a knee-length cast on my leg to keep pressure off it. I had put most things off while trying to get better, but at this rate, everything will be on hold until October (well, that’s what it feels like), so I just have to get back to it!

Much to my relief, Queen of YA Suspense, Diane Hoh, has returned to Nightmare Hall. Nola Thacker’s work tends to leave me sad, and angry at the world. I’m looking forward to this one. If I remember correctly, it had a slightly more tricky plot than usual. I have no idea if its representations of sleepwalking are anywhere close to the truth, but after The Experiment, and recent life events, I’ll just be happy with a fun, fast-paced story.

[Wing: Damn, I had no idea a small scratch could lead to so much pain and difficulty. I hope you finish healing quickly.]

Recap

Prologue has Quinn Hadley sleepwalking. Her roommate wakes up in time to see her take off down the hallway, as if on a deadly mission.

She’s quickly rescued by her roommate, Tobie Thomason (thin, ginger coloured hair), and taken back to their room (602, level 6 of Devereaux Hall). The sound of the door closing wakes Quinn up. She’s mortified that she’s sleepwalking again. It’s happened sporadically throughout her adolescence, and the one time she was taken to the doctor, she was told it was stress. But what could be stressing her now? Classes? Or the fact that Simon Kent has inexplicably and completely lost romantic interest in her, avoiding her gaze whenever she sees him on campus? She hates to think a person could have that much power over her. She hasn’t sleepwalked since she was 16. Apparently, this is the second time it has happened this semester. (Although the way Tobie carries on, you’d think it was every night).

[Wing: So, wait, her life got much less stressful after she turned 16? I have my doubts about that.]

Because Simon dropped her without a word, Quinn is no longer going to the Spring Fling dance. On Saturday, she helps Tobie get ready for it. They are visited by their friend Ivy Green (slim with slinky black hair), and her roommate, Suze Blythe (short, with lots of curly blonde hair). Tobie offers to let Quinn take her place at the dance, as she feels a headache coming on, but the other girls insist that Tobie has to go, because she’s going with Danny Collier, and he’s a great guy.

The Student Center is the location, but towards the end of the evening, pungent fumes seem to creep over the room, causing students to tear up, choke, and gasp for breath. The smell is so putrid it causes a virtual stampede to escape the odour, and some people get trampled, including Jess Vogt, who helped to organise the event. Her arm gets broken.

Once outside, Ian Banion identifies the smell as sulfuric acid. The theory given is that somebody set off a stink bomb. The Student Center is nowhere near the chemistry lab, so it couldn’t have been an accident. Danny calls the police. The next day, Quinn wakes up to find Tobie looking very upset, and soon learns about the events of the previous night. She is shocked. Tobie leaves to go shower, as she can still smell the rotten eggs, even though she burned her outfit in the incinerator. Quinn gets up and sees what a sunny day it is, and feels the need to escape her dorm. She goes to the closet, and is immediately hit with the smell of rotten eggs. Thinking maybe Tobie didn’t burn part of her outfit, she tries to locate the source of the smell. However, it turns out the smell is coming from a red jacket that belongs to Quinn. Quinn feels sick. She fears that her jacket left the dorm room at some point during the night, and that she was the one wearing it. Because she sleepwalks, she can’t rule the possibility out. Worse, if she had left the dorm wearing the jacket, she has no idea what she might have done while she was gone.

Good stuff. An unreliable narrator situation some 20-odd years before every single female-centric psychological thriller started doing it (and boy, am I over this literary trend at the moment). We immediately have a reason for Quinn to be invested in what’s happening, and try to resolve it.

[Wing: This is such a frightening thing, too, not being able to trust your own memory. Also, one of the reasons I like this better than the current trend is that, in general, they are only unreliable to the readers, whereas Quinn is unreliable to herself, too, not just a trick of the audience.]

Today, there were tennis matches scheduled between Salem tennis teams and visiting alumni, a picnic being held on the Commons, and boat rides were available on Salem River, behind the University. I hope there are no canoe rides, however, considering the events of Guilty! Tobie returns from her shower and grumbles she can still smell the sulfuric acid, and doesn’t understand why. Quinn guiltily keeps her fears to herself, and instead suggests they air out the room, and take all their clothes out of the closet. Tobie comments on some missing towels. Quinn worries that she might have taken a shower after she sleepwalked, then dried off and burnt the towels, which was why she herself didn’t smell of rotten eggs, just her jacket. [Wing: But if you burned the towels, why not the jacket, too? Unless someone is trying to, oh, put the blame on you.]

We learn that in previous sleepwalking episodes that Quinn had once gone to bed angry at her sister, Sophie, and was then woken up by being pulled away from her sister as she pummeled her with her fists. Another time, at summer camp, she was ticked off at a counselor who had beaten her at a tennis match and gloated about it, then stole away the boy Quinn fancied. She was found crouched behind the counselor’s cabin at 2am, using a rock to destroy the counselor’s tennis racket. Quinn! When she visited the psychologist, it was suggested that during her sleepwalking, she acted out anger she was too timid to express while awake. So Quinn wonders if she was angry enough about not attending the dance to cook up a stink bomb and set it off. Hoh conveniently mentions at this point that Quinn was good at chemistry in high school. This is all a bit far-fetched, but I still like it.

Quinn heads out. It turns out Danny and Simon won the canoe race. No! No canoes!

This place deserves a lawsuit: 1 point

Quinn is tired of this game of Simon avoiding her, so she goes over to congratulate him on a good race. Ivy shoos herself and their friends away to give them space. Quinn asks if Simon went to the dance, and he says of course not, which only confuses her. He says the police found a stink bomb with a timer, so someone who was attending the dance could have even set it off. Simon hurries away, and Quinn once again worries that she was the one who set off the stink bomb.

Quinn starts wearing white socks to bed, so that if she wakes up the next morning and sees that they’re dirty, she’ll know she’s been sleepwalking. Nifty! A simple little piece of information that shows Quinn is smart and proactive. Three nights go by without incident. On Wednesday, Quinn and Tobie head over to watch baseball practice. On the bleachers, they see Simon chatting with Delle Arlen. How about that. Hoh is referencing a character from The Scream Team, and she didn’t even write that one. Could she have been reading the terrible books Nola Thacker had been putting out under Hoh’s name? [Wing: I’m going to assume a series bible, like the ghostwriters get for things like Sweet Valley.]

Quinn asks Tobie how things are going with Danny, and she says he’s great, but she’s not interested. Guys are a waste of time. Quinn points out that Danny likes Tobie, and Tobie reveals that she was in love once. It’s hinted the relationship ended badly. Ivy and Suze arrive and they head off to Burgers Etc. Quinn notices happy couple Carlie Winters and Donner Timms. Tobie bitterly comments that it won’t last, and runs from the diner. Danny wonders what’s wrong with her. Tim Lobo, Ivy’s sort-of boyfriend, reveals that Tobie’s boyfriend died the previous year, right after Christmas, and she took it hard. Tim knew a guy from Tobie’s hometown, which is how he heard. Quinn is shocked, and wonders why Tobie didn’t say anything. However, she quickly acknowledges that if Tobie doesn’t want to talk about it, nobody should force her to. And then she heads back to the dorm to find Tobie and make sure she’s okay. It turns out Tobie has gone to Nightmare Hall to hang with Cath Devon. Quinn figures Tobie must be coping okay if she’s willing to stay at a haunted dorm.

More really good characterisation for Quinn. She understands Tobie needs space, but is quick to be there for her should she need support. I would say Hoh is ahead of her time in regards to this sort of thing, but maybe it’s just a case of Hoh being a talented writer who can create a character who isn’t a self-involved asshole. [Wing: When Hoh is at her best, she does amazing things, particularly with her female characters.]

Quinn and Tobie are woken the next morning by Ivy, who tells them the news that the previous night, Carlie Winters and Donner Timms were doused in red paint on the first floor terrace of the Tower. It got in their hair, eyes and even mouths. They’re in the infirmary, because it’s actually quite dangerous to literally bathe in paint like that. Tobie is horrified by the news, and hurries out of the dorm. Ivy suggests Tobie gets upset about any talk about couples because of her dead boyfriend. After Ivy leaves, Quinn plans to head outside, and looks for her white blouse and denim skirt. She hunts through her wardrobe, and is shocked when she pulls them out and they’re covered in what looks like red paint.

When Tobie returns to the room, Quinn stuffs the garments under the bed. She asks Tobie what time she got in last night, and Tobie says midnight, and mentions Quinn was out like a light. Tobie asks to borrow the skirt, and Quinn has to lie and say she spilt nail polish on it and it’s in the wash. Quinn is relieved she was in bed, and doesn’t even understand why she would attack Carlie and Donner, since she wasn’t angry at them, and her sleepwalking episodes are usually an expression of internalised anger. Then she remembers the socks she wears to bed. After Tobie leaves, she goes to find the socks, and sees that they’re still white on the soles. However, when she pulls out her shoes, she sees that they are streaked with red paint. Her socks are still white, because this time when she went sleepwalking, she put on her shoes!

No counter here. A deceptively simple but highly effective way to end the chapter. I’m quite enjoying this so far.

[Wing: I love this, too, but if she never stopped to put on her shoes while sleep walking before, why does she think she would now? I guess it’s just paranoia because she’s worried about being the one causing the trouble?]

Quinn isn’t sure how she gets through her classes with all the worry about possibly being a violent night stalker. She has a strained lunch with Ivy and Tobie. Everybody is talking about what happened to Carlie and Donner. Once again, Hoh seems a little confused about the difference between school/boarding school and university. Not everyone on a big university campus is going to know who Carlie and Donner are! Anyway, she spies Simon, and he asks if she’s doing okay. She wants to know why he would care, since he’s the one doing everything he can to keep away from her.

He says that he’s only doing what she asked him to do in the letter that she sent him. Quinn is shocked – she never sent Simon a letter. So Simon shows her the letter, which is on bright pink stationery. She doesn’t  own stationery like that. The letter is very formal, with Quinn saying she doesn’t want to be tied down, and Simon shouldn’t either, and that staying friends doesn’t work. Quinn insists she didn’t write it, and it doesn’t sound like something she’d say. She thinks it sounds more like she’s firing an employee than ending a relationship. Because Quinn and Simon seem like actual rational people with solid heads on their shoulders, they take each other at their word, and make up. [Wing: Yay for treating this like rational people who talk and trust. Super weird way to break up with someone, too.]

The letter was apparently pushed under Simon’s door. Quinn thinks she’s seen the paper before, but can’t remember where. Quinn thinks it’s such a mean thing to do, and wonders who could hate her so much. Simon suggests that it could be linked to the stink bomb at the dance, and the attack on Carlie and Donner. Somebody who doesn’t like seeing couples being happy together. Interesting. Quinn ponders telling Simon about her fears, since he knows about her sleepwalking, but holds back. The rest of the day is spent with Tobie, Danny, Ivy, Tim, Suze, and Suze’s boyfriend Leon. Quinn heads off any attempts by anybody to talk about Carlie and Donner. At the end of the evening, Quinn and Tobie are in their dorm. Quinn thinks that Tobie didn’t have a good time, but Tobie insists she was just tired. She plans to spend the night with Cath at Nightmare Hall again. Quinn silently begs Tobie to talk to her, as maybe she can help, but continues to respect Tobie’s privacy when she instead heads off to Nightmare Hall. You’re a champ, Quinn.

In the next chapter, a nameless couple in a parked car are attacked by a figure wielding a hammer, who starts smashing the vehicle with their weapon.

Quinn is rudely awakened during the night by the commotion of all the students running outside to the scene of the attack on the car. Quinn asks Meg Pekoe, the resident advisor, of what is going on. Meg and another random student explain the situation. Outside, Quinn joins Suze, Ivy, Tim and Danny. She doesn’t recognise the car, but they soon learn the occupants were Reed Combs and Jake Briggs. Another happy couple. And Reed is referred to as female in the very next chapter, so this wasn’t a queer couple. Not that I want a queer couple to be attacked by a hammer-wielding villian, of course, but it would have been nice, back in 94, for a queer couple to be referred to as a “happy couple”. How progressive would that have been? [Wing: That would have been amazing. Also, Reed is a gender neutral name, isn’t it?]

They learn that Reed and Jake escaped with only minor cuts and scratches, just as Simon arrives, who was woken up by the sirens. They all return to their respective dorms, but nobody can really sleep. Dorm 602 at Devereaux seems to be a particular hub of activity for students. Everybody wants to discuss theories, and a consensus is that it’s somebody on campus. During the chit chat, Meg points out Quinn’s socks, which are filthy. Quinn had put shoes on before going outside to the scene of the crime, so is dismayed to realise she must have sleepwalked prior to being woken up, as she went to bed with clean socks. Once it’s learnt that Reed and Jake will be released shortly, dorm 602 empties out. Quinn decides to go for a walk to clear her head, extremely stressed out over wondering if she has sleepwalked, and not being able to remember any of it. It’s raining, so she fetches her yellow slicker. Outside, she puts her hands in her pockets, but pulls them out when she cuts herself on something sharp. There is shattered glass in the pockets of her yellow slicker. [Wing: The little details on this are wonderful, so well done.]

Quinn discreetly dumps the glass into a bin, but holds on to one shard, and returns to the scene of the crime outside Lester dorm. She hides when she sees someone already at the car, arm reaching through the window. She ducks into Lester dorm, and watches through the window as the person walks away. It’s Suze. Quinn rightly wonders what she was doing there. Quinn goes to the car, and compares the shard of glass from her pocket with the shards on the ground. She’s fairly certain it’s a match. Quinn returns to her dorm. It seems Tobie is in the bathroom (why is she in the bathroom all the time?). She bundles up her slicker in an old sweatshirt and stuffs it in the back of the closet.

Tobie returns, and announces she’s going to cut class today, and stay in bed because it’s raining. That’s exactly what I would do, Tobie! Quinn asks Tobie if Suze is friends with Reed or Jake, but Tobie doesn’t know. She also doesn’t want to talk about the attack. Quinn heads to class, as she has a math quiz. During lunch, in the cafeteria, she finds herself in line behind Suze, who is with a friend. She overhears Suze tell the friend that Reed doesn’t know who attacked them, but that the attacker was wearing a yellow slicker.

Dun-Dun-DUNNNNN!: 1 point. Okay, I kind of feel Hoh has established the central concept by now: either Quinn is acting out during her sleepwalking episodes, or she’s being framed. Time to move the story along.

[Wing: You’ve made this point a couple times in recaps, and it’s super clear here. Some of these authors do a great job of building tension and red herrings, but then it always goes a step too far and drags down the story.]

Trying to maintain a normal routine, Quinn heads out with Ivy and Suze to the mall, since the rain has stopped and the sun has come out. Ivy comments on Suze being an outrageous flirt, as she stops to chat with every second guy they pass. Ivy suggests it could be dangerous for Quinn and Simon to be out and about as a couple. Most other couples aren’t going out in public, because they’re afraid of the fact happy couples are being targeted. Quinn changes the subject by looking for new shoes to replace the paint streaked ones. She then asks Suze what she was doing at the car, with Suze claiming she was fetching Reed’s purse for her, as she left it on the front seat.

The girls stop at Vinnies on the way home, and Quinn is surprised to see Reed and Jake in a booth. She goes over to offer “sympathy”, but it’s actually to dig about Suze and the purse. No surprises, really, when Reed is very clear that she never left her purse in the car. So why is Suze lying? They return to campus. Quinn wants to talk to somebody, but doesn’t want to overload Simon, as they were still unsure of each other. She isn’t sure Ivy would consider Suze anything worse than an incurable flirt. So she decides to visit the campus counselor. When she gets to Butler Hall, Quinn overhears the counselor talking to a familiar voice: Tobie (and we learn her first name is actually Tabitha). Quinn thinks it’s no surprise Tobie would want to talk to somebody after the death of a loved one. But it’s then that she remembers that the stationery the note to Simon was written on was Tobie’s stationery. She stuck bits of the pink paper on a bulletin board to remind her of things.

A bit convenient the realisation should strike now, but I’ll let it pass. It’s like Hoh read my mind and is moving the story along.

Quinn returns to the dorm. Tobie isn’t there, and Quinn can’t find any of the pink stationery. She gets ready for her date with Simon. They’re going to Hunan Manor for dinner, then catching a movie. They’re blowing off Tim’s frat party for the date, but Quinn tells Ivy they might drop by later. After the date (they don’t see any other couples around), and the movie (which was an unhappy love story), they do attend the party, and it is dead. Ivy says that people are simply too scared to have a social life, especially if they’re a couple. Simon drops off Quinn at her dorm building. She wants to tell him the truth, but fears what it will do to their relationship, and frankly, she still doesn’t quite know what the truth is. This (filler) chapter also throws around casual crazy references unnecessarily, enough for me to put in the counter.

Mental health: with tact and sensitivity: 1 point

That night, a couple seated on a low stone wall surrounding the fountain are attacked by a figure wielding a hammer.

Meanwhile, back in her dorm, Quinn finds Tobie, and immediately confronts her about the letter on the pink stationery. Tobie says it looks like her stationery, but swears she never wrote the letter to Simon. She wonders how Quinn could think she was such a terrible person, and Quinn is forced to admit that she knows what happened in Tobie’s past. Tobie says someone else must have written the letter on Tobie’s stationery. Then she reveals what happened to her boyfriend, Peter Gallagher. They were returning from a dance, and he stopped at an ATM. Tobie was in the car and witnessed as a grungy guy tried to rob Peter. He had a fake gun, and it was a tussle that actually killed Peter, when the robber pushed him and he fell and hit his head on the concrete.

All too horrible and real. Here in Australia there has had to be massive campaigns against “coward one punches”, where a young person is killed because someone hits them, they fall and they hit their head.

[Wing: Damn. And here, there are still people who argue that there’s no possible danger in playing sports that lead to concussions. Which, I support people choosing to play those sports, but to completely ignore, on a systemic level, that head injuries are dangerous … that’s fucked. I’m impressed that Australia is doing something about it.]

Quinn and Tobie’s talk is interrupted by Meg Pekoe, who bangs on the front door. She’s supporting Ivy, who has a hand on the back of her head. She’s bleeding. She says that Tim is still out there. Ivy, who says they didn’t see or hear anything, after resting in bed for a while, is taken to the infirmary. Tim is found by the fountain, and taken there as well. Quinn now knows for certain that she didn’t have anything to do with this particular attack, because she hasn’t been sleeping. For the first time, she considers the possibility that somebody is trying to frame her for the attacks. Who would do that? It seems her sleepwalking could have made her a target for framing, but only Tobie and Simon know about her condition. She wonders if one of them let slip to someone she sleepwalked.

The next morning, Quinn decides to find Suze and find out why she lied about retrieving Reed’s purse. She takes a shower first. Once done, she searched for her hair dryer, but can’t locate it anywhere. After an exhaustive search, she still can’t find it, and finally looks under Tobie’s bed. There’s no hair dryer, but there is a hammer.

Quinn calls Danny to find out if Tobie really was him all last night, but reveals they weren’t; she was in a funk, and didn’t want to go out. Quinn finally decides she can’t wrestle with this anymore. She gathers up her shoes, the raincoat, skirt and blouse, and hammer, and takes them to police and explains what has been happening to her. AND THE POLICE OFFICER BELIEVES HER AND TAKES HER SERIOUSLY. What is going on with this book?!? The officer even advises her not to tell anybody she visited him. [Wing: I am so confused by what’s happening! HOH! You have come back with a rocket of success in this book.] Before she is about to leave, she notices a newspaper with Tobie’s picture on it. It says, “Girl Testifies Against Boyfriend’s Attacker.”

She gets the story from the police officer, even though the case belongs to Riverdale police, Tobie’s home town. Tobie sent Peter’s killer, Gunther Brach, to prison by testifying against him. It was a very difficult time for Tobie, because she not only lost a loved one, but she received death threats via phone and mail in the lead up to the trial. The Riverdale police believed that Brach had an accomplice that night, someone who didn’t want Tobie to testify. However, Brach was alone when he was arrested, and wouldn’t rat out his partner. There were even a couple of possibles in court each day, one a heavyset blonde who stared daggers at Tobie, and a couple of guys who looked like they might be Gunther’s friends. After Brach was sent away, Tobie had to be hospitalised.

Kind of convenient this police officer who’s not from Riverdale knows all this, but I’m happy to let it pass. Quinn presses for names, and the police officer says he’ll find out for her, and she can call him later. Quinn feels terrible for Tobie, because she’s been through hell, but can’t help but wonder if losing somebody she loved had made her hate other happy couples. She returns to campus and finds Simon waiting for her. They spend the afternoon together. By going on a canoe ride. Did the events of Guilty never even happen? Sheesh. [Wing: Psh, that was aaaaages ago, certainly not earlier this same school year or anything. And these young adults are invincible, don’t you know?] They get back to campus at dusk, and Simon suggests dinner, but says he’ll shower and change first, and meet Tobie in an hour.

Back at the dorm, there’s still no sign of Tobie. Quinn tries to locate Suze, but over the phone, Ivy says there’s no way Suze would be home on a Saturday. Quinn realises the 90 minutes has passed, and there’s still no sign of Simon. She calls around for him, but can’t find him. She decides to head out to find him. She gets to the elevators of her dorm, and when the lift arrives, the doors open to reveal Simon, lying on his back with his eyes closed. A small pool of blood is puddling underneath his head.

He’s dead! He’s dead! HE’S FUCKING DEAD! … oh wait, he survived: 1 point

Quinn stays with Simon at the infirmary until she’s reassured he’s going to be okay, even though he hasn’t woken up yet. The police believe he was hit on the head from behind when he stepped into the lift, and probably by someone he knew, otherwise he never would have turned his back to them. When leaving, Quinn sees the police officer she spoke to, but he doesn’t seem to remember her (I knew he was probably too good to be true). However, once his memory’s refreshed, he says he spoke to a Riverdale cop, but they were busy because of a Founder’s Day celebration, and could only remember that the girlfriend had a strange name that began with “S”. The only name Quinn can think of is Suze, but Susan was hardly a strange name.

The cop says the Riverdale cop will call him back, so Quinn should check in with him later. Quinn reasons that names probably hardly matter; it’s likely the girlfriend had changed her name before coming to college. When Quinn returns to her room, there’s still no sign of Tobie. She doesn’t want to be alone, so she goes to Ivy and Suze’s room. Suze is still out, and Ivy is washing her hair. Quinn takes a seat on Suze’s bed and starts talking theories with Ivy, who leaves the bathroom door open. Quinn picks up a gold ring from Suze’s bedside table and absently starts rolling it between her fingers. Quinn’s trying to figure out why Simon would be attacked while solo, and Ivy reasons that he wasn’t part of a couple, but he was in love, and maybe that was enough.

Quinn wants to bring up the possibility of Tobie being responsible, but doesn’t want Ivy to think she’s being horrible. She manages to discuss Tobie’s depression without mentioning the hospitalisation (because she feels that wouldn’t be right). [Wing: Decent choice, that.] Ivy says that Tobie could do with some help, because she’s too moody, and asks Quinn how well she really knows her. Quinn thinks it’s a good question, until she sees an engraving inside the gold ring. It says, Love Gunther, forever. That could have been a good chapter cliffhanger ending, but Hoh just keeps powering along.

The ring was in Suze’s room, on Suze’s bedside table. She’s blonde, and although heavyset at the trial, could easily have lost weight since then. She’s a chem major, so could have set up the stink bomb. And she could have easily planted all those clothes in Quinn’s room. However, it must have been Tobie she was trying to frame, not Quinn. It was Tobie that she was angry with. Maybe Suze had thought she was tampering with Tobie’s belongings and not Quinn’s. (Although this doesn’t make sense, because Quinn has previously mentioned that “everybody” knew the yellow slicker belonged to her. That’s why she hid it.) [Wing: Also, Quinn’s shoes getting dirty? Is there both sabotage and sleepwalking?]

Continuity? Fuck that shit: 1 point

And Tobie would be easy to frame. She was unstable, and it wouldn’t be hard for police to believe she was angry at other couples who were happy in love. Quinn is disgusted with how self-centred she has been. There were two of them in that room. All along she had been convinced someone was trying to frame her. But it was Tobie they were after. If Gunther was going to be in prison for a long time, his girlfriend wanted to make sure Tobie spent a long time in prison too.

Actually, Quinn, you shouldn’t feel too bad. They were your belongings. You sleepwalk, and it would be terrifying not knowing what you might have been doing while sleepwalking. It’s entirely understandable you’ve been thinking the way you do.

Quinn tells Ivy that it’s Suze…which is when Suze arrives back at the dorm. Ivy retreats back into the bathroom. Suze talks about Simon, asking after him, which makes Quinn mad. She thinks that Suze must be an incurable flirt, never sticking to one guy, because her heart belongs to Gunther. Quinn knows that she needs to get the ring to the police, so they’re aware that Gunther’s girlfriend is on campus, but it could be dangerous to leave Ivy alone with Suze should Suze figure out they know the truth. However, Quinn can’t stand Suze pretending to be concerned, and is ready to leave. That’s when Suze leans over the bed and whispers to Quinn, “What are you doing with Ivy’s ring?”

Quinn is bewildered. However, when she looks into the bathroom, she notices that Ivy has blonde roots. She’s taking out her rollers hurriedly, as if she has somewhere to be. Had Ivy been about to redo her dye job when Quinn came bursting in? Quinn knows she has to do something. She steps into the bathroom and tells Ivy not to let Suze know they suspect her, and not to be alone with her. She then beckons Suze into the hallway, and makes her promise not to let Ivy know she has the ring, and to not stay there alone with her. When Quinn gets to the lobby, she calls the police, and manages to get the name of Gunther’s girlfriend – Salina Ivy Grun. Quinn tells him she has something important to show him.

While driving, Quinn goes over what she knows. Ivy is Salina Grun, on campus to get revenge on Tobie for testifying against Gunther and sending him to prison. She’s now a slim brunette, so it was highly likely Tobie would never have recognised her. She must have slipped the hammer under Tobie’s bed when Meg first brought her to the room after the “attack”. And Quinn realises that Ivy really had deliberately tampered with Quinn’s belongings, because she wanted Quinn to believe that Tobie was trying to frame her. It wasn’t a mistake at all. If it weren’t for her sleepwalking, and believing she was the guilty party, Quinn would have taken the clothes and shoes to the police much earlier. She laughs at the irony of it. Ivy must have been bewildered when Quinn kept hiding the clothes. [Wing: AHA! Even though I’ve read this before, I had forgotten about this double bit of subterfuge. That’s awesome.]

A car with its headlights on races up behind Quinn. She urges them to pass. Instead, the car starts ramming into her! Quinn has to fight to stay on the road. The car pulls up parallel to her. Quinn sees a figure in a hooded black cape driving. The car starts slamming into her from the side. Quinn hits the brakes, hoping to surprise the other driver. They brake too, and reverse until they are parallel with Quinn again. Quinn knows without a doubt that the driver must by Ivy, so she hits the gas, and the pursuit is on again. The next blow is fierce, sending Quinn into the oncoming lane, beyond it, and crashing into an embankment in the woods at that side of the road. Ivy’s car loses control, too, and smashes into the back of Quinn’s. Quinn’s seatbelt saves her from injury, but the several impacts have jarred her neck. She expects Ivy to come after her, but sees through the rearview mirror that Ivy is slumped unconscious over the wheel. So Quinn hops out of the car and runs into the woods.

It is pitch black, and Quinn can’t see any houses. Pretty soon, she can hear Ivy calling out behind her, chasing her. Want to guess where Quinn eventually winds up? That’s right. Nightmare Hall. She theorises that if she starts banging on the doors, she’ll give away her location, and Ivy will do away with her before anybody can be roused in time to come to her rescue. Plus, as it’s a Saturday night, it’s possible nobody is even home. When Quinn spies a barn nearby, she decides to hide there. Perhaps not the smartest move, but genre wise, I suppose you can’t expect much else.

The barn is empty except for some hay on the old wooden floor. On the shelves are an old spittoon, a pair of kerosene lanterns (uh oh) and some potting soil. Then Quinn sees a ladder, and realises there’s a hayloft. Hoping a pitchfork might be up there that she can use as a weapon, Quinn climbs the ladder. Oh, Quinn. Of course, there is no pitchfork, and Quinn is trapped, as Ivy enters the barn. Ivy goes to the shelves and retrieves a kerosene lamp and a box of matches (funny, they weren’t there before). Ivy sits down and lights the lamp. Now is the time, of course, for Ivy to reveal everything she has done. When Quinn didn’t go to the police, Ivy thought Quinn was simply covering for her roommate. Quinn reveals the secret about her sleepwalking, and how she thought she herself was responsible.

Ivy stands up, looping the handle of the lantern over her wrist, and moves to the ladder and slowly begins to climb it. At first she can’t believe it, but then figures this will work out better. Since Tobie knew Quinn sleepwalked, it made even more sense for her to see Quinn as easy to frame. So Quinn wants to know why she was even dragged into it. Why not just frame Tobie outright? Ivy says that is she had done that, people would feel sorry for Tobie because of everything she had been through, and could easily plead insanity (or perhaps diminished capacity). But if everybody knew that she had meticulously planned to hurt other people and then deliberately tried to make it look like someone else did it, there was no way there would be any sympathy, and she’d get a hard prison sentence.

We also learn that Ivy wrote the letter to Simon on Tobie’s stationery because Quinn and Simon’s lovey dovey antics were making her sick and she couldn’t stand it. She hadn’t actually come up with her plan in full at that stage. She hit Tim with the hammer, and knocked herself very lightly on the head, but the headache was worth it. Gunther was from the wrong side of the tracks, and Ivy’s family threatened to disown her if she stayed with him. That’s why he was driven to try and rob someone at an ATM. Quinn is getting all of this out of her to stall her, of course. Plus, Ivy wants that ring back. Quinn figures as long as she holds onto it, she’s got a bargaining chip.

Quinn grips the sides of the ladder as Ivy continues to climb, talking about how Simon will mourn his girlfriend, and Tobie’s family will disown her, when Quinn pushes the ladder away from the hayloft floor its propped against. As the ladder topples backwards, one of Ivy’s arms flails in the air, trying to stop the descent. The arm holding the lantern. Oil splatters across the floor, then the lantern slips from her arm, and the floor of the barn explodes into flames. Ivy falls from the ladder, into the flames.

So Quinn has taken care of Ivy, but she’s still trapped, because of the flames. She scoots to the far end of the hayloft, where there’s an old door. It was probably once used to toss hay down from the loft. She starts kicking at it (instead of trying to open it, as that could waste time if the hinges were rusted or something), managing to break a couple of boards, creating a hole big enough to squeeze her head through. She tries to call for help, but her voice is hoarse from the smoke. But she notices a metal pulley above her, with a rope. Also, lights in Nightmare Hall are coming on (I guess people were home, after all). Quinn retreats back into the barn and continues kicking at the door, until it finally bursts open. Then she launches out, grabbing onto the rope. It screeches to a halt halfway down, Quinn dangling from it, flames licking out of the hayloft above her. By now, people from Nightmare Hall have arrived. They have a sheet or blanket, holding it out for her. So Quinn jumps, and lands safely.

[Wing: Quinn has turned out to be a complete badass.]

The next morning, Quinn is in the infirmary, gauze over her hands, finally feeling safe. Suze, Tobie and Simon are with her. Suze reveals that she was at the car to retrieve her psych notebook, as she left it there after badgering Jake for a lift, and didn’t want Reed to think she was after Jake. But since Reed and Jake were attacked while in the car, wouldn’t Reed have already seen it at some point? That one doesn’t make much sense to me. Tobie reveals that she wasn’t always where she said she would be because she was seeing the counselor. She likes Danny, but simply isn’t ready for another relationship. She thinks it’s unfair to hang with Danny when her mind is always on someone else, but feels she’s getting there. Quinn agrees that’s a good idea, and the two promise no more secrets. Finally, on the night Jake and Reed were attacked, Suze found Quinn sleepwalking. She was in the lobby, and her socks got dirty because everybody else was trampling dirt in from outside. Suze simply took her back to her room. She didn’t mention it in case she embarrassed Quinn. Quinn is now sure she won’t sleepwalk again.

[Wing: If it’s caused by stress, you will clearly sleepwalk again!]

Final Thoughts

I was after a fun, fast-paced story, and I got it. In fact, I got more than that! I got a legitimately great thriller. It was hard to find much fault with it. Look at that low counter score! If you aged the characters ten or so years, added another 150-odd pages (perhaps some extra character development), and called it The Sleepwalking Girl, you’d have a book resembling most of the popular thrillers being released today. Except this is much better! Quinn is a smart, sympathetic and likeable heroine. Even though she was a possible unreliable narrator, she was caught up in a situation that was out of her control (unlike, say, The Girl On The Train and many others where it’s alcoholism or just plain old convenient memory loss), and her actions were believable and understandable.

The plot was complex, much more so than your typical YA thriller. And many adult thrillers, for that matter. The red herrings were effectively handled. Quinn has a reason to be invested in the mysterious happenings. Except for one or two minor lulls, the pacing is absolutely on point, constantly driving the story forwards. The climax is an absolute ripper. Although I remembered most of what happened, I still had a wicked time experiencing all the twists and turns for a second time. Diane Hoh really knocked this one out of the park, demonstrating why she’s my favourite Point Horror author, and this is easily the best in the series so far.

[Wing: I would happily read another 150 pages of this. I love Hoh when she’s on fire, and she’s like that barn here. Great, fun book. I think it was one of the first I read, and I can see why I kept going with the series based on this.]

Final Counts

Continuity? Fuck that shit: 1 point

He’s dead! He’s dead! HE’S FUCKING DEAD! … oh wait, he survived: 1 point

This place deserves a lawsuit: 1 point

Mental health: with tact and sensitivity: 1 point

Dun-Dun-DUNNNNN!: 1 point.

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3 Comments

  1. Jude Deluca
    Posted 8 March 2018 at 4:57 am | Permalink

    Fake Nightmare Hall Plots:

    ‘The Night Walker”- Justine is fascinated by Riley, a new boy in her French class, but his nocturnal habits start to frighten her.

    • Dade
      Posted 8 March 2018 at 9:19 am | Permalink

      Hahaha. That could be both a good Nightmare Hall book, or a Law & Order: SVU episode.

      • Jude Deluca
        Posted 8 March 2018 at 8:27 pm | Permalink

        Why not both? Crossover, baby.

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