Summary: The night Robert Q and Darlene meet, the attraction is immediate. The Big Man on Campus uses all his charm to sweep Darlene off her feet – and then dumps her a few weeks later. After all, he’s just playing around. Poor Robert Q. He doesn’t realize that Darlene is playing for keeps. He may think it’s over. But he’s wrong. Dead wrong.
Notes: I will use “Bad Guy” throughout my reviews to refer to the anonymous killer/prankster/whatever. Doesn’t mean it’s a guy. I will now refer to the bad guy as “Muffin Man” because of The Mall.
Thankfully, we’re back to a Nightmare Hall book actually written by Diane Hoh. The Roommate, the previous book, was actually courtesy of ghost-writer Nola “Hack” Thacker, and it was downright TERRIBLE. So, yay for Diane Hoh! I remember being intrigued by the fact that the relationship described in the summary is actually viewed through an external party, our main character Hailey. I can still remember the identity of the bad guy, too. Funny how a thin piece of fluff from 24 years ago can stick with me longer than anything I read today…
[Wing: I still find it weird that Hoh apparently NOPED out of the last book, but came back for this one. Where did you go, Diane Hoh? Where did you go?]
OMG. The prologue isn’t the killer’s POV. It’s just Hailey Kingman recalling the night that Darlene Riggs first met Robert Q Parker, noting that it’s when all the horror began. Oooh. [Wing: I’m glad for now killer POV, of course, but not sure if this works, either. Please don’t be all about Hailey telling us what has happened, book. That would be boring.]
The first chapter has our main character Hailey Kingman at a booth in Burgers Etc with her roommate Nell Riley, and Jess Vogt and Ian Banion from The Silent Scream. Continuity! Nice. [Wing: I don’t remember there being continuity, so this is a particularly nice surprise! Also a sign I needed to re and reread them in order.] They are disgusted by the display of Robert Q (is he related to Stacey?) flirting outrageously with waitress Darlene Riggs. He’s a student at Salem Falls, while she’s a waitress who grew up in Twin Falls, where the university is located. [Wing: Town v. gown right here.] They can’t believe she’s falling for his act. They think he’s just trying to make his ex, Gerrie Northrup, jealous. It’s noted that Gerrie is getting cosy with Richard Wentworth, Robert’s best friend. [Wing: … I may need a character relationship chart pretty soon.]
Neither Hailey nor her group like Robert Q. He tosses money around like he owns his own bank, talks too loud, drives too fast, and is pushy. Yet he still charms the ladies – he’s a star on the tennis team (although I don’t remember him showing up in the tennis-themed entry Win, Lose Or Die), manages the campus radio station and belongs to the best fraternity on campus. I really liked this observation by Hailey: “His little black book must be the size of an unabridged dictionary.” [Wing: Great observation, and also clever, funny writing. I love Hoh sometimes.]
While marveling that Darlene is actually flattered by Robert’s act, Hailey wonder if she’s jealous because she’s only been on four dates since she’s been at Salem and none of them gave her the feels. She thinks her appearance shouts BORING, because guys want to know her thoughts about political issues, rather than just joking around or doing normal date things. She wants someone to share with her excitement about being at college, especially after being raised by her strict grandmother in a big, empty house (her parents died in a car wreck when she was eight).
She believes a good candidate could be that guy she sees standing by Pete Torrance, a guy from her dorm. The guy is tall, thin, with dark hair and a strong, angled face. Ian notices her watching, and reveals that the guy’s name is Finn Conran, and that he isn’t dating anybody. Hailey is embarrassed that Ian noticed. When Darlene comes to their table, Hailey is especially nice, but not sure how to warn the girl away from Robert Q.
Two nights later, Hailey unexpectedly encounters Darlene again in the second floor bathroom of Devereaux Hall, where Hailey resides. Hailey wonders why Darlene has to wear so much makeup. Darlene says she is there with Robert Q, who is visiting a friend who lives in Devereaux. Robert Q actually lives in Sigma Chi, a fraternity. The two are off to a party. She admires how sophisticated Hailey is and asks her for some tips. Hailey figures that Robert Q’s female friends such as Puffy Wycroft, Lindsey Kite and Susan Grossbeck were unlikely to provide any pointers. She also mentions an ex-boyfriend, Bo Jessup, who was too possessive, and going nowhere, which is why they broke up. Hailey doesn’t think of herself as sophisticated, but nonetheless agrees to help Darlene out, and tells her to drop by later. When she tells Nell of the offer, Nell is outraged, but acquiesces when Darlene drops by and sincerely tells Nell what a good gymnast she thinks Nell is.
They’re enjoying giving Darlene a more natural look when Robert Q shows up, annoyed. He yanks on Darlene’s hair, pulling off a rubber band and some strands of hair, insisting they have to leave. Darlene trots after him, and the two girls are appalled by Robert Q’s behaviour and by the fact Darlene is putting up with it.
I beat you because I love you: 1. Although it’s made clear this is not the way you treat your girlfriend, it would have been nice if Hailey and Nell had called Robert Q out on his behaviour.
Next chapter, Hailey is marveling that the relationship has lasted two whole weeks. Hailey goes to a party at Sigma Chi with Jess and Ian, and is dismayed to see a glamorous new girl on Robert Q’s arm. She is stunned when Jess tells her that is Darlene. Hailey grumbles that she liked the old Darlene, and that she was an original. [Wing: That’s a lie, Hailey. You wanted to change her, too.] The campus didn’t need another Puffy, Susan or Lindsey. When Hailey is in the kitchen getting ice cubes, she overhears Puffy and Susan gossiping about Darlene – Darlene thinks she’s about to get Robert Q’s fraternity pin, but he’s actually been seeing Gerrie behind Darlene’s back, and Darlene is on the verge of being turfed.
One, these girls should learn to keep their voices down, and two, they should get their own lives. Why are they so obsessed about who a boy dates?
They continue to bitch about Darlene being, essentially, a commoner, and Hailey is furious. At this point, Finn Conran arrives and asks if she’s okay – “Your face is the same colour as that appliance you’re hugging.” I’m enjoying the dialogue in this one. Hailey makes sure that Finn is not a friend of Robert Q (“You’ve got to be kidding”), and introduces herself. She apologises, and says she has to go and find somebody.
Now, I really like this. Despite being into Finn, she postpones the chance to get to talk to him to make sure that a friend is okay. Not even a friend, really, but a person whose welfare she is concerned about. It’s a nice moment, showing Hailey to be quite selfless and generous. She finds Darlene, whose eyes are fixed on Robert Q, dancing intimately with Gerrie Northrup. Hailey tries to comfort Darlene, at which point Darlene’s ex-boyfriend Bo Jessup turns up. Hailey notes that he’s extremely angry. Bo demands that Darlene leave the party and come with him.
I beat you because I love you: 2 (+1) Darlene sure knows how to pick ‘em.
Hailey silences people like Puffy and Richard with angry looks when they make snide remarks about Darlene and Bo being townies. Bo tells Robert Q to leave Darlene alone and storms out of the party. After a few moments, Darlene takes off as well, and Hailey follows her. She finds her in the bathroom. Darlene wonders what she did wrong, which is kind of heartbreaking, but insists she still wants to be with Robert Q and rescue him from that “tarantula”, Gerrie. However, at that point they overhear Robert Q offer Richard $25 to get “the townie” off his hands and drop her off at home.
Darlene is furious at what she overhears. If she was in year 5, she’d get her big brother Mike to teach Robert Q and Richard a lesson. She says that she’s going home with Bo, and asks Hailey to tell Robert Q that information should he ask. Hailey returns to Jess and Ian, asking if they know a Mike Riggs. Hailey is about to go look for Finn Conran, worrying that he thought she might be a snob because of her earlier behaviour, when a commotion leads her outside, where Robert Q is calling for help. He is kneeling beside Gerrie, and says that he thinks she’s dead.
He’s dead! He’s dead! HE’S FUCKING DEAD! … oh wait, he survived: 1
She’s only unconscious, of course. It looks like someone threw a rock at her head. An ambulance is called, and she is taken away. Robert Q goes with her, but only after making sure his Miata is okay. [Wing: DYING. Robert Q, you are such a caricature of horrible privilege that you are actually kind of entertaining, in a terrible way.] Somehow, this provides a way for Hailey and Finn to start talking. They go to Vinnie’s, a restaurant. Hailey learns that he doesn’t belong to a fraternity, and is pleased. When Finn reveals that he knows she lives in Devereaux, she is further pleased that he must have asked someone about her. Is Salem University so small you can easily find out who everyone is? Apparently everybody on campus is gossiping about Gerrie’s accident. I went to a relatively small university and there wasn’t an “in” crowd. There’s simply too many people on a university campus for that sort of thing, I would have thought. Hoh seems to be treating university like high school. [Wing: That’s a good point. I wonder if at some point in the process, Nightmare Hall was supposed to be a part of a boarding school, not a university.] Anyway, the speculation is that either Darlene or Bo could possibly be responsible.
Anyway, Hailey returns to the dorm, and the next morning tells Nell about Gerrie. Nell isn’t too concerned, remarking that Gerrie is the type of person to create enemies. Nell goes off on her morning run, and after ninety minutes, hasn’t returned.
[Wing: OH DIANE HOH NO. Leave that for Stine.]
Meh. This is just filler. Nell is fine, I’m fairly certain. Of course, Hailey eventually finds Nell, who explains her jog got sidetracked by Darlene, who was still angry about the Sigma Chi party, but she had now rewritten the whole night so that she was angry at everybody but Robert Q. Nell remarks that Darlene never once asked about Gerrie, despite her brother having told her about the incident. After being waylaid by Darlene for 45 minutes, Nell had to go straight to class, which is why she didn’t return from her run.
When Hailey returns to her dorm after classes, she gets a call from Darlene. She says she knows that none of Robert Q’s friends like her, and that they probably convinced Robert Q to dance with Gerrie, just to get back at her. She says she’s having a pizza party tonight, to help everyone forget about what happened to Gerrie. She’ll invite Robert Q, and call Puffy to bring all the girls. This is despite saying she knows they all hate her? Anyway, Hailey is appalled, but says she’ll go. Of course, when she gets there, she’s the only one to turn up.
Darlene is furious. A shocked Hailey watches on as Darlene gets Robert Q’s tennis letter jacket (which he let her wear one night when it was cold), and slashes it to ribbons with a knife used to cut the eight pizzas she ordered for the pizza party. After a few minutes, once Hailey has put away the knife and asked Darlene if she’s okay, Darlene has calmed down and changed her tune. Of course it’s not Robert Q’s fault. The jerk at Sigma Chi simply never told him about the party. When Hailey tries to suggest that maybe Robert Q isn’t the guy for her, Darlene ushers her out of the house, saying that she loves Robert Q and he loves her, and she needs to cut the party short so she can call him. Hailey gives up, knowing it’s hopeless. She briefly meets Darlene’s parents on the way out. Back at campus, she goes to the library to finish up a paper.
When preparing to leave, she sees lots of people running. She follows, and realises it’s a fire. In fact, it’s Robert Q’s car that is on fire, and he’s hopping around it. [Wing: AMAZING. Burn more things, please!] Susan and Puffy say it must be the work of Darlene, and Hailey concedes to herself that Darlene had plenty of time to get to campus while Hailey was at the library. However, Pete mentions there are plenty of people out there who might want to get back at Robert Q. Also, Robert Q burnt his hands by trying to grab the door handles. Finn is at the scene as well, and he and Hailey get to talking. He walks with her across campus, and before leaving, tells her he thinks she’s cool for looking out for Darlene.
Darlene calls Hailey the next morning, shocked that somebody could have set Robert Q’s car on fire. Her brother Mike, who is apparently a Salem University student as well, told her about it. She admits to following Robert Q around the previous day, and that it was a dumb idea. She tells Hailey she’s going to stay with her grandmother for a couple of weeks, because she (the grandmother) has pneumonia. Darlene wants Hailey to tell Robert Q where she’s headed. Hailey doesn’t want to do anything of the sort, hoping that two weeks away will be enough time for Darlene to get over her obsession and maybe meet a nice boy. However, she takes down Robert Q’s number. While in her room, she gazes at her graduation picture hanging over her bed, and looks at Nell’s poster, which is of a mountain of trash, with the warning to recycle.
As she heads to campus, she worries that Darlene has taken off because she was responsible for throwing the rock at Gerrie and setting fire to Robert Q’s car, and wants to avoid the police. She finds that Darlene is the subject on everybody’s lips throughout the day (this really is a small campus). When she returns to her dorm after classes, it has been completely trashed. Someone has cut Hailey’s figure from her graduation photo and inserted it headfirst into the mountain of garbage in Nell’s poster.
Campus security arrives. When they ask who could have done it, Hailey suggests Bo, figuring he must hate them for helping Darlene prepare for a date with Robert Q. But how would he know about that? Hailey and Nell are able to move into a dorm on the fourth floor. Some other girls on the floor bring them some basic necessities, which is a nice thing to do. Finn takes them to Burgers Etc for some dinner. In the parking lot, they see a brand new Miata, and inside, Robert Q is at a table with a new fawning girl. He doesn’t seem to care about Gerrie anymore, not even the fact she requires delicate surgery if her eyesight is to be saved.
The next morning, the girls have to help the police see if anything is missing from their dorm. They tell the police nothing is gone that they know about – but afterwards, Nell says she lied. Why? Huh. In any case, all their hair and makeup stuff was missing, but nothing else, not even Nell’s pearls, which are worth a lot. Nell speculates it could be Darlene – they went to all that effort, and yet she didn’t hold on to Robert Q. They decide to go to the mall to replace their stuff, and see Finn and Pete on the shuttle bus. They also see Robert Q, flanked by Puffy and Lindsey.
When Hailey asks why Robert Q isn’t with his usual buddies Richard Wentworth and Lyle Sutton, Finn reluctantly says that they had a fight over what happened in Hailey and Nell’s room. Also, it’s mentioned Richard’s father finally let him buy a car. Anyway, Robert Q thought it was Hailey and Nell’s own fault for not minding their business, and got furious when Richard and Lyle asked if he did it. Nell recalls how Robert Q was less than pleased when he caught Darlene in their room, helping her to get ready. Hailey asks why would Robert Q do a thing like that. Um, Hailey, it’s the exact same motive you’ve allocated to Darlene and Bo, so why is it a stretch to apply it to Robert Q?
At the mall, Hailey thinks she sees Darlene in the drugstore, but can’t confirm. She and Nell eat in the food court, and Hailey remarks that the mall might close because of the harsh weather, so they better eat up fast. Outside, the snow is heavy. They join a group of shivering students under a canopy to wait for the shuttle bus. That’s when they see that a car has left its lights on. It’s Richard’s car. When Richard exits the mall with Lyle, Puffy and Lindsey (Robert Q apparently refuses to eat mall food and took off), he is insistent that he turned the lights off. He runs to the car. It appears someone is inside, and Richard had not given permission for anybody to borrow it. The car starts up, backs out of the parking lot, straightens out and accelerates quickly across the parking lane. Richard runs to intercept, and the car plows into him. Richard’s body flies into the air and lands on a wooden planter.
[Wing: Well damn, that escalated quickly!]
And no counter here – Richard really is fucking dead! Lindsey claims it was Darlene behind the wheel, but Hailey points out there was no way for Lindsey to see that – they could barely see the car itself. She also says it’s all Hailey’s fault for helping Darlene chase after Robert Q. Good grief. Back at her dorm, Hailey tries to find Darlene’s phone number, wanting to make sure she’s still two hours away in Willowcreek with her grandmother. She remembers she has the number in her purse – and then realises her purse is missing. A conversation between her and Nell reveals it must have been taken while they were in the food court while both were away from the table. Hailey is worried, because her keys are in there. But that’s quickly forgotten as they discuss Richard’s death. Okaaaaay. Nell suggests Richard was waving his arms around not out of fury, but because he recognised the person behind the wheel, and was playing a game of chicken. It’s also posited that Richard was a sexist pig and would never have expected a girl to go all Rambo and run him down.
Darlene calls Hailey the next day. She’s worried that Robert Q will be so upset over Richard’s death. She also expresses sympathy for Gerrie. Apparently, Richard visited her all the time at the hospital, bringing her flowers and reading to her. A pity we only learn that after the poor guy is dead. Hailey once again believes that Richard was killed because of the time he agreed to take Darlene off Robert Q’s hands for $25. As far as motives go, it’s pretty absurd, but anyway. Darlene mentions that, after all these accidents, all Robert Q will have left is her. This gives Hailey the chills.
Outside, she sees people playing in the snow and enjoying themselves, and is shocked that people could be doing happy things after someone had been killed. Then, hallelujah, she realises that half the campus don’t know who Richard is, probably don’t give a fuck who he is and, unlike Hailey, aren’t totally fucking obsessed with Robert Q and his crowd. No wonder Robert Q’s got a big head. Even when people apparently don’t like him, they can’t stop fucking talking about him and following his every bloody move! What’s next? Checking out the size of his stools in the morning? Sorry, but I’m beginning to fall on the side of the opinion that Hailey (and everybody else) should just mind her own business. I mean, really. Butt out, Hailey. This might all go away if you do! Well, probably not, because this is a Point Horror, but you know what I mean.
Hailey and Nell decide to go and enjoy the snow themselves, and are joined by Finn and Pete. We learn Finn and Pete grew up together. Pete returns Hailey’s purse – it was at the administration desk of her dorm. Hailey figures she must have actually left it on the shuttle instead and the bus driver returned it to her dorm. She is pleased that her keys and all her money is there. They enjoy the snow, until Hailey has another fucking conversation about Robert Q with Jess, because they’re appalled that Robert Q is out with Lyle, Puffy and Susan, enjoying themselves as they man a snow fort, despite one of their apparently good friends being dead.
FOR FUCK’S SAKE HAILEY, JUST IGNORE THEM!
Nell suggests much the same thing. Thank God one of them has a brain. After a day of goofing off, Hailey decides to go to the library for some study and thinking time. On the way back to her dorm, she decides to pass by Butler Hall and see if she can learn more about Darlene’s brother. Oh, Hailey, for fuck’s sake, let it go. However, Butler Hall is closed. When she passes by the only building open that night, she overhears a professor accusing Susan and Puffy of cheating. The professor’s notes were apparently found in Susan’s locker after an anonymous phone call. Locker? At a university? Is that a thing? [Wing: It’s possible, I guess, but unlikely for undergrad. Though my grad school program did have lockers in our building, so maybe. We needed them because we had about 100 pounds of books any given day. This just further supports my belief that this series might have started as a boarding school story.] Plus:
My, that’s awfully convenient: 1
Is this the world’s smallest university (with lockers) or what? Hailey always manages to be in the right place at the right time to witness the shenanigans of Robert Q and his friends and obsess about them. She gets back to her dorm and tells Nell all about it. Finn and Pete are there, too. Of course, they all talk about it. Hailey can’t figure out why Susan and Puffy would be targeted, as they didn’t help Darlene, and Hailey was targeted because she did. She suspects they could have been set up, as Susan was the smartest girl in their calculus class and didn’t need to cheat. She also notices Nell and Pete getting close.
The next day, or night rather, they’re at Vinnie’s. Hailey sees that Robert Q and Lyle are avoiding Susan and Puffy, who are in a booth alone. She thinks it must be awful to be gossiped about, not seeming to notice that she’s one of the gossipers herself, really. Nell says not to waste sympathy on those two. Finn remarks there should be sympathy for Darlene, who was hurt worst of all.
Um, Finn, a guy is fucking dead. That is actually a little worse than being dumped by Robert Q. [Wing: Literally laughed out loud at this observation.] Finn is joined by friends from Nightmare Hall, who say Richard’s car was found. There were no fingerprints on it, and it was parked halfway between the university and – wait for it – Willowcreek! OMG. When Hailey returns to the dorm, she calls Darlene at her grandmother’s. We get the usual spiel – Darlene is far too eager at the possibility of Susan and Puffy being kicked out of school, and insists that she loves Robert Q, wanting to be there for him.
Hailey: forget about Darlene. Forget about Robert Q. Take up knitting. Join ballet classes. Whatever. But PLEASE do something other than obsess about a guy you claim to not like, and a girl who you think could be a killer. Of course, Hailey’s not going to listen to me, because the very next day, she decides to renew her search for Darlene’s brother, the mysterious and elusive Mike Riggs. When she returns home from her fruitless efforts, she is dismayed to find the dorm window wide open. She goes to close it, at which point somebody shoves her from behind, knocking her out of it.
No counter. That’s scary. But she’s saved by certain death by something yanking her to a stop and she is hanging there, swaying, from the fourth floor window. Yikes. [Wing: Fuck, that is frightening.] She is rescued by Finn, Pete and Nell, who pull her to safety. She was saved by her purse, the black shoulder bag with the extra long strap. She was wearing it, and the strap caught on the window crank, creating a harness. And this is where I add a counter.
Continuity? Fuck that shit: 1
This would have worked better if there was any sort of indication that Hailey had been wearing a huge bag in the first place. All of a sudden, it’s just conveniently there to save her from certain death! Hailey tells her friends she didn’t fall – she was pushed. When asked by police, she brings up Bo’s name again, but they tell her that he left town without a word. The next day, Hailey continues her search for Mike Riggs, but gets no further. So she goes to Darlene’s house – and finds Finn. He was looking for Darlene, too, thinking she might know something about who pushed Hailey out the window. He thinks Darlene is the link between all the incidents. Ya think? Darlene, of course, isn’t home.
They go for a burger, where they are joined by Jess and Ian. Hailey is slightly annoyed, wanting some alone time with Finn. At this point, they make the startlingly obvious observation that Hailey’s purse was likely stolen and had the keys copied, and that’s how someone got in to the dorm to open the window. Ya think? Afterwards, Hailey drives Finn to Lester Dorm, and while parked, they kiss. The next day, she tells Nell she’s continuing to look for Mike Riggs. Nell suggests Mike Riggs could be the one behind everything – he’s Darlene’s brother, after all, and must be mad about her treatment. Nell asks if Pete or Finn know him, and Hailey says the subject never came up, but she’ll ask.
She goes to Lester to find Finn, and is told that nobody by that name lives there. She finds Pete, who confirms that Finn lives there. She doesn’t ask Pete about Mike Riggs, though, despite saying she would! A classmate called Beth Darnell, who lives at Lester, says she’s fairly certain Finn doesn’t live there. So where exactly does Finn live? Later that day, Finn invites her out for a meal, and asks to be picked up out the front of Lester, adding to the mystery. Ian and Milo Keith (another character from The Silent Scream) join them. They discuss how Darlene is the link between everybody, and that it would now seem most people who had been mean to Darlene had now been dealt with. But they can’t figure out how Hailey fits into it all. This makes her think that Nell could be a target as well, since she helped Darlene out for her date with Robert Q. And she’s alone in the dorm.
There’s some nonsense about rushing back to the dorm to make sure Nell is okay, and of course she is. Finn kisses Hailey goodbye after all the drama is over, and promises he’ll call. Hailey tries to get his number, but he ducks out of an answer, saying he has to go to the library. But after he’s gone, Hailey sees him out the window catching a bus that says “Downtown.” She decides to follow him, hating the idea she can’t trust him. It turns out he’s going to Darlene’s house. Figuring he wants to talk to her again, she drives away, feeling somewhat embarrassed she followed him. The next morning, she calls the Riggs household and speaks to Mrs. Riggs. It turns out Darlene definitely still is in Willowcreek. She asks about Mike, and Mrs. Riggs says he has gone to class. Hailey even manages to get out of her that Mikes is handsome like his father, and wearing a blue sweater. The Mr. Riggs she saw the night of Darlene’s party was short and weary-looking, but she figures that’s true love.
She goes to the class that Mike is supposed to be in, but everybody is wearing jackets, so she isn’t able to see any sweaters, blue or not. She finds Nell and Pete. Nell takes off on her jog, and Hailey tells Pete she’s worried about Mike Riggs. Now that she knows Darlene is in Willowcreek, she couldn’t have hurt those people. Pete says Darlene would never hurt anybody. But then he seems not to know who Mike Riggs is. If he knows Darlene well enough to know she wouldn’t hurt anybody, wouldn’t he at least know she has a brother? A bit sloppy.
Hailey is nearly back at her dorm when she runs into Milo, who reveals that Darlene’s brother doesn’t use the surname Riggs. He’s actually her half-brother – his mother married Darlene’s father. Mike kept his original last name. Half brother or stepbrother? This isn’t quite clear. He and Ian learnt this after Hailey and Finn left the diner to check on Nell. The waiter serving them overhead the conversation and said he grew up with Darlene, and gladly imparted the information.
My, that’s awfully convenient: 2 (+1)
This book is just full of certain people knowing certain things at convenient times. But I can’t be bothered to go back and check them all, so this counter remains lower than what it probably is. Hailey goes to her room to call Darlene and find out once and for all what is going on, and not let her carry on about Robert Q. However, Darlene has switched her devotion back to Bo. He’s been in Willowcreek all this time, too, staying with his aunt and working up the courage to apologise to Darlene for the way he behaved at the party. She’s using the same script, but with a different guy. Hailey thinks at least Bo seems to care for Darlene the same way she cares for him. Hearing footsteps outside her dorm, she gets Mike’s real name out of Darlene – it’s Michael Finn Conran.
Dun-Dun-DUNNNNN!: 2 (+)
I just added a counter, because this is low on counters, but it’s actually a fairly good twist, and has at least been somewhat foreshadowed throughout the book. This is terrible news for Hailey because, as Darlene herself says, Mike was really mad about what had happened to her. Stunned, Hailey hangs up the phone. The footsteps she heard outside belong to Pete. They go looking for Nell. Hailey accuses Pete of knowing all along that Finn was Darlene’s brother. He says he promised Finn he would keep it a secret – Finn wanted to nose around about Gerrie’s accident, and didn’t think anyone would talk to him if they knew he was Darlene’s brother. When Hailey was knocked out of the window, Finn thought it safer if Hailey didn’t know either. [Wing: Someday, someone in one of these books is going to figure out that keeping big secrets like these will only blow up in their face. SOMEDAY.]
Pete then lists all the reasons he thinks Finn is actually the Muffin Man, but I won’t go into the details of what Finn did and when, because I think it’s clear at this point that Pete is the Muffin Man and setting Finn up. They see Nell with Jess and Ian, and Finn isn’t with them. Pete reveals of course not, because Finn is at his house, in the darkroom. So off Hailey goes with Pete, wanting to hear from Finn himself as to why he lied about his relation to Darlene (which I still think is stepbrother, not half brother). Pete insists on calling the police first, while Hailey waits in the library lobby.
And this is all just too stupid. If Hailey really believes that Finn has killed a person and injured several others, why the fuck is she off to see him alone without waiting for the police?
DED FROM STUPID: 1000. Because it’s just really, really stupid.
Pete finds the spare key and lets them into the house. They go into basement. This is apparently where the family photos are kept (eye roll), which is why Hailey didn’t discover Darlene and Finn were related when she went to Darlene’s house for her pizza party. And if Finn cares so much about his sister, why didn’t he show up to her pizza party? Huh? Anyway, the darkroom is also in the basement, but the red bulb isn’t on. Pete moves to the other end of the basement to where the weight-lifting equipment is and starts doing reps with a dumbbell.
Hailey knocks on the darkroom door, but there is no answer. She doesn’t think Finn’s in there. When she asks where he is, Pete does his killer reveal and says that when Finn returns home from looking for Hailey, he’ll find Hailey with her skull bashed in. He goes into his killer monologue, where basically his motive was that he has always been in love with Darlene, but she only sees him as another brother. He couldn’t stand seeing her get hurt, so he punished Robert Q and the others for mocking her. He went after Hailey because she helped Darlene get ready for her date that one time. Yes, just that one time. But apparently Hailey’s deed is punishable by death, whereas the much worse behaviour of all the other characters can just be shrugged away? This motive makes no sense.
Backed up against the darkroom door, Hailey takes the opportunity to dash inside, and the door locks from the inside. She turns the lights on while Pete starts smashing the wooden darkroom door in with the dumbbell. That is actually pretty intense. Hailey searches for something to defend herself with. Of course, the darkroom has chemicals for creating photos! Ah, the days before iPhones. In the 2010s, Hailey would be well and truly fucked. Luckily, it’s 1993, and is Hailey is able to pour some of the chemicals into a wide plastic bin, like a dishpan. When Pete beats the door down and gets into the darkroom, Hailey flings the chemicals into his face. [Wing: That’s pretty fucking hardcore, Hailey! Those chemicals are intense.] While he’s clutching his face and screaming in agony, Hailey is able to dart around him and escape the basement, locking the door behind her.
She calls 911. While outside, she sees Finn walking towards the house. She realises that they will have to work on their relationship, since he lied to her, and she thought he was a killer. But she’s confident that they’ll be successful. [Wing: Such small things to work on, really. Surely those two kids will be just fine.]
Alas, not as good as I remember. Far better than anything Nola “Hack” Thacker could conceive, but a pretty choppy effort. Making the protagonist an external party to the doomed relationship requires Hailey to be pretty much obsessed with Darlene and Robert Q, and it got annoying. [Wing: This was my concern from that opening chapter, and sure enough, it doesn’t really work. Either Hailey needed to be less obsessed and this should have been just third party omniscient, or more things needed to happen that directly impacted Hailey so she had a reason for being so invested.] It wasn’t long before I wished Hailey would just get a life of her own and let Darlene live and learn. The motive for mayhem was very weak as well. It doesn’t make a lick of sense that Pete reserved all his hate for Hailey, when the behaviour of Robert Q is what really set it all in motion. Take it out on the douchebag doing the dumping, not some party barely related to the proceedings!
However, Hoh isn’t relying on massive red herrings like in The Silent Scream. It’s reasonable for Hailey to suspect Darlene and Bo of wrongdoing, and most of the plot twists, especially the revelation that Finn is Darlene’s brother, arise naturally out of the plot. [Wing: That was a pretty great setup.] Although, why did Pete park Richard’s car a convenient distance between Salem University and Willowcreek? If he loves Darlene so much, why is he trying to make her look like the killer? Nonetheless, the climax was probably the most suspenseful and effective out of the three books recapped so far.
DED FROM STUPID: 1000
My, that’s awfully convenient: 2
Continuity? Fuck that shit: 1
He’s dead! He’s dead! HE’S FUCKING DEAD! … oh wait, he survived: 1
I beat you because I love you: 2