Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Trick Or Treat - Richie Tankersley Cusick

I’m being festive this week and going with Trick or Treat by RTC. Whaddya mean it’s not Halloween anymore? Chez Babysitter, it’s Halloween every day of the year.

Meet our heroine Martha. Martha likes sobbing and whining. Martha gets scared easily. Martha’s kind of a dickhead.

Martha’s dad has just married Connor’s mom, and Connor is just one year older than Martha. Connor is consistently lovely to Martha, and Martha consistently acts like a spoiled baby and treats him like shit because she thinks he’s a bit too thoughtful and weird. There’s also some weird sexual undercurrents bubbling under with these two, although that’s probably just me being mucky. I feel very protective of Connor.

Anyway, the whole happy family have just moved to a new town and a new house together, ‘The Old Bedford Place.’ Uh oh, you know when a house has a name like that that some bad shit has probably gone down there. Anyway, Martha hates the house because it’s scary and drafty and cold – like GHOSTLY cold, and she gets some weird vibes from it.

Within about five minutes of moving in, Martha’s dad and Sally swan off to Hawaii on honeymoon, leaving Martha and Connor home alone together. Nice parenting skills there.

On the first night, the ringing phone wakes Martha. The caller has a raspy voice (of course he does) and he’s all “look outside….Trick or Treat.” Outside her window is a hanging corpse with a big fat carving knife through its head. Umm, overkill much?
Oh, except it’s not a corpse. Shirtless Connor comes a –running to Martha’s screams and points out it’s just a scarecrow. Must be “kids” playing “pranks.” Kids eh? Those crazy murdering psychopath kids with their highly disturbing pranks, all a bit of harmless fun.

Martha and Connor drive into town together to buy picture hooks. In the hardware store, they meet a girl called Wynn and a guy called Blake, who are cousins. When Blake first sees Martha he looks pretty startled…almost as if he’d seen a ghost (hint hint). And when he hears that she’s living at ‘The Old Bedford Place,’ he’s double startled. Martha instantly has a crush on Blake, and once he has got over his initial reaction, the two flirt up a storm. Blake is like the school star, he’s amazing at everything and everybody loves him.

That night Martha goes for a walk in the houses’ grounds (which also includes a family cemetery bbs) and hears some crying and heavy breathing or something and gets scared, who cares.

At school the next day, Martha meets Greg – who is another cousin of Blake and Wynn. He’s also Martha’s creative writing teacher, and he looks soooooo similar to Blake that you know Martha’s a little hot for him. Oh sweet Jesus, does RTC actually have more than one plot line? If he also turns out to be an undercover police officer I’m going to kill myself.

Martha discovers that there was a murder at The Old Bedford Place, and together Connor and Martha discover the Bedford family mausoleum, which unsurprisingly, Martha isn’t too enamoured with. Later that night, Connor wakes Martha up to tell her that he can smell smoke – ohmigod mohmigod there’s a fire there’s a fire there’s a – tea towel on fire. And now Connor’s put it out. Oh. Well, that was exciting.

At school, Martha and Blake have lunch together. Blake tells Martha all about The Old Bedford Place. Turns out there was a murder there a year ago – almost EXACTLY a year ago, in fact, on Halloween. And the victim was one Elizabeth Bedford – Wynn’s best friend. Wynn even found the corpse (or what was left of it – frenzied stabbing attack, anyone?) in its bedroom – which is now Martha’s bedroom. The murderer was named Dennis, and he was Elizabeth’s ex boyfriend. In the months between their break up and Elizabeth’s death, he did all the usual stalker stuff, like make creepy phone calls, start small house fires etc. One more thing – Dennis himself has never been found. Gasp! They found his car and the knife but not a trace of Dennis.

That night, Connor and Martha discuss all this new information. Connor is a sweetie and even offers to switch bedrooms with Martha so she doesn’t have to sleep in the chamber of horrors. The phone rings again, and stupid old Martha answers it again. It’s the raspy voice again, this time it’s upped it’s game, saying “you’re dead Elizabeth. Trick or Treat.’ Umm, I'd choose treat I guess?

Martha hangs up and….the phone rings again. Relax, this time it’s Blake, and he invites her out for pizza with the ‘gang’: him, Wynn and Greg. Umm, I guess it’s cool for cousins to be close and all but isn’t it a weensy bit inappropriate for a teacher to be constantly hanging out with his students? Also, this is an example of the kind of thing that Greg says to Martha: “Martha, my newest and prettiest student, how’s life treating you at dear old Bedford?” And then he winks at her. Yeah yeah, put it back in your pants granddad. This guy kinda makes me want to wash in bleach.

They have a fine old time at the pizza place- and the guys reveal that they only didn’t invite Connor because Wynn has a maHOOsive crush on him and she refused to go along if he went. Martha reveals her absolute ignorance about the lovely Connor when she has to find out from Blake, who’s in his classes, that Connor is a genius, a regular walking encyclopaedia.

Back at home, before Connor lets her in Martha sees the shadow of someone moving about in her bedroom, yikes. Natch, when they go to check it out there’s nobody there.

Next day – Wynn confides in Martha that she can’t remember much from the (Halloween) night that Martha died – although she is convinced that Dennis didn’t do it, that there’s no way he was capable of murder. Also, Blake dated Elizabeth after she broke up with Dennis, which isn’t something Blake himself has ever mentioned to Martha. To make matters worse, supposedly Martha bears a strong resemblance to poor old dead Lizzie, hmmmm, and she just happens to also live in this girl’s bedroom, what a very strange coincidence. Why, if I wasn’t more trusting in RTC’s powers as an author, I’d say that sounds positively contrived.

Anyhoo, Martha has a crappy day at school and she ends up cutting class with Blake. He needs to go to a nearby town to gather decorations for the big Halloween dance – y’know the same Halloween dance that Elizabeth was brutally murdered directly after last year. Oh dear, anniversaries are never a good omen ion point horror books, ESPECIALLY if they happen to fall on Halloween. Things don’t look great for Martha.

So Blake takes Martha to a giant hay pile and it’s really romantic or something. They have this deep chat, Blake saying that he’s desperate to get away from the town and a basketball scholarship is his one big hope. Hmmm, you know who his one big rival for that scholarship was? Dennis. The Dennis who’s now missing after supposedly killing Blake’s girlfriend (my spell-check tells me that that ‘who’ should be a ‘whom’ but I REFUSE. Sorry, spell-check, it’s just against everything I believe in, I’m a strong advocate for poor grammar and syntax)

Blake’s about to kiss her but Martha goes and ruins it by mentioning his dead looky-likey girlfriend. Way to go, Martha. He pushes her away then denies that Martha really reminds him of Elizabeth beyond an initial superficial similarity. Everything is A-OK though, they make out again, and then gather the hay and pumpkins they need to take back to Bedford to use as decorations at the Halloween dance.

Back at the house, lovely Connor isn’t in. Martha sees something ‘floaty’ on the stairs and a silhouette inside her closet and gets herself all worked up, so worked up that she falls fast asleep. Once again, she is woken by a ringing phone. Once again, it’s the raspy voiced creep, who once again calls Martha ‘Elizabeth’ and once again signs off with ‘Trick or Treat.’ Okay, this raspy voiced guy needs to call me, I’m sure I could help him come up with some fresher material. I mean, I know serial killers and stalkers have certain rules of consistency they need to stick to, but that’s not to say they can’t spice things up a bit every now and again.

So, Connor finally arrives home, he had car trouble. He tries to calm Martha down but she’s a total bitch to him as usual. I really don’t get what her problem with Connor is. He even offered to swap rooms with her and take the horrible murder room for himself for God’s sake! Oy, won’t I have egg on my face if he turns out to to be the killer after all.

Martha finishes being a bitch and goes back to her room…and her closet door slowly creaks open…and Connor is standing there! Haha, go Connor! He figured out there’s a secret passageway running into Martha’s closet ( I guess she’s back in the murder room now. There’s a lot of dull bedroom yo-yoing but let’s just assume she’s always in the murder room) Martha kicks Connor in the shin and tells him she hates him. She also accuses him of being behind all the weird stuff that’s happened. In reply, Connor tells Martha that she knows nothing about him, and he totally shames her with all the stuff he knows about her. He totally called you out, Martha!

They kind of bond, Martha tells him all her fears. Connor tells her he feels the strange vibes in the house as well. He didn’t say anything before out of kindness, he didn’t want to make life any harder for Martha. I’m actually a little bit in love with Connor.

The next day, at school Wynn invites herself round to The Old Bedford Place for a study date- she feels like she needs to see the house where she found her best friend's corpse again. Really?! Is that absolutely necessary? Wynn hopes that going to the house will trigger her memories so she can know for sure that Dennis didn’t do it. All she remembers is the body and the blood.

Later, in the evening, Martha has to nip back into school to pick up a book before Connor picks her up. It’s deserted…but then…she hears a footstep. All the lights go out and the footsteps get louder and closer, “Martha’s eyes, wild with terror, were totally useless to her now.” I don’t know why I included that line, it just made me laugh but whatdoiknow.

Martha hides under some desks in a classroom, the footsteps guy follows her in, “her hand grappled with the knob” (hehehe) as she manages to run past him and escape, falling into Connor’s arms outside. The police don’t find anyone in the building, but Martha is pretty sure that somebody is trying to kill her.

Next night, Wynn comes to the murder house for a fun trip down memory lane. She tells Martha and Connor that the house has loads and loads of hidden tunnels. According to her, Dennis and Blake are also both aware of thse tunnels. Here’s what she remembers from the fateful Halloween one year ago: It was the best of times, it was the blurst of times (not really). The gist of it is – Blake and Elizabeth had an argument and Elizabeth went off with Dennis for a ‘chat.’ When Elizabeth hadn’t returned after an hour, Wynn, Greg and Blake went looking for her, and found her all smooshed up with a knife. Well, that was certainly worth it.

Night of the Halloween party (I’m sorta surprised they didn’t cancel it out of respect to the murdered but whatever) . Connor can’t go because he has the flu, but Martha is totally going even though she’s convinced there’s a killer on the loose who has a knife with her name on it. She dresses up like a gypsy. Blake picks her up and he’s death (how portentous), Greg is an executioner (double portentous) and Wynn is a witch (ummm).

Martha is loving the Halloween dance, until Wynn comes running up all panicky to tell Martha that she has just seen Dennis! Arggh! And then Martha gets a creepy (payphone) call again: “there’s no one home Elizabeth, it’s Halloween and they’re all dead” . Oh no, please don’t let Connor be hurt, what if Dennis reallly is alive and he's murdered him, arrrgghhh my tingly left arm and my clutchy heart. Oh, and the caller also throws in a ‘trick or treat.’

Martha, Wynn, Blake and Greg go racing back to Martha’s place to check on Connor. He’s fine. Not for long though. The lights go out and somehow everyone gets separated and Martha and Connor end up in Martha’s bedroom alone together being chased by someone with a swooshy knife that they keep swooshing around. Martha and Connor positively LEAP into the closet and run down the tunnel until they come to a storage closet. Their attacker starts a leetle fire outside the door and there’s nowhere to run (umm, not sure why they can’t just go back the way they came?). Luckily, Martha finds an extra secret double hidden tunnel behind some shelves and the pair follow it…ending up in….the mausoleum…dun dun dun. I totally guessed they would end up in the mausoleum as I was reading this, I award myself one hundred Awesome Points.

In the mausoleum, there’s a big ol’ altar shrine set up, complete with burning candles and decomposing corpse of Dennis. A tall black figure dressed as Death comes in and starts slashing at Connor, cutting him in the shoulder. Et tu, Blake? Only…it’s not Blake. We know this because Blake himself comes running in and tackles Death, who is actually…Wynn! Nice fake-out, RTC, I’ve certainly never seen you employ that device before.

Turns out Wynn really killed Elizabeth, and did all those creepy things in the months before her death. Reason? She was totally in love with Dennis. Wynn also accidentally killed Dennis, ooopsie daisy, she only meant to knock him out but I guess she doesn’t know her own strength. Oh well, these things happen, she shouldn’t beat herself up about it.

Wynn makes one more lunge for Martha with the knife but the police rock up and save the day. Connor’s going to be okay, and Martha even refers to him as her brother, aww, how sweet, all it took for Martha to like him was for Connor to sustain a near fatal injury whilst trying to save Martha’s life. Martha and Blake kiss in the mausoleum, of course they do. The end.

I’m left with a lot of questions at the end of this book. Like, are Martha and Connor’s parents ever going to come back? I have a sneaky suspicion that they have in fact run away to start a new life alone together. Also, I’m not sure if Wynn really had forgotten murdering Elizabeth or if that was just a fake out. This book was OK though, I just wish it had had some ghosts in it. It’s funny, you can really see the difference between the early ones (such as this), and the later ones where standards slipped and the writing became shoddier and shoddier. But it's weird, as the actual writing gets shoddier the books become more interesting as the writers are forced to dream up ever more implausible scenarios.

This book has got quite the following on Amazon, with particular praise being lavished on the ‘romance.’ Well, I guess this one really does have it all: undertones of incest, hay bale-based sexual tension and some potential hot student/teacher action (although sadly that promise was never realised - RTC, you’ve let me down, you’ve let your readers down, but most of all you’ve let yourself down.) A lot of people agreed with me and fell in love with Connor (hands off, he’s MINE), and at least one reader LUVED the book :

“i LUVED this book!!!! i was upset cuz she didnt like conor at all. i thoght it was really SWEET of conor(the nightmare part)i was dissappointed though cuz she still didnt like him after that. i luved conor.. he always tried to protect Martha..even wen he was close to dying. i read this book a bizzilion times n i still luv it. i'm glad that she went out w/blake...he was so sweet. i was soo surprised st the ending . this book got my heart pumping..its like i was Martha and i was experiencing everything..like the school part.. man i LUVED the book.”

This next review disturbs me slightly. A) because the reader is disproportionately angry at anybody who potentially dislikes the book, B) because I’m not sure that I like being called a crazy half wit and C) because there's something creepy about using then royal 'we' in a point horror book review.

“This book was a turn the page thriller! It was an on the edge of your seat til the finish kind of book. I don't know what some other people think, but if you dislike this book you must be crazy. It was full of suspense and mystery, and gave you that eerie felling that you are the person in the book. Any half wit can see that this book could have a high point in her career. This book has been written by the absolute master of suspense, horror and mystery in our books. We have read together 20 of her books. Just recently, Silent Stalker and Overdue. In our books she ranks number one, and her book deserves 5 stars and the honorable gold star”

Next time: I haven't settled on which book to do next, it's all up in the air and I have a couple to choose from. So I'll see you next time with a mystery recap, unless you die from the suspense first. (please don't die, I already have enough blood on my hands. )


Anonymous said...

Oh, I think I read this one! When Martha and Connor first meet the gang, don't they suspect that the pair of them are a couple, and Martha's all "deny," but then they're all "right, you're 'just good friends'"? Yes, this sounds like a situation no other Fear Street book could have

I really like how nutty these books are. I swear the authors don't know who the murderer is and just pick names out of a bag right before the big reveal.

The Babysitter said...

Yeah, they all think he's her brother but she's constantly correcting them and being all "he's just my STEPbrother." I kinda couldn't face putting all those scenes in my recap, which renders the end one where she finally calls Connor her brother kinda meaningless, but hey, whatcha gonna do. I just don't have enough respect for the orginal text I spose.

When you stop and think about the big reveal in this one, hardly anything about it is even remotely logical, but I guess the author hopes that you're just so blinded by all the romance and the blood that the reader won't even notice/care.

Fear Street said...

I really do wish everyday was Halloween...*sigh*

I never read this one. I was actually gonna pick it up recently, but after this review (hilarious as usual) I think I'm better off without it.

Anya said...

I've been looking for the title of this book for a couple of years now! Thank you so much!