Room 27

Pointless Horror: Mystery Meat, Part 2

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This cover makes me want to gag.

Seriously, Open Road Media? Clip art of a hole in the ground, that’s your cover for Fatal Secrets? It’s like you’re not even trying anymore.

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Me too, little buddy. Me too.

I’m sorry to say that my projected synopsis from Part 1 was completely and utterly incorrect, but I was right in thinking that I would be gutted about it. Such an idea, so much promise! And actually, now that I think about it, one detail wasn’t that far off, as we’ll see a bit later. So I’m patting myself on the back for that. And it turns out I have read Fatal Secrets before–I guess it didn’t make that much of an impression the first time round. Ouch.

Fatal Secrets opens with high school senior Ryan McCauley (surprise–it’s a girl) tromping through woods on a snowy evening with her sister Marissa in search of pine cones for some reason I don’t care enough to remember. Blah blah holly mistletoe Christmas spirit whatever, Ryan and Marissa have a bit of a fight because Marissa is being jumpy and paranoid and annoying and is not looking for pine cones hard enough oh my god don’t you know this is my life, so they split up and then Marissa screams, just as you knew she would. Marissa’s fallen through the ice and Ryan tries to save her but can’t quite get a grip. (Oh! The cover clip art is meant to be a hole in the ice, not in the ground! I totally get it now…and it’s still a crock of shit.)

Fast forward three weeks.

‘It’s Christmas time,’ she mumbled to herself. ‘And no more bad things can happen, because it’s my favorite time of year.’

Aw, Ryan’s so delusional it’s almost sweet. But also understandable, because she watched her sister die a few weeks ago and now her mother is just sitting in Marissa’s room all day mooning over her favorite daughter’s death and wishing the good Lord Jesus had taken Ryan instead. Or, you know, that’s how it feels.

IT’s okay, though–Ryan’s bestie Phoebe thinks all Ryan needs to get over her teenage sister’s untimely death under mysterious circumstances is a boyfriend, of course. So it’s a good thing we’ve got a candidate just hanging out for a body shop at night.

As Ryan gazed up into the young man’s face, she felt her breath catch in her throat. Winchester Stone was staring down at her, silhouetted against the slate-gray twilight.

Winchester Stone. Who the whiplashed fuck names their kid ‘Winchester’? But think about it…I pretty much hit the nail on the head with Tornado Lightningballs, didn’t I? You know it.

Sadly Winchester‘s going to have to take a back seat, because Ryan’s got some stranger things to deal with. Random friends of her sister turn up at her house and somehow manage to wheedle an indefinite invitation to stay, mom’s boyfriend Steve (such a common name) seems really interested in whether Ryan has a secret, as does Ryan’s comedy Italian boss at the toy shop, and (the moment you’ve been waiting for) a person (or persons) unknown is making a pretty decent attempt at scaring the crap out of Ryan. Because it’s a Cusick novel, that’s why, and I’m sure it’ll be explained at great length nearer the end.

In my review of The Mall, I mentioned that I was getting a little tired of characters acting weird for a single scene, with no clear motivation, just so the protagonist would suspect them. Richie must have known what I was thinking (way in advance, like twenty years ago), because while everyone is a suspect in this book too, it also transpires that everyone did it. Like, everyone. It literally takes twenty pages at the end to explain how and why all the characters are jumping out of the dark like evil Jacks in the Box. It’s hilarious, tedious, and surprising all wrapped up in a little misshapen package with appropriately Christmas-themed paper and bows. I gotta kinda sorta respect that.

Fatal Secrets gets three-and-a-half Red Ryder BB guns for turning my expectations on their head, even if the journey was a bit meh.

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Pointless Horror series

Pointless Horror: Mystery Meat, Part 1

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Happy Thanksgiving to all of my American readers! And to everyone else, I pity your lack of pumpkin pie.

But we’re not here to talk turkey–we’re here for Point flippin’ Horror. And our next installment is going to be all Fatal, all Secret, all the time. That’s right, it’s 1992’s Fatal Secrets by Richie Tankersley Cusick, and if you’re wondering why I haven’t got straight into what I remember about the book, it’s because I remember nothing. Not a single damn thing.

Granted, I’m not one to recall titles all that well, but even this cover looks only vaguely familiar to me. It’s kind of a mishmash of themes, with its creepy doll, haunted-y house, and carnival detritus, so I’m not getting a clear sense of the story from that either. What about the tagline?

The killer is only a heartbeat away…

Yeah, that could mean literally anything. I know I must have read Fatal Secrets–I’m pretty sure I read every Richie title in the nineties, as her books were kind of my jam–but man, I got nothing. So let’s make some shit up!

Beautiful, young, and improbably named Titanic Nietzsche takes a part-time job at the local travelling night carnival to feel less lonely while her deadbeat Fortune 500 CEO mother honeymoons with the new husband on Mars. When creepy things start happening at the ring toss kiosk, she teams up with undercover cop Tornado Lightningballs who, disguised as a carousel horse, has been tracking a gang of possessed Punch and Judy marionettes intent on flooding the town’s black market with kidneys harvested from the local high school’s population. Can Titanic and Tornado the Wonder Horse stop the kindeynappings? Is it weird that no one ever wins at the ring toss, or is it designed that way? Find out if the gigantic metal bar anchoring Tornado to the carousel floor gets in the way of his budding romance with Titanic in Fatal Secrets.

If Fatal Secrets isn’t exactly like this, I’m going to be crushed.

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Pointless Horror series

Pointless Horror: Mall Brats, Part 2

Holy crap, time got away from me for a minute there. Did you miss me? It’s been two weeks since Part 1, but since I didn’t remember a huge amount about this book pre-read, it probably doesn’t matter anyway. God, I’m starting to sound like a teenager again. I hate my life and stop telling me what to do.

Enough of that. To the review and beyond!


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Naked mannequins are well creepy. There’s no denying that they’re similar to dolls in their power to render even the bravest of us a slobbering mess. But on this cover of Cusick’s suburban teenage horror The Mall (1992), they just look a bit staid and generic. So sorry, Open Road Media, but the original’s neon hysteria wins the round. Again. (I’m beginning to think I might be some kind of throwback: ‘You kids don’t know how good you have it. Back in my day everything was hot pink!’).

It’s been a couple of weeks since I read The Mall, so let’s try to remember the story together, eh? Once upon a time, there was a beautiful young princess named…uh…Trish. No, yeah, it was Trish. She kissed a frog, and then it turned into a serial killer? Hang on, let me check my notes.

Ah, yes, here we are: Young Trish gets a job at the bakery in her local mall’s food court because teenagers like money and those white jean skirts aren’t going to buy themselves. Sounds pretty typical, right?

‘I’m telling you, weird things happen at this mall,’ Nita shook her head. ‘Gives me the creeps.’

That’s on like page four, kids, so we’re getting to the point real quick in this one. (Not that it ever takes long in Point Horror–this isn’t Stephen King we’re talking about.) Our Nita, along with her bookish and therefore instantly likable twin Imogene, are Trish’s best friends. They also work at the mall, in a clothing store called something embarrassingly nineties and a bookstore, respectively. I like Imogene best, for obvious reasons. Trish’s single mother is, of course, as far away from this plane of reality as she can get without actually being dead.

‘She’s still on that stupid business trip flying around Europe somewhere,’ Trish said ungratefully gloomily. ‘You’re so lucky your parents aren’t divorced. And that you have a normal mother instead of a business executive!’

Right. Moving along.

So Trish is working her first shift at the muffin grinder–grinding muffins–when she catches the eye of a slightly odd gentleman with a penchant for honey muffins. His manner is a little off, but she pays it no mind because at the pizza place across the court she’s just noticed the man of her effing dreams, guys. Get ready for it…

‘I never have trouble remembering his name,’ Nita sighed. ‘Storm Reynolds….’

Because who could possibly forget an improbable name like STORM REYNOLDS. You have truly outdone yourself this time, Ms. Cusick. Truly. And I love you for it.

Storm–may I call you Storm?–Storm is exactly what you’d expect him to be: tall, handsome, high cheekbones, hung like a…. And the ladies can’t keep their eyes off him (except Imogene, who prefers his friend and metal-enthusiast Weird Wyatt, which is also why I like her best.) The girls are just having their day in the mall, you know, when all of sudden Trish gets sort-of called away for a phone call (on a payphone yeah you heard me rite).

‘I’m eating the muffin,’ he said. ‘It tastes just like you.’

Well. Shit just got not funny. I guess Nita was right. Turns out weird things have been happening at the mall (lots of missing girls (some dead), merchandise disappearing, honey muffins all over the goddamn place like Winnie-the-Pooh got perverted, you name it). Trish is the latest in a long line of the Muffin Man’s obsessions, but that’s practically beside the point because Storm and Wyatt (spoiler) are undercover cops.

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Now, in Part 1 I said I hoped this would be the book that bleached my brain clean of all traces of Vampire, and I’m happy to report it was. Not only did Cusick have a little fun with her formula, she brought some realistic fear to an otherwise over-the-top (if pretty imaginative) crazy stalker/serial killer character. And with Cusick introducing both the possibility of a dangerous environment (creepy mall) and the Muffin Maniac* within the first ten pages, Trish’s immediate and escalating fear didn’t come across as unfounded and hysterical–just pretty fucking rational under the circumstances. No running from wet leaves like a Southern train for this girl.

A few tiresome cliches still poked through (how many times are the good guys going to have uncharacteristic attacks of outpatient behaviour just so we have weak reason to suspect them?), but all in all, an entertaining read.

The Mall gets four out of five honey muffins for genuine stalker fear and for releasing me from Vampire’s egregious embrace.

 

*Fun fact: The bakery Trish works at is called Muffin-Mania. MUFFIN-MANIA, y’all!

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Pointless Horror series

Pointless Horror: Mall Brats, Part 1

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Early nineties’ clothes are terrifying.

Aaaand we’re back in the room.

After a much-needed week off, we’re continuing the Pointless Horror series with The Mall, Richie Tankersley Cusick’s 1992 offering. Judging by the five-star Amazon UK rating, this should be a smidgen better than the book That Shall Not Be Named, also known as The Book That Broke Pointless.

I don’t really remember the killer or the premise of this story–except, you know, it’s in a mall–but I do know there’s a definite 21 Jump Street angle to it, with undercover cops posing as high-school students. It makes me wonder just how many cops actually look like children, and how much that must suck for them.

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The fabulous mullets make up for all the beatings.

Tune in Monday for what I hope will be a happy happy joy joy review of awesomeness, because I just know this is going to be the book that turns things around (even though we already had that).

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