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.
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.