Pointless Horror series

Pointless Horror: Get Rich Quick or Die Tryin’

help_wanted_new

As far as I can tell, 1993’s Help Wanted is the last book Richie Tankersley Cusick wrote for Point Horror before moving to Simon Pulse, so I regret to inform you all that this is the final post in the Pointless Horror series.

OR IS IT?!


After last week’s cluster of fuck, I’m pleased to report we’ve landed squarely back in Pointville (“All the Horror, All the Time”) with Help Wanted, but it’s possible we’ve gone just a little too formula with this one.

Robin Bailey, our tousled everyteen, is just minding her own damn business on the low edge of the middle class, getting good grades and staying responsibly boyfriendless, when out of the blue comes the chance of a lifetime: a spring break-style trip to Florida with her best friend. Problem? It costs money, and our girl doesn’t have a job. But that’s okay, because within ten seconds she spies a notice on the school corkboard or whatever it was they used to disseminate information to juveniles in the nineties:

HELP WANTED

GET RICH QUICK

NO EXPERIENCE NECESSARY

I think we can all agree this job ad was posted well before the internet; if Robin had answered an ad promising “get rich quick” with “no experience necessary” today, we’d be reading a very different genre.

Luckily for Robin, digital porn hasn’t yet taken the world by storm and the job is for cataloging the local millionaire’s daughter-in-law’s books so he can dump them at the local library. Which is probably unnecessary, but Robin needs a job, so it makes plot sense.

“Will the interview take long?”

“Depends on how long you want to stay.”

“Oh. Not long, probably.”

“Then there’s your answer.[…] Hope you don’t scare easy.”

At her totally legitimate-sounding interview, Robin finds out that the local millionaire hates his dead-by-suicide daughter-in-law and his alive-but-crazy granddaughter-in-law (is that a thing?) Claudia, and that his grandson in none other than school heartthrob Parker Swanson. We’ve got a love interest! But he’s seriously obnoxious. But also cute and rich, so I guess he gets a pass on the personality fail.

As Robin tries to get on with her cataloging job (making $100 dollars a week in 1994!), she gets tangled in a web of lies, deceit, murder, money and some other stuff lurking in the deep dark woods smack in the middle of suburbia. It’s all a little…perfunctory, though I should mention Help Wanted was nominated for an Edgar Award, which is, after all, for mystery, not horror.

Still, we’ve got all the Cusick hallmarks here:

Robin’s actually quite shitty best friend Faye who disappears a quarter of the way through the book when she’s needed most:

Faye let go of the door before she realized Robin hadn’t quite crossed the threshold. Robin, struggling with her books, glanced up just in time to see the door swinging into her face.

Death-obsessed bewilderteen Claudia, who’s even more OTT than her namesake:

claudia

I’m 400 fucking years old! I’ll eat as many snickerdoodles as I please!

The suspiciously suspect gardener:

“You better run, little girl, far away from this place! You better run for your life!”

And the obligatory love triangle between Robin, Parker and the improbably named Theodore “Walt” Waltermize.

He wasn’t handsome in that breathtaking way Parker Swanson was, yet there was something intriguing about him—his sandy hair, for one thing, hanging thick and wavy past his shoulders; his customary outfit of threadbare jeans and faded workshirt; the steady calm of his brown eyes; and his square stubborn jaw.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t remember any boys in my high school matching that description—and that was during the height of grunge.

Overall, I found Help Wanted disappointing. The mystery element is fairly by numbers (spoiler: the killer is the one you have no reason to suspect) and even the romance seems half-hearted, as Robin doesn’t actually spend quality alone time with either of the corners of her triangle, apart from a tensionless pizza date with Walt.

Help Wanted gets two-and-a-half out of five “We’ll get back to you some time next week”s, because it’s not my cup of tea, but it’s also not Silent Stalker


Next week on Pointless Horror:

funhouse_cover

Yeah that’s right! We’re branching out, baby!

 

Standard
Pointless Horror series

Pointless Horror: It’s Not a Blighty One

silent_stalker_new

I just don’t get it.

I’ve read Cusick’s Silent Stalker more than once, and I sat down to write this review several times before I gave up entirely. I have spent the past six months not writing a review for this book, because I can think of no other way, no better way to describe it than batshit crazy.

Silent Stalker is my white whale, so welcome aboard the SS Curious: we’re gonna harpoon a bitch.

We’re just going to get straight into this, because if I try to think about it too much, my brain will melt. First, let’s meet our ‘heroine’ Jenny and her douche nozzle father who doesn’t need a name and possibly doesn’t have one anyway, because he’s the nozzle of a douche, and who knows what that’s even called.

“You’re being a brat,” said Dad under his breath as he pulled their suitcases from the car. “You’re upsetting me.”

“Because I’m scared to stay here?”

[…]

“Just like your mother,” he snorted. “Always trying to ruin my plans—”

In case you haven’t already guessed, Jenny’s mother and father are divorced. Jenny’s mother, who only appears briefly at the end of the book but still manages to come across as the most well-adjusted of the characters, wants her ex-husband and daughter to spend some quality time together. So Jenny finds herself at a rebuilt English castle in the middle of rural America where her father is going write an article about a local Renaissance Faire. Sounds mundane, yeah? In case you think Jenny’s being hard done by, please note that she has a habit of coming out with daft shit like this:

“Is it…is it real? Jenny heard someone whisper, and then realized with a start that it was her.

I hate Jenny.

So Jenny and Superdad rock up to this castle during an actual dark and stormy night and a tree falls on their car, proving that even nature hates this book, which gives Superdad the perfect excuse to just invite himself—”oh and that pain in the ass I share my genes with I guess what a drag mmm cookies”—over to stay the night. Before you get all jealous, the castle is a mess. And it’s inhabited by an inbred gang of total fucking nobheads: the Worthingtons. There’s Derrek and Malcolm, dashing if you like that kind of thing identical twins, who dress up in “romantic clothes” all the time; their demented father Sir Something-or-other; and their younger brother, who dresses as a court jester. His name…his name is WIT. Yeah, you read that right. I don’t think I can take this much longer.

When Jenny wakes up the next day, her father’s already fucked off to go write some other article…and left his daughter in the care of complete strangers who talk in terrible rhymes and who, instead of calling Child Protective Services like reasonable human beings, proceed to torture the poor girl for no discernible reason. I mean, it’s obvious Jenny scares easily–that’s the Cusick protagonist trope–but they really go for it in this: chaining her up to the wall, playing mind games, going “woo-woo” while wearing sheets, and other things I didn’t bother to note down because I gave up. But it’s okay man, cos two of the brothers are wikkid hot and one is, like, boyishly handsome with dimples and sociopathic tendencies, and it’s not Jenny’s fault that she suspected them all along when actually, once she ends up in exactly the same climactic sequence as Kelsey in The Lifeguard, she finds out it was the third twin I mean triplet who’s truly psychotic and has been trying to kill her all along, even though the others knew the whole time and instead of warning her just fucked her about and put her in danger because they have such wonderful senses of humor okay cool let’s all be friends The End.

And then they literally all ride off into the sunset together as the best of friends in the epilogue.

Fuck off.

I give this blight five what-the-fucks out of I can’t even. Is this a good book? Goodreads thinks so. Is it a bad one? I honestly can’t tell, but some things should probably stay buried in 1994 where they belong. I only have myself to blame for digging it up.

I still love you Richie!


Next week on Pointless Horror:

help_wanted_old

Standard