Thursday, January 10, 2013


Gretchen McNeil
Balzer + Bray, 2012
$17.99, Hardcover

Genre: Mystery, Horror
Age: 13+
Description: High schooler Meg has always been the outcast. She feels especially bad for her best friend Minnie who, before Meg moved to town, was part of Jessica’s popular crowd and, for some reason when Jessica forced Minnie to choose between the popular girls or loser Meg, Minnie picked Meg. So when they receive a secret Facebook invitation to go spend the three-day weekend at Jessica’s vacation house on Henry Island Minnie begs Meg to go. Despite the fact that they don’t even talk to Jessica, Meg reluctantly agrees to go and wishes she hadn’t the moment she steps off the ferry and sees one of the guests invited is T.J., a popular jock who asked Meg to the school dance and Meg, despite being in love with him, turned him down because Minnie (who happens to be a bit emotionally unstable) is also in love with him. Unfortunately, the ten teens gathered at the house discover that Jessica has been delayed because of cheerleading and won’t be able to make it until Saturday. However, once night comes everyone doubts if she will make it at all since a major storm hits the island and the electricity goes out. Trying to entertain themselves, they can only find one DVD which holds a weird collaged message of revenge and later that night one girl, Lori, is found hanging from the garret rafters, dead of an apparent suicide. However, as hope of escaping the island seems smaller and smaller and more of the ten teens end up dying in apparent accidents, Meg needs to get everyone to work together to figure out what they might have in common that is causing someone to want to murder them all.
Opinion: This was a decent murder mystery. Sadly, the reason why I purchased it was mainly because of numerous references before publication to being a modernization of Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None and I am a huge Christie fan. However, I saw no nod to the original given in any type of acknowledgment and, quite frankly, the most important aspect of Christie’s book was the use of the poem that mimics the way the victims die. The closest thing we get here is a revenge plot that kills the victims off in ways that relates to the injustice the murders felt they were dealt (for example a partnership in a physics class experiment on light lead to one girl blaming the failure on the murder and getting a chance to redo the experiment while the murdered got a F so when the girl got her comeuppance she was electrocuted). While nothing like the original, I did enjoy the connection that was created because you were able to piece together what each person did to the murderer and how they could possibly wind up dead themselves. However, the delivery of the cryptic warning via a convenient DVD (the only one in the house) was a little too reminiscent of The Ring. There were some nice scenes of gore and violence to give it the horror background and not just be a murder mystery. However, for most of the book it felt like I was reading a 1980s Christopher Pike or R.L. Stine horror book. It was full of clichés and the end had the whole “look a twist you didn’t see coming but totally did because it’s horror cliché” when the murderer was revealed. Other clichés that abound where the characters themselves—you had the popular girl, the nerd, the jock, the token best friend, the black guy, the slut, the prude, and so on. It was so clichéd that one character looked at T.J. and told him something along the lines of “Dude, you’ll be the first one dead because you’re the black guy and the black guy always dies first in the horror movies!” Meg’s “complicated” relationship with Minnie was frustrating. Just because she felt responsible for Minnie turning her back on the popular girls to be friends with her doesn’t give Minnie the right to demand that Meg doesn’t have feelings for T.J. (who made it clear on numerous occasions he wasn’t interested in Minnie) or for Minnie to treat Meg like crap. McNeil tried to create sympathy for Minnie by saying she was on medications and so she was moody and depressed all the time but most of the time she really was an evil bitch who, medication or not, treated her best friend horribly. For most of the book, I wanted Minnie to get it. Overall, I was disappointed with the comparison to Christie but it was a fast-paced read and I would recommend it to mystery fans for a quick read. They can have fun trying to figure out who the real killer is since you know going into it that red herrings abound!

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