By Richie Tankersley Cusick.
Kelsey is reluctantly spending her summer at the island home of her mother’s writer-boyfriend, Eric. When they arrive on the island they learn that Eric’s thirteen year old daughter, Beth, has been missing for three days and it is suspected she may have drowned. Her lifeguard brothers, the shy but friendly Justin, and the dark and moody Neale, both understand the dangers of the water, and they fear the worst. When Kelsey finds a note from Beth claiming someone is going to kill her, she starts an investigation which leads her to discover there have been several mysterious deaths on the island. Along with her new friend, Donna, and another lifeguard, the wealthy and chauvinistic Skip, Kelsey tries to make the best of her time on the island. But as the mystery envelopes her, she fears that she might have uncovered too much, and that Beth’s killer might make her his next victim.
The Lifeguard is an enjoyable read from start to finish. The interest mainly lies in its well-rounded characters, and the story works well as a whodunit. The mystery is engaging, and various backstories (including Kelsey’s) are skilfully teased out throughout the story. That there have been several deaths on the island before Beth’s disappearance makes The Lifeguard one of the darker entries in the Point Horror series. All the way up to the finale, you believe that any of the three lifeguards could be the killer. And knowing that the perpetrator is a lifeguard does not detract from the horror of Kelsey’s encounters with the repulsive Isaac, who torments her whilst bringing her closer to the truth. When he first appears, his description seems a little piratical to take seriously. However, as the story develops, he becomes genuinely grotesque, and you feel Kelsey’s fear when he confronts her on the beach.
The only problem, and I mention it reluctantly, is the ending. Like with Richie Tankersley Cusick’s Teacher’s Pet, she opts for the twisty ending. Not an issue in itself (who doesn’t love a good twist) but a rapid fire double-deception just before the final ‘big reveal’ is confusing and detracts from the surprise of finding out who the perpetrator is. Nevertheless, that Kelsey ends up in a genuinely life-threatening situation sets The Lifeguard apart from tamer Point Horrors, and provides a suitably exciting finish to this superior entry in the franchise.
There is a killer on the loose, possibly one who has murdered his own sister. Throw in a creepy old lighthouse; references to one of the characters being previously institutionalised in a town where other disappearances happened; and a hunting-obsessed wannabe Patrick Bateman, and you have an atmospheric, spine-tingling page-turner, which gets a fear factor rating of…