By Carol Ellis.
Jenny Fowler has just moved to Rimrock, a small town in the middle of a ring of menacing rocks which loom over her new house, making it difficult for her to feel settled. When Sally, her garrulous neighbour, invites her on a scavenger hunt, Jenny makes a bad first impression on bitchy-but-beautiful Diana. But her social speed-bump is forgotten when Jenny gets partnered with handsome David for the hunt. Romance blossoms rapidly, but ends in an argument when David abandons Jenny half way up a cliffside, during a storm. Whilst alone, Jenny hears a mysterious shout followed by a terrifying scream.
The next day Jenny gets an answer phone message from a shy admirer who tells her he’s crazy about her. She confides in Sally, who invites her to a get-together at the local diner. Jenny gets a frosty reception from David, but computer genius Dean is friendly and flirtatious. She is wondering whether Dean may be the secret admirer when hulking football player, Brad, arrives and tells them Diana is in a coma after falling from the cliffs during the scavenger hunt. When Jenny reveals she heard an altercation on the rimrocks that night, Brad reacts angrily, leaving her decidedly on-edge. It doesn’t help that her parents have gone on a trip, leaving her home alone. When her dog senses something outside in the middle of the night, and then she discovers a gift-wrapped, decapitated rattlesnake on her porch, Jenny realises her fear is justified.
Having survived the night, Jenny endures a day from hell: on a horse ride with Sally she is almost crushed by falling rocks; someone rolls the windows up on her car when she’s in the grocery store, giving her dog heat stroke; and then she is terrorised by a motorcyclist who tries to run her down. Exhausted and desperate, Jenny decides to head to the airport to wait for her parents, 24 hours early. But not before she goes to meet her secret admirer, who has left a message asking her to rendezvous with him… at the rimrocks.
By this point, we are solely focused on discovering who the perpetrator is, and this is revealed without much preamble or suspense. Afterwards, there is little to maintain our interest. Just a lot of Jenny crawling around on the rocks with a sprained ankle. The title, tagline and blurb all tell us that the secret admirer is also the perpetrator, so it is frustrating this ‘revelation’ is treated like a twist. It makes for a disappointing and dry finale. It lets down, at the final hurdle, a story which otherwise provides some great thrills.
There are some fabulous scary moments in My Secret Admirer. The discovery of the dead snake is both terrifying and disgusting, and the heart-pounding stand-off with the motorcyclist creates a sense of genuine peril. But it is the gradual persecution that Jenny faces which fosters our fear that she is moving irreversibly towards disaster. We anticipate a thrilling finale – and it is disappointing when this doesn’t materialise. Nevertheless, the story is more than just its ending, and for the infectious fear we feel when Jenny faces those long nights alone in her empty house, My Secret Admirer gets a fear factor rating of…