By Diane Hoh.
In the throes of a burning fever, Duffy wakes in the dead of night to the sounds of a struggle next to her hospital bed. Clanging metal, a terrified voice begging for mercy, then nothing, as she slides back into unconsciousness. The following day, unable to ascertain from any of the staff what might have caused the fuss, Duffy focuses on getting well. But her enquiries have already made her an enemy, and soon she is in danger of more than just a bad case of the flu. A janitorial mix-up leads to her almost falling down an elevator shaft. Later, the brake on her wheelchair is released, and she is saved at the last second from plummeting into a freezing lake. Next, she is attacked in the shower room. The hospital staff attribute Duffy’s persecutory claims to the delirium caused by her fever. But when a patient’s heart medication goes missing, and Duffy starts experiencing the symptoms of a healthy person who has been given heart medication, it becomes essential she gets someone to believe her, before she ends up four floors below, in the hospital’s morgue.
The doctors, nurses and orderlies may be sceptical, but we know someone is out to get Duffy. We’re right there alongside her during each attack and, as with any Point Horror whodunit, we’re determined to work out who the perp is. With our protagonist stuck in a hospital bed, we might expect a smaller cast of suspects than usual. But luckily, a lot of her classmates and acquaintances happen to work at the hospital. Preppy Amy, workaholic Cynthia, arrogant Smith and burly Dylan buzz about her bed, fulfilling one role or another. Contrived, yes, but it makes for a more interesting mystery – and one which keeps us guessing. Best friend, Kit, notable by his absence, adds another layer of intrigue. He’s supposedly packed his bags and headed for California, but Duffy refuses to believe he would have left without saying goodbye.
It all comes together in a perilous confrontation in the morgue. There is a surprising twist, but it falls down on two counts. Firstly, the perpetrator isn’t a character we’ve had an opportunity to develop any real interest in, and secondly, their motivation is somewhat out of left field and requires a fair bit of exposition. Still, there’s enough threat and violence throughout to ensure The Fever keeps us entertained, and the morgue-setting for the finale is a fine choice.
Duffy faces one attempt on her life after another, all the while suffering from a nasty flu and enduring the incredulity of everyone around her. If she wasn’t such an ill-mannered misery-guts, I’d have a lot more sympathy for her. It is left to the finale – to the maniacal ravings of the unmasked perpetrator, and the revelation of a genuinely tragic fatality – to inject some horror into this entry. Unfortunately, the swathes of new information the chatty perp brings to the final showdown distract us from the danger, and there’s too little time to feel afraid before Duffy is (once again) tucked up safe and sound in bed.