By R. L. Stine.
Roxie is forever losing bets against her best friend Ursula, so she’s determined to win their latest wager – over who can get darkly handsome Lee Blume to take them out – and she’s not going to let the fact she already has a boyfriend get in her way. What dopey Terry doesn’t know, can’t hurt him. However, when it becomes clear Lee only has eyes for Ursula, Roxie resorts to cheating. She plans to steal Lee’s favourite Sharks cap, the trophy that the girls agreed would be evidence of their success in snagging a date, whilst he’s out with his parents at an Elks’ meeting. Having broken into his house, her crime is thwarted when raised voices and a loud crash alert her to a couple’s fight in the living room. Making a dash for it, she catches a glimpse of an unknown blonde girl, but cannot identify the boy.
Still, it *was* the Blume house she was in, so when a blonde teenage girl turns up dead in the dunes the next day, Roxie tells the police that Lee is the murderer. She fudges the circumstances around her ‘witnessing’ the crime, telling the police chief, and her lawyer-father, that she heard the altercation through the open front door. Shaken, but relieved he’ll be brought to justice, Roxie is stunned when she bumps into the accused less than 24 hours later, at summer school. Released without charge due to an alibi from the Elks, Lee says nothing to suggest he knows who fingered him, but he immediately becomes a constant, sinister presence in Roxie’s life. She starts bumping into him everywhere, and he never misses an opportunity to say or do something that implies he knows what she did. Add some threatening messages, and a horrific turtle-homicide, and Roxie starts fearing for her own life. Because even if Lee didn’t kill the girl, someone did, and they know Roxie witnessed them do it.
As a whodunit The Witness perfunctorily ticks the right boxes, offering up a few red herrings and an acceptable twist. But there are too many occasions when the reader is asked to ignore plot chasms and inconsistencies. And despite the silliness, it’s instantly forgettable – I’ve got a feeling I read this a year ago, forgot to review it, and then lost all recollection of the plot. It was only the action of googling – for the second time in my life – the San José Sharks to find out what sport they play (ice hockey) that jogged my memory.
The ‘horror’ of The Witness rests upon Lee’s harassment of Roxie after she accuses him of murder. But Lee Blume is no Max Cady. He’s a little creepy, sure, but constantly emphasising his height, and describing him as moody isn’t enough to create a terrifying menace. And Roxie’s never in much danger. Her family is clued up on the situation, she has plenty of friends around her, and a huge boyfriend to protect her (assuming he isn’t the actual murderer). She brings most of the trouble on herself, and her eagerness to accuse someone – anyone – of this murder is tacky, and wins her no sympathy. Snitches get stitches, Roxie.