Categories
Point Horror

Hide and Seek

By Jane McFann.

When we are introduced to sixteen year old Lissa, she is hiding in a tree trunk with her pet bird, knowing she is going to die and waiting for her killer to find her. To distract herself, Lissa recollects memories from her life, trying to work out what led to her impending death. We discover that Lissa’s short existence has been lonely and painful. Her temperamental, abusive father is a struggling artist, who spends his days working out in the barn, only coming into the house to eat, sleep and shout at his wife and daughter. Lissa has learned to be invisible, to avoid his wrath. But her invisibility has transferred across to her school life, meaning she has never made a friend or connected with any other person. That is, until she is noticed by her classmate, Josh.

Josh is uninhibited and unique. Liked by his peers even though he is different. His attentiveness towards Lissa thrusts her into the limelight against her will. She is uncomfortable but she is drawn to Josh, who shows her a kindness she has never known. It is her memories of Josh which Lissa finds the most painful to recollect whilst she sits under the tree waiting to die. As her reminiscences progress towards her present situation, they become increasingly dark and troubling. We grasp the danger Lissa is in and we feel her fear.

Hide and Seek makes a bold digression from standard PH fare. It is a tragic and deeply troubling read, well-paced and absorbing. We share in Lissa’s emotional pain as she relates the incidents of her life to us. Through her recollections, Lissa gradually brings us closer to understanding who she is and how she has come to be in this dangerous predicament.

One of the finest entries in the whole franchise.

9/10

Hide and Seek provides a devastatingly realistic insight into a child’s experience of growing up with an abusive parent. It is, at times, painful to read; the finale in particular. The horror lies in the arresting way the reader is confronted by Lissa’s reality, and the reality of those who have shared and continue to share her experiences. As such, Hide and Seek will haunt its reader long after the final page.

10/10

Categories
Point Horror

The Phantom

By Barbara Steiner.

Last year, Stony Bay High School’s star quarterback, Reggie Westerman, died after suffering a spinal injury during a game. His girlfriend, Jilly, is left devastated, forever changed by the experience. To her best friend Amelia’s dismay, when senior year begins, Jilly abandons cheerleading and joins the school drama department, shunning her old friends in favour of smarmy theatre major, Shelby. At a rally before the first football game of the new season, Amelia’s cheers are interrupted by the ghost of Reggie appearing on stage, stunning everyone in the bleachers. Few believe it is really his ghost. Rumours circulate that it was a stunt orchestrated by the Coach to inspire the football team, or just someone playing a prank. But then “Reggie” appears at a beach party and immediately afterwards Buddy Nichols, the new quarterback, falls (or is pushed) into the bonfire, sustaining serious burns.

When her boyfriend, Garth, takes over as quarterback, Amelia is scared. She starts to believe the position is jinxed, as Reggie’s sports journalist brother, Travis, has claimed. More worrying for Amelia, she notices Garth’s personality deteriorate, as he becomes arrogant and self-absorbed, like Reggie had been. When a series of ‘accidents’ befall the team, intended for Garth but missing their mark, it becomes clear that someone blames him for Reggie’s death, and they intend to make him pay for it.

It is obvious early on that The Phantom is not a ghost story, but a whodunit. And whilst it is fairly easy to guess who is behind the scares, it is an enjoyable experience getting to the ‘twist’. The Phantom offers up everything we know and love from decades of exposure to American culture: Friday night football games, cheerleaders, fast food diners and beach parties. It is far from being the scariest entry in the PH franchise, but it is certainly one of the most satisfying reads if you’re wanting a bit of nostalgia and the comforting reassurance of a completely familiar world you’ve never actually experienced.

8/10

Fear Factor

The Phantom offers up relatively few shocks or scares. Amelia is a strong, brave character and we never get the sense she is in serious danger (also, frustratingly, there is always someone else around when any threat looms). Nevertheless, it is a very sad story and the horror lies in the irreparable damage done to several of the characters, by both the figurative, and literal, spectres of Reggie’s misfortune. The finale eschews the action-packed, happy-ever-after resolution of most PHs, in favour of a more ambiguous ending, and by doing so, The Phantom becomes one of the more memorable entries in the franchise. Its originality and pervading sense of tragedy merit a solid fear factor rating of…

6/10

Categories
Point Horror

The Accident

By Diane Hoh.

Just before Megan’s 16th birthday, three of her close friends are involved in a horrific car accident. The same day, a wraith calling itself ‘Juliet’ appears to Megan from inside her bedroom mirror. Juliet tells Megan she died in a boating accident just before her sweet sixteenth, and she wants Megan to swap places with her for one week, so she can briefly experience life again. A disturbing proposal, but when her best friend, Hilary, becomes the next victim of an ‘accident’, Megan begins to suspect someone is targeting her friends, and she might be next. She hopes Juliet, with her supernatural powers, might be able to identify the perpetrator, and she agrees to the swap.

But Juliet’s world is terribly cold and lonely and Megan desperately wants to switch back. Still able to roam about, as long as she stays in the locale of the lake, Megan witnesses Juliet take to her life quickly, heating up her romance with Justin but alienating Hilary, and, to Megan’s particular distress, blatantly disregarding her warnings about the potential danger she is in. When a series of tragedies befalls Megan’s family, she realises she is the perpetrator’s main target. In trying to work out who is behind the ‘accidents’, Megan learns the devastating truth about Juliet’s past, and its terrible implications for her own future.

Much of the interest of The Accident lies in Megan’s isolation and impotence once she has given up her body and is abandoned to the dreary, solitary world behind the mirror. Juliet’s motivation for swapping lives with Megan, and the revelation of what happened to her when she died, are dangled in front of us whilst we flick through the pages in eager anticipation. But the finale, once all has been explained, is disappointing, with any potential horror sacrificed in favour of a neat and ‘happy’ ending.

5/10

It is scary when Megan first gives up her body, but the descriptions of her sense of isolation become repetitive and we quickly lose sympathy. The resolution is too easily achieved, with very little sense of fear or horror. For these reasons, The Accident fails to satisfy and gets a fear factor rating of…

3/10

Categories
Point Horror

Dream Date

By Sinclair Smith.

Katie Shaw is about to turn seventeen and so far she has lived an unspectacular life, with her straitlaced family, good grades and total lack of romance. The only interesting thing about Katie is that she occasionally suffers from insomnia. But when she moves into a creepy new house and is enrolled in a new school, everything changes. It starts with a recurring dream about a sexy bad boy calling himself Heath Granger, who has the hots for her. He instils Katie with greater confidence in her looks and she starts dressing more seductively, which is quickly noticed by the boy she likes at school, Jason. She finds it suddenly easier to make friends, such as Raquelle, and for the first time in her life, Katie is popular.

But then Heath becomes possessive, especially when Katie starts dating Jason. And he’s not just bothering her in her dreams, he starts sending threatening messages in the real world too. Soon Katie dreads going to sleep, knowing she’ll have to face Heath, but she’s tired more and more of the time and falls asleep unintentionally, even at school. When Heath starts coming after Katie’s new friends, it is evidence of his increasing power and the growing threat he poses. When she confronts him, Katie discovers that Heath’s intentions are even more sinister than she could possibly have imagined, and she realises he must be stopped at any cost.

Dream Date would be a more engaging read if Katie was more likeable. But we don’t really have time to get to know her before she dreams up Heath and her troubles begin. Part Nightmare on Elm Street (but less fun), part allegory for domestic violence (but lacking the appropriate level of seriousness) it doesn’t fully satisfy on either count. Still, it is consistently entertaining, with an interesting twist and a strong finish. Dream Date is a unique entry in the PH franchise and better than its title suggests.

7/10

Fear Factor

Dream Date is at its scariest when we are presented with evidence of Katie’s declining physical and mental health due to her self-imposed sleep deprivation. We see her personality change, her descent into madness, and her increasing isolation from her parents and friends. Also, the imagery invoked by Katie’s sleep-deprived hallucinations (melting flesh, cockroaches, ‘white worms’) is some of the most vividly gruesome in the whole PH franchise. If the character was more sympathetic (less annoying) Dream Date would earn the maximum fear factor rating. As it is, because I simply cannot bring myself to care what happens to Katie, it gets a lower, but still perfectly respectable…

8/10

Categories
Point Horror

The Window

By Carol Ellis.

Jody has been invited on a trip to an exclusive ski resort, organised by the beautiful and confident Wolf twins, Cal and Sasha. She barely knows them, or the rest of the party, which includes the wealthy twins’ classmates, Drew and Ellen, waspish Chris, and clumsy joker, Billy, but she quickly perceives that every one of the friends has a crush on one of the others. Including, before long, Jody, who is attracted to handsome-but-moody, Drew. To add to the tension, Leahna, Drew’s flighty ex-girlfriend, turns up at the resort, and no one, except Cal, is happy to see her.

On the first night, Jody realises she can see straight into Leahna’s cabin through the window by her bed, and unintentionally sees a fight between Leahna and a mystery visitor. The following day, Jody has an accident, badly spraining her ankle. Confined to bed whilst everyone else is out partying, Jody is bored. She starts watching Leahna through the window and observes another interaction between her and the unidentified visitor, followed by strange movements inside and outside the cabin. A mysterious red stain appears on the wall, which shortly afterwards disappears. Jody is convinced she has witnessed a murder, and when the body of a teenage girl is discovered in the snow, it seems her fears for Leahna have been confirmed. But when Jody hears someone lurking outside her door and listening in on her phone calls, she realises that she is in danger too: the murderer knows what she has seen, and now wants to take Jody out of the picture.

Until Jody witnesses the murder, which is about half way through, The Window resembles a teen-soap, mainly concerned with the romantic interests of its main characters. It entertains on this level, but it doesn’t really offer any horror until Jody realises she has been drugged and, therefore, that the perpetrator must be one of her party. The finale is effective in its surprise revelation of the murderer, but it is not a particularly satisfying denouement. The sense of peril is short-lived; Jody is rescued far too easily. Loose ends are neatly and quickly tied up, leaving the reader feeling that The Window was over before it ever really got started. It’s enjoyable enough while it lasts, but easily forgettable.

5/10

Fear Factor

After a slow start, the second half of this PH entry offers up thrills rather than horror, with its slow and subtle build up of tension. Nevertheless, it does ‘thriller’ well, conveying Jody’s sense of isolation and vulnerability effectively, and earning The Window a reasonable fear factor rating of…

4/10

Categories
Point Horror

Fatal Secrets

By Richie Tankersley Cusick.

On Thanksgiving, Marissa falls through some ice and dies, just as she was about to reveal a deep, dark secret to her sister, Ryan. Three weeks later, Ryan is still mourning her sister whilst coping with falling grades and her mother’s inability to cope with Marissa’s death. She also suspects she is being stalked by a mysterious figure in a lumpy coat and black ski mask. Things go from bad to worse when Charles Eastman, a young man claiming to be Marissa’s boyfriend, turns up, and Ryan’s mother invites him to stay for Christmas. Charles immediately makes it clear to Ryan that he blames her for Marissa’s death, exacerbating the guilt which already torments her. A series of dangerous ‘accidents’ befall Ryan and when no one takes her seriously, she decides to try to uncover Marissa’s secret herself. As Ryan investigates, it begins to look increasingly like someone murdered Marissa, and she fears that same person has now set their sights on her.

Fatal Secrets is consistently engaging, with a cast of interesting characters who are introduced smoothly as the plot progresses. Most of them are likeable: her caring step-father, Steve; her childhood friends, Phoebe and Jinx; her sweet employer, Mr Partini; and the love interest with a name straight out of a Sabrina Jeffries romance, Winchester Stone.

Charles, on the other hand, is a highly unpleasant character and we empathise with Ryan’s discomfort during their initial encounters. His continuing, sinister presence is one of the ways in which Tankersley Cusick makes Fatal Secrets such an unsettling and disorienting read. We shift constantly between danger and safety, which are often represented by cold and hot imagery. Marissa dies in the ice; Ryan’s mother is coldly distant due to her grief; Charles abandons Ryan to freeze in the snow. On the other hand, we are warmed by the familiarity of Phoebe and Jinx’s interactions with Ryan, along with Mr Partini’s kindness and the festive décor of the toy shop. The fireplace in Winchester’s cosy house makes Ryan (and us) feel safe. It’s an effective technique: because of the complacency we feel in the warmth, when we are plunged back into the ice, it is all the more terrifying.

Aside from the horror, Fatal Secrets is also an absorbing ‘whodunit’. Because the various suspects are so well-developed, we cannot help but wish for the murderer to be, or not be, certain characters, and our need to know the perpetrator’s identity makes this Point Horror a real page-turner. When the truth is finally revealed it is a genuine surprise, and the twist makes for a thrilling finale and a crowd-pleasing conclusion.

9/10

Fear Factor

The sense of threat in Fatal Secrets is persistent. It is genuinely unnerving when Ryan’s mental stability begins to waver. We see everything from her point of view, yet she’s losing the plot. She’s an empathetic character, who gets put through the wringer. This contributes to the horror, while making us like her more. The various ‘accidents’ and ‘incidents’ Ryan is subjected to might not be the scariest in the franchise, but the unrelenting weight of peril bearing down on her makes Fatal Secrets a thrilling, and often frightening, read.

8/10

Categories
Point Horror

The Cemetery

By D. E. Athkins.

In the wealthy coastal town of Point Harbor, a group of teens get ready for an exclusive Halloween party being hosted by their catty, influential classmate, Cyndi Moray, at a disused local cemetery. In the first chapter, we are introduced to the ten young people who comprise the cast of The Cemetery. We follow them to the party, where they engage in typical teen Halloween activities: playing music, dancing, drinking beer, participating in a séance and telling ghost stories. A game of hide and seek ensues, during which Cyndi’s ex-boyfriend, the equally rich and obnoxious ‘Wills’, gets murdered – his body ripped to shreds – and is discovered by current girlfriend, Lara, and the mysterious, new-to-town Jones. The only person not in the vicinity of the victim is Charity Webster, Char, who quickly becomes the blandly pleasant heroine of the piece, and whose romantic interest, Jones, told her to make a run for it just before the game began. Suspicious, much…?

The shaken teens report the grisly incident to the police, at which point Cyndi finds herself the prime suspect (the crime scene, her party; the victim, her ex) and sets about trying to prove her innocence by identifying the murderer. Char also investigates by trawling through the newspaper archive at the library, where she bumps into Jones immediately before someone plants an old whaler’s journal in her bag which describes a creature which rips its victims to pieces… The survivors of the party try to get on with their lives, but there is a sense of doom hanging over them, like they’re lobsters in a tank. Lara, doped up with prescription drugs, tells Cyndi she knows who the killer is but cannot be induced in her near-catatonic state to say anything further. Cyndi’s brother, Dorian and his misfit girlfriend, Georgie, revisit the scene of the crime to find clues. Super-rich but insecure Jane falls off the radar for a while, before pairing up with Cyndi’s bad-boy boyfriend, Dade to turn detective. Peripheral characters Foy and Rick pop up occasionally, to little purpose.

Georgie, despite her death having been confirmed to us when Dade and Jane overhear her father being given the bad news at the hospital, turns up as Dorian is examining a bloody hook attached to his car. When Dorian realises that what is speaking to him in his garage is not Georgie, but rather her (and Wills’s) killer, the thing becomes an ‘it’, confirming that they are not being terrorised by a person, but by a supernatural being. An explosion brings the surviving teens together at Jane’s house, where Char realises that the entity mentioned in the old whaler’s diary, which caused ships to sink and haunted Cemetery Point (the town’s previous name) years ago, is back, awakened from its temporary resting place in the cemetery. This is where the finale takes place, and it is Char who must fight for her own life and soul in a vivid confrontation with the evil, shape-shifting being that has been terrorising her and her friends.

Apart from thirty-odd pages in the middle, where the excess of characters and a brief attempt to masquerade as a whodunit slow the pace and try the patience, The Cemetery is a compelling, unique and often scary entry in the Point Horror franchise. Despite the extensive dramatis personae, Athkins skilfully introduces us to them in such a way that we are soon able to distinguish one from another, though some are gifted with more interesting and realistic personalities than others. A sub-plot involving Cyndi and Dorian’s sibling rivalry adds variety, and whilst its conclusion is anti-climactic, it helps build suspense for the finale by stretching out the action. The vagueness of the last chapter in addressing what has been tormenting them, and where Jones fits into the mystery, marks another digression from the standard PH habit of neatly and succinctly tying up all loose ends (albeit often in a frustratingly contrived way) in the last couple of pages. While it might frustrate some, it enables a more imaginative reader to fill in the blanks and create their own explanations. The many good points of The Cemetery more than compensate for a trying few pages in the middle, and combine to produce a very entertaining and satisfying read.

9/10

Fear Factor

The first section, in the cemetery on Halloween night, unfolds with creeping suspense, culminating in a grisly murder the likes of which we rarely find in a Point Horror. Early clues that something is amiss become significant during the finale, which combines gory imagery and an atmosphere of pain, grief and loneliness, to vivid and terrifying effect. The unfolding of the final confrontation has an indistinctness which requires some participation on the reader’s part, but this effort is rewarded with a thoroughly tingled spine and a haunting sense of unease. One of the scariest entries in the franchise, The Cemetery merits a fear factor rating of…

9/10

Categories
Point Horror

The Watcher

By Lael Littke.

Catherine Belmont is obsessed with the soap opera, Lost River. She dreams of living the lifestyle of her favourite character, Cassandra Bly, with her mansion, great car and string of perfect boyfriends. They’re the same age; they look alike; they even have the same initials. But someone else has noticed the similarity, and when Cassandra starts being terrorised by an unknown tormentor, Catherine finds herself living the latest storyline of her favourite soap. Catherine’s best friend, Liz, and her neighbour, Kade, indulge her obsession, even accompanying her to Andersen’s Appliances during lunch-breaks to catch the day’s episode live. Others, like bitchy Britny Marsh, scorn her fangirl behaviour whereas newcomer to town, Travis, is a fellow Lost River fan and becomes a handsome distraction from Catherine’s problems.

The similarities between what’s going on in Cassandra’s soap world and Catherine’s real life are harmless at first. Both girls are left red roses by an unidentified person, which could be a coincidence; both receive anonymous phone calls where the same words are spoken, which could be a practical joke (literally everyone knows of Catherine’s obsession with Lost River). But as Cassandra finds herself in mortal danger on the soap, so Catherine’s tormentor ups their persecution of her, culminating in kidnapping and murderous machinations.

It’s an interesting idea and one which might well appeal to those with a fondness for Americana and 90’s nostalgia. Glossy US soap operas with their outrageous storylines and beautiful people are a far cry from the dreary cobbles of Coronation Street and the po-faced market traders of Albert Square. You can understand why a young person would rush home every day to watch the latest episode they have taped on VHS. Nowadays, with whole seasons of shows released in one go on streaming services, gone is the drip-fed pleasure of watching a storyline unfold. Cliffhangers no longer prompt week-long (or even summer-long) anticipation and water-cooler debates about “who shot JR” and “what happened after Ross said Rachel”. Instead, they lead to watching a season finale at 3 am when you’re too tired to fully appreciate what’s happening. It’s pleasant to be reminded of a time when TV didn’t need Hollywood A-listers and multi-million-dollar budgets to inspire a bit of mild obsession in its audience.

But there is another, parallel, and far more compelling plotline in The Watcher. That is, the arrival of sexy Travis Cavanaugh in Greenville, towards whom Catherine feels an instant attraction and an unplaceable sense of recognition. Travis seems perfect, despite Britny’s warning that he’s got a ‘problem’. Catherine is able to dismiss this as rivalry for an attractive boy’s affections from a girl who already dislikes her, but it is more difficult to ignore her mother’s bizarre reaction when she finds out Travis has been in their house. Weirder still is the fact that her mother has photos of him in an album hidden under her bed… This secondary storyline turns The Watcher into a real page-turner, for a little while… Unfortunately, it starts to reveal its mysteries about 30 pages too soon, making for a disappointing finale which follows an awkwardly executed twist. The explanation of how the perpetrator did what they did is particularly contrived and merely serves to stretch out a dull final section. Nevertheless, the duh-duh-DUH ending, which neatly brings together the soap opera and the real world one more time, is a nice touch. Whilst it’s not one of the best, there’s enough to make The Watcher a memorable and worthwhile read.

7/10

Fear Factor

Predominantly in the mystery rather than the horror camp, The Watcher has few scary moments and most of these are reserved for the finale. The ‘pranks’ of which she is made victim throughout the story are uninspired and forgettable. Nevertheless, the mental state of the perpetrator, and the genuine danger Catherine finds herself in at the end, inspire a sense of threat which borders on frightening. The creepy cliffhanger on the last page also ensures it ends on a note more in-keeping with the horror genre, and earns The Watcher a reasonable fear factor rating of…

5/10

Categories
Point Horror

The Surfer

By Linda Cargill.

When we meet The Surfer’s protagonist, Jessie Rogers, she is not in a good place. Her strict parents are going through a messy divorce and they are giving her a hard time about her lack of accomplishments; she enjoys being on the swimming team, but is an average competitor, and she is suffering from vivid, recurring nightmares about drowning. She escapes her troubles by spending time alone on Virginia Beach, staring out to sea. On one of these occasions, she witnesses a beautiful surfer get thrown from her board and, despite Jessie’s efforts to save her, the girl apparently drowns. Her closest friend, Nick Stieveson, sees this happen and is reminded of a terrifying family legend, which he recounts to Jessie. In his story, his Norwegian ancestor, Captain Olaf Stieveson, is bewitched into marrying a mysterious lady, Ingrid, who bears him a child. When Olaf realises his error, he tries to escape to Virginia Beach to unite with another woman he has impregnated, but Ingrid catches up with him, imprisons him in the crystal of her necklace and curses all future generations of the Stieveson family.

Nick’s parents return from a cruise with Marina, a beautiful girl who was dragged from the sea the night before and who, it is quickly established, is the same girl Jessie tried to save. Marina enchants almost everyone she meets, including Jessie who seemingly forgets the story Nick has told her. Marina takes Jessie under her wing, even becoming her swim coach, and Jessie flourishes under her tutelage. Nick, however, is convinced that the stranger is dangerous and, along with Jessie’s friends Tricia and Dot, he tries to work out why Marina is so interested in Jessie. But it becomes clear that Marina is determined to carry out her plan, whatever it may be, through to its successful completion, and she will let nothing, especially Nick, stand in her way.

The Surfer is consistently interesting, especially the fairy-tale-eqsue digression about Olaf and Ingrid. We can guess Marina’s true identity, but her motivations are a mystery until fairly late in the action, and it is an enjoyable build up to the revelation. It has a refreshingly different approach from most Point Horrors, and Jessie is even temporarily ‘lost’ to us when Nick’s POV takes over. This is unusual for a PH, which usually follows the action from one character’s perspective only, but it works really well here. It emphasises Jessie’s own detachment from reality whilst under Marina’s spell. That Jessie is so entranced by Marina is scary – we wonder who will win out, Marina or Nick. It is sometimes difficult to like Jessie, and often our sympathy lies with Nick. However, Linda Cargill seems to be aware of this, and it is Nick who most often finds himself in danger.

Despite the occasional sense of threat, there is not enough horror to make The Surfer a satisfyingly scary read. The final section, in particular, has a disappointing lack of tension. Whilst the twist is an interesting one, Jessie’s discovery of the truth could be more exciting. And the action which follows is merely a spiritless tying-up of loose ends. Nevertheless, The Surfer exceeds the low expectations I had based on its title, front page and blurb. It is a unique and memorable entry in the PH franchise.

7/10

Fear Factor

Although an enjoyable read, The Surfer is unfortunately not very scary. Marina is creepy, especially when her façade slips, but we don’t see enough of her in Linda Cargill’s vague descriptions. More should be made of her being the monster of the piece. There is a Brothers Grimm-ish element of horror in the story of Olaf and Ingrid, which is never quite matched once we are back in the modern day. This is a real shame, as there is plenty of scope for some dark horror in the second half of the novel. Because this never materialises, we cannot help but feel slightly cheated, and The Surfer only musters a fear factor rating of…

4/10

Categories
Point Horror

Beach Party

By R. L. Stine.

Karen and Ann Marie’s friendship has often been troubled by jealousy and arguments over boys. But having recently broken up with their boyfriends, the girls are looking forward to spending a carefree summer together in Karen’s father’s apartment on Venice Beach. On the first day of their vacation, the girls meet bad boy Vince and clean-cut, handsome Jerry… and Karen is instantly attracted to them both! But when they go out with Jerry that night, Karen discovers he already has a girlfriend, Renee, who is not shy in warning Karen to back off and leave her man alone. When Karen shuns Renee’s advice, she becomes a victim of threatening phone calls and spray-painted messages, warning her to ‘Stay away from Jerry’… As if this wasn’t enough, Karen has to contend with the surprise appearance of her ex, Mike, as well as Ann Marie’s increasingly suspicious behaviour. When the threats turn to violence, and even murder, Karen realises she needs to identify her tormentor, before it is too late.

The blurb and the first couple of chapters of Beach Party suggest it is about a love triangle between Karen, Jerry and Vince. However, there is a more defined love triangle between Karen, Jerry and poor Renee. Renee, the most obvious red herring in a novel teeming with obvious red herrings. Beach Party clearly aspires to be a whodunit, but the mystery of who is targeting Karen is subordinate to the far more compelling enigma of why every male character is so attracted to her. She’s self-involved, overly critical of others, and repeatedly snubs her best friend – who has travelled cross-country to be with her – in favour of boys who are described as looking like James Belushi and Sting. Such is R. L. Stine’s understanding of what teenage girls found attractive in the 1990’s. We also get various references to places in LA and more than one shout-out to the clothing company, Esprit – making me wonder whether this book might be the result of a tax-deductible vacation and a product-placement bung. If so, R. L. Stine got far more out of Beach Party than the reader ever could.

A bland entry in the Point Horror franchise, with weak characters and a dull twist. Instantly forgettable.

1/10

Fear Factor

Even if there was a sense of danger at any point, it would be impossible to care.

1/10