Full disclosure: this is the first of the Fear Street books so far that I know for sure I read as a kid. I clearly remembered the cover and one particularly gruesome scene, but I completely forgot the whole plot.
This one opens with a prologue, but we’re with a victim fleeing for her life instead of with the killer stalking her. This particular trick–opening with a scene from the climax of the story–irritates the crap out of me. It may be possible to do it in such a way that it doesn’t ruin the entire book that follows, but it always destroys at least some of the tension, even if there’s always a twist.
Laurie Masters is working for the summer at Shadyside Hospital, where she immediately sets out getting on the wrong side of one of the older nurses. There’s also construction going on at the hospital–building the new Franklin Fear Wing. Apparently the Fear family is still around and still super loaded, which explains why no one in Shadyside has yet managed to get the troublesome street renamed.
While working in the children’s ward, Laurie is drawn to a little boy whose room is barren of flowers, toys, balloons, or other gifts. Laurie is one of the most genuinely decent kids featured in these books so far, and she sets about rounding up something to cheer up the kid. She manages to find him as he’s being checked out suspiciously early in the morning. She manages to hand him a teddy bear, and just before being dragged away, the little boy confides that the woman taking him isn’t his mother.
This doesn’t rule out her being a step-mother or something, but Laurie isn’t the kind to let things slide. Of course, because this is a teen thriller, there’s a cute, mysterious new guy. Never mind that Laurie is already dating someone else who happens to be the stepson of the hospital administrator. The new guy starts acting suspicious and Laurie keeps getting herself in trouble over the little boy until she walks into the unfinished Franklin Fear Wing and finds the body of the troublesome nurse.
Laurie gets more points from me for summoning hospital security and the police. Of course, now that someone finally called them, there’s no body for them to find. The nurse in question doesn’t show up for work, but she had a vacation conveniently scheduled. SHe does turn up–dead in her car after an apparent accident.
Laurie sticks with it, and with the little boy, whose home is located on Fear Street. This isn’t a Fear Street book that features ghosts or teen hijinks as imagined by an adult man. In some ways, it’s the most disturbing of the assorted goings on in Shadyside, though just how deeply unsettling passed me by as a kid.
So, the carnage? The body count wasn’t high, but we’re still getting really gruesome views of the gore.
Shadyside death count: 27. Including one nurse murdered by way of scalpel plunged into her throat. Her body was discovered by our main character, though her death wasn’t personally witnessed, so I suppose there’s been worse. Then her body was disposed of by way of a faked car accident.
Additional carnage: No dead animals this time around. It’s always a bit of a relief.
Spoiler-laden point at which this all could have been avoided: I’m going to give Laurie a pass here. Since she insisted on snooping around and wouldn’t let anything stop her, she broke up a ring responsible for kidnapping and selling children. She managed to expose the hospital administrator who was behind it, and not only rescue the kid she wanted to save, but the kid’s twin brother, along with the missing sister of the mystery boy. All in all, not bad work.
(To keep up with a year of reading and reviewing Fear Street books, visit The Shadyside Review.)