Sweet Valley High Super Thriller #8: Murder in Paradise
Alice Wakefield has won a trip to the luxurious Paradise Spa. She takes along the twins and their best friends, Lila and Enid. Their mothers are invited too, but only Grace Fowler can make it. Adele Rollins can’t get the time off work, so already we know we’re supposed to feel sorry for Enid, who walks around feeling ugly and fat because Hugh just dumped her.
When the gang gets to the spa, Jessica immediately forgets about Ken Matthews and falls in love with Chris, the good-looking golf instructor. It appears that everyone who works at Paradise Spa is freaking gorgeous except the owner, Tatiana Mueller. She surprises everyone when she turns out to be ugly and disfigured. Alice feels like she and Tatiana have met before, but then shrugs the feeling off. Clearly, Alice doesn’t know she’s in a Super Thriller.
Jessica and Lila are freaked out and horrified when they realize there are no mirrors anywhere in the cottage. At breakfast the next morning, Jessica asks for one and Tatiana gets all creepy and says no, only inner beauty matters. Then breakfast comes and Liz notices their beautiful waitress, Katya, seems sad. After the meal, Jessica goes for her golf lesson with Chris. She gets annoyed when Chris starts asking about her sister, and when he asks if Jessica thinks Liz would go out with him, she throws her golf club on the ground and walks away.
Tatiana takes a special interest in Enid and gives her a special hair treatment “just for redheads.” While Tatiana works on her hair, Enid tells her how envious she is of Liz because she has straight blond hair and a boyfriend and a loving mother who was able to take time off work. Tatiana is all weird and eggs Enid on, trying to make her feel like nobody cares about her.
Chris finds Liz later and asks her to play tennis with him after dinner. Liz wants Enid to join them so she asks Chris to bring a friend. Enid gets pissy for some reason. But she goes and is instantly attracted to Chris’ roommate Alex, who works as a groundskeeper at the spa. Alex seems to like Enid, too, until Jessica shows up and starts putting on a cheerleading show. Chris and Alex invite the girls to their room for ice cream, and Lila and Enid watch while the twins monopolize the boys. Enid is miserable, but Lila’s just disgusted that they’re so interested in the hired help.
The next day, Liz asks Katya about her family. Katya bursts into tears and says she ran away and will never see her mother again. Then she runs off. Later, Liz and Chris have a picnic and start making out. It’s totally okay because when she’s with Chris, Liz forgets all about Todd so I guess it’s not like she’s cheating or anything.
Enid meets Tatiana for another hair treatment. Tatiana hypnotizes Enid and plants a suggestion that Enid’s mother doesn’t love her and wishes she’d never been born. Enid starts spending lots of time with Tatiana, who keeps hypnotizing her. Enid’s mom calls the cottage one day and Liz is shocked when Enid says she doesn’t feel like talking to her.
Katya, Chris and Alex take Lila and the twins out for a game of Frisbee golf and accidentally lead them into the woods where they all stumble upon a big white building with no windows in the middle of a clearing. The spa employees freak out and run off, yelling at everyone to follow them. Later, Liz overhears Tatiana yelling at Katya for bringing the guests into the woods.
Liz can tell that Katya has taken a liking to Alice, so she asks her to talk to her. Katya tells Alice she wishes she could go home, but she can’t. That night, Jessica finds Katya dead in the steam room. Tatiana says Katya had a heart condition, but Liz is suspicious. She snoops in Katya’s room that night and finds out she was a runaway. On her next date with Chris, Liz asks if he’s also a runaway. It turns out he and Alex both ran away from home to work at Paradise. Then she finds out all the other teenage employees are runaways, too, and they all work at the spa for no money, just room and board. Liz thinks they all seem brainwashed.
Alice, Grace, Lila and the twins go to a waterfall as a sort of remembrance thing for Katya. Liz is explaining to Jessica that something strange is going on when Grace suddenly starts shouting for Alice, who has apparently disappeared. The twins run back to the spa and tell Tatiana what happened, but Tatiana tries to placate them by saying Alice probably just wanted some alone time.
The twins go back to their room to try to call their father, but the phone is dead. Jessica goes to Tatiana’s office to tell her the phones are down. Before she can knock on the door, Jessica hears Tatiana talking on the phone. But when Jessica enters the office a few minutes later and asks to use the phone, Tatiana tells her all the phones are down, including hers. Jessica leaves the office and then sees Tatiana run down the hallway. She sneaks back into the office and finds a Sweet Valley University yearbook from Alice’s senior year. Alice’s picture has been cut out.
While Jessica is doing that, Liz checks out the phone cord in the cottage and realizes it’s been cut. Luckily, she has her trusty laptop and she plugs it into the phone line. If she’s got her own cord, I don’t know why she doesn’t just plug in the phone. Anyway, there’s a convoluted explanation of how Liz gets on the internet and emails her dad. Then she gets on “INFOMAX,” where she does a search for the skin and hair treatments Enid’s been undergoing. The result is “plastic surgery.” Liz can’t believe Enid would ever consider plastic surgery.
Back in Tatiana’s office, Jessica looks through a folder marked “Staff.” There are two files for each employee, a Before and an After. There’s a photograph in each one, and it’s clear that all the employees have undergone plastic surgery. There’s a Before file for Enid, and it contains a computer generated image of what Enid would look like after having surgery. Jessica is freaking out over this when suddenly the door opens and the lights come on. Don’t worry, it’s just Enid. Jessica waves the file around and says Tatiana has a plan for her, but Enid just gets all happy and tells Jessica how excited she is to look like a supermodel.
Liz is freaking out and she decides to go outside to look for Alice again. She thinks she’ll go back to the waterfall. It doesn’t occur to her to check out the creepy building everyone was afraid of. Right after she leaves, Jessica comes back to the cottage and tells Lila and Grace what she found. Liz’s computer beeps, which means she has a message. Jessica opens the email from Ned, who wants Liz to tell Alice that they did know Tatiana Mueller in college. She lived down the hall from Alice’s dorm room and worshipped Alice. Everyone called her Tatty Mule because she was ugly. Last he heard, Tatiana went to medical school. Jessica realizes Tatiana wants to be just like Alice and that Alice is in trouble.
Liz is at the waterfall when she suddenly feels something close around her wrist. She gets pulled into a cave behind the waterfall and is surprised to see Chris standing there in a white lab coat and looking all mean. He takes her arm and tells her Tatiana is expecting her. Here’s what we learn:
- Tatiana wants to look like Alice.
- She went under the knife at twenty-three, but the surgeon sucked. That’s why she’s disfigured.
- She became the best plastic surgeon ever so that she could train someone to do it right.
- That someone is Marguerite, Tatiana’s assistant who’s only been mentioned once before at the beginning of the book.
- Marguerite is going to make Tatiana look just like Alice.
- Tatiana is going to kill Alice, because there can’t be two of them.
Just when Liz thinks Tatiana is going to kill her, Jessica, Lila and Enid show up to save the day. Well, Enid is sort of along for the ride, but during all the Evil Villain and Pleading Protagonist speeches, Enid’s brainwashing comes undone and she helps take Tatiana down. Then the cops show up. The next morning, all the spa employees run around yelling, “Mrs. Mueller is gone! We don’t have to work here anymore!”
Jessica: These portions are half of what we get for dinner at home, Mom. I’m going to wither away!
Liz: It feels good not to be stuffed, to eat just as much as you need and no more.
Is there some reason you can’t eat that way at home? Does someone force you to eat past the point where you’re comfortable?
“Fifteen love,” [Chris] said in a strong, clear voice as he set up for his next serve, and Elizabeth sensed that in addition to announcing the score, he was sending her a special message. A message about love…
Ugh, can Liz just get laid already? Maybe then she’d stop being so obsessed with “love.”
The Cover: I will never understand what Lila is doing, but Jessica seems to think it’s pretty funny. Liz (Alice? No, probably Liz.) is wearing an ugly swimsuit and has really bad hair.