Sweet Valley High Super Thriller #9: A Stranger in the House
The Big Deal: Summer vacation
So, this book has a prologue, which is weird. A man named John Marin sits in a prison cell staring at the newspaper clippings he’s gathered over the last few months. Each one contains something about the Wakefield twins. They sure are in the paper a lot. Anyway…
It’s the first day of summer vacation again, and this time the twins are for once NOT going to work at a newspaper. They’ve taken jobs as waitresses at the Marina Café. Alice will be spending the summer working on a new job at a mansion that’s being remodeled, Steve will be working at Ned’s law firm and Ned will be fretting about the twins because John Marin just got out of jail. Marin, who is now twenty-eight but still looks like he’s twenty, killed a mother and daughter ten years ago and Ned was the attorney that put him away. Marin didn’t like that much and threatened Ned’s family and now here we are.
The twins’ boss, Mr. Jenkins, can’t tell them apart. Rather, he obviously can since he’s pretty consistent in calling Liz Jess and Jess Liz. Whatever, I don’t even care. Liz is awed by another waitress, Jane, who’s on her fourth summer at the Marina Café. Jane tells Liz she just graduated from college and Liz just can’t believe it because Jane doesn’t look twenty-two. Jane laughs and confirms that she’s really twenty-six. Oh, shut up. Jessica flirts with a customer named Scott Maderlake who looks about twenty and has blue eyes. He says he’s an intern scouting out locations for his boss’s next film, which will take place at a high school. Of course, Jessica offers to show him Sweet Valley High. He’s like Jessica’s dream man. When Ned gets home from work that night, he finds that John Marin has broken into the house and left him a threatening note.
This book sucks already.
Liz is tired of her boring life (again) and wants to do something adventurous (again). After she and Todd see some movie for the fourth time, they go to the Dairi Burger, where Liz looks across the room and sees her soulmate, some guy who looks about twenty with blue eyes. She doesn’t speak to him or anything, but she knows he was meant for her. He shows up at the café the next day, sailing up on his boat, The Emily Dickinson. Both twins notice a creepy old man watching them all day, and Liz actually runs into him in the storage room. She runs out and straight into the arms of soulmate guy. His name is actually Ben Morgan and he seems like Liz’s dream man. Neither twin wants to tell the other about her new boyfriend.
After showing Scott the high school and then having dinner with him, Jessica goes home and discovers her lavaliere is missing. Ned later finds the lavaliere, along with a note that says “Such a lovely young neck,” in an envelope with his name on it. He calls the private investigator he’s had watching the twins. His name is Jim Battaglia and he tells Ned that Jessica has been seeing a guy, but he doesn’t look anything like the mug shot Jim received (Marin intercepted the real mug shot and replaced it with someone else’s). Jim offers to investigate the boyfriend, but Ned says not to bother since he’s “no different from the other hundred or so that she’s been out with in the last year.”
The days go by and nothing much happens. Jessica secretly goes out with Scott, Liz secretly goes out with Ben, Marin sends Ned threatening notes, Ned freaks out. The twins are being followed and watched by at least two men, one having been hired by Marin and one by Ned’s P.I. We’re not supposed to know which is which. Then one day Jim calls and tells Ned that Marin’s been taken into custody. He had a lavaliere on him. Yeah, right. You know it’s the wrong guy.
The twins are locking up the café the next night. Jessica sees a man with a knife in the storage room. She screams and the guy runs away. They call the police and then go down to the station. The cops have them pick the guy out of a lineup, but the guy they pick is “Marin,” who’s been in jail since the night before. The cops finally figure out the guy they have isn’t Marin, but some guy named Pilchard. Marin hired him to watch the twins and gave him Jessica’s necklace as part of his payment. Ned, intending to demand how the mugshot got mixed up, drives to Jim’s house and finds the P.I. dead. There’s a note from Marin next to the body.
On the way home from the police station, Liz tells Jessica about Ben and asks her to cover for her while she goes sailing with him. Later that night, Jessica is confronted by Ned and a couple cops. They tell her about Marin and show her Marin’s picture and she’s all, “Don’t be silly, that’s my new boyfriend!” It finally sinks in that her new boyfriend is a murderer, but she still insists that Liz’s secret boyfriend is someone different altogether. Jane the waitress is the only one who’s seen Ben, so they find her at the Beach Disco and she confirms that the guy in the mugshot is Ben.
Liz and Marin are about to make out on “Ben’s” boat when a Coast Guard boat carrying Ned, Jessica and some cops shows up. Marin threatens Liz with a knife and there’s a struggle. Liz gets away from him and somehow falls overboard. Jessica seems to be the only one who notices, so she jumps off the Coast Guard boat to rescue her. In the end, Marin manages to escape in a dinghy and later the cops find evidence that he’s been eaten by sharks. But of course he wasn’t. He’s hiding in the Wakefields’ basement. After the twins go to sleep, Marin goes to their room to kill them, but Ned comes along and knocks him out the window. The cop outside says Marin is going back to jail. Yeah, right. If he was, I wouldn’t have a whole second book to read in this miniseries.
Elizabeth tried to listen, but she found herself focusing on Todd’s neat, conservative haircut, his wholesome good looks, and his mall-store rugby shirt. He was so ordinary…For the first time, Elizabeth realized just how unsophisticated her boyfriend really was.
Ugh, you are such a snob.
Jessica: The money isn’t what’s important!
Lila: Bite your tongue!
Your daily dose of Lila.
The Cover: Awesome floppy nineties hair, John! Love it. The best part of this cover is the clippings on the wall. Most of them are whatever, but you can clearly see the covers of Jessica Quits the Squad and Murder in Paradise. Up at the top you can see Marin in his twin-tailored personalities – the poet sailor with Liz and the movie guy with Jessica.