Saturday, November 3, 2012

Review: "Master of Murder"

Master of Murder by Christopher Pike
4 out of 5 stars

Oh man, I forgot how much I love Pike's books! So much cheese, I could make quesadillas with it lol...I picked this one up off my shelf on a whim one night and it totally makes me want to reread all of them. Oh and this is a special Saturday review to end Halloween week, in case you couldn't tell. :) I was pretty proud of myself this week for posting nearly everything I had planned. Did you enjoy it? I hope so!

Okay, let's just talk about this cover first. This book came out in 1992 so they were all about the neon and crazy fonts, which is totally rad dude. But who's the chick on the floor? That didn't happen anywhere in the book. Maybe it's a metaphorical dead chick lol. Who wears weird high heels. Yeah, let's go with that. I remember this being one of my favorite stories and it was surprisingly good still twenty years later. (OMG I'm old.) There are going to be lots of spoilers in this here review, so if you've never read it, be warned. Or just read my awesome review because it's super long and tells everything anyway. :)

So, Marvin Summer is a high school student who also happens to be a hugely successful YA writer named Mack Slate. His identity is a secret from everyone but his 11 year old sister, Ann (an incredibly popular name in the Pike Universe, along with Mike if I recall correctly), so he gets a silent thrill when he sees the girl of his dreams, Shelly Quade, reading one of his books during English class. Marvin & Shelly went out a few times the previous year but stopped when Shelly's (other) boyfriend, Harry, killed himself. Shelly was naturally distraught after that and Marvin, being a nice guy, gave her some time to grieve. But it's been over a year now and he's determined to ask her out again. Right after he reads his frog story, which is a big hit with the students, but not so much the teacher. (The frog wants to fly like the birds, so starts sucking in lots of air and begins floating...until he sucks in so much air that he explodes, sending froggy bits everywhere lol...but the birds scoop up his bits so he really does get to fly after all.)

The thing about Christopher Pike is that he knows how to write a good YA book and even puts it right in his books: In essence the editors were saying that teenagers were not smart enough to read an intelligent plot. But it was Marvin's belief that most teen books were written down to kids, and that was why most of his friends had gone from reading young adult stuff to adult stuff. Smart right? This book is totally meta author writing under a pen name about an author writing under a pen name. Or something like that. I tried to find a flowchart or something to explain this, but only found this little comic about the ultimate Christopher Pike book. I'd read it. :)

(found on Fudge That Sugar, which has lots of hilarious comics!)

Alright, Marvin asks Shelly out and she says "...don't take so long next time." Hah. Marvin leaves school totally psyched and goes to check his fan mail at the local PO, where he runs into his precocious little sister, who skipped school to watch R-rated movies. It's all good though, cause their parents are both drunk losers, so they didn't even notice. Oh and Marvin drives a motorcycle, cause he's a total bad-ass author and that's what they do. They get home with his hundreds of letters and start sifting through them. Lots of "where do you get your ideas" and "I'm your number 1 fan" and a few "I'm totally hot and would do you" mixed in. Marvin puts those aside for later. And then he finds one postmarked from his hometown that just says "I know who you are." Oooh...spooky. He doesn't think it's a big deal, even though Ann is a little freaked. Oh and we find out that Ann doesn't like Shelly at all, but never get any real explanation for that. Weird.

Marvin & Shelly finally go on their hot date and it goes well, despite him falling asleep in the movie and making her ride on the back of his motorcycle when it's really cold outside. They end up back at Shelly's, whose parents just happen to be out of town (actually they're gone for the whole book; parents aren't a high priority in Pikeverse) and decide to have a little romp in the Jacuzzi. Marvin is (mostly) a perfect gentleman and stops when Shelly gets all depressed. Chick is seriously emo. The evening ends on a seriously low note when she tells Marvin that she doesn't think Harry committed suicide. And she wants Marvin to help her find out the truth. Uh okay. Marvin agrees because, hello, chance to see Shelly naked again.

The next day he goes to the library to do some research (combing thru actual newspapers from over a year ago, no microfiche here) and finds a few odd things. First of all, the police claimed Harry jumped off the rickety old bridge on the edge of town but wasn't found for 2 days. Second, he had oil stains all over his hands, his palms were blistered, and he had a bunch of broken capillaries on his legs. The cops don't think anything about it, but Marvin being a super genius mystery writer, starts to question it more. He visits the old guy that pulled Harry out of the water and found out that there were mysterious burns on Harry's letterman jacket, around the chest and under the arms, that the cops also didn't question. Marvin thinks it sounds like rope burns and when he next visits Harry's mom, who lets him examine the jacket, that theory is pretty much confirmed. Oh and while there, we get this amusing little line after Harry's mom mentions her dead son loved Mack Slate books, causing Marvin to gag on his cookie: "...I just get choked-up sometimes when I --choke on my food." heh.

In between all the murder investigating and such, Marvin is trying to finish his last book in a series of 6 but is getting nowhere fast thanks to some gigantic writer's block. The series is about a hot high school girl named Ann (after his sister) who dies in the first book and everyone thinks someone murdered but no one knows who, not even Marvin. The story is set in a town eerily similar to his own and even the characters seem the same. But Marvin insists they are nothing alike and he totally did not get his inspiration from Harry's death. (He totally did.) This is all revealed in an odd dream sequence (more Pikeverse) yet Marvin conveniently forgets it all when his little sis wakes him up and tells him their drunk dad is there and tearing the house up. Marvin is pissed and decides not to take any crap from him anymore (especially after dad breaks the "picture tube" that his mom lives in front of) and beats his dad up before running off.

And now things get real weird, so stay with me! Marvin ends up at Shelly's house and hears loud music so of course he decides to spy on her. He finds her in the Jacuzzi with a football blockhead from school named...wait for it...Triad. Yes, the boy's name is really Triad. Oh and Triad just happens to be Harry's former best friend. They're getting hot n' heavy and Marvin is sickened, then pissed when he hears them talking about what a loser he is. Turns out Shelly's just stringing him along for some unknown reason. Marvin ends up on the suicide bridge in the middle of the night and has a huge epiphany about Harry's death. It wasn't a suicide after all or even a murder was an accident. Harry was hanging from the bridge with the rope around his waist when he slipped and the rope went up under his arms, causing him to hang there for days and eventually slip out and die. Now, why was he hanging from a bridge you ask? Simple: revenge. Harry finds out Marvin is going out with Shelly and is pissed. He concocts a little plan (with some help from, you guessed it, Triad) to stretch a rope across the bridge and clothesline Marvin on his motorcycle as he crosses it late at night with Shelly. He obviously changes his mind, since those two are not the dead ones. But since Shelly has no idea of the revenge plan, she thinks Marvin had something to do with Harry's murder, which is why she's stringing him along.

And what does any self-respecting young teenage millionaire author do when his heart is broken? He decides to carry out Harry's plan again and make it work this time. This involves: selling Triad his motorcycle, buying himself a hot red Corvette, heading to the local Sears for murder tools, ensuring that Triad heads over the bridge that night, and laying in wait. This does not involve: going to the police, talking to Shelly about it, finding out if his dad killed his sister and mom in a drunken stupor, or stopping to think about what he was doing at all. Oh and he creeps out two girls at a bookstore by signing their books as Mack Slate lol. Creeper.

All goes according to plan, until Marvin is actually hanging off this stupid bridge and Triad is coming up the road...with Shelly behind him. Marvin freaks, drops the rope, screams "Sheeellllllly" thus giving himself away to the actual "Master of Murder", Triad. Yeah, you knew that was coming, didn't you? There's a big confrontation, with Marvin dangling on the edge of the bridge, Triad trying to kill him, Shelly still convinced Marvin is the killer, but slowly realizing it was really Triad, and Marvin finding out that it was Shelly sending him the creepy "I know who you are" letters. It all comes to a climax when Triad has a knife to Shelly's throat and Marvin...walks away. Yep, he's good at that isn't he.

For the second time in a week, Marvin just takes off, not telling anyone where he's going or why, and leaving two people in a life or death situation. This time he holes up in a small cabin and cranks out the last book in his series in a few days. All that revenging really gets the writing juices flowing. He gets to the very end, about 5 pages from finishing, and realizes he has to go back home to find out what happened in real life before he can send it to his editor. Because, in case you can't tell, he's basically writing an autobiography at this point. After waiting 3 hours for his book to print (heh...old times), he heads back home.

When he gets home, he sets up a book reading and signing at his high school, finally deciding to come out of the author closet. His sister and mom are both still alive, mom is actually sober for once, and dad went to jail for 30 days for breaking the picture tube. Mom is totally confused when she finds out her son is a famous writer with lots and lots of money (like that won't cause her to start drinking again) and Ann is excited she can finally tell her friends about her famous big brother. The two head to the school where it's completely packed with excited teens waiting for their favorite author. When Marvin is introduced, there's dead silence and his English teacher faints lol. Marvin takes questions (where do you get your ideas from? Oh, you know, just observing all of you people in everyday life.) and reads part of his book and signs everyone's copies.

It's all fun and rewarding for Marvin, but he's worried when he finds out neither Triad nor Shelly have been in school all week. What happened on the bridge after he left? After the reading, he heads to the lake that just happens to be where Harry's (and Ann in the book) body was found. Shelly shows up, with Marvin's knife that was last seen being held against her throat. They sit on an oddly soft patch of land that seems to have been disturbed recently and have a long, boring discussion that brings everything to a nice close. Just to clear it all up and also make it really confusing, here's the revenge sequence: Triad was jealous of Harry for dating Shelly and killed him, Harry was jealous of Marvin for dating Shelly and tried to kill him, Shelly was mad at Marvin for thinking he killed Harry and tried to kill him, Marvin was jealous of Triad for dating Shelly and tried to kill him, Triad was trying to tie up all the loose ends and blame it on Marvin and tried to kill him, and Shelly was really tying up the loose ends with Triad and killed him. Got it? Good, me neither.

And where is Triad? Well, Shelly isn't saying anything but...and that's that. Marvin decides that he still loves Shelly, even after she accused him of murder and set him up to be killed. Because, let's face it, she's totally hot. And the book ends with them racing off to the airport to send his manuscript to New York (wasn't FedEx around in the 90s??) and two characters in Marvin's book having hot sex in the back of the car. And thus ends the longest review ever. :)

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