Sweet Valley High #26: Hostage!

Sweet Valley High #26: Hostage by Francine Pascal

Title: Hostage

Tagline: Can anyone save Regina Morrow?

Summary: When Elizabeth Wakefield learns that Regina Morrow has returned unexpectedly to Sweet Valley from Switzerland, she drops by to visit. A strange woman answers the door and says Regina cannot have visitors. With the help of Jessica, her twin, and Bruce Patman, Regina’s boyfriend, Elizabeth discovers that Regina and her parents are being held hostage!

If Elizabeth calls the police, the Morrows may be killed. So she, Bruce, Jessica, and Regina’s brother, Nicholas, vow to rescue the Morrows on their own – before the kidnappers take desperate action!

The Cover:

The cover is pale yellow with dark text. The porthole shows a preppy-looking brunette (even though Regina is described as “raven-haired” – ha ha, Raven), wearing a white shirt and a yellow sweater-vest, as someone behind her in jeans and a denim shirt holds a rag towards her face. Spoilers: at no point does Regina get chloroformed. I think they’re confused with Liz’s kidnapping. The preppy girl looks horrified and her hair is enormous. [Raven: Sadly, Raven-haired in THIS household is defined as “largely bald”.]

Initial Thoughts:

I’m not sure if I’ve ever read this one. I certainly know the plot points, but it is one of the more talked-about entries in the series, and it’s about one of the more beloved side characters.

Generally speaking, “plucky girl detectives” is not my favourite theme from the Twins era, where the themes generally ranged from “OMG, you’ll never guess which famous person we’ve shoe-horned into Sweet Valley” to “Hey, remember your favourite movie? The twins are doing that!”

But here in High, where the plots range from Jessica trying to bully a teenage girl to death, to the girl’s mother bullying her to death? YES. GIMME THAT PLOT. I’ll even tolerate Bruce’s presence. Anything to shake it up.

Bring on the sneaky recon and daring escapes!

[Raven: I’m traditionally a fan of the Plucky Girl Detectives in twins, so I’m genuinely excited for this one. Full of trepidation, sure, but excited nontheless.]

[Wing: I don’t know that Twins fulfilled the potential of the Plucky Girl Detectives books, but I love that sort of story in general. The world needs more Plucky Girl Detectives and fewer cops.]


We open with the twins catching “a rare hour of total relaxation between school and dinner” by the pool. Oh yes, Jessica and Elizabeth, do tell me about the high stress levels of your life, where classes are largely irrelevant, tests only show up when it drives the plot, and nobody faces any chance of failing. Also, tell me more about how you are struggling to make ends meet by not working and leeching off your upper middle class family.

The only reason your lives are full of stress is because you are both emotional vampires who stir up drama and get involved with other people’s problems because your lives are sparkly perfection and you are bored witless.

On a related note: behold the plot! Elizabeth is worried about Regina.

And then we get the same-but-different nonsense as usual, and the description of the twins’ perfect beauty leads naturally to another perfect beauty, Regina. There are many important things to know about her. She’s beautiful. She’s rich. She has a handsome brother. She lives in a gigantic McMansion.

But the most important thing to know about her is that you wouldn’t even realise she’s deaf.

No, really.

Most important, Elizabeth reflected, one couldn’t tell Regina had a serious handicap. Years of training in a special school in Connecticut and work with private voice therapists made it almost impossible to tell that Regina had been born almost completely deaf.

The MOST IMPORTANT thing about this beautiful rich doll is that she CONCEALS HER HANDICAP. This is far more important than the fact that she’s nice or kind, or that she makes awesome macaroni art, and reads Enid Blyton books and can juggle five items at once. I mean, the book doesn’t tell us that because who cares about the person? The outside is the only “personality trait” we care for.

Seriously. Fuck you, book. Fuck you hard. Being able to pass as non-disabled is like the least important thing. For me it’s on par with “can they tie a bow with their toes?” Like, huh, interesting, but I’m not going to base a friendship on it.

Obviously, with my walking stick, I would not do well at Sweet Valley High.

[Raven: It sure is a weird thing to be deemed as “important”. It’s like a negative trait, something that’s lauded in its absence. It’s one step from praising someone for a thing they’ve never displayed or acheived. “Most important, Elizabeth reflected, was the fact that Regina had never been a member of Japan’s 1964 Olympic-gold-medal-winning Women’s Volleyball Team. Even if she’d displayed an aptitude for the sport, as a sixteen-year-old girl in the early Eighties, Regina would have been minus-three years old at the time of the tournament. Additionally, even if she’d found herself both alive and prodigiously talented in 1964, she wouldn’t have heard any audible play-calls during the matches, because she’s fucking deaf.”]

[Wing: Of course it’s lauded in its absence. She’s not bringing down the value of Sweet Valley by being visibly disabled, after all.

Dove, I think you and your walking stick could do very well in Sweet Valley. Might be a touch bloody, though.]

Then she recalls every beat of the Regina/Bruce ship thus far. She tamed the rapist with her prettiness, and now he’s passing as a functioning member of society, to the point where he let her go to Switzerland to get her hearing fixed so that she would no longer have to fake her normalcy, and instead could just be a “real” person.

The entire first chapter is just Elizabeth recalling book plots. Because once we’ve had the summary of Head Over Heels, we dive back into the archives for Kidnapped!, where Elizabeth recalls the “agony” of being tied to a chair for two days. It’s funny, she’s never once recalled this agony before. To be honest, I thought she’d completely forgotten about it. The way that you do. [Raven: Well, she went from being kidnapped by a sexual predator to being “wooed” by an intense and privileged Rich White-Boy Incel in the space of a few scant paragraphs. Sweet Valley High, blurring the lines between being picked up in a limo and being bundled into a van since 1983!]

Long story short, she thinks Regina is in trouble. Jessica tells her to have a word with herself. She doesn’t give any real reasons, other than she thinks Bruce is also imagining that Regina’s in danger. Here are some normal reasons Regina didn’t get in contact:

  • She met a cute boy who hasn’t tried to rape her friends and decided to date him, but since this is her first breakup, she’s ghosting because she’s not sure how to proceed. [Wing: Ghosting Bruce Fucking Patman is probably one of the safer ways to break up with him.]
  • While getting the treatment, she met with other disabled people and found out that being expected to “pass as normal” is actually bollocks, and she now that she’s thought about it, Elizabeth Wakefield and her sanctimonious “support” can get in the fucking ocean.
  • She’s jet-lagged as fuck. She’s just had treatment and recovery, followed by a twelve-hour flight – and that’s assuming she didn’t get routed through Newark, the literal worst airport in the world, for a 28 hour delay. They got their groceries delivered because even beautiful people can’t be arsed sometimes.
  • The aunt who answered the phone to Bruce has heard all about his non-consensual behaviour, and decided to engineer a breakup to save her beloved niece from this toxic manchild.
  • Someone in the house is on a post-vacation clean/bedding in, where they cannot deal with the idea of visitors until the house is back to its usual lived-in and comfy phase after being away.

I’m just saying, there are perfectly normal reasons that Regina would ghost them or put off getting in touch with them.

Since Jessica won’t indulge Elizabeth’s SOMETHING MUST BE DONE phase, she calls Bruce. You know, the guy who tried to rape her and emotionally abused her sister. [Wing: It’s amazing how much she undersells what happened between Jess and Bruce Fucking Patman, and flat out doesn’t acknowledge her own experience with him. Which could be a good bit of characterization. She can’t deal with it, so she flat out doesn’t think about it. Except that’s not what we get.] But that’s not the point now. The point is: Elizabeth is not getting what she needs from one toxic monster, so she’ll have to call the other one.

Bruce is also worried. Elizabeth says she’s going to check out the Morrows’ home. Bruce offers to come with her, but she turns him down. I’m not sure why, but the vibe reads as “this is MY plucky girl detective moment, NOT YOURS”, and not “HELL NO, YOU’RE A FUCKING MONSTER”.

Elizabeth drives over to the Morrows, all filled with nervous energy. I don’t know what her plan is, and thankfully, she doesn’t have to come up with one, because the gates are unlocked. Wasn’t that handy, ghostie? She takes a moment to gird her loins before driving up and then knocking on the door.

The door is answered by an evil person. You can tell she’s evil because she’s ugly.

Using her reporter’s skills, Elizabeth tried to absorb as many details as possible about her. She wondered if this was the woman who told Bruce she was Regina’s aunt. The woman appeared to be in her middle to late thirties. She had gray-streaked auburn hair and pale skin. But her eyes were her most unusual feature—gray and slightly slanted, with an expression that made Elizabeth shudder.

I love that Elizabeth has “reporter’s skills” – dude, you write a fucking gossip column, you didn’t exactly break Watergate, love – and also that her slanted eyes scare Elizabeth to her core. [Raven: Reporter’s skills! Also, Anna says hi.]

The evil woman tells Elizabeth that Regina isn’t here. Seconds before Regina walks into the foyer behind her. How half-arsed is this hostage situation? [Wing: Note from the future: extremely, and yet somehow effectively. Ish.]

The evil woman, who I’m going to call Aunt Evil until we get a name, snaps that she thought Regina was staying upstairs. Regina gazes at Elizabeth, with her “blue eyes burning”, then she looks hopeless and goes upstairs. Aunt Evil says Regina hasn’t been feeling well and turfs Elizabeth out, despite her trying to get her foot in the door.

Elizabeth drives home, apparently unaware that she has no more information than she did before the visit. She has no idea where the rest of the Morrow clan is. She doesn’t know who Aunt Evil is. She doesn’t know if Regina is in trouble, and if so, what kind. She knows nothing.

As she pulls up at home, she sees her dad’s car and realises that, as a lawyer, Ned would not be happy to see his daughter getting involved in trouble. Um, also as your father, moron. She vows that she and Jessica will keep this a secret.

What? You fucking moron. Jessica’s not even involved at this point. She thinks it’s all in your head because you’re having PTSD flashbacks from being kidnapped.

But anyway, Elizabeth grabs Jessica to make sure she hasn’t talked about Regina to their parents.

“So what did you see over there?” Jessica prompted, sitting up and bouncing her blond head over to touch her knees.

“You know, it hurts just to watch you do that,” Elizabeth commented. “How can I possibly tell you what I saw over at the Morrows’ place while you’re hanging upside down?”

“OK, OK,” Jessica said, looking attentive at last. “Shoot.”

Elizabeth shuddered. “I don’t think I like that word right now, Jess. It gives me the creeps. As a matter of fact, almost everything is giving me the creeps today!”

“You must’ve stopped off to see Bruce,” Jessica suggested, her aqua eyes twinkling.

Elizabeth just got triggered by the word “shoot”. At no point did she encounter a gun. Elizabeth needs to be swaddled in cotton wool today.

She seems more jumpy now, based on what objectively could just be a socially deficient relative than she was when, say, she’d just been kidnapped by a strange man who imprinted on her and followed her around everywhere until he kidnapped her and held her hostage for several days, before she returned home to a party, where another strange man that she had never met, imprinted on her and followed her around everywhere until she agreed to date him.


Also, Bruce should give the twins the creeps.

Elizabeth clutches her pearls and makes Jessica swear to secrecy. They must never tell their parents what is going on, or they won’t be allowed to visit the Morrows ever again.

At this point, I would like to clarify, Elizabeth has not told Jessica anything.

At this point, I would like to clarify, Elizabeth hasn’t actually seen anything except an impolite woman handle a social situation badly. [Raven: That, and a “look” from Regina herself, I suppose.]

“I still think you’ve been reading too many thrillers,” Jessica said after a minute’s reflection. “But I have to admit, it sounds kind of weird. Do you think this woman is holding Regina hostage or something?”

“I think,” Elizabeth said thoughtfully, “that it’s too complicated now for us to deal with on our own.”

“I think,” Dove added, with almost no thought at all. “That Jessica has summed up the entire plot with that last sentence and the ghostie is trying to make it sound more complicated than it is.”

Elizabeth thinks it’s time to involve the police, but Jessica says it really could be an aunt who was just grouchy.


I don’t know what to make a of a Sweet Valley book where Jessica is the voice of reason.

I know that Regina actually is in trouble – I’ve read the title of the book, after all – but honestly, you guys have got nothing.

We cut to dinner, where Elizabeth is waiting for a call back from Sergeant O’Brien. He calls to say that he did a check on the Morrows. He spoke to Claire Davis, the stepsister of Mrs Morrow, who confirmed Regina was upstairs at the time. Next time, little lady, don’t you go bothering us busy police with your silly girl drama because your bestie is ghosting you.

Straight out of the Point Horror playbook. I know I’ve been mocking Elizabeth the whole time because her motivations are paper thin, but I’m pretty sure wellness checks require that you actually check on the named person and you don’t just rely on hearsay from whoever answers the door.

Basically, O’Brien, I can mock Elizabeth. You must treat her with respect. No seriously. You’re inside of the Sweet Valley bubble. Why aren’t you kissing her feet? Do you know how many crimes she’s going to solve when she was twelve? I stand by the tenses in that sentence.

“I see,” Elizabeth said weakly. Stepsister! That was a new twist. She and Bruce hadn’t thought of that.

*blinks* Why would you think of that?

How on earth could you possibly anticipate that your friend’s mother’s parents had divorced and at least one of them remarried someone else with children?

Despite being firmly (and patronisingly) put back in her box, Elizabeth vows that SOMETHING MUST BE DONE.

Yeah. I know, Elizabeth. You vowed that at least twice already in this chapter. But sure, end this chapter defiantly.

The next chapter opens with Jessica suddenly on board the “LET’S SAVE REGINA RIGHT NOW FROM THE OBVIOUS DANGER THAT WE HAVE NO EVIDENCE OF BEYOND THE TITLE!” train. [Raven: I thought Jessica going “fuck it, I’m in, BURN THE BRIDGES, FORGE AHEAD, TO THE HILT!” was pretty much on brand. Like, her internal monologue flipped the switch when she realised there were shenanigans afoot.] [Wing: Can’t spell shenanigans without Jessica Wakefield. Or something.]

Jessica has realised that she might be able to use this drama to her advantage. She needs to scheme. Elizabeth needs to get into the Morrows’ house. Win-win. Her brilliant plan is Eddie Strong. The delivery guy from the previous book.

Elizabeth, once again, proves that she’s thick as pig-shit, gapes cluelessly at Jessica and cannot fathom how Eddie would be of any use.

I understand why Elizabeth is seen as clever. She carefully regurgitates exactly what she is taught in her very neatest handwriting, foregoing any opportunity to actually think. [Wing: That is how some schools work, alas.] [Dove: Yes, that’s why I said I can see why people think she’s smart. It doesn’t mean she is.] Elizabeth is fucking stupid, and I will die on this hill, while I enjoy a ham and pineapple pizza.

Jessica has to explain in small words that Eddie delivers groceries, so they just need to have Bruce replace him on the next delivery, and boom! Conversation with Regina.

And for the sake of fairness, Jessica seems worried now that Regina might actually be in trouble, so she’s not just in it for the funsies. Please tell me that we’re reaching the point where Jessica is messy, outrageous and terrible, but not ruthlessly spiteful and needlessly cruel. Because I am ready to get back on Team Jessica.

Next Elizabeth calls Bruce who is blown away when he hears about that one interaction on the Morrows’ doorstep. Bruce, it turns out, is totally up to date on the Morrow family tree and tells Elizabeth that neither of her parents have siblings, step or otherwise. And that he’ll cut a bitch who hurts his precious angel.

Jessica tells him to calm down, then Elizabeth tells him that Jessica is downstairs on their second phone line that their parents have just installed talking to Eddie.


The writing in this scene is atrocious. We now have Schrodinger’s Jess, who is simultaneously in the room and not in the room. Also, I love that the Wakefields have had a second phone line installed since dinner for this very plot point.

Ghostie, ease off on whatever you’re drinking/taking. Just breathe. You don’t need 87 balls in the air at once as you juggle. Here, let me fix that paragraph for you. Jessica can be in the room telling Bruce to calm down, and then – just breathe and stay with me – we can say that Jessica has already called Eddie. If we’re not going to show the call, does it need to be happening right this second? In the 80s. Where a second phone line is expensive. And this is the kind of series that hinges on phone calls, and having a single line makes it more plausible when a message gets lost or someone can’t get through. Let’s not reinvent the wheel, ok? [Raven: They also got a second line in Twins… right? Or am i misremembering that? There was an entire book about multi-line calls at one point…?] [Dove: Yes, that absolutely did happen, but Twins hasn’t been written yet, and that book was fairly late in the run.]

Bruce then drops what I assume is the b-plot on us. Ken is flunking English and he’s going to lose his spot on the team. Which is weird because Mr Collins’ class is super fun! And if you think I give a shit which sport this even relates to, you’re on the wrong site entirely.

[Wing: It’s American football.]

Also, just so we’re clear, if you guys are ever convinced that I’m in mortal peril, please do not waste time talking about some c-list tit you guys never usually care about. Just get on with saving me, ok?

[Wing: But if Dove is held hostage for too many days, who will possibly be our fount of Sweet Valley character knowledge? Ah well, let’s discuss a neighbor’s cousin’s step-sister’s child’s best friend’s brother.]

Jessica then walks in and says she’s spoken to Eddie and the plan will go ahead tomorrow afternoon.

Bruce, Elizabeth, are you ok with this, or would you like to talk more about how fun Mr Collins’ class is and how strange it is that someone – who already has a history of flunking – is flunking?

Bruce says, “Elizabeth Wakefield, you’ve got yourself a date!

Have we ever talked about how often when talking these kids are “Ok, $FirstName $LastName, that’s a $thing!” Because I would like it officially registered that I think this way of talking is cringe as fuck, and I’d really like to see it done in the movie (if that ever happens), with the full-blown earnestness of the 90s Brady Bunch movies. I just want to see people carry those lines with utter sincerity, only to be met with a real human reaction.

We cut to the next day, where the twins are running through the plan. It starts with a note:

We know you’re home, and we’re worried about you. Are you OK? If you can, write us a note. If you wrap it around something heavy and drop it out your window, we can pick it up tonight. Tell us everything you can in the letter—what we can do to help and who we should go to.

And promise us you’ll be careful!

Bruce, Elizabeth, and Jessica

They’re going to tuck it in between the pages of Ingenue magazine, working on the logic that Aunt Evil is ugly, so she won’t be interested in the magazine. Yes. That sounds very Sweet Valley.

Elizabeth is blown away by this plan. Jessica says while Bruce drops off the groceries, they’ll keep his car out of sight. Elizabeth has no idea that delivery boys do not drive Porsches with personalised number plates. Also, I’m pretty sure Jessica just wants to drive the hot car. You get down with your bad self, Jessica. I’m certain he never let you drive it when you were dating.

We cut to the next day, with Bruce and the twins driving to the Morrows. Bruce “expertly” does a U-turn. Dude, your car is the size of a postage stamp. Even I could do an expert U-turn in it.

Bruce reminds them of the plan. He will whistle if he gets into trouble, and the twins will drive to his house. If he doesn’t show up within 30 minutes, call the police and name-drop the Patmans. Well, he doesn’t say the last part out loud, but I heard it. [Raven: This touches on something that irked me somewhat. I get that the Plucky Detectives don’t want to tell the Elder Wakefields, or ther Police, because the adults in this town ave proved themselves to be fucking inept time and time over. What DOES surprise me is that Bruce doesn’t just throw a fuckton of money at the issue, and hire some badass mercenaries to storm everywhere and everything to rescue everyone. What’s the point of being so shittily rich if you can’t just Make Problems Disappear?] [Dove: Right?!]

[Wing: … damn. As much as I hate Bruce Fucking Patman, that story would be amazing.]

He sets off and Elizabeth gets a lump in her throat thinking about his bravery. Even Jessica shills him, saying he’s so coooool for risking everything for Regina. Guys. He’s carrying a box up a drive. Let’s not oversell it, ok?

A few minutes later Bruce comes running out, Elizabeth starts up the car, but shifts out of the way for Bruce to drive when he reaches them. Damn, twins, drive that car. Bruce burns rubber and wipes his forehead as they leave.

Why is he running? What scandal happened?

Aunt Evil is a shoddy tipper. She took the groceries and gave him 50c for his troubles. But Bruce, the bravest, most coolest, most wonderfullest man in the world got the creeps from her, so ran.

Bruce. The jock. Ran from a middle-aged women that he outweighs by a chunk of muscle because he was scared.

They agree to meet back at 9pm to go to Regina’s to see if she dropped a note out of her window.

Jessica reminds them all, it will be dark by then.

I hope Bruce’s nerves can take it.

Over with Regina, we get to see the moment of her kidnap. Aunt Evil came out of nowhere with a gun and whispered her plan. All I can say is, what fortuitous luck that Regina had just had her hearing restored, otherwise this would be the worst kidnapping of all time. Anyway, Aunt Evil’s plan is to pose as her aunt, and then fly back to Sweet Valley. Her parents are being held hostage. [Raven: Ah, kidnapping someone and transporting them via commercial air travel. It’s all very Edge and Paul Bearer.] [Dove: This air travel is pre-9/11, you can probably get on a plane with a bazooka at this point.]

The next step is that Aunt Evil and her thin male accomplice are going to stay with Regina until her father calls his company and says that his daughter is going to pick up their brand new prototype microchip that’s going to “revolutionize the computer industry”. And then they’ll run off with it and be millionaires.


So. You think that a multi-million dollar company is just going to hand over their top secret best ever product of all time – the only copy of it – to the owner’s daughter, who is randomly home from Europe about ten months earlier than expected, and her parents are mysteriously absent? You don’t think that plan maybe screams hostage situation? [Raven: To me, it screams Dennis Nedry.]

[Wing: I don’t blame people for their mistakes, but I do ask that they pay for them.]

At this point Aunt Evil walks in and flings the magazine at her, saying it was put in there by mistake. She doesn’t notice the note that falls from it. Which is awfully convenient.

Oh, I know Aunt Evil has a name now, but I work with a Claire Davis. Not particularly closely, but just close enough for this to be weird if I’m going to be bad-mouthing her for stupidity and inattention to detail. Especially since she said that my code is some of the cleanest she’s ever seen. She is neither stupid nor inattentive to detail.

A scene cut later, and Regina has penned a response, slid it into her silver compact, and dropped it out the window. Thankfully, her window overlooks grass, and not the concrete drive I was expecting when this plan was laid out, so no big crashy noises.

Below, Team Plucky Detectives pick it up and race back to the car, which was parked some distance from the house. There they read the letter. Regina asks them to check on Nicholas, who is in San Francisco with a friend.

Jessica thinks it’s time for the police, but Regina’s letter says no. She and her parents will all need rescuing at the same time, or whoever’s left will die. And Aunt Evil was really cross with Elizabeth’s wellness check police visit. She threatened to tie up and gag Regina. I’m honestly not sure why she hasn’t. At least lock her in a room so she’s not free roaming. I’m not advocating for kidnapping teenagers, I’m just saying if you’re gonna do it, do it right otherwise they will thwart you. [Raven: They would have got away with it, if it wasn’t for those meddling kids.]

They go back to Bruce’s house, where he calls Nicholas and tells him to come home. Everyone’s fine. For now. But come home, because we need to talk face to face. If he knew Regina was in Sweet Valley, I’m pretty sure that Nicholas would stop for a “Congratulations! You’re Pregnant!” card. But since he doesn’t, I suspect that’s going to be the most stressful drive of his life as he tries to figure out why Bruce Patman, of all people, needs to talk to him.

Or, y’know, he calls home to check in, and encounters Aunt Evil himself.

With that call done, Jessica then asks what Aunt Evil meant by “Money is Heaven”, which is apparently noted in Regina’s letter, but since the ghostie didn’t write it and just has the characters recount whatever bits seem pertinent, we don’t get the context. Elizabeth decides it’s a code. I decide that Regina misheard, because even Regina acknowledges that her hearing isn’t perfect yet.

Bruce says the twins should come over tomorrow after school. He’s going to skip school because he’s waiting for Nicholas. Jessica doesn’t want to skip cheerleading practice, but Bruce gives her a lecture on skipping things we enjoy for the greater good.

Bruce. Gives Jessica a lecture. Bruce. Who shares the title for “Most Entitled ‘I Want! I Want’ Brat in Sweet Valley” with her.

We cut to the next day. Elizabeth notes that she and Nicholas are “special friends” and that he wanted more from her, but she wasn’t ready. Then she hugs him, because what is their relationship if not endless mixed signals? No, really. I’m asking. Do they even talk? Do they know anything about each other, except he wants to date and she doesn’t?

Since Todd isn’t here at the moment, Nicholas fills the TODD-SMASH void. He says he wants to go over there an punch Aunt Evil, but Bruce talked him down.

Bruce, I cannot deal with you being the voice of reason here. You never have before. Jessica sometimes has been in Twins, so I can live with that. You? You have been a tool from day one, and that’s the kindest thing I can say.

Nicholas says he can’t just sit around doing nothing. He must do something. Elizabeth recognises the steely glint in his eye and says she’ll go with him to the Morrows’ estate so they can look around.

They take Elizabeth’s car and see a blue car coming down the Morrows’ drive. In order to cover up what they’re doing, they have to kiss.


What? You fucking morons. Just keep driving.

Also, if you’re worried about being spotted, stop showing up in a red sports car. I know that Bruce is as rich as Satan, but I feel certain that somewhere in the garage of his is a standard five-door car that the help uses for errands. Drive that. Or, hell, the Morrows are rich, borrow Mr or Mrs Patman’s car, I bet they’ve got a Mercedes or something, and it would fit in perfectly in this rich road.

I don’t think Nicholas was all that into the kiss, because somehow while Elizabeth was enjoying it, Nicholas managed to get the blue car’s licence plate and recognise the driver. He can’t place him, but he’s definitely familiar.

This frightens Elizabeth very badly. I’m not sure why. She asks if they can go home. Nicholas says yes, everything he’s seen has shown him what a serious situation they’re in.

You mean the blue car that passed yours?

This ghostie is doing the best she can, but she has two flaws: 1) her description is on par with mine – short, to the point, not very good. And this book is all about description; and 2) all the characters are reacting to information the ghostie knows, and saying it’s in response to what the ghostie described.

When they get back to the Patmans’, Jessica and Bruce ask if Mr Morrow has any enemies. And he’s like, no. Nobody. Everyone loves him. Well, except for that one guy he caught stealing who got sent to prison in California and is due to get out any time now, whose full name is Philip Denson, and he looks exactly like the guy driving that blue car.

We’re on chapter five, guys. Of thirteen.

This had better be a red herring, otherwise I can’t see the story stretching out that far. [Raven: I thought that too, but was pleasntly surprised at the end.]

The next day, the twins skip school to go to Philip Denson’s address, which they got from the phone book. Oh the nostalgia. I had no clue how they’d get his address, but yeah. The phone book. Of course.

I love the way that data protection in the 80s was as simple as “Nobody would have the patience to hunt down your number by reading every address” (or vice-versa).

They meet up with Bruce and Nicholas and they all drive to the address, where they find a cute boy mowing the lawn. This throws them. Bruce tells Jessica to go flirt with him to find out if he’s Philip’s son. Jessica reacts very badly to this, but Elizabeth says, yeah, do that. [Raven: Legit thrilled that the ghostie found a way to utilise Jessica’s USP here.]

Jessica doesn’t like the implication – even though she would flirt with a discarded cigarette packet if someone told her it was rich – but does it anyway, because the boy is cute. She pretends to be doing a survey and finds out that he’s called Mitch Denson, his father is Philip, and Philip works as a computer consultant. She asks if she can come in for a glass of water (and definitely implies more), but he says no, his dad hates being disturbed. She pushes a lot and he offers to get her a glass of water.

Once he’s inside, she peeks in the living room, and there are Mr and Mrs Morrow. Jessica mouths the word “wait”, but Mrs Morrow starts moving and dragging her husband out of sight.

Cut to the Morrows. Mrs Morrow is like “OMG teh WaKeFiEld tWinZ! We’re saved!” and her husband is like. “Nope. They’ll complicate things. They’ll probably get our kids killed.”

Gotta love Mr Morrow’s pragmatism there. I wouldn’t trust either of those twins with anything more precious than toilet paper (but not during the COVID panic-buying sessions), let alone my child. Of course, Mrs Morrow binged diet pills while pregnant, so she’s a bit more woolly about Regina’s safety?

Jessica reports her findings to the group. Nicholas goes into NICHOLAS-SMASH mode, forcing Bruce to, once again, be the voice of reason and talk him down.

Then the blue car pulls up and we get confirmation that Philip Denson is definitely the kidnapper.


So… until this moment we were just assuming it was a coincidence that the missing parents just happened to be inside the house his son lives at and admits his father owns? Of all the things to give the benefit of the doubt, that’s the thing?

Jessica is like, “Too bad he’s evil, he has nice shoulders.”

And they drive home, wondering what to do next.

Elizabeth feels a lump in her throat as she remembers when she was kidnapped. She wishes they’d gone to the police.

Dude. You did. And Regina’s note says not to.

Just like the last book, this one comes to a screeching halt for half a chapter where Elizabeth called someone called Suzanne Hanlon, who is a sophomore who wants to put on a literary evening for the honour society. Am I supposed to care about this? Does Francine have a tic where she needs a completely irrelevant chapter in the middle of the action?

Francine, cooldown chapters are only necessary when something huge happens, and, when necessary, they’re not meant to be about completely new characters to the franchise… you do know this, right?

[Wing: Nope.]

Jessica does describe Suzanne thusly:

“She’s just kind of—well, not really stuck-up. But she always acts like she knows what’s right. You know what I mean? Sort of a know-it-all.

Elizabeth? Do you have another twin?

And finally, can we stop naming characters Suzanne? We don’t need more than one. Francine has another daughter. You could have called this one Jamie, then I wouldn’t have spent half the chapter wondering why Suzanne Devlin was acting like she went to their school and was younger than them before the surname showed up. [Raven: One Suzanne for every Peter.]

Elizabeth decides, after returning Suzanne’s call and asking a lot of questions, that all this can wait. She cannot get Regina off her mind.

If any of you enjoy drinking games, I’d advise you to drink on alternate paragraphs where Elizabeth decides that SOMETHING MUST BE DONE, just to save you from complete liver failure. She vows it a lot.

Over with Regina, she wakes up in the dark and has no idea what time it is. She unplugged her clock and hasn’t reset it. That seems like a very stupid thing to do when you’re aware that your plucky boy and girl detective friends last contacted you with a specific time to respond by.

Apparently Phil, Aunt Evil’s boyfriend, came over last night and they shut themselves in the study to discuss the situation. Regina was too scared to lurk outside and try to overhear their conversation. Honey, stop beating yourself up. You’re rich, that means the house is well made, the walls are thick, the door is heavy, and you’ve only just got your hearing back and it’s not 100%.

Phil then comes over to Regina and ominously reminds her to do what she’s told because he has her parents.

Yes, we know, she was already trembling. Get better at being a bad guy, Phil.

Now we get a recap on Regina’s deafness. In this telling, Mrs Morrow wasn’t on diet pills, she was on medication, and they try to blame her “blinding headaches” for the medication, instead of, as we saw in the last Regina book, that these headaches are caused by guilt because she was on diet pills while pregnant. Also, if they’re blinding, they’re migraines. It’s really not a hard diagnosis. They’re very often stress triggered. Mine are usually food-triggered, so I just avoid all the usual triggers. How crap are the Sweet Valley medical staff? [Raven: As crap as all the other fucking adults?]

[Wing: To be fair, even today some doctors refuse to believe women have migraines and claim they overreact to headaches. I can see in the 80s headaches being the common parlance when talking to doctors.]

Then we recap the Bruce situation, but the ghostie does add that Regina was particularly looking forward to coming home to Sweet Valley and hearing Bruce say he loves her. She also was desperate to hear her parents’ voices for the first time. That is definitely a nice touch, and is probably the only time this ghostie has actually thought about the reality of someone hearing for the first time.

I keep seeing a post on Quora saying that someone worked with people who have gained their hearing later in life and several have been surprised that the sun doesn’t make a noise. I’d like to know more, but unfortunately, it’s one of those bot posts where they only take a screencap of the first entry, not all the responses.

[Wing: I don’t know about the Quora post, but there’s at least one reference to surprise about sunlight not making sounds when it hits pavement versus grass in this Ask Reddit thread.]

Regina thinks to herself that she’s planned her escape a million times, but what if Aunt Evil wakes up before she manages to call the police.

Wait. I know Regina wasn’t locked in her room, but are you telling me that she doesn’t get locked in when Aunt Evil sleeps? Or to put it another way, is this kidnapping functioning entirely on the honour system?

I mean, sure, it’s working, and as a teenager, if I was told that my misbehaviour would result in a loved one’s death, I’d be so worried that I’d unquestioningly do as I was told, but you’d think the kidnappers would at least lock the door. [Raven: The whole “we’ll kill your family” invisible leg-irons are all too real, sadly. I’ve seen way to many true crime documentaries to ignore that.] [Dove: Oh yeah, no shade on Regina’s obvious love for her family and putting them first. I’m just flabbergasted that the morons holding the fam hostage are so confident they haven’t locked a single door.]

We cut to Saturday afternoon. Not sure what day we cut from, but never mind. Bruce is being host of the year, he has a platter of sandwiches and juice and can offer tea and coffee.

I hate that I’m starting to like him. The only way I can get through it is by imagining that some time after he tried to rape Elizabeth, his doppelganger – identical in looks, but opposite in personality – appeared, killed Evil Bruce, and stepped into his life. Evil Bruce has never dated Regina. Good Bruce has never raped anyone, and would be horrified to know that his Evil twin had.

They bring up the “money is heaven” message again, and after saying it a few times, mumbling it, inflecting at the wrong place, saying it fast and slow, I’ve translated it to “my knee is heavy”. I think either Aunt Evil or Phil need a knee replacement, and are talking about their symptoms. They’re finding it hard to move their knee of late. This is a great weakness. Just kick it and they’ll tumble.

Or it means “Monday at seven”.

But mostly I think it’s the knee replacement thing.

Oh, they all just sit in silence for a bit, and then Bruce changes the subject because they can’t figure out what it means.

Bruce and Elizabeth think that Phil will want the job done asap, because having two of the richest people in Sweet Valley locked up in his house must be stressful. Nicholas says no, he’s “slimy”, we can’t expect him to think like us. Given that they keep calling Phil and Aunt Evil “maniacs” and “sick in the head”, I think they mean crazy.

Gosh, it’s just like a Point Horror, isn’t it? Phil and Aunt Evil are not “crazy”, they’re just bad. That’s it. You don’t need to be mentally ill to be bad. And just because you’re bad, doesn’t mean that you’re wired unfathomably different to “normal” people. I’m sure Phil and Aunt Evil have exactly the same reaction as I do to stepping on a Lego brick in bare feet. Also, they’re not evil geniuses with plots so complex nobody can follow them. They’re two idiots who’ve decided to steal a chip and the only reason they’ve gotten so far is because the Morrows love each other enough to do as they say. If they’d picked the Wakefields, I’m sure they’d be in bloody pieces scattered over the Mercandy backyard after Jessica got impatient from staying inside for two whole days without the opportunity to flirt with a boy or buy a teeny bikini.

OMG. I’m going to have to start liking Bruce. He even says that just because they’re bad, doesn’t mean they don’t think rationally. Jesus. Fucking. Christ. Why is Bruce Patman my favourite character here? [Raven: I wish Bruce had only done some low-key shithousery in the earlier books, instead of what actually happened. It’d be so much easier to like him now if he’d, say, stolen the answers for a school test, or thrown the swim team’s civilian clothes into the sea.]

[Wing: Right? This Bruce doesn’t even deserve the Bruce Fucking Patman moniker, but how can I take that away from the abusive rich boy rapist who never faces consequences?] [Dove: I could live with him doing entitled shit behaviour – I think early on he gloated that a cop caught him doing 90pmh in a 20mph zone or something equally unsafe, and he just bribed him with a hundred dollar bill. Like, I can live with him learning to stop being a selfish brat, that was so up himself he never noticed that it’s really dangerous to bomb through a school zone where little kids are crossing the road. But this is a guy who repeatedly heard Liz say no, she absolutely did not want to have sex with him, and decided it was going to happen anyway. There’s just no way to work around that. That is attempted rape.]

And then the other toxic nightmare that I usually loathe jumps into second place in my favourite character line up. Jessica tells them to put their hands over their ears and say “Money is heaven”, while thinking of a day and time.

Oh, so I was wrong about the knee replacement. I felt certain that it was that. At least my second option was in there.

Jessica reads Agatha Christie books, and it has definitely paid off, she says humbly. You’d think the twin who spent all of middle school with her nose in an Amanda Howard book would be a little more generous about what she reads, but apparently Agatha Christie is not highbrow enough for her. Then again, remember the book when she couldn’t find anything to read because she’d read all of the Amanda Howards and everything else was crap?

Elizabeth, after being shown up by her much brighter sister, comes up with a plan:

“Well, what if we could release your parents while Regina’s in the plant with Claire? That’s the one time we know for sure Regina will be safe. Claire won’t be able to find out we’ve freed the Morrows—and she wouldn’t be able to do anything to Regina, even if she did find out. The plant is guarded, right?”

“Yes,” Nicholas assured her. “No one can get in without first being cleared by the security guard.”

“And Claire has to act like she’s Regina’s aunt, or her cover’s blown!” Elizabeth went on. “Here’s what we do,” she continued, gaining confidence as she went on. “Nicholas and I will go to the plant. Jessica, you and Bruce will go out to Fort Carroll. At exactly seven o’clock, you two will break into Phillip Denson’s house and release the Morrows. Meanwhile, Nicholas and I will be at the plant, waiting for Regina and Claire to come out. When they do, I’ll intercept Claire and Regina. I don’t know how I can stall them, but I’ll think of something. And while I’m stalling them, Nicholas can call the police.”

Jessica thinks this sounds complicated, which sounds a lot like the ghostie trying to convince us that Elizabeth is smart, because there is nothing complicated about this plan. Nicholas quickly agrees that it is complicated, but it might work.

Why does Elizabeth have to go to the factory? She has no idea how to stall. I’d sent Jessica. That girl thrives on drama, lies and nonsense. She could keep everyone stalled for three weeks with her bullshit. Also, note how Bruce isn’t allowed to rescue his girlfriend, it has to be Elizabeth.

Here’s another plan. Call the company. Get their security guard in on it. It’s America, they have guns. [Wing: Not always, and in my experiences, security guards with guns are rare. On the other hand, they do have this Super Duper Not-So-Secret technological advancement, they probably should arm their guards. And have more than one. And a bunch of other security, too.] As they enter, put the place into lockdown. Have the police waiting. And the police will play ball, because the company will have noticed that something is awry because Mr Morrow is missing. Literally everything in the news tells me that if a white millionaire calls the police, they do as he says, not as their playbook tells them. [Raven: I mean, in any other town? Definitely. But in Sweet Valley, where every adult is wearing size fifty Clown Shoes? Not so much. Bruce should have hired some out-of-towners, some eastern european hardmen or something, to come kick the fucking back doors down.]

At the moment, this is nothing but red flags to the company. They’re more likely to get into trouble because the company follows protocol when a random aunt and child – who don’t fucking work there – show up to take their most prized financial possession. You need the company not to follow protocol there. I mean, I work for a law firm, and there’s no way an aunt and kid will get inside of our building unless their relative comes down to reception and signs them in personally, then they’ll be issued visitor passes.

And sure, we’ve seen Lila and Jessica go up to their dad’s office without this rigmarole, but Lila is the daughter of the owner of the company, and (at least in Twins), is known by name and sight by a lot of people who work there. In her case, I suspect George’s PA chooses her birthday and Christmas presents. As for the Wakefields, I assume that twins stick in your mind. I’m sure if the managing partner at my office had twins (and if I worked in the office) and they came by a lot, I’d remember them.

[Wing: Based on my current understanding of the size of Ned’s firm, I doubt they have any real security in that building. I’ve been in small firms to this day that have locking filing cabinets and maybe a camera on the doors as their security, if that.]

But Regina barely even lived in Sweet Valley before taking off for Switzerland. And nobody’s ever met Aunt Evil.

No company worth millions of dollars could possibly be this stupid… right? [Wing: Ahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha. Ha.

People doing stupid things is one of the biggest, if not the biggest, security risk for companies, whether it is cybersecurity or physical security.

Of course, in Sweet Valley, that’s just a daily thing with adults, as Dove points out here.]

Of course, they don’t know where Phil will be at this time, so they set Jessica and her wiles at his son. Jessica doesn’t like this. Even though she said he had nice shoulders. I don’t know why she’s baulking. She actually is attracted to Mitch, and earlier said she was sure that someone that hot couldn’t be evil. So I don’t know why she doesn’t want to flirt with him again. Don’t get me wrong, she shouldn’t have to flirt with a boy if she doesn’t want to. But she was convinced of his innocence and hotness, so it’s just a bit like the ghostie read the “girl power” note from Francine and has randomly added this in, hoping it will fulfil that brief. Girl power is all about hairy-legged feminists hating men, right? So if Jessica doesn’t want to flirt with a cute boy that she’s super attracted to, that does the job.

Jessica tries to throw Bruce in the pool and they all laugh. Oh the japery they can get up to despite the stressful situation! These fun kids!

They decide to go to the beach, since there’s nothing they can do now. Nicholas immediately falls asleep. Bruce says something about the Centennial project he’s on, and asks if Jessica will run the picnic. *shrugs* I have no idea what that’s all about. He has spent the book thus far occasionally mentioning that he has Centennial meetings, but no more information is given.

And yeah, I have no idea what 100 years we’re celebrating. Since we all know that Sweet Valley was founded in 1857, though Spanish settlers had been there since 1788. This book was published in 1986, so… I got nothing, people.

Well, with that problem solved, time to worry about Ken.

Ken Matthews.

You know, the jock asshat that literally nobody cares about in the slightest, and not the teenage girl who’s been held hostage.

Elizabeth and Bruce are like, “junior English is so easy, how thick do you have to be to fail?” and Jessica reasonably points out that Bruce is a couple of years older and Elizabeth wants to be a writer. Not everyone has the same skill level.

Also, I swear that Elizabeth is just coasting by on being Mr Collins’ favourite. She has demonstrated time and time again that she is really really thick. Every good idea thus far? Jessica’s. Elizabeth doesn’t understand sarcasm, metaphor, hyperbole or symbolism. I have no clue how she is managing to do anything other than fail any part of English that requires creativity. And she seems to think that if she says something is complicated, that makes it so, and therefore she is clever.

e.g. Jessica says, “My favourite colour is purple.” Elizabeth says, “How very complex that statement is. I must be very clever for understanding that Jessica’s favourite colour is purple.” And the universe is like, “Yes! Well done, clever girl! So clever! Let me pinch your cheeks, you clever smart brilliant thing, you!”

Robin (while still fat) says, “I have a better chance of dating Elvis Presley than Bruce Patman.” Elizabeth says, “But Elvis is dead. Robin is clearly stupid. And possibly mentally ill.” And the universe is like, “Yes, Elizabeth, this is true. Robin is so unfathomable with her complex speech. It is not your fault you do not understand what she means, she is clearly talking scribble.”

Jessica says that if Elizabeth is so smart, why doesn’t she tutor Ken, since otherwise Sweet Valley will never beat Palisades at the next big game. Only she’s gushing, not snippy in her tone. And Elizabeth thinks, “Yes, that will be fun.”

And then those wacky kids all fall asleep at the beach. I hope they all wake up with sunstroke.

[Raven: Such a bizarre interlude. Maybe it’s Californian thing? Like, in the UK we respond to stress by putting the kettle on. In California do they respond to stress by going surfing?] [Wing: They don’t even do that! They just sleep on the beach! I suppose the sun would never dare burn someone from Sweet Valley. Though now I’m picturing the four of them trying to sneak around with their plans while the mere brush of their clothes against their sunburns threatens to make them scream.]

Over with the Morrow parents, they are anxious. Also, they are very free with the phrase “I want to kill myself [if/because/when I think of/etc]” I’m really happy that has been phrased out as a phrase. It’s too hyperbolic, even for me. Also, it reads as really fucking weird when Mr Morrow says it to mean he’s worried about Regina’s safety.

I was mostly going to skip recapping this, because it brings nothing new to the table, until:

“What’s the plan, Phil?” Mr. Morrow asked.

What’s the plan, Phil?

Well done, book, for accidentally quoting one of the best recurring quotes in probably the best long-running sitcom out there. [Raven: So good. Also, the kidnappers are Phil and Claire, and Phil’s son is called Mitch.]

This is a great example of a broken clock being right twice a day.

The plan is to sell the chip to a guy in Rio. Phil, why would you tell him that?



[Wing: I almost quoted this bit earlier before I went with Hammond and Nedry.]

Mr Morrow thinks that a man as smart as Phil can’t leave any loose ends, so they’re probably going to die.


Jessica goes and flirts with Mitch. She lays on all the charm and comes on to him in a very aggressive way, leaving him all fuzzy-minded. She invites him to a party, but he says he has chores with his dad later. She then invites him to a party on Monday evening, but he says that’s a really bad day for him. She oozes flirtation and tells him that she’ll come over on Monday at 7pm, and if he’s not busy, they can go inside and ellipsis of sexual implication. Also, she thinks he’s hot the whole time she’s flirting.

Over with the Morrow Parents, it’s now Monday morning. Mr Morrow calls the factory at gunpoint and goes through the bonkers story that he’s calling from Switzerland and has a big meeting, so he’s sending his daughter over to collect the chip because he doesn’t trust a courier.

Walter, the guy who works there, even lampshades how clear the call is, given that it’s the 80s and that’s an international call. He starts asking questions, and Phil, ever the genius, cocks the gun and tells Morrow to hang up, which he does.

WHAT’S THE PLAN, PHIL? [Raven: I think Phil did not spend his stay in the Big House in a productive manner.]

Why reassure the obviously panicky guy who has just received a phone call filled to the hilt with every red flag any employee could possibly listen to? Just abruptly hang up and have him stew in his frightened juices for the next ten hours. It’s only 9am now. He has got half a day to freak the fuck out, converse with the board and come to the conclusion that you’re compromised.

This is the dimmest plot ever.

And I know I’m still working on the logic of my own firm’s galloping paranoia (believe me, there’s nothing worth intellectually stealing from us except the notes on the [redacted high profile] case, and for the sheer lols, the pay review and bonus files for the past three years), but this is the 80s, tech is booming, yuppies are defensive of their newfound wealth. There would be protocols to PROTECT THE MONEY MAKERS.

The plucky teens recap the plan one more time, because we haven’t read enough of the same plans being repeatedly trotted out by various different characters enough at this point.

Elizabeth says a tearful goodbye to her sister, but I don’t care, because I know there are another 150 books after this, none of which are called “[Name’s] Funeral”, so I know that Team Plucky Detectives make it through unscathed. [Wing: Or they come back to life in the next book. Not unexpected in Sweet Valley time.]

We start out with Bruce and Jessica, Team Toxic. They get a call from Nicholas on Bruce’s car phone – oh, and they’re in a Jeep, so he totally has a non-sports car in the Patman garage he could have used earlier [Raven: No, this is NicholasMorrow’s Jeep, yes? The one they didn’t use earlier to investigate the Morrow Mansion in case it was recognised?] [Dove: I didn’t realise this was Nicholas’ car. Even so, I still believe that there are plenty of cars in the Patman garage.] – to say that Elizabeth and Nicholas have arrived at the factory. Which they’ve called a plant repeatedly through this book, but I can’t make my brain refer to something that builds computer chips en masse as a plant. [Wing: Oooh, why not? I’ve heard it both ways. Though, with the development work they’re doing, I don’t know that I’d expect it to be done in a factory or a plant, but in a smaller, easier to protect, tech space.] Then they get a call to say that Aunt Evil and Regina are there too.

They leap into action. Jessica to the front door to flirt with Mitch, and Bruce to the side door to let the Morrow parents out.

It goes well for all of six seconds before Phil shows up in his blue car. Mitch says that Jessica needs to leave for her own good, Phil has a gun. Jessica tries to get inside the house to warn Bruce, but Mitch grabs her. So she bites him. She flies through the front door, and apparently gets a good enough run up that she can’t stop, despite Bruce and the Morrows galloping towards her – how long is this damned hallway? I know Americans build big, but seriously, this is some Scooby Doo shit – they smash into each other, and Jessica sees that Phil is holding his gun.

What’s the plan, Phil?

Wait, I have a better gif.

What are you gonna do, shoot us all?

Yeah, I’m in a gif making phase. It’s like it’s 2002 and we’re all on LiveJounal pimping our user icons.

[Wing: Well, we are all about nostalgia around here.]

I felt sure we were going to cut to Team Boring, but no, the next chapter opens exactly where we left it.

Bruce whispers to Jessica that he’s going to try and block Phil, and the others should run.

Phil says no moving and no talking.

But then Mitch comes in, moved by the love of Jessica, and knocks the gun out of his hand.

Team Toxic + Team Parent make their exit, and Jessica last sees Mitch standing over his father, with tears running down his face.

When they get in the car, Jessica asks if Phil will hurt Mitch, and Mr Morrow is like, “Nah, he’s all about the microchip.”

I’d say there’s a 50/50 chance that he will hurt Mitch. On the one hand, he’s hurt nobody thus far in the plan. On the other hand, so far the plan was working perfectly and everyone was respecting the honour system. He might lose his temper now it’s unravelled. But on the other other hand, he was only sent to jail for stealing, which is not a violent crime. So it could go either way.

Then Mr Morrow says he’s calling the plant, because if he knows Denson, there’s an ugly scene waiting for them at the plant.

Oh. So… he is into violence? In that case, yes, Jessica, he’s probably going to hurt his son.

But now comes the really dangerous part, apparently.

Is it though?

I would have thought the really dangerous bit was freeing the hostages from the man with a gun, rather than fetching tech from a factory bit.

Over with Team Boring, Walter has handed the package to Regina and Aunt Evil.

As they leave, Elizabeth approaches them, claiming to be a reporter from the Sweet Valley News, and asking if they know the foreman.

… the foreman?

… the foreman at a technology factory?

Even in the 80s, technology wasn’t gigantic. It’s not like construction.

Tech is more like science. You don’t have foremen, you have development leads and so forth.

Am I missing something here? The ghostie says it’s a plant and that they have a foreman, but their lead product is a high functioning microchip. Wing, is this an American/English thing, like your tech devs are foremen and things like that? *shrugs*

[Wing: If this was a plant where they are otherwise churning out less sophisticated chips or other technology or product, maybe there would be a foreman. I really wouldn’t expect this Super Chip to be created or stored at a plant (or factory) at all, though. New development separate from the daily work of rolling out product.]

Aunt Evil recognises her, and Elizabeth says oh, no, that’s her twin, she doesn’t know Regina. She prattles on and stalls for a few minutes though.

Cut to Nicholas Morrow, who is talking to a Point Horror police officer. He’s like “Oh you wacky kids with your hi-jinks and your pranks!

[Wing: We’re getting real nostalgic around here.]

Thankfully Daddy Morrow calls in, and now that a rich grownup is making the call, he’s more than happy to go along with it.

Nicholas races back to the most boring standoff in the world and grabs his sister. Aunt Evil says that she has a gun and she will fire.

Dude. Hit her.

I know you’re a guy and it’s the 80s, so you can pretty much do anything you want to a woman except hit them, but this is the exception. Smack her right in the face.

But we’re saved from the impossible conundrum of whether it’s ok to hit someone that kidnapped your sister and threatened her with a gun and is boinking a man who held your parents hostage without feeling guilty because they’re a woman – the answer is yes, it’s fine, thump away – here comes the cavalry. Well, Team Toxic + Team Parent.

Followed by Phil.

Mr Morrow asks what Phil wants, what he really really wants. And if you’ve been earwormed, you can thank the actual book for phrasing it that way. How did this perfectly average book foreshadow a fantastic sitcom and the start of the girl group/girl power wave?

Phil wants money. And for the Morrows to be dead. It’s all the Morrows’ fault because yes, he did embezzle that money, but after going to jail, everyone’s been dubious about trusting him with a job in the computer industry.

Jessica then asks this very question:

What are you gonna do, shoot us all?

I’m really glad I made that.

Then Nicholas and Bruce rush Phil at the same time and knock the gun out of his hands. Aunt Evil shoots, but misses by inches. Then the police show up.

I’m literally recapping this line by line, so I’m gonna call it now. There’s going to be a party, isn’t there? They’re going to have a party to celebrate not dying.

As they’re arrested, Phil proudly says he’s not sorry for anything he’s done. Cool, you fucking muppet. You do realise that’s admitting you did the crimes. WHAT’S THE PLAN, PHIL? You are a goddamned idiot.

Jessica says it’s not fair to arrest Mitch, he saved her life, probably all of their lives.

It’s ok, Jessica, by the next book, you won’t even remember he ever existed. Don’t worry too much. [Raven: But he has nice shoulders!]

And we cut to a celebration… dinner. Dinner? Where’s the party?

The twins have to tell their parents what went on and everyone goes to the Morrows’ for dinner. Which is smart. We know they got one grocery delivery in a single box carried in one trip by a teen boy at some point last week. I’m sure the house that has been empty and barely running during a kidnap is the best place to host, and not the Patmans’, which is parent free but has a full staff in situ.

Oh, they get pizza from Guido’s.

Oh, and that party I predicted is on the way. Mrs Morrow is the one to suggest it.

We cut to the twins getting ready for it. And Jessica remembers that Mitch did not go to jail because she passionately argued for him. She’s since found out that he was under the impression that the chip was his father’s creation and they were just stealing it back from Big Tech who stole it from him. When the Morrows arrived, he’d wanted to go to the police, but his father threatened to shoot him.

He’s moving to New Jersey, which Jessica thinks is probably for the best, because “I wouldn’t want Mitch to start being sorry he saved my life, would I?”, which I can only interpret as, “Because I would either cheat on him, or he’d find out how many people I’ve bullied into the hospital, and then he’d hate me.” Which is remarkably self-aware of her. [Wing: I read it as she’s already moved on from him, as you predicted, which is also fairly self-aware. Where have you been, Jessica Wakefield who I can actually enjoy?]

At the party, Lila dishes the hottest tea, which is that Ken Matthews is dating Suzanne Hanlon.

Which I’m sure we are deeply invested in. I’m certain that we didn’t roll our eyes and skim through those boring asides which dragged the story to a screeching halt.

Also, if Ken gets less than a B on his next test, he’s off the football team.

i tried to care

Also, we get the lead-in to the next book. Elizabeth sees Suzanne parading Ken about like a show pony, bragging that he loves classical music and poetry and football can get in the sea. Ken is demonstrably both miserable and besotted with her.

Elizabeth vows that SOMETHING MUST BE DONE. (drink)

Final Thoughts:

That was actually a pretty good book. The real problems were early on, where the character were reacting to very little like they’d just walked in on the Red Wedding. Also eye-poking were the clumsy seeds of the next book. Ghosties, you’re not up to it, just do what Twins does, and shoehorn it into the last paragraph no matter how unlikely. Don’t force the story to stop so you can put something in that is boring and irrelevant.

Otherwise, it moved along nicely. Bruce was so out of character that I liked him, so let’s keep that up. Like forever. Nicholas liked to punch things early on, then mostly just backed up Elizabeth when she spoke. Jessica was great. Elizabeth was dim.


I’m going to give this a Good.

[Raven: I enjoyed this too! It’s a Good from me.

I liked the fact that it paired up the Twins, which is a rare commodity. Bruce was decent, as was NicholasMorrow. And even the RemainingMorrows played their part.

The kidnapping? Woefully inept, and a little Route One for the resolve, but at least having so few beats to hit meant that the story could breathe and that the resolve was at least well balanced against the rest. With a few more twists and turns, we’d probably ended up with “Regina escapes, lol” as the entire final chapter.

And the story moved with pace! That was appreciated. Onto the next!]

[Wing: Plucky Girl Detectives + Plucky Boy Detectives like this is some sort of Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys crossover! As long as I make myself forget about the abusive bullshit some of these characters have previously done, I found this rather entertaining, if also completely ridiculous and relying far too much on people obeying the rules of captivity. Plucky Girl Detectives pushes it over a high meh into a low good for me.

Fucking hell, that’s a sweep.]