Title: The Twins Take Paris
Tagline: On the run in Paris…
Summary: Identical twins Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield are ready for the trip of their lives. They’ve been selected to participate in their school’s Bonjour Paris! project, and they get to live with a real French family in the City of Lights for two whole weeks!
But on the plane, Jessica makes a startling discovery about their French mother, Madame du Noir. And when the twins meet her in the Paris airport, Jessica is absolutely convinced: Madame du Noir is wanted for murder, and Jessica and Elizabeth are her next victims!
The twins are determined to escape from Madame du Noir’s clutches—even if it means running all over Paris!
I’m sure the title of this is a play on the title of another film or sone, but all I have at the moment is “The Cars That Ate Paris” and my Google-Fu feels weak today. Sound off in the comments if you’re feeling in an enlightening mood.
So… this book! The title is exciting at least. Two weeks in Paris with the Wakefield Twins? What could be better?
Polio could be better.
[Dove: I was sure the twins weren’t allowed to go to Paris after the whole Mademoiselle Jessica thing…]
[Wing: This book. This. book.]
“What an incredibly stupid book,” Jessica Wakefield said scornfully.
Seriously, I think I can actually leave it here.
Wakefield Compound, the Day Before Departure (Day -1): The Wakefield Twins are waiting for dinner, the day before they apparently leave on a two-week spring break exchange programme sponsored by Sweet Valley Middle School.
The teachers from Sweet Valley Middle School will not be appearing in this book. Neither are the Unicorns. Or Team Boring. Or any established peripheral character with a surname that isn’t Wakefield.
(Oh, and why yes, I AM borrowing the Location-Stated-In-Bold-Paragraph-Opener schtick from Dove’s last recap, thanks for asking!) [Dove: ORLY? The one you openly mocked?] [Raven: The very same!]
Rather than referencing this book itself in some bizarre Escher meta nightmare, Jessica is actually referencing her French phrasebook, the incredibly shittily titled Speak French Just as a Native Might Do.
Seriously, that title is so clunky, and has at least three superfluous words. I actually think that it’s so named in order to pad the word count. [Dove: My text books was called Deutsche Heute (German Today). I get the feeling the French equivalent was equally as snappy and down with the kids.] [Wing: How do you remember these things? I have no idea what any of my Spanish books were called in high school or university. And I use apps, articles, and fiction now.]
Jessica bemoans how the phrases contained in the book are of little practical value to the budding pre-teen traveller. I guess I agree with her sentiment when the example she uses is “I’ll n’est pas encore mort”. This means “He’s not dead yet”. [Wing: …okay, this phrasebook might be made for Wing, at least.]
This phrase is so ridiculous, it can’t be anything other than the planting of an tooth-jangling call-back for use later in the narrative.
Through their inane chatter, we learn a few details of their upcoming plot device. Apparently, they have won a trip to Paris in a school exchange programme called Bonjour, Paris! And they are set to leave tomorrow. [Dove: Bonjour, Paris! might well have been the name of the French text book at my school. It fits the theme.] [Raven: We had the classic Tricolor series.]
They sass and banter over the silly phrases in the book. Standard.
Elizabeth shrugged. “French is a funny language,” she told her sister. “You know that. We’ve been studying it all year long in school.”
“Oh, school,” Jessica said with a dismissive wave of her hand.
Not one French lesson mentioned in any of the previous books. WEAKSAUCE. [Dove: IN FACT! IN FACT! In fact it was outright stated that they haven’t taken French lessons, which disqualified them from going to Paris on a student exchange, which is why they ended up with… um, an Italian girl staying with them. Huh. On reflection, that’s a weird thing to happen.]
We learn that the twins are the same but different, and that Jessica has done little to no preparation for the trip. Shocker.
Jess declares that she should compile a French phrasebook that contains useful stuff for the modern preteen, and suggests the following:
- “Where do the cute guys hang out?”
- “What do you mean, we have to walk there?”
- “Seen any good videos lately?”
Not bad, but I’m sure we can do better? Snarkotron, ASSEMBLE!
Here’s my three:
- Maman, s’il te plait, baisse le gin, tu conduis beaucoup trop vite.- Mom, please put down the gin, you’re driving far too fast.
- Je te l’ai déjà dit, Steven, l’inceste est mauvais. – I’ve told you before, Steven, incest is wrong.
- Vous ne devriez pas enseigner en classe avec votre bite dehors, M. Nydick. – You shouldn’t teach class with your cock out, Mr Nydick.
Dove, Wing, commenters, over to you! [Dove: The only meaningful thing I learned in language class was: Entschuldigung, mein Kúli ist kaputt, which means “excuse me, my pen is broken”, which I actually used in an exam to explain the change from black to blue pen.]
[Wing: If I were traveling with the Wakefields, I would need to know two phrases: “Más tequila, por favor.” y “¿Donde esta la morgue?” Also, I like that Raven thinks I can be funny. Delightful.]
Steven enters the room and pisses all over Jessica’s apparently million-dollar idea by claiming it as his own. He also flings out the first of what I imagine will be a string of overwrought cultural stereotypes. The French, allegedly, eat “weird gunk” like “frog’s legs and chopped up snails.” And intestines with everything.
French cuisine is amazing. But yeah, I guess difference can seem a little daunting. I suppose Steven’s hyperbole is in keeping with an irritating older brother. [Wing: And yet he seems to have no interest in eating any of it, which is just wrong. He will literally eat anything.]
Both Elizabeth and Jessica tell their brother to strongly do one, but Elizabeth wonders if Steven might be telling the truth. This sets the rather alarming precident that this Elizabeth is a gullible idiot.
Pay attention, this might be important later.
Once Steven leaves, we learn a little about the family with which they are staying on this trip: the Monteclaires. They seem nice. They have a daughter the same age as the twins, and an older son. Jessica immediately begin fantasizing about “Alain”, picturing their instant connection and his midnight blue two-seater convertible. Elizabeth tries to change the subject to something more Parisian – the Louvre – and Jessica dismisses it as a boring old museum.
Steven re-enters with a package for the twins. No, not that kind of package!
Turns out that it’s a letter from the Monteclaires.
Jessica unfolded the paper and stared hard at it. “My dere Jessic and Elziabeht,” she read aloud, trying to pronounce “Elziabeht” as it was written. “We have news. Grand-mama is bacome sick. We must all too Nice to care of her—’ Huh?”
And here we go… “Jessic and Elziabeht”.
I HATE the way they deal with the language barrier in this book. When the French speak English, it’s very broken. It’s also written phonetically, and badly. When the French write in English, the spelling is appalling. And when the twins hear or read the French’s attempts at English, they are obtuse to a fucking fault. It’s all “but what does she mean when she says she wants a ‘Starpucks Coffee’…? It’s like she’s speaking in hieroglyphs!”
As this book is basically ALL language barrier, things do not bode well for our hero.
[Wing: It was at this point that I realised this recap was going to be epic and became excited (well, in some ways) to finish the book.]
The Monteclaires have an ill grandmother, and can no longer fulfil their obligation to host the Wakefields. As they are off to Nice to look after Granny, they have tasked a local widow with the job. Her name is Madame du Noir. In the hilarious letter full of grammar and spelling errors, we leard that Madame du Noir is a “window woman” (widow) who is a “field to little childs” (a friend to children). The wrong end of the stick is offered, and taken.
Jessica is immediately unhappy. Gone are her dreams of flirting in a blue convertible with the presumably scrumptious Alain. Instead, hours and hours of incomprehensible babbling from a lonely old widow.
Elizabeth grinned weakly. “Oh, come on, it won’t be so bad,” she protested. “We don’t really know—”
“You’re right!” Jessica exclaimed. “It won’t be so bad. It’ll be even worse! She’ll probably have a hearing aid that she won’t ever bother to turn on, and we’ll have to go around yelling at her in French at the top of our lungs, like this.” She took a deep breath. “MADAME DU NOIR, THE TERMITES ARE EATING YOUR BATHROOM SINK!” Jessica groaned loudly. “I wonder how you say that in French.”
To be fair, the banter in this book is pretty good. It’s just a shame about the French-into-English translation, is all.
And that’s the end of the chapter! But before we continue, a word about this.
Why the hell are the HOST FAMILY writing to the twins to cancel / change the plans, on the EVE of their departure? Shouldn’t they be writing to, I dunno, the organiser? The school? Hell, at the very least, the PARENTS?
And the Elder Wakefields, shouldn’t they be a bit more involved in this, in general? If not them, then the school, as the organizers of the exchange programme, should have SOME input at this stage? Oh no, that’d be responsible. What on earth am I thinking.
Airport, Day of Departure (Day 0): In the departure lounge, Elizabeth and Jessica shake off their pestering family in record time. Alice asks if they have everything, while Ned concentrated solely on their supply of Francs.
Heh. I remember visiting France on a school trip pre-Euro, at the age of eleven (so 1984), and spending Francs. I was there for a week, and it was great. My overriding memories are thus:
- Our camp lodgings were overrun with ants.
- I spent almost 80% of my allowance on Orangina (which wasn’t a thing in the UK at the time) [Dove: Shake the bottle, awake the taste?]
- My good friend Jonathan spent almost 50 quid ($100) on a French VHS of Pink Floyd’s The Wall as it wasn’t available in the UK. They released it in the UK a few days after we got home.
[Wing: The Jonathan story is the best. And also the worst. My one trip to Spain was also pre-Euro, in the late 90s, and I’m pretty sure I still have some pesetas somewhere. I know I still have pesos from my last trip to Mexico a couple years ago because they randomly pop up around the house sometimes. Why? I have no idea. One appeared outside on Ostrich’s vehicle, once.]
Anyway, I digress.
Elizabeth suggests that Jessica read some of her guidebooks during the flight, but Jessica isn’t having that. I mean, how fucking boring. Steven makes a sarcastic comment, Jessica hates it. Standard.
Just before the twins board the plane, Steven does something extra creepy.
“One minute!” Steven bounced forward and grabbed Elizabeth by the neck. “Oo la la!” He giggled hysterically, kissing her on both cheeks. “Oo la la!”
“Knock it off, Steven,” Elizabeth told him with a grimace.
“But zis is ze way ze French say good-bye!” Steven insisted in a silly voice. He made a move toward Jessica.
“Come closer and you die,” Jessica threatened, balling one hand into a fist.
Attagirl. Jessica. Hoof that bigoted pervert back into the fucking sea.
And with a bit of banter and a weak joke about almost forgetting the tickets, the Twins board the plane.
On the plane, Day 0: The twins enjoy complimentary soft drinks while chatting to Katherine, a friendly flight attendant. Jessica establishes that Katherine is bilingual, and begins mining her for translations of useful statements for her upcoming teen-friendly phrasebook.
Elizabeth reads some of the latest Amanda Howard book (just how often are these bastards released?) [Dove: Somewhere between every quarter of an hour and NOT OFTEN ENOUGH, LIZ IS DYING, SHE NEEDS A NEW BOOK.], which Jessica witters on about her phrases. In Elizabeth’s book, there’s a little old lady whom Jessica believes may have some sinister motive for her seemingly innocuous actions. Elizabeth is suitably beguiled and intrigued.
Later in the flight, the flight attendant Katherine asks Jessica about their upcoming trip. Jess lets slip that their original plan to stay with the Monteclaires has hit a widow-shaped snag, and Katherine asks the question that everybody’s thinking.
“Hmm.” Katharine leaned forward thoughtfully. “No offense or anything, but has the agency that sent you checked this woman out?”
Unfortunately, as she’s asking the Bitch Queen of Dramatic Overreaction, she sets Jessica’s mind a-racing. And to add an extra layer of delicious cream onto this Croquembouche of Shit, Katherine also mentions that the twins resemble a girl who was on one of her flights around Christmas…
I know this it to up the Eerie Factor, but I call bullshit on Katherine remembering such a detail months after the fact. [Dove: Or Katherine is in league with the Muffin Man (bad guy for non Point Horror fans) and tips them off. “Yeah, there were three blonde American girls on the flight due to arrive at 11:52am. Take your pick.”] [Wing: I was low key waiting for Katherine to be the Muffin Man.]
Jessica wonders if Madame du Noir has been sufficiently vetted. I’m sure she hasn’t, but I’m equally sure she’ll be fine.
In a pointless scene back in Elizabeth’s head, we see her getting embroiled in her Amanda Howard book. The heroine Christine Davenport is experiencing mild peril at the hands of a fiction old woman, which sets Elizabeth’s heart a fluttering. [Wing: I suppose this is a fine spot to point out that suddenly the old woman turns into a monster, and we’re never given any resolution on that. Is this a Scooby Doo moment? Are the Amanda Howard books also supernatural? I’m very intrigued and at the same time annoyed at the lack of continuity in a fictional series set within a fictional series that often lacks continuity.] She internally posits that she’s glad she’s not like Christine, as her life is too adventurous for her, which is a bit fucking rich coming from a self-proclaimed Plucky Girl Detective that’s foiled mall thieves, rescued drowning kids, been possessed by a ghost, travelled to a fantasy land to overthrow an evil queen, been kidnapped by bank robbers and subsequently shipwrecked, and made up a bullshit language with her twin. Yeah, Liz, I’m pretty sure your life is adventurous enough. [Dove: However, in this scene, Christine Davenport’s car needs more fuel. I was under the impression that Christine Davenport was the same age as the twins. Inquiry demanded.] [Wing: Ah, I’ve always pictured Christine Davenport as the Nancy Drew of the Sweet Valley world with her sporty little convertible.]
The scene ends with a further hilarious miscommunication from the Monteclaire’s letter, in which they wrote “Madame du Noir are a woman who licks children vary much”, and Elizabeth wonders if they ACTUALLY MEANT THAT SHE ATE CHILDREN.
I mean, come on. Fucking ludicrous. This is Elizabeth, not Jessica.
Chapter Three starts with the twins still airbourne, which I guess is fair as the flight from the West Coast to Europe is pretty gruelling.
Elizabeth goes to sleep, and Jessica decides to read some of the in flight magazines.
After a tiny section that shows Elizabeth dreaming that she can’t remember the French word for black (ah ha ha ha Madame du Noir, lol), we return to Jessica flicking through a selection of bizarrely titled periodicals (From Wimp to Hunk Quarterly, anyone?) before she settles on the fantastically bland International Traveler.
She discovers that Johnny Buck’s drummer is an absolute dreamboat [Dove: lead drummer. Implying he has many.], and decides to throw together a cobbled phrase that reflects this, for her upcoming phrasebook (“What a dreamboat” becoming “Voila, un reve-bateau”, which is admittedly pretty cute). She tells Katherine the flight attendant, who indulgently corrects her with the much less evocative “Le garcon est tres beau.”
Jess then turns the page, and we get to the crux of the matter.
A picture sprang out at her—a photo of a girl who looked a lot like herself. Curious, Jessica caught the page before it could turn. The girl was about her own age. She was standing in front of the Eiffel Tower, a smile on her face. Jessica’s eyes shifted over to the text beside the picture. It was headlined “Has Anyone Seen This Girl?”
Apparently, over the past few months, several blonde female American tourists had disappeared while visiting France, usually from the Bastille area, and all of them last seen in the company of a mysterious old lady. No traces of them had been found.
Jesus, dark much? What is this, Sweet Valley Twins does Hostel?
Jessica immediately puts two and two together, and comes up with The Battle Of Gettysburg.
OF COURSE the mysterious kidnapper of American girls is Madame du Noir.
OF COURSE the Wakefield Twins are the next abductees on the list.
This is pure Jessica Wakefield.
Jessica tries to wake her sleeping (and dreaming) sister, but to no avail. Elizabeth is muttering in her sleep. “Je ne suis pas encore morte.” I am not dead yet. This sends Jessica’s mid racing once more.
Back in Elizabeth’s head, we have more incomprehensible dream gubbins in which she struggles to identify the colour black under the gimlet gaze of her French teacher. Wow, how spooky. This whole book thus far has the air of a Super Chiller about it, which might be twitchin’ the britches of my fellow recappers but doesn’t really do a thing for me. [Dove: Nope. I’m not here for mysteries. I’m here for ghosts or lulzy drama.] [Wing: All this book does — well, okay, one of the many things this book does wrong — is taunt me with the idea of a person turning into a murderous beast, aka werewolves. And yet, no werewolves. Despite Dove promising me werewolves in the Sweet Valley books.]
In the dream, Elizabeth cowers before the face of an unknown old woman, and is washed over by a sea of black dots on a white background. Will these details be important? Probably. Will these details make sense? Never.
She eventually wakes up, befugued with dream detritus, to find her sister sleeping soundly by her side.
Eventually, the plane touches down, waking the sleeping Jessica. We hear that Jessica too has been dreaming about wicked old witch women wearing black and white polka dotted scarves. The girls giggle nervously an put it down to coincidence.
The Airport, Paris, Day 1: The twins head to baggage reclaim. While doing so, they immediately notice the change of pace. Everyone is moving very fast, and Elizabeth is astounded that people are talking so damn quickly. She realises that her French lesson prep is woefully inadequate for the reality of native speakers in their own country.
Everyone seems to speak incredibly quickly around here! she thought, straining to overhear a bit of conversation. That cute teenager over at the information booth—did he just say that he’d eaten three bicycles for breakfast?
So here we are, setting the scene for the inevitable miscommunication hijinks that are to come.
Jess turns talk to Madame du Noir, offering the opinion that she just might not be their kind of person. Elizabeth thinks back to her dream, and says so, but deduces that they are both simply disappointed in having their original plans altered at the eleventh hour., Jessica puts more stock in her dream, but then again she’s a fucking gibbon so it’s to be expected.
After a quick trip outside the airport, in which the twins watch in horror as a man is nearly ploughed down by a rampant motorcyclist in order to emphasise that (and I quote) “Everybody know that French dri-vairs are ze worst dri-vairs in ze world!”, the girls grow tired of waiting for their chaperone and decide to head back inside for some pastries. Before doing so, they scan the crowd for anyone that could be Madame du Noir.
Naturally, Jessica spots her… and claims she’s the woman from her dream.
Thankfully, Elizabeth trucks no bullshit, even when Jessica cries that Madame du Noir will kill them both. She too spots the elderly woman in a black and white polka dotted scarf. She states that the woman looks fine, and that it’s probably not even Madame du Noir in the first place.
Jessica then explains all about the magazine article. Elizabeth starts feeling some doubt, and then flashes back to her own dream. IS the face she saw in her own dream the same as the woman in front of them now? Obviously not, but for the sake of the plot, then yes.
“Ridiculous,” she said at last. “One hundred percent ridiculous. I’m standing up, Jessica, and I’m walking over there, and I’m going to ask her if her name is Madame du Noir, and—”
“No!” Jessica clutched at her sister’s hand. “You can’t!”
Good for you, Elizabeth! That’s the spirit. And if you’d only kept this up, we’d be done with this fucking story and be doing something more worthwhile with our time.
Elizabeth trots off to the as-yet-unknown old woman, who is talking to someone at the skycap stand (the what?).
“Ay-lee-sa-bess and Zhes-see-ca Oo-ake-feel!” Elizabeth heard clearly.
Oh, FUCK OFF.
Total overkill. I mean sure, go ahead and use “Ay-lizabeth” or “Jesseeka” or something, that’d be sufficient. But ““Ay-lee-sa-bess and Zhes-see-ca Oo-ake-feel” is just nonsense. [Wing: …more nonsense than ithig?]
Elizabeth tries to chivvy her sister along, but Jessica demands caution. Elizabeth listens in on Madame du Noir’s conversation, and predictably misunderstands things.
“What is it?” Jessica asked urgently. “Tell me!”
Elizabeth licked her lips. “I think she said, ‘Those girls—’” She swallowed hard. “‘Those girls aren’t ever going home again.’”
Well, that’s that. The dreams, the fact that the woman lives near the Bastille, and now this blatant admission to a person in authority in a clearly public place? She MUST be guilty.
Where’s Elizabeth’s famous common sense? Why the hell does she think that Madame du Noir would be so cataclysmically stupid to basically declare her nefarious scheme to an airport official? Why doesn’t Elizabeth have the self-awareness to realise that perhaps her conversational French ain’t all it’s cracked up to be?
We know the answers… it’s because THE PLOT DEMANDS IT SO.
Jessica grabs Elizabeth and they dash away to find a taxicab toot suite.
This is it, you know. This is the whole book.
“Twins flee from their chaperone. Their chaperone tries to catch up with them. Repeat until we all fucking explode.”
I’m what, about a third of the way in, if that? And the rest is just variations on “has she seen us? / there she is! / we must flee! / we are safe. / we are spotted!” nonsense, repeated ad nauseam.
I’m gonna continue as there are some nice set pieces, but man, this book is repetitive. [Dove: You’re kinder than me. I’m already bored.]
Taxicab, Day 1: After a brief aside in which we discover that both Jessica and Elizabeth are now 100% convinced that Madame du Noir is the killer of children from their dreams (a French and female Freddie Krueger), they dive into a taxicab and demand passage to the Pompidou Centre.
I’ve been there. It’s cool.
Of course, as can be expected, the driver doesn’t speak English. And in the best tradition of all such capers, Madame du Noir leaps into a second cab and gives chase.
The Wakefield Compound, Day 1: In an unpredictable tonal shift, we skip back to Steven. He’s enjoying his Spring Break without interference from his sisters. But he’s bored, and he’s mighty jealous of their foreign adventure.
The phone rings.
He picked up the receiver. “Hello!” he sang out. “Wakefield residence!”
“Ah, Mees-tair Oo-ake-feel!” a voice said. Steven frowned.
Jesus fucking crispy cream Christ, I hate this schtick. Of course, Steven has no idea what’s going on, because heaven forbid he translate it contextually as a greeting or anything. I mean, he doesn’t even follow the fucking sounds.
“Mees-tair Oo-ake-feel, you must come at once!” the voice went on, rising in pitch. Steven strained to hear the words through the buzzing noises. Stupid phone company! “Your daugh-tairs have runned away!”
For some unfathomable shitting reason, this colossal jizzbiscuit assumes it’s his mate Joe twatting about. JUST FUCK OFF.
Eventually the whole debacle is unwound, and Madame du Noir informs the Elder Wakefields of their daughter’s flight reaction. Mama Wakefield declares that the remaining Wakefields will be on the next flight to Paris, setting off as soon as she’s called the police.
Okay then. A little bit of gumption. Bit fucking late, but whatever.
The Pompidou Centre, Day 1: Jessica and Elizabeth walk around the packed venue, trying to lose their tail. In doing so, they get lost themselves.
Jessica grabs them both a table while Elizabeth orders a pair of croissants. In making small talk, she believes the pastry vendor utters the phrase “Elephants eat fish” before realising it’s “My child likes to eat croissants too.” This is just not funny. Or am I wrong? [Wing: No. No you are not.]
While they eat, Elizabeth admits that she’s having difficulty following what people are saying. Maybe she misheard Madame du Noir after all? To her intense surprise, Jessica goes along with it. After all, she’s bored of lugging her bags around Paris, and her hair is a mess.
They decide to phone Madame du Noir and apologise.
At last, some common sense.
Of course, the Plot Gremlins are at their mischievous best again, and while they are wating for Madame du Noir to pick up the phone, they overhear her outside their phone booth. And AGAIN, Elizabeth mistranslates he words and intentions.
“She said, ‘I was going to cook them for dinner,’” Elizabeth continued in a strangled voice. “‘And then—’” She gulped. “‘Then I’ll put them under glass. ’”
WHAT DOES THAT EVEN MEAN?! AND WHY THE HELL WOULD A MURDERER BLURT THAT OUT IN A PUBLIC FUCKING PLACE?
Elizabeth, you’ve JUST admitted to the room that your French sucks donkey dick. Why are you believing what you’re apparently (mis)hearing?
The girls hide as Madame du Noir passes by. As she does so, Elizabeth has a brief quiver in her resolve, until Jessica asks her to picture being crushed under a large pane of glass.
All I can think of is Dexter’s blood slides. [Dove: I can think of several horror films – House on Haunted Hill, Ghost Ship… uh, actually, most of the Dark Castle catalogue, that use someone being locked in a tank of water, beating helplessly against the glass above them as someone secures it. So, I guess Madame du Noir has a gigantic tank somewhere in her house?]
Outside Pompidou Centre, Day 1: The twins make their escape, chuntering all the while. Elizabeth posits that they approach the police, but Jessica dissuades her. They won’t be believed, apparently, and they’ll be handed straight to Madame du Noir. While I’m all for calling this out as bullshit, especially in the face of an apparent Old lady Serial Killer rampage that targets young American blonde girls, I also know what happened in the Jeffrey Dahmer case, so maybe Jessica has a valid point.
(Then again, Konerak Sinthasomphone wasn’t white.)
The girls stumble upon a newsstand, and spot a front page emblazoned with a photo of the murderer. Not only did she possibly, maybe, look like Madame du Noir, a bit, she was also pictured wearing a black and white polka dot scarf! Proof, if proof be needed. For a very inaccurate definition of the word ‘proof’.
The girls conclude, AGAIN, that they are right to flee from this evil murderous hag.
Soo, it’s dark, and the girls decide to enter a bakery. But before that…
The Family. Airport, Day 1: The pursuing parents, flanked by a Steven (who’s carrying FORTY-THREE American college T Shirts to sell on the streets of Paris (I mean, WHAT IN THE FUCK?)), [Wing: Why the fuck do they let him even bring a checked bag?!] are having trouble booking a flight to Paris that doesn’t go via Seoul and Sydney. SPOILER – They do get a direct flight, so this bit is fucking pointless.
I once packed for a two-week holiday touring Japan when I was considerably drunk. I checked my luggage upon arrival, only to discover a case that contained nothing but twenty-six t-shirts and a pillow.
The Twins. Bakery, Day 1: As they enter, the twins hear an argument emanating from the back room, from which clouds of flour are billowing. Sure enough, Elizabeth can’t make head nor tail of any of it. Eventually, a tall thin and pale man appears, dressed in whites and covered with flour.
He turns and shouts back into the rear of the building, and is pelted with another flour bomb as a result. In retaliation, he scoops up some jelly doughnuts and hurls them at his unknown, female-sounding attacker. The projectiles hit home, and a young woman doused in purple jelly storms in, glares at the throng, and leaves with a door slam and a backward yell.
Ah, the French. So temperamental.
The baker, smiling, asks what he can do for them. Happily, it’s the one thing that Elizabeth can apparently translate correctly. I for one couldn’t stomach another “I think he’s saying octopuses are massaging his testicles” confusion.
Thankfully, it appears that the baker – one Monsieur Courbet – can speak a little English. He claims his assistant (the woman that has just left) has previous form for the flouncy exit. He also claims to be the greatest baker in France.
Sorry mate, that’s Paul.
We also learn that Monsieur Courbet is up against it, as he as a wedding to cater the very next day, and he is behind on his orders. And now that his assistant has left, he doesn’t know what to do.
Can you guess what’s coming, gentle reader?
Jessica offers her services as an “incredibly awesome baker”.
“Ah.” Monsieur Courbet gave her a wide smile. He took one bite from the doughnut in his left hand, and followed it immediately with a bite from the doughnut in his right hand. “You bake, pair-haps, cookies from a cookie mix in your kitchen, yes?”
“No way!” Jessica shook her head violently. “I mean, no. I baked on national television once.”
Okay, ya got me. I did laugh at that one. This is pretty standard Jessicaspiel, but it’s fun, so yay.
Eventually, a deal of sorts is struck. If the girls will help Monsieur Courbet in his hour of need the following morning, he will let them spend the evening sleeping in his bakery.
Elizabeth predictably has reservations. Jessica vows that they can wing it. Either way, she suggests, it beats sleeping in the park or being caught by Madame du Noir.
Elizabeth shuddered involuntarily. She was starting to see Jessica’s point.
So am I… god help me.
The Family. On the Plane. Day 1: It’s thirty minutes into the Wakefield Family flight. Steven is reading International Traveler, learning all about Johnny Buck’s drummer. He then stumbles upon the same article that Jessica had read, concerning the old lady that is apparently murdering blonde American girls.
Alice, who’s not yet smashed after devouring ten complimentary miniature bottles of in-flight gin, is the one who raises the alarm.
“Ned, listen to this!” she gasped. Grabbing the magazine from Steven’s hands, she read aloud. “This American tourist was visiting France last Christmas, when she disappeared near the Bastille.” She bit her lip and read on. “It says several other American girls have disappeared during the last year. Oh, Ned!”
Ned too is suitably worried. But Steven? He shows no concern, and instead internally suggests that the kidnappers will be regretting their decision to take on the Wakefield Twins.
That’s right, kid. Showcase that fucking empathy. Bellend. [Wing: He’s not wrong, though. Also, this reminds me of a story. When I got ready to move for grad school, my mother asked Ostrich if he was worried about me moving so far away by myself (please note, I had already moved for undergrad by myself and survived just fine, and I only moved several states away for grad school, not to another country or anything, and I had already lived in a couple other states at that point, when I was several years younger, and I was in my late 20s when I went to grad school). He told her that he pitied the person who thought I would make an easy target.]
The Twins. Bakery. Day 2: It’s the following morning, and Monsieur Courbet is ready to collect on his side of the cookies-for-lodging deal. Let’s see if you can guess how it goes?
- Will the Wakefield Twins turn out to be baking prodigies?
- Will the Wakefield Twins turn out to be cack-handed spanners?
Before we find out, Elizabeth tries something that’s borderline cunning. She throws the whole “under glass” line into a normal conversation with the baker, to ascertain whether it’s actually a harmless French phrase that shouldn’t raise an eyebrow.
Monsieur Courbet is confused and appalled in equal measure, declaring it to be only something a “crazy murderer” would do.
So, more proof that Madame du Noir is the serial killer. Joy.
The Family. The Airport, Day 2: At the baggage claim, as Steven waits for his inexplicable sack of soiled American t shirts, he gets talking with… Katherine, the flight attendant from the Twins’ flight the previous day. What an incredible coincidence!
They have a weird meet cute in which he bumps her and apologises. She then informs him that college t shirts are no longer popular in France, and he realises he’s brought them all the way to Europe for nothing. I only wish that the Jamie Suzanne had realised this too, and cut it from the book.
Once he discovers she’s bilingual, he asks her if she can help him translate some useful phrases for his upcoming Teen Phrase Book, just as Jessica had done. To be honest, this is quite a neat way to marry up the two separate hooks to allow Katherine to give the family some much needed info.
Katherine tells him that the twin had been apprehensive about Madame du Noir. She also suggests that the twins had perhaps jumoed to the conclusion that Madame du Noir may be the American Co-ed Killer that’s stalking the streets around the Bastille.
She then genuinely flirts with him, calling him more mature than his sisters. I’ll put that down to her Flight Assistant Training, because hello, she’s 25 and he’s 14.
The scene ends with him watching her depart from the carousel, all the while internally proclaiming that he’s in love.
Pfft. I guess in a book that doesn’t mention Lila fucking Fowler, we’re unlikely to get a mention of Cathy fucking Connors.
The Twins. The Bakery, Day 2: If you voted for “2” above – that the Wakefield Twins turn out to be cack-handed spanners – then CONGRATU-FUCKING-LATIONS! You win a set of goddamn steak knives.
The twins both fuck up ROYALLY. They add flour to the bowl with “ze eggs”, as in the bowl containing eggs and not the bowl marked with an ‘x’. They confuse Celsius and Fahrenheit, resulting in some burnt loaves. They add too many cups of sugar to things.
All in all, it’s a confection cluster-fuck.
As Monsieur Courbet barks orders and attempts damage limitation, Jessica – sent to the office to fetch more flour – surreptitiously uses the bakery phone to call home. She gets through to the Wakefield Compound answering machine.
Just a thought… maybe if you’re off chasing your missing daughters, perhaps leave someone at home (STEVEN) to answer the phone in case they call home? That’s literally Play #1 in the Police For White Folks guidebook.
Robot Steven witters on the tape, and Jessica hangs up in disgust.
The Family. Restaurant (Breakfast), Day 2: Madame du Noir has caught up with the Elder Wakefields, and they share breakfast before (presumably) hitting the flagstones in search of their missing progeny. In her incredibly annoying broken English, Madame du Noir mentions that she’s called the police, but they can’t do anything until the mandatory 72-hours-with-no-contact have passed.
Sorry, but I hate this trope. You’re telling me that two blonde American twelve-year-old girls, possibly kidnapped in a city in which there is a DOCUMENTED SERIAL KILLER OF BLONDE AMERICAN GIRLS, will NOT be searched for by the police until THREE DAYS have passed? [Dove: I have no idea where this trope came from, but I’m glad it died. It’s such a terrible way to force an already-dull plot to tread water.] [Wing: Has it died? I swear I saw it in fiction not too long ago, but I also can’t remember what piece of fiction, so I can’t double check. Ah well, if it has died, I’m glad, and if not, I hope it does.]
Madame du Noir also says she’s putting flyers around the city. Of course, (SPOILER) the Wakefield Twins never find any. That could have been fun. Missed opportunity.
The Family decide to hit the streets for some High Octane flyering. Steven thinks he’ll be able to get the jump on his sisters as he can think like they think. He’s convinced he knows a couple of places they are bound to visit on their adventure.
The Twins. The Bakery, Day 2: Back at the Bakery, Elizabeth fucks up frosting the wedding cakes by squirting the bag far too hard and spattering Monsieur Courbet’s leg in a torrent of sugary blue cake-jizz. He’s not a happy camper. He demands they clean up the frosting from the bakery floor before storming away.
Jess tells Lizzie that she tried phoning home. Elizabeth discusses turning themselves in, as once again she vacillates between confidence and paranoia about her French translation skills.
From the front of the bakery, we hear Monsieur Courbet greeting a customer…
“Bonjour!” a woman replied from the next room, and then launched into a flurry of French.
Elizabeth stared at her sister, every muscle in her body tensing up. “I know that voice!” she hissed, and by the look on her sister’s face she could tell that Jessica did, too.
Madame du Noir!
OH NO! TIME TO GO!
The Family. A French Street, Day 2: Outside the bakery, the Wakefields are attaching flyers to poles. Steven discusses his missing sisters with a boy roughly his own age, who mocks Steven’s dress sense due to his American college t-shirt. Weirdly, the boy speaks pretty much perfect English, without any of the author’s trademark frenchifying fuckwittery. Perhaps a comment on the inability of the older generation of French people that may not have bothered learning English? Or perhaps an oversight. YOU CHOOSE!
After some random guff when the two boys discuss Johnny Buck’s drummer (inexplicably called his “lead drummer” throughout this book… how many fucking drummers does he need?!), [Wing: You can never have too many drummers.] the French lad fucks off. As he does so, Steven spots a pair of blonde girls scurrying down the street a block away.
Couldn’t have been the girls, he told himself.
That would be too much of a coincidence.
STEVEN! You could have put us all out of our misery if you’d followed up on your first instincts!
This is why we hate you, you gaping, shit-spackled cleft. [Dove: WTF? His motivation is literally “I must search for the twins” and when faced with kids who look like the twins, his response is, “Nah, not gonna. Probably isn’t them. I need to drag this plot out for another eight billion identical chapters.”]
The Twins. Another French Street, Day 2: The girls flee from the bakery in terror, having presumably climbed out of a window or hot-footed down a fire escape. They curse their luck, and bemoan that Madame du Noir must be psychic. Elizabeth also believes that she heard the evil witch tell the baker that she was their mother…
“I am out to get two children. I am their mother,” she quoted with a shudder. “I am going to choke them with a pear.”
More grist to the miscommunication mill. [Wing: I’M GOING TO CHOKE THEM WITH A PEAR. I will forgive the ghostie a lot if they confirm this is a pear of anguish reference.]
The Family. The Bakery, Day 2: Back with Monsieur Courbet, he is telling a gleeful Alice Wakefield that the girls are safely ensconced in the back room of the bakery. There is much rejoicing amongst the collected protagonists.
The gleeful baker calls into the back room for the girls to emerge. They don’t, of course. When they all pile in to investigate, they see the following…
[A] single shaky word had been written in blue icing on the wall:
All very Charles Manson. Helter Skelter!
The Twins. The Louvre, Day 2: The twins decamp to safer pastures. Jessica is pleased – she can put her bags in a locker. She also announces that the Louvre is a fine hiding place, as no one in their right minds would think that SHE would go hide in a museum.
Elizabeth manoeuvres Jessica into checking out the Mona Lisa, and Jessica is predictably unimpressed.
What I don’t understand is why Jessica is so down on pretty much ANYTHING French, other than the opportunity for shopping. I know that’s her default, but surely Lila has talked to her about how romantic the place is, or something?
I just KNOW that this trip to Paris will not be mentioned in the series when the Unicorns are present, even though the Jessica we know and love would DEFINITELY lord it over her friends and gush to Lila about the whole thing.
Steven. The Street, Day 2: Without his parents’ knowledge or consent, Steven has sprinted off on a solo quest to find his sisters. As he does so, he bemoans the fact that he’d rather be rollerblading. Man, the Early Nineties are just OOZING out of you, son.
He speaks to some French people. He doesn’t find his sisters.
The Twins. The Louvre, Day 2: Next, the twins check out the Venus de Milo. Again, Jessica thinks it ain’t all that. It doesn’t even have ARMS, for fuck’s sake!
The Family. The Street, Day 2: Steven rejoins his family, more through luck than judgment. After running for what feels like half an hour, the curving roads lead back to the bakery, and his angry parents. They admonish him for fucking off unannounced.
The group discuss their next destination to search for the twins. Ned suggests a shopping mall. Steven, the fucking CLEFT, suggests a bungee-jumping place. YOUR SISTERS ARE MISSING, YOU CUNT.
Madame du Noir, who’s proving to be worth her weight in gold in this search, suggests they try wherever would be the last place they’d go. Alice offers the Louvre as a possibility, so they head off in the (currently) correct direction.
Well done, Madame du Noir. Well done. The Elder Wakefields don’t deserve kids.
The Twins. The Louvre café. Day 2: I did laugh at this bit…
“If don’t have another pastry this minute,” Jessica said with determination, “I will probably die.”
Elizabeth looked at her sister pleadingly. “We just can’t afford another pastry, Jess—don’t you understand?”
“A pastry costs less than a funeral,” Jessica reminded her twin.
They decide to try calling home once more, after a little confusion about the time difference. Anything to stop Jessica looking at paintings of fat naked ladies, apparently. Bit rude.
The Family. The Louvre, Day 2: While the parents check the security office, Steven dashes off to search the museum floor. Because reasons.
The Twins. The Louvre café. Day 2: Jessica tries calling home again, with the same results as usual. She suggests that Elizabeth try, but Liz declares that they are running out of money. Jess suggests they call collect, which is sensible, but in reality it’s all a ruse to get Elizabeth out of the way while Jessica spends a chunk of cash on more pastries. [Dove: Why is nobody calling Amy Sutton or Lila Fowler at this point? Me? I would definitely call the richest person I know and/or the local news anchor to report that I was lost in Paris and trying to outrun a serial killer. In fact, I’d call those two before the fucking Wakefields.]
Steven. The Louvre. Day 2: Steven dashes around the exhibits, searching for his sisters. [Wing: And finds himself liking some of them! That surprised me.]
He rounded a corner at full speed and nearly bumped into a security guard. “Sorry,” Steven shouted back over his shoulder, forgetting for a moment that he was in France.
The guard scowled and spoke rapidly in French.
“Hey, I said I was sorry!” Turning around, Steven held up his hands and backpedaled. “Umm…” How do you say it in French, anyway? “I’m hungry” is “J’ai faim”—”I have hunger.” So “I’m sorry” would be “I have sorrow”— “J’ai—you know. J’ai sorry,” he added helplessly.
The guard widened his eyes and took a step forward.
After wondering why these damn Frenchies don’t all just learn English like real people, Steven deduces that the girls are likely to be in the Louvre café. As it’s usually STEVEN who’s the gannet in the Wakefield Compound, leaping to that conclusion is a little ridiculous.
However, as Steven reaches the café entrance, he is accosted by five security guards. They search him roughly, and claim he has stolen something very valuable from the museum.
The source of this belief? They thought he was saying “sari” instead of “sorry”, and decided that could only be because he had stolen a very valuable piece of Indian clothing.
FOR FUCK’S SAKE, that is probably the WEAKEST thing I’ve ever read in this entire fucking SERIES.
PLEASE can we stop with this increasingly ridiculous miscommunication mayhem? It’s BORING.
And this one doesn’t even make sense!
Also, I’ve just searched the Louvre Collection online database for “sari”, and it returned zero results. So there are no saris on display in the Louvre, unless they actually HAVE been fucking stolen.
GOD I hate this book.
[Dove: This irritated me beyond measure. So basically, here’s what happened. An American teenager bumped into a security guarde at the Louvre, a place that is flooded with tourists from all over Europe. One would assume that the security guard probably knows the basics of the most common languages, such as “where’s the loo?”, “do you speak [English/Spanish/whatever]?”, “excuse me” and “sorry”. I can say sorry in three languages, and I’m shit at languages. So, the kid bumps this presumably multi-lingual guard, who immediately assumes that instead of apologising, the kid is announcing theft of clothing. And then they set about beating him up. For fuck’s sake. Adults smacking around a fourteen year old over a miscommunication? Why does the entire fleet of Jamies hate Europe so much that every non-American is so awful?]
[Wing: Because ‘MURICAH! Also, apparently this ghostie thinks that people in France easily believe criminals will go around telling people about what they’ve done/what they’re going to do.]
The guards search a resisting Steven, and unleash his back of forty-three American t shirts on an unsuspecting public.
Elizabeth, the Louvre, Day 2: Quick pop back to Liz, who’s having issues with the collect call to the mewling answerphone. As she returns to the café, she spots a kerfuffle. An unknow figure is pressed against a wall by burly security guards, next to a pile of American college t-shirts…
Funny, she thought with a shake of her head, crossing into the café. I know someone who’s got one of those shirts.
My brother Steven!
Steven. The Louvre. Day 2: Steven manages to extricate himself from his sticky situation, by clearly explaining the difference between SORRY and SARI. The guards then declare that it’s almost closing time, and that everyone should fuck off outside, just as the Tannoy declares that it’s time for everyone to go home.
The Twins. The Louvre. Day 2: Elizabeth and Jessica hear the announcement, and ready themselves to leave. As they weave their way through the exhibits, they discuss the events of the day.
Then… they hear a familiar voice.
Jessica strained to hear. A woman’s voice, speaking in broken English—
“Not again!” she groaned, looking frantically for a place to hide.
OH NO! TIME TO GO!
“Not again!” said Elizabeth.
“Not again!” said the reader.
As they were passing the recreation of Napoleon III’s bedroom, they decide to hide under the bed. The bed which is small, and dusty on the underside.
They remain there until the familiar voice passes. Then, in an act of cautious prudence, they decide to remain there a while longer.
The Family. Outside The Louvre. Day 2: Steven demands justice for false arrest, while his parents demand he stay with them at all times. Madame du Noir declares that she was sure she saw either Jessica or Elizabeth in Napoleon III’s bedroom. She’s sorry that she didn’t catch up with them, but it is what it is.
The Twins. The Louvre. Day 2: Finally locked in a deserted Louvre, the girls discuss their plight. Locked in the Louvre, they decide to make the most of it and kip on Napoleon III’s bed. As you do.
One point they find strange… that when they were listening to Madame du Noir’s voice in their last encounter, she was actually speaking English. Why on earth would she be doing that?
More to the point, it’s a fucking shame that they didn’t actually UNDERSTAND any of the words she was saying. That would have probably helped a great deal.
[Wing: Them spending the night in the Louvre is the best part of this entire damn book (well, except for the pear of anguish reference, though I’m certain it was not intentional) because it reminded me of a much better book (From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs Basil E Frankweiler by E L Konisburg) and also my childhood dream of living in a museum.]
The Family. Metro. Day 3: The Wakefield Clan begin their second day in Paris on the Metro, looking for the twins as the scenery rattles by.
The Twins. Park. Day 3: After their fitful night’s sleep in the deserted Louvre, the twins decamp to a local park to complain about their impromptu lodgings. There, they run into an old lady throwing peanuts to the squirrels.
“Bonjour, bonjour!” An elderly lady with shoulder-length gray hair approached, tossing peanuts to a group of squirrels nearby. She spoke to them rapidly in French and held out a handful of nuts.
“Umm, merci,” Jessica murmured, taking the nuts and scattering them at her feet.
The woman smiled broadly. “Ah!” she said in an unusually high-pitched voice. “You are not Frenchlings!”
Jessica suppressed a smile. “We’re American.”
The woman is delighted with this news, and claims to love America. She asks the twins where they are from, and she’s thrilled to discover they come from California.
The girls are warmed by this eccentric stranger. We learn she’s called Madame Renault, and she’s OBVIOUSLY NOT THE REAL KILLER, DEAR ME NO. SHE’S JUST A HARMLESS OLD WOMAN.
Madame Renault tells the twins that her children are all grown up, and living in America. And as the three of them are getting on like a house on fire, she invites them on the Metro to her apartment for a cup of tea.
A cup of tea…. With a SIDE PLATE OF DEATH BISCUITS!
The twins readily agree. To the tea. Not to the death biscuits.
After all, this woman’s dotted scarf is blue and pink. Not grey and white.
Why the hell are the twins suddenly FUCKING IDIOTS?
Literally five minutes prior, they were paranoid and over-cautious. Now? They are “yeah sure, I’d love to come to your sex dungeon. Oh, I’ll need to wear this ball gag? No problem!”
Just another pocket of shit in a pile of cacky trousers.
The Family. Metro. Day 3: As the Wakefield Clan come to the end of their city-wide Metro jaunt, they discuss their next move. Alice says that at least it’s now been forty-eight hours, so the police should start looking too.
Erm… I thought it was seventy-two hours? Just saying. [Wing: Well, I mean, they are into the 72 hour day. Day 1, they run away and find the bakery. Day 2, baking and museum. Surely there are no inconsistencies in this series. Surely.]
As they scan the horizon for blonde heads, Steven finally serves a real purpose. He actually spots the twins! Sure, they are on the opposite platform and about to board a train heading away from their family, but even so!
Like the prime beefcake athlete he is, he dives from the Metro with a shout. Madame du Noir, making a mockery of her age, follows suit, like a coiled French geriatric ninja. Ned and Alice, however, aren’t quick enough, and they sadly disappear on the departing train.
Sadly for everyone involved, especially the reader, neither Steven nor Madame du Noir manage to catch up with the Twins before they alight their own train and move slowly away. Steven manages to glimpse them through the carriage window, sat opposite another grey-haired old woman, in deep conversation.
Steven frowned. Why would his sisters run like crazy from one old woman just to hang out with another?
Why? Because this SHITTY PLOT DEMANDS IT, that’s why!
The Twins. Madame Renault’s Apartment. Day 3: The twins sit by the large plate glass window in Madame Renault’s apartment, hereafter known as the CHARNEL HOUSE OF HORROR (ho ho). The OBVIOUS MURDERER Madame Renault tries to buy their affections with a pack of cookies. Either that, or she’s trying to poison them.
Elizabeth takes one. Jessica takes four.
Liz goes on to say she’d love to visit the Eiffel Tower. Madame Renault queals with delight, and tells them she’d visited the Tower many times as a little girl.
Jessica tried to imagine Madame Renault as a little girl, but she couldn’t. She was so old and gray and… Jessica peered closely at Madame Renault’s face. It looked like she’d grown a few whiskers.
Hmmm… so, I’m guessing that because Madame Renault is nefarious, she’s probably going to be unveiled as a man in disguise. That’s so much bullshit, if so. If NOT, it’s a bit let’s-shame-the-pensioner. So either way, we lose. [Wing: And she will not be a werewolf, so really, we’ve already lost.]
Steven and Madame du Noir. Metro Platform. Day 2: Steven and Madame du Noir kick their heels as they wait for the Elder Wakefields. Steven is somewhat distraught that he never reached the twins in time. Madame du Noir tells a sweet but pointless story of mistaken identity in order to salve Steven’s conscience, but it doesn’t work.
Then, randomly, Monsieur Courbet the Baker turns up in a battered blue car. Steven and Madame du Noir pile in.
Blue Car. Streets of Paris. Day 3: We quickly learn that the wedding being catered by Monsieur Courbet has now finished. We also learn that Monsieur Courbet drives like a man possessed.
Why? Because he’s French, silly!
They thrash through the streets near the Bastille, and eventually Steven spots the twins sat at an apartment window! How LUCKY! Monsieur Courbet slams on the breaks, and the throng go to investigate.
The Twins. The CHARNEL HOUSE OF HORROR. Day 3: The doorbell rings, repeatedly, and the twins giggle. Why? I’ve no clue. Madame Renault scowls, because that’s a good way to show the reader that she is evil without resorting to a full-on villainous MWAHAHAHAHA laugh track.
She goes to unlock the worryingly triple-locked door. In doing so, Elizabeth notices that Madame Renault is pretty strong for an old bird.
From outside, the twins hear the now-familiar voice of… Madame du Noir.
They decide to do a runner.
Just fucking NO.
I am DONE with this shit.
I’ve given what, 8000 words so far to this terrible, repetitive book?
(Well okay, a few more. But nothing more than bullet points until my final thoughts.)
I am SO SICK of this piece of shit.
Let’s hot-step to the end… Allons-y!
- The twins leave their bags in the apartment and climb out of a window.
- Madame Renault refuses to open her apartment door.
- Monsieur Courbet goes to fetch the police.
- Steven and Madame du Noir try to force their way into the apartment.
- The arriving police interrogate Madame Renault through the door, who claims to have no knowledge of the twins.
- Jessica calls the answerphone back at the Wakefield Compound.
- The twins head to the Eiffel Tower.
- The police enter Madame Renault’s apartment and do not find the girls, or any other body parts. Nor do they find the Twins’ bags, for some reason. [Dove: I kept waiting for that to be the “Ah-ha!” moment, but no. Jamie just dropped that fucking ball, didn’t she?] [Wing: I was waiting for the same thing.]
- They do, however, recognise Madame Renault as the killer of American kids, and tell Monsieur Courbet that they hope the sisters are not dead yet. [Dove: Why does everyone know that she’s the killer, but she’s not been arrested yet? Oh, yeah, because FRENCH, LOLZ. Or something.]
- The police radio for backup (well, actually “upback.” JUST FUCK OFF!)
- Atop the tower, the girls are recognised by a policeman (who at first asked to see their entry tickets, of which there are none).
- The policeman tells the twins that Madame du Noir is looking for them, which terrifies them both.
- Steven pops outside for air as the police are knocking down Madame Renault’s apartment door, wherein he spots Madame Renault trying to escape out of a window and into a car.
- Back at their hotel, the Elder Wakefields receive news that the twins are safe at the Eiffel Tower.
- For some inexplicable reason, Ned decides to spend time HIRING A CAR to DRIVE to the Eiffel Tower, claiming he could do that quicker than catching a cab there. What the ACTUAL fuck? [Dove: This is where I started mentally screaming. How on earth is hiring a car the quick option to anything? The only thing that takes longer than that is ordering a wheelie bin off the council if your house used to be four flats, or getting a mortgage. Also, how arrogant do you have to be about your driving skills to tackle the center of Paris as your first attempt of driving “on the wrong side”? Fuck you, Ned. Fuck you with sandpaper.] [Wing: The arrogance thing fits so well, though. ‘MURICAH, and Straight White Dude Lawyer, and Wakefield.]
- The twins decide they have to run away… AGAIN. FOR FUCK’S SAKE. So they hot-foot it down the stairs, away from the chasing policeman.
- Steven, Madame du Noir and Monsieur Courbet chase the fleeing Madame Renault in their little blue car. They end up at the Eiffel Tower.
- Ned has a FUCKING NIGHTMARE trying to drive to the Eiffel Tower.
- In their haste to escape, Jessica hits the policeman in the face with a full-on fire door, knocking him clean the fuck out.
- As the twins open the last fire door at the base of the tower, they are spotted by Madame du Noir.
- So the twins… run… away… AGAIN. Back up the Eiffel Tower.
- Steven runs up the stairs after them.
- Back at the top of the tower (which the twins reached in the space of one fucking paragraph), Jessica watches the elevator while Elizabeth watches the crowd at the base elevator through a coin-operated telescope.
- Happily, Elizabeth spots the Elder Wakefields.
- Madame du Noir, in the elevator queue, spots Madame Renault boarding to ascend.
- She managed to elbow her way through the crowd and board at the same time.
- Apparently, Steven is still climbing the Tower. The Tower which the twins descended and ascended in the space of five minutes, without breaking sweat.
- Both Madames exit the elevator, into the path of both Jessica and Elizabeth.
- Madame Renault grabs the girls. They are grateful.
- Madame du Noir gives chase. The twins are fearful.
- Madame Renault pulls out a knife. Elizabeth theorises that it’s to protect them from Madame du Noir. ELIZABETH YOU FUCKING IDIOT! [Dove: So… everyone knows she’s the killer, and she’s literally going to murder twins at the top of the Eiffel Tower in front of every single tourist who is there enjoying their spring holiday? Ok. Sure. That makes as much sense as anything else in this festering shit of a book.] [Wing: With a knife! Why not chuck them over the edge? (I say, assuming there is an open-air portion, but I have no idea, really, and I’m not going to check. Why should I? The ghostie was paid to write this shit and they didn’t check anything.)]
- Madame du Noir smacks Madame Renault on the head, knocking her unconscious.
- Madame Renault’s wig falls off, revealing her to be Monsieur Renault. OF COURSE.
- Elizabeth realises that the whole “black and white” versus “blue and pink” scarf thing was patently ludicrous, as the PHOTO they’d seen of the murderer was in black and white. LOLWHUT?
HOW THE HELL ARE THERE STILL TWO CHAPTERS LEFT?
- The girls apologise.
- Madame du Noir tells a nice story.
- The twins are reunited with their parents at the foot of the tower.
- Steven finally gets to the top of the tower.
- Jessica explains that she accidentally knocked out a policeman.
- Steven gets stuck at the top of the Eiffel Tower. OF COURSE HE FUCKING DOES.
- The policeman forgives Jessica.
- The family can’t find Steven, but don’t appear particularly bothered.
- Jessica then randomly spots Steven on the Eiffel Tower’s observation platform. From the fucking floor.
The final chapter sees plenty of apologies over breakfast, and clears up what Madame du Noir had actually said when Elizabeth though she was threatening to put the twins under glass. Apparently, she was actually talking about some fancy way of cooking chicken.
I mean, even THAT’S shit. With a bit of effort, there could have been a nice dual linguistic payoff there.
The Monteclaires have written to invite the twins to join them in Nice, but the Elder Wakefields decree that no, it’s time for everyone to go home. But before they do, there’s one day of fun left.
So, what do the twins want to do?
Elizabeth smiled. “You have to ask?” she said. Seizing her twin’s hand, she stood up.
“Let’s do le shopping!” the girls cried at the same moment.
WHY DOES ELIZABETH CARE ABOUT SHOPPING?
Right. I’m done. THANK FUCK.
But in the tradition of the late great Columbo… just one more thing…
Fuck me blind.
It’s been a long while since I’ve rabidly hated a book as much as this. At least, one of my OWN books to recap.. I did hate Escape from Terror Island.
But this? THIS was appalling.
The thing is though… what was I expecting? This book did have some sass, and it did have the twins hitting a number of significant French landmarks. On paper, I guess, I’m being harsh. It told me what it was, and it delivered on what it said.
I really like France. The culture, the food, the downright don’t-give-a-fuck attitude. I had some great hopes for this book, but it left me stone cold.
I just hated the repetition. And I hated the fact that the twins had to grasp the Idiot Ball from the beginning to the end. And I hated the fact that the whole trip was badly conceived. And I hated the fact that the French-speaking English thing was so thickly layered on. And I hated the fact that there were no Unicorns, or Team Boring, or anyone other than the twins and Steven and the Elder Wakefields.
And I hated that they just glossed over the fact that THE WAKEFIELD TWINS HAVE CAPTURED A SERIAL KILLER without even mentioning the other victims in a meaningful way.
And I hated that they chose to make the killer a man, because that makes it all a bit sexual and predatory rather than a jolly caper in which all the other victims are discovered alive and well in a sweat shop, rather than hacked into pieces and buried in lime or shipped off to Eastern Europe as victims of sex trafficking. It was all a bit “don’t look too closely at this part, don’t think about the consequences or even the action in general. It’s just a jolly French romp, ooh la la!”
Yeah, I hated a lot about this book. And I love France. Such a shame.
[Dove: I hated every single moment of this stupid book. It took me hours to read it. Hours. It is boring as fuck and super dramatic at the same time. Everyone is their stupidest version of themselves, except for the awesome Madame du Noir, but even she can’t save this book by being kind, generous, helpful and kinda badass in a way a lot of ladies her age were not in the 90s. When Raven says it’s repetitive, he really means it, but after the first cycle of run!stop!safe!no!run! there is nothing new to add. In fact, the twins have to actively make themselves dimmer in order to justify the cycle. I hated this. Utterly hated.]
[Wing: NO GODDAMN WEREWOLVES. And, you know, what they said, because yeah. All of it.]
Looking back at things I’ve enjoyed, and smashing them to pieces with the Snark-Hammer. Lover of games of every stripe and hue. NOT A REAL BIRD.