Tuesday, May 3, 2011
SVT Super Chiller #5 - The Curse of the Ruby Necklace
Today's recap features one of my favorite Super Chillers- The Curse of the Ruby Necklace. It was published in June of 1993 and it was one of the first SVT books I ever read. I re-read it several times and I remember that it featured one of my favorite characters -ROBIN!!!! I really loved the books about her and Stacey (who is mysteriously omitted from this book entirely). Again, Jamie Suzanne is credited as the author, but after reading this book, I am positive that this is NOT the same ghostwriter that wrote the others I've read recently. Proof of this is everywhere...Liz is SUPER stupid in this one, and she only cries ONCE. That is NOT the Liz I know. Plus, only TWO meals are mentioned (although there are numerous mentions of cake and ice cream throughout).
The twins are at the beach, and it appears to be storming. I believe Jess is the one in the purple top. She appears not to have a bellybutton, and she's holding the ruby necklace. In the background we can see a large house on a cliff, plus a flash of lightning. Super chilling.
We begin with Jess and Liz taking a stroll on the beach. Jess spots a glittering object in the sand and "pounces" on it. She nearly gets swept out to sea by a large wave, but she manages to retrieve the object. It's a necklace covered in dirt and barnacles (Jess tells us this, although I wonder how she knows what barnacle are since Liz has no idea later in the book and it has to get explained to her). Ewwww. She puts it in her pocket and refuses to show it to the ever-curious Liz. Instead, she drags Liz down the beach. It seems a movie is being filmed at the creepy old mansion on the cover of the book. The creepy mansion is also known as the Keller Mansion, and it's been abandoned for years. Movie crews and some Hollywood people have recently started pre-production and Jess is desperate to be in the movie. Liz follows along after Jess points out that she can write about the movie for the Sixers. Liz warns Jess not to expect to simply walk on the set and be offered a part in the movie. Of course, that's exactly what happens.
As soon as they arrive, they meet the director, Becka Silver. She is THRILLED to see them, and she immediately casts them as extras in the movie. And, because of child labor laws, Jess and Liz will be playing one part (like Mary-Kate and Ashley on Full House). Coincidentally, the movie is about a 12 year old girl named Lillian. The title is "Dead Little Rich Girl", and I think that sounds awesome. Liz, of course, is unsure. She doesn't want to act, but Jess again reminds her that she can write about it for the Sixers, so Liz gives in and Jess is free to dream about becoming a movie star.
Now, I'm no expert, but I imagine being an EXTRA in some random movie is not going to help that dream very much. I was an extra in a couple movies as a child, and just look at me now... Anyways, Jess is even more thrilled when she learns that the movie stars a girl by the name of Shawn Brockaway. Apparently, Shawn used to be on a TV show that sucked, and she was in a music video once. In Jess's mind, this girl is on the same level as like Selena Gomez or iCarly (or maybe even the fantastic creation that is ASHLEY TISDALE...*worships*), but none of the adults seem very thrilled about Shawn being in the movie. My memory is fuzzy, but I seem to remember Shawn = Megabitch.
As they toddle home, a storm rolls in and thunder echoes all down the beach. Jess gets frightened and she accidentally drops the necklace. For some reason, she can't bear the thought of losing it, so she dives into the rushing waves and grabs it. She almost gets swept out to sea YET AGAIN, but she saves herself just in time. The twins manage to make it home safely and Jess immediately begins to work on cleaning up the necklace. She devotes several hours to this, and everybody is shocked that she isn't blabbing about the movie role.
Jess finally takes a break from her obsessive necklace cleaning and Mr. W. examines the necklace. It's silver and it has a large red stone in the center (plus some smaller stones that are still dirty as hell). Mr. W. says that, if he wasn't such a super genius totally prominent attorney, he would think the stone was a ruby. Mrs. W. says that it's just an old costume piece. Liz is an idiot in this book (I think I've told you that before, but I just enjoy saying it!!!) and she asks what "costume jewelry" is. (See, proof that someone else wrote this book...Normally, Liz would be explaining this to Jess.) Mrs. W. explains the concept, and now I totally remember that this book is where I learned about jewelry being made from paste. We have a large sign at my place of employment that reads "COSTUME JEWELRY", and I automatically think of this book every time I see it.
Anyways, Jess goes back to hoarding her dirty "fake" necklace. As she picks at the dirt, she uncovers a smaller, perfectly clear stone. She thinks about how it looks like a diamond, but she know it probably isn't. (Since WHEN is JESS the logical twin?!?!) Still, she refuses to let Liz see it, thinking that Liz will want it for herself if she lays eyes on it. (Relax, Jess, it's not like the necklace is TODD or anything...) Jess puts the filthy necklace under her pillow and falls asleep clutching it. Since it is in fact a CURSED necklace, we now get to read about Jess's dreams...
Jess dreams she's falling backwards and clutching desperately at air, trying to save herself. Storm clouds hover above and lightning illuminates the sky above her. She sees a face and a hand reaching for her. A voice shouts in triumph... Suddenly, Jess is no longer falling. She's running upstairs and she feels like something is horribly wrong. See sees a box of jewels, and a hand reaching into the box... Then she goes back to falling, this time noticing the sharp rocks below before waking up her entire family with her screams.
The next morning, Jess is excited to go to school and brag about her role in the movie. She puts on a pair of sunglasses and tucks the necklace into her backpack before leaving. At school, Lila is MAD. It seems everybody in the Unicorn Club has been breaking into her locker and borrowing her mousse. I am appalled that the most fashion-conscious girls at SVMS are using MOUSSE on DRY hair. The horror!!!! Their poor hair must be so crunchy-looking...unless Lila has a blowdryer in her locker, which is entirely likely now that I think about it. Either way, Lila is bitching up a storm and Jess is unable to brags about her newfound stardom. Janet Howell comes up and tells the Unicorns about the movie, and the open auditions for extras. Jess again tries to brag, but nobody is listening. Dejected, Jess goes into the bathroom and works on cleaning the necklace yet again. She gets so into it that she misses half of first period.
The following day, the entire Unicorn Club (plus Liz and Maria Slater) goes to the Keller mansion to audition for the movie. Jess makes a big deal about cutting to the front of the line, and everybody is super impressed when they learn that Liz and Jess are already hired. Plus, Liz and Jess are in multiple scenes WITH TWO WHOLE LINES!!!! Their character is named Luella and she's the neighbor's daughter, but the REAL stars of the movie are two other 12 year-old girls. The movie is a murder mystery set in the 1940's, and poor Lila is rejected by the casting people because her face is too contemporary. Mandy and -OF COURSE- Maria (she used to be a child star, I remember) are also cast as extras. Maria mentions that Becka Silver used to be an actress, because Maria knows EVERYTHING. She really annoys me in this book...we'll get to that later.
That night, Jess again has a dream. This time, she's wearing old black leather shoes (which Jess would never be caught dead in, so she knows it's a dream this time). Dream Jess tries to scream and run away from... something, but she's frozen in place. She sees that damn hand in the jewel box again, and observes that something isn't right about it, but she doesn't know exactly what yet. Suddenly, she is able to run again. She does, and feels really angry for some unexplained reason. And then she's falling again. Jess wakes up frightened, and she feels compelled to look at the necklace before going back to sleep. She has now unearthed 6 round, clear stones.
The next day is the second-to-last day of class before SPRING BREAK!!! Liz anxiously waits for the end of the day (SO out-of-character) and Jess is a zombie at school. Liz watches Jess fall asleep in class and signals to Lila to wake her. Of course, Lila is still mad at Jess for getting that super sweet, non-paying role as an extra, so Lila ignores Liz and lets Jess go about her nap. Jess has another nightmare and wakes up screaming. The teacher is creeped out by this, and the fact that Jess looks like shit because she didn't get her required 10 hours of sleep. Jess gets sent home for the day, and Liz ends up having to bring all of Jess's stuff home for her. She grabs Jess's backpack and goes to the library to do some research. I guess that explains why Liz was so anxious for school to end...she wanted to start her spring break off with some RESEARCH...
Liz discovers an old newspaper article from March of 1939. She reaches into Jess's backpack for note-taking supplies and finds the necklace. For some reason, Liz decides that the necklace will be safer in her pocket than in Jess's backpack. (I imagine that, judging from the way Jess treats all of her surroundings, that Liz is probably right.) Liz continues to read the article, cheerfully titled "Keller Heiress Dies In Fatal Accident". We learn that, during a party celebrating her 12th birthday, Lillian Keller died tragically when she fell off of a balcony. Before her tragic demise, Miss. Keller had been seen fighting with another 12 year-old girl, Hilda Tomlinson. Hilda was Lillian's cousin and an orphan that Lillian's parents had taken in. Proving again how BRILLIANT she is, Liz begins to wonder if the movie being filmed at the Keller mansion has something to do with Lillian's death. I'm pretty sure she's on to something here, since we've only been told this (only not in so many words) like 137 times so far and we're less than 50 pages into the story... What. A. Dumbass.
Liz goes home and finds Jess in perfect health, talking about parties and cake. Liz thinks she's crazy at first, but then Jess stops long enough to inform her that their script arrived. Liz is also excited, but her face falls when she sees that they were only given one page of the script. She's upset about this, but I would like to remind her that giving a complete, 100+ page script to someone who only has TWO lines in a film is a complete waste of paper and natural resources and shit...so she can just STFU for all I care!!! Liz is dejected because now she'll never know anything about the plot of the movie except for their lines...
(In case you care, Line #1 is something about enjoying a party, but Line #2 is sort of important to the story...it's something to the effect of "Don't leave! We still have to cut the cake!") While reading that one page script, Liz sees the names "Lillian" and "Hilda", and that confirms her theory. (Lillian and Hilda will be referred to as "Hil" and "Lil" from now on in this recap.) Liz remembers the necklace in her pocket and tries to return it to Jess. Jess has apparently had a change of heart, because she tells Liz that she no longer wants it. Liz suddenly wants it really bad, and Jess seems relieved when Liz asks if she can have it.
Liz takes her new obsession into her bedroom and decides to take a nap. Of course, she has a nightmare...
Dream Liz is wearing an old fashioned dress and fighting with a girl who has brown pigtails. (So we can probably safely assume that pigtail girl is EVIL since she isn't BLONDE...) Dream Liz gets angry and runs upstairs as thunder echoes throughout the house. She hears a girl call out that she can't leave because there's ICE CREAM!!!! Upstairs she sees -what else?!?!- the creepy jewel-box-hand combo!!!! O. M. F. G.!!!! She stares at it and thinks to herself, "Strange, there are only four..." before she gets to the falling part of the dream. *Sigh*
Liz awakens and realizes that the first part of the dream is the exact same as the script page, except for Jess's cake line being replaced by ICE CREAM. She logically assumes that reading the script before sleeping caused the dream.
Jess wakes up that same morning, feeling terrific. She had a great night's sleep, but her stomach feels like it hasn't had food in days. (52 pages, to be exact...more proof of a different ghostwriter masquerading as Jamie Suzanne...) Jess goes downstairs and devours 2 bowls of Corny-O's (didn't they end up in a Corny-O's commercial later in the series? Weird coincidence...) before Liz even wakes up. In the entire history of the world, Jess has NEVER woken up before Liz, so Jess is suspicious and wonders why Liz looks so unrested. Mrs. W. doesn't notice (of course), and she announces that ROBIN is coming to visit for spring break!!!! Yay!!!! I think I'm more excited than the twins!!!! Jess is thrilled, but Liz has turned into a zombie, so she doesn't really care.
Liz goes to school and asks the science teacher about cleaning the necklace. She's afraid to show the teacher the necklace for fear that teach will want it for herself, so she lies and says she's cleaning an old bottle that she found on the beach. The teacher explains that the stuff on the bottle is barnacles (oddly, Liz again has NO idea what that means...even JESS knew that one!!! I guess the curse of the necklace is that it makes you a dumbass) and tells Liz the names of two chemicals that she can use to clean it. Liz stays after school and waits until everyone has left before sneaking into the science room. She thinks about how she could get expelled for it, but her desire to clean the necklace is too strong. (I doubt she has anything to worry about...Simply being Elizabeth Wakefield has gotten her out of much stickier situations...) Liz cleans as best she can, and she makes some progress on the stones. She uncovers 3 more round stones (for a total of 9), but the big red one falls out as she lifts the necklace out of the solution. She discovers that one of the prongs has been broken, and she notices that the necklace has been engraved with the initials J.K.T. Liz glues the necklace back together and runs to meet Jess at the mansion.
While on set, Liz and Jess get measured for wardrobe and meet the producer. His name is Rolf, and that reminds me of the dog from the Muppet Babies...so I am now picturing the twins talking to an animated dog that wears a diaper. I think I'll go with that mental image, because this book is not as good as I remember and at least THAT is making me laugh. Liz is surprised to see that the set is very disorganized and that the crew is messy. She expresses this though (of course), and a man standing behind her agrees with her. This dude seems like a real creeper to me. He's old, and wearing overalls (OMG, does he shop at the same store as that damn belltower ghost from the last Super Chiller?!?!), and he has one hand in his pocket. Of course, the other one is flicking a cigarette. Seriously!!! I did NOT make that up, and I now know where Alanis got that line from. Dude's name is Harold Brooks and he's a lighting technician.
The twins finish up their day on set and, when they get home, Robin is waiting for them!!!! ABOUT DAMN TIME!!!! I could hug her for showing up and -hopefully- pulling this book out of Boring-Land. I wonder if she has an extra cigarette I can borrow... Jess tells her all about the movie, and Liz continues to act like a stoned zombie. Robin wonders what the hell is up with that, but Liz just starts babbling about her nightmares and the Hil and Lil article she read. Jess mentions that she had similar nightmares a few days prior, and Robin talks about dreams and how they might actually be memories.
The next day, they all go to the mansion. Jess makes Robin watch her getting her makeup done (Jess learns all about how movie makeup is not like regular makeup, pretty fascinating stuff!!!) and Liz follows Becka around the set. (I'm sure Becka just LOVES having a nosy little shadow when she's trying to work...NOT!!!) Becka is actually pretty cool, even though she does tell us the Hil/Lil story YET AGIN!!! She also elaborates, saying that Hil pushes Lil off of the balcony after their fight and that Hil was then sent to a hospital for disturbed children. Nobody ever heard from Hil again, so they all just assumed that she dies. Liz takes careful notes on all of this, and suggests that Becka give her a FULL copy of the script so she can write a really awesome article. Because it's essential to the plot, Becka agrees to give Liz a full copy. I guess she isn't worried about seeing spoilers on the internet, being that this is 1993...but still, Liz could go and write about it in her stupid Sixers...
Meanwhile, Jess has finished getting her makeup done. She's on set in the ballroom and now we get to learn about blocking and positioning because Shawn Brockaway (the actress playing Lil) is being a bitch. Shawn is yelling at EVERYBODY, but once the cameras start to roll she is absolutely perfect. This scene involves it being Lil's birthday, so Shawn's opening gifts, one of which is a special gift from her mother. She gets all her scenes in one shot, and she gets very upset when other people make mistakes. Sadly, Jess has to deliver her two lines during all of this, and she messes up the "cake line" by saying ice cream instead (you know, like in Liz's dream...) and Shawn blows up at her before stalking off set to her trailer. Becka calls it a wrap, and Jess wants to know why they're filming a totally different scene immediately afterwards. Maria (the one who knows everything about movies) explains that movies are NOT shot in order, and that Jess will have no idea what the movies is about (outside of her own scenes) until she sees the finished film in the theater. Jess is shocked to learn that she has to read the ENTIRE script (not just one page, *sigh*) to learn what happens.
Apparently, Shawn continued her rampage throughout the day. She yells at one of the extras and bullies her into quitting. Which leaves an open extra role for -hands up if you didn't see this coming!!!- ROBIN!!!! Becka also sends a full script home with Liz, and Jess and Robin order her to go read it. They don't care much about Liz's zombie-like state or necklace obsession (yes, she's still under it's spell), they just want to know what was in the box that Lil/Shawn got from her mother.
I cannot believe that they have NOT figured it out yet... I mean, did they even bother to look at the cover or the title?!?! It's pretty freakin' obvious that the necklace has something to do with all of this...
Liz obediently reads the script. It seems that the gift Lil received from her mother had belonged to Hil's mother before she died, but Lil's mother had inherited it and given it to Lil as a birthday gift. This pissed Hil off (as it should!!!), and Lil ended up running away from the party... This all follows pretty much the same story as the dreams... Hand in box, Lil on balcony, slipping, falling, ect. As Lil slips from the balcony, a hand rips the necklace from her throat and she sees a face hovering over her. As she falls to her death, she looks up and sees a 4-fingered hand holding the necklace...
IT WAS A DREAM!!!!! Liz wakes up crying (yes, this IS the FIRST time she's cried ALL book!!!! WOW, a new record) and grabs the necklace. She realizes now that it might be THE necklace, and rationalizes this by showing Jess and Robin that she has NOT read that far into the script yet. Robin flips through the script and discovers that the gift was -in fact- a platinum and ruby necklace. Robin is still skeptical, but Jess and Liz decide that Lil must have sent the necklace to them, and now she's trying to tell them something...
To test their theory, Liz and Jess forced Robin to take possession of the necklace to see if she has the same hand-box-falling dreams that they've had. Sadly, we have to wait a little bit to see if it works because it is now morning, and they've got a movie to make!!!! Well, Jess and Robin have a movie to make. Despite the fact that Becka was SO desperate to hire twins, Liz has yet to do anything other than follow Becka around, which she promptly proceeds to do as soon as she arrives on set. Becka is probably SUPER annoyed by this by now, so she makes up some excuse to ditch Liz. While Becka is busy with her "meeting" (likely story!!!), Liz explores the Keller mansion. It's exactly the same as the house in her dreams, so she has no trouble finding the upstairs bedroom. After reading the script, Liz now knows that the bedroom belongs to Mrs. Keller. She pokes around amid the typical movie set junk (lights, cables, all sorts of things that could be potentially hazardous to a 12 year-old) and suddenly realizes that she isn't alone. Mr. Brooks, the creepy old man she met on her first day on set, is randomly hanging out in the bedroom. He still has his hand in his pocket (hmmm, I wonder why...) and that kind of creeps me out, but I'll let it pass...for now, at least. He feels the need to explain himself to Liz and gives her some BS story about how he comes up here to sneak cigarette breaks. (Again, likely story. *sigh* I'm SO bored!!!! Screw this shit, I'm going to find BRUCE!!!! Where's he at?!?!) Mr. Brooks complains about how the "Hollywood types" downstairs are all health conscious and disapproving of his habit, so he is forced to hide in order to smoke in peace. Liz laughs with him (but does NOT lecture him...very out-of-character, no? Again proving my theory that this was not written by the usual ghostwriter) and watches as he pulls his cigarettes out of his other pocket (the one without his 4 fingered-hand in it...ooops!!!). He tries to open the pack and take one out using only one hand, and Liz considers helping him. Again, proving my theory!!!! The Liz I know would NEVER help somebody in a situation where CIGARETTES were involved!!! I think that crosses the line, even for her!!!!
Liz takes mental notes on all of this and goes downstairs to watch the scene being filmed. (Me, I would have stayed and smoked a nice, refreshing Marlboro with Mr. Brooks...) It's time for Jess's BIG scene. (And by big I mean the one where she gets to say her TWO lines!!!!) Of course, Shawn is back in her Megabitch Mode, so filming is delayed yet again. Not helping matters much is the fact that Jess is STILL getting the "cake line" confused with the "ice cream line" from the dream. Becka is getting very frustrated by Shawn's bitchery and Jess's terrible acting, so she decides to relax her nerves with -wait for it!!!- a CIGARETTE!!! Oh no!!! But I thought those "Hollywood types" had anti-smoking rules... Mr. Brooks has some 'splaining to do!!!! (And apparently Becka thinks it's perfectly acceptable to light up in a room full of 12 year-olds. Even I, a smoker since the young age of 12, have a problem with this.) Becka feels Liz's contemptuous eyes upon her, and she gives us some BS about how she actually hates smoking, and it's all Shawn's fault because she's SO impossible to work with... Yes, this woman feels the need to justify her actions to this 12 year-old child!!! Liz simply gives Becka a scowl (yes, a SCOWL) and says that SHE would NEVER touch one of "those things". (Forget what I said earlier, Becka, light that cigarette and blow a nice smoke cloud right into her smug little face!!!) Becka does not take my advice, and that one disapproving look from Liz is enough for Becka to 86 the cigarette idea. Becka even goes one step further and promises that she will never smoke again. (My guess is that she then ran for the nearest exit as soon as Liz was distracted.)
Jess and Maria use the filming delay to hate on Shawn. Jess is getting SO tired of Shawn being so obnoxious, and Maria agrees with her to an extent. Maria tells Jess that it's not uncommon for child stars to act like, well, children and that even she -the AMAZING MARIA- threw a few tantrums in her superstar days. Jess is surprised by this, but I have no trouble believing it. Jess quickly gets bored talking to Maria, so she walks around the room and looks at the props. A few framed photos on the mantle catch her eye, and she's especially drawn to the one of Mrs. Keller in her wedding dress. While Jess is staring stupidly at the photos, Shawn storms back on set and Maria totally chooses that moment to call Shawn out for being a bitch. (I'm sure Becka was THRILLED that Maria chose that moment to pick a fight with her easily-upset star... Oh wait, Becka is probably outside smoking those cancer sticks one after another.) Shawn calls Maria "washed-up" and gives her shit about being an extra, but Maria is already over it. Becka (oh, there she is!) fuels the fire even more by praising Maria for helping Jess with her stupid "cake line", and also for being so easy to work with. Unlike SOME people...*cough* Shawn *cough*. Shawn gives Maria an evil look and goes about her business, being perfect and nailing everything on the first take. (BTW, that is SO not possible!!! Even the best actors and the best directors need to do multiple takes of everything for different lighting and camera and editing stuff.)
As the cameras roll, Liz watches from off-camera. This time, Lil/Shawn opens the box and reveals the necklace. Liz observes how it's similar to the one Jess found, but it's also very different. She asks Becka how she knew what the necklace looked like, and Becka admits that she had to guess because there were no photos of it and it was never found. As Becka tells her this, Liz is also keeping an eye on Mr. Brooks. He's returned from his secret smoke and is now adjusting lights on the set. He's using both hands, and Liz again thinks that there's something odd about him, but she's just too damn stupid to figure it out!!!! Plus, the book is only like half over...damn.
Jess watches the scene as Hil and Lil's fight is played out. She's surprised that a bitch like Shawn is able to cry real tears and act so emotional as soon as the camera starts to roll. Shawn does her part perfectly, but of course Jess again goes and fucks up the entire scene by messing up that damn "cake line"!!! Shawn is PISSED, of course, and she is not shy about letting everyone know how stupid she thinks Jess is. And, as per usual, the day ends with Shawn storming back into her trailer and refusing to work. I am almost starting to feel a little bad for Shawn here. The poor child is obviously an emotional wreck, and possibly bipolar, and I have yet to see a single adult figure (other than Becka) interact with her. Seriously, where are her PARENTS?!?! Are they too busy blowing her paychecks to notice that she is acting out like this?!
That evening, the necklace (remember that? I feel like I've been talking about that damn movie and all of it's on-set action for like 5 days now...) seems to have a hold over Robin. She's managed to clean it a little more, and now the clasp is functional. She goes to sleep WEARING the necklace. Of course, she has a similar nightmare and the twins try desperately to wake her. For some reason, she is nearly impossible to wake up, but Jess finally accomplishes the task by throwing ice water in her face. Liz and Jess believe that, since Robin actually wore the necklace, it had a stronger hold over her. Whatever, guys, whatever!!!! I stopped caring about 20 pages ago. Robin tells them that she saw a man in her dream, and Hilda standing above her as she fell. Spooky.
They return to the Keller mansion for yet another day of filming. (Really?!?! It takes them an entire week to film ONE scene as an EXTRA?!?! The longest I ever spent on set as an extra was about 12 hours total over 2 days...) Shawn is STILL pouting in her trailer, so Becka teaches the girls about "rushes". (No, they're not rushing Phi Beta Alpha, sorry to say. These rushes are just a fancy name for the film they shot they day before.) As they watch the ballroom scene, they notice that a strange girl is on the film, but nobody saw her on the set when they were filming. AND none of the adults seem to notice her... So obviously, strang girl = ghost. As the girls watch, Ghost Girl puts her hand on the shoulder of the actress playing Hilda and points to the photos on the mantle before pointing back to "Hil". Jess remembers looking at the photos on the mantle, and she informs Liz and Robin that Ghost Girl is pointing at the photo of Mrs. Keller in her wedding dress.
Liz thinks that Ghost Girl is trying to tell them something, but she can't figure out what. Jess thinks about it for like 5 seconds, and then informs Liz that Ghost Girl is obviously trying to say that Hilda got married. How she drew that conclusion, I have no clue, but it seems like a logical theory.
Liz drags Jess and Robin to the library and forces them to look up old wedding announcements of some microfilm (whatever that is?) thingy. After several hours, they discover that Hilda married a man by the name of Mr. Zalanski in 1947. Apparently, Hil did NOT die after being released from the home for crazy children on her 18th birthday, but everybody involved in researching the film was too stupid to figure this out. Or maybe they didn't care enough to actually do any research at all... The wedding announcement even mentions the names of Hil's deceased parents- Jane Kaella and Paxton Tomlinson. (Hmmm... J.K.T. = initials on necklace = Hilda's mom.) Of course, Hilda Zalanski still lives in Sweet Valley, conveniently within view of the Keller mansion no less!!! Wow, those movie people must have been complete idiots in the research department.
Liz writes a long, rambling note to her parents before they go off to find Hilda. I have no idea what the point of this was, especially since they probably wouldn't have cared either way, but I did laugh at the P.S. added by Robin. She thinks Liz and Jess are crazy, but she's going with because she doesn't want to be accused of chickening out on them. Ha, I love that Robin!!! So far, she is the ONLY redeeming part of this book.
They go off on their quest to locate Hil and are pleasantly surprised to see that she lives in a quaint little cottage and she looks like every other grandmommy in the world. Of course, Hil drops the sweet act as soon as Liz -stupidly, IMO- tells her that Lil sent them. She yells at them to leave her alone and let her die in peace, but then Liz brings up that damn necklace and how the initials match Hil's mother's. That changes Hil's opinion of her visitors and she ushers them inside. I hope she has cookies or cake or something, because I've only counted one meal so far in this book, so I assume Jess and Liz are nearly starving to death at this point. Plus, I could go for a ginger snap right about now.
We never find out if Hil has cake, but she does tell us more of the necklace's backstory. (Not that I care at this point!!!) It seems that, yes, the necklace did belong to Hil's mother, but Lil's mother (her sister) inherited it when she dies. Mrs. Keller had no idea that the necklace had so many memories and meant so much to Hil, so she gave it to Lil as a gift for her 12th birthday. (Really, that is a messed-up thing to do!!!! She should have at least ASKED the poor orphan girl if she could give her spoiled, non-orphan daughter the damn necklace...) See, Hil was always jealous of Lil because Lil had a family and people who loved her and money and all that, while all poor Hil had was a stupid aunt who thoughtlessly gave away something that should have rightfully belonged to Hil. Hil and Lil fought often, but deep down Hil really did love Lil and they were almost like sisters, but this incident was too much for poor Hil to handle. That's why Hil fought with Lil at the party, and also why Hil immediately ran upstairs after Lil to apologize. Sadly, she was too late and Lil was already dangling from the balcony when she reached the bedroom. Hil tried desperately to reach for her arm, but Lil fell quickly and Hil was left on the balcony holding the ripped sleeve of Lil's dress. Of course, Hil never bothered to tell anybody this (until two nosy 12 year-old twins appeared on her doorstep one magical afternoon in 1993...) and yet she is surprised to learn that SHE is the murderer in the movie version. (Me, I would have at least ATTEMPTED to clear my name sometime in the last 50 years, just sayin'.) Hil swears that she would never push Lil, and then she tells us some more of the story...
After Lil fell, Hil stood frozen in shock on the balcony. The chauffeur, Harry Dennison, suddenly ran into the room and began to scream for help. Everybody rushed in and saw Hil on the balcony and just assumed that she was responsible. She was sent to the home for psychotic children, and stayed there until she was released on her 18th birthday. After that, she got married and traveled the world, but she felt compelled to return to Sweet Valley after her husband died. (I wonder what happened to him...) Liz and Jess believe her, and then Liz starts her interrogation. Something in Hil's story jumped out at her...the name HARRY!!!! (As in, Harold Brooks.) Liz asks Hil for more info about Harry, and Hil obliges. It seems that Harry was young (18) and handsome and well-liked by the family. Hil and Lil both had crushes on him, and he often told them that he would someday be rich like them. He was also terribly vain, and -wait for it- HE ALWAYS KEPT ONE HAND IN HIS POCKET!!!! Because, you see, Harry only had FOUR fingers. (Wow, Hil manages to ONLY give us info that is relevant to our story!!! I challenge you to find another grandma-type that can do that!!!!) Of course, Harry was the one whose testimony ended up incriminating Hil. He claimed he was walking past in the hallway when he heard screams and looked inside to see Hil pushing Lil to her death...
Now that they know all of this, Liz believes that she has a pretty good idea of what is going on. FINALLY!!! But of course, Liz has to be 100% sure that Harold Brooks is in fact Harry Dennison, so they return to the Keller mansion. The crew is setting up a large air mattress on the rocks below the balcony in preparation for the final day of shooting. (ALREADY?!?! This movie only took about 5 days to film by my count.) The film will wrap in 2 days and Jess is again confused by the fact that they are shooting a scene that takes place BEFORE the scenes they have already shot. This scene involves all of the extras "milling around" at the beginning of the party and pretending to eat food. Jess is yet again confused by the fact that the food is fake (it's made of wax so it doesn't spoil), and I try to refrain from crying because this stupid book is taking about 200 times longer to recap than I expected. (I think I will be going back to recapping the TV episodes very soon... At least the TV show has BRUCE in it. I really miss him!!!) Back to the story, I'll give you three guesses what Shawn is up to at the moment...yes, she's having ANOTHER tantrum. (And now I really do feel bad for this girl. Why isn't Liz meddling in HER life?!?! Damn you, ghostwriter!!!) And, in case you care, Liz is now stalking Mr. Brooks as he too "mills" about the mansion. As she wanders around, she gets tangled up in the cable on the floor (see, I told you they would pose a hazard) and causes an overhead light to break free. I wait for it to crush her, but Mr. Brooks quickly swoops in and saves her - USING BOTH HANDS. Liz is now positive that she has her man, so now she is free to come up with a plan...
Her plan is pretty damn stupid if you ask me. She convinces Jess and Robin to hide in the mansion after the crew has left and then they sneak into Mrs. Keller's bedroom. Liz opens the balcony doors and dangles over the side (awesome!!!), Jess and Robin try to reach her, but they are unsuccessful, proving that it would have been impossible for Hil to save Lil (I guess). Liz climbs back up and sets up Harry's version of events inside the bedroom. Since they know from the dreams that Harry was pillaging the jewelry box, Liz begins to wonder why he would do such a thing. Robin must be as bored by all of this as I am, because she quickly tells Liz that Harry was OBVIOUSLY stealing jewels when Lil caught him in the act. Robin wanders out into the hallway and informs Liz that it is impossible to see into the bedroom from the hallway, so Harry was obviously lying. (I guess even the 1940's SVPD was incompetent. I would think that somebody would have reenacted Harry's version of events at some point and discovered this...) So now Liz is positive that Hil was telling the truth and that 4-fingered Harry is the REAL murderer. Suddenly, somebody busts into the room!!!
Sadly, it isn't 4-fingered Harry wielding an axe and carrying a grudge. It's just Becka and Tony, the security guy. They came up to investigate because they saw that the lights were on as they were leaving. Liz quickly tells Becka the entire story (and this is probably the first time in SV history that they involve an adult in their plans) and Becka listens. She doesn't think Liz is crazy when she mentions the necklace or the dreams or the Ghost Girl. Becka is a very open-minded woman and Liz obviously has her wrapped around her grubby little finger, so Becka agrees to help with their plan. When she learns that Mr. Brooks is their main suspect, she agrees that he is quite shady. It seems that Mr. Brooks worked as a lighting tech for 30 years, but retired 10 years ago. He randomly showed up when they began renovating the house for the movie, and he begged Becka to hire him. He even volunteered to work for free (which should have raised a red flag, but Becka was just impressed by his dedication to the project). A few days after the final copies of the scripts were delivered, one copy went missing, and Becka found Mr. Brooks reading it like a man possessed. (Again, RED FLAG...) She thought he was just super into the project, but she now agrees that he was only hanging around to make sure nobody ever found out the truth. Because the best way to accomplish that is to return to the scene of the crime and act like a total creeper...*sarcasm*
The following day (the last day of shooting), the girls again review the rushes with Becka. They're again searching for the Ghost Girl (who we can now safely assume is Lillian Keller), but only Robin is able to fully see her on film. Liz and Jess cannot see her as clearly. Liz theorizes that this is because Robin has worn the necklace most recently, and that the power of the necklace wanes over time. This really doesn't matter though, because Ghost Girl Lillian is holding up four fingers and nodding to Robin, so Mission Accomplished!!!! Of course, Liz is already formulating a plan to stop him...
As Liz mulls over her plan, Jess and Robin head to the ballroom to shoot the final party scene. There's a 5 foot tall cake -a REAL one!!! the wax one melted- but Shawn is being...Shawn, so nothing gets accomplished and everybody goes home for the night. Liz, Jess, and Robin hide in the wardrobe room and Becka pretends to leave as well. Becka asks Mr. Brooks to re-adjust all of the lights for the final scene, and he agrees to work late to accomplish this. Liz and Robin quickly help Jess into one of Shawn's Lillian costumes before smearing her entire body with makeup. She now looks like the ghost of Lil. Liz adds the ruby necklace to the ensemble as the final touch and Jess "floats" into the room when Mr. Brooks is working. She lures him upstairs to the bedroom (and I felt really wrong typing that) and he immediately reaches into the jewelry box on the dresser. (I wonder why exactly, being that they are most likely PROPS...Maybe he likes shiny things as much as I do.) It starts to storm outside (so you know some bad shit is about to go down) and Jess tells Mr. Brooks that he can hide no longer, because she -Lil- is BACK and she is PISSED!!!!
Of course, Mr. B sees right through this little plan and he quickly locks her in the room. Becka, Tony the rent-a-cop, Jess, and Robin are watching the scene unfold via a two-way mirror. (Again?!?! Why are there ALWAYS two-way mirrors?!?! Oh wait, they have a camera setup behind it for filming. That explains it.) Mr. B/Harry forces Jess out on to the balcony, all the while gloating to himself that he finally has that damn necklace!!! It's worth MILLIONS!!!! And he WON'T drop it this time!!!! (Lesson learned: Always keep valuable items in your 5-fingered hand...or something.) He lunges for the necklace and Jess falls over the railing toward the jagged rocks below.
Oh yeah, remember a few chapters ago when they were setting up the massive air bags to film the falling stunt? Those are still in place!!! Jess survives and Tony the rent-a-cop is finally able to break into the bedroom. But not before Mr. B/Harry falls victim to the Curse of the Ruby Necklace!!! As he holds it, Liz and Becka hear him having an argument with some unseen entity. It must be a powerful one (and I wish they had used an EVP recorder...), because Harry quickly realizes that he's BUSTED!!!! He drops the necklace to the floor and Tony arrests him. Curse broken. Mystery solved. SarahLynn's sanity restored!!!!
Of course, we still have to wrap up that nasty little Shawn subplot... The final day of filming arrives and it's time for the cake scene!!! Luckily, Jess has already done the scene with that damn "cake line" 437 times, so all she has to do today is mill around some more. Shawn has undergone a 180 overnight and she's being nice to everyone and not throwing any tantrums. Okay, I lied, Shawn is STILL being Bitchy McBitcherson, and Jess's anger is beginning to boil over. Every time Shawn opens her vile little mouth, Jess grows angrier and angrier. Shawn goes over the top when she learns that Becka is re-writing half the movie (so much for the final day of filming, haha!!!) because the story is obviously wrong and Hilda is the real star. Shawn continues to be intolerable throughout the scene, and Jess has finally had enough. She walks right up to the massive cake in the middle of the scene and throws a handful at Shawn. Soon all of the extras have followed suit, and Becka is laughing her ass off while the cameras roll. Becka refuses to stop filming because she knows how vain Shawn is, and she can now blackmail Shawn for life with this shit. (OMG, blackmailing a 12 year-old who obviously has issues already?!?! What is wrong with this woman?)
Oh yeah, one more thing remains to be wrapped up. Becka informs Liz that Mr. B/Harry confessed everything to the police and Hil's name has finally been cleared. Hil shows up on set after the filming has ended, and Becka has arranged a special screening for her. Liz gives Hil her necklace (which I am surprised the the police did not take as evidence...) and Becka shows Hil some film she shot of the empty set. Because of the magic necklace, Hil is able to talk to Lil, and everybody leaves her alone to do so.
As a bonus, the book features an AD for Sweet Valley High dolls and fashions!!! If anybody happens to have those, my birthday is only 8 1/2 months away...
****The SarahLynn Summary***
Why did I like this book so much as a child? It was TERRIBLE, totally ridiculous, and about 100 pages too long for my mature, sophisticated tastes. Even Robin couldn't save this one.