Saturday, June 24, 2023

Fatal Secrets by Richie Tankersley Cusick


Richie Tankersley Cusick (gee, what a mouthful) is one of my favorite YA horror authors. I've read most of her work that is still in circulation and a handful of her books that aren't. She's probably one of my favorite Point Horror line authors, even more so than Christopher Pike and Caroline B. Cooney, whose works tend to be more uneven (even though I love them both). There's something about Cusick's work that just speaks to me on a profound level: hot bad guys, gothic undertones, female gaze, and surprisingly poetic writing that just makes me really wish that I'd devoured more of her books as a young teen. I MISSED OUT, Y'ALL.

That isn't to say that she doesn't have her duds, too. I don't like all of her books equally and sadly, FATAL SECRETS is one of her books that I liked the least. I think it's because it kind of feels like an R.L. Stine book: cheesy and formulaic with a bit of a ridiculous ending (although the subjects in this book are things I don't even think Stine would touch-- even his contemporaries felt like timewarps to the 1950s). Basically, Ryan's sister Melissa dies under the ice while they're in the woods and after that, Ryan is haunted by images of her supposedly dead sister. But if Melissa isn't dead? Where is she? And if she is... who's doing this?

The set-up has everything I normally love in an RTC book: hot bad guys, lots of mystery, narrative gaslighting, etc. But like I said, the ending jumped the shark (the ice shark, shall we say?) and I just didn't feel like we got to know the sinister guys for me to really care about them as will they/won't they love interests. SILENT STALKER and HELP WANTED were kind of peak RTC as far as I'm concerned, and SUMMER OF SECRETS had great love interests. This one fell flat on all counts. Now that I'm thinking about it, I think I liked this even less than THE DRIFTER. Bummer.

Still, it's a Christmas-themed YA horror novel so if you're burned out on Hallmark movies and you're one of those chaotically evil people who consider Die Hard a holiday movie, you might like this.

2 out of 5 stars

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