Thursday, June 24, 2010

A Killer in the House (Baby-sitter's Nightmares) by J.H. Carroll

First Printing October 1995

Preview Page Reads:
"But, something is going on."
Sue gave Brett one more chance. "Everything points to it. I admit it, I was wrong at first about Mrs. Anderson. But something strange and evil is happening in that house. There's a killer in the-"
"Sue you're freaking out for no reason," Brett said, cutting her off. "Just call me when you have the thing figured out, okay?" He reached across her lap and opened the door. "I don't want that to get in your way."
"What are you saying?" she whispered.
"I'm saying I don't think we should see each other until you're ready to give this up."
Sue bolted out of the car and slammed the door. Tires screeched as Brett peeled out of her driveway and disappeared down the street. A silent tear fell down her cheek.
All at once she felt very alone and afraid.
What am I supposed to do?
Both her best friend and her boyfriend- her ex-boyfriend- had warned her not to do anything stupid. Not exactly the most supportive choice of words, but she couldn't deny their wisdom.
And so, as she slowly turned toward her house, she made a decision. There was no way she was going to baby-sit at the Andersons' Friday night.

* * *

I am so excited about this one, and there is a very specific reason for it. First of all, I love the one-off writers the most of all. While I adore R.L. Stine, Christopher Pike, and Diane Hoh very much, there is something charming about a total unknown or an obvious fake name never used again on the cover of the book. A name so mysterious, that even google can't reveal a thing about it. That is true mystery in this day and age, google just giving up. More on the author later...

Sue is a mild mannered baby-sitter, she's taken up a new gig with Mr. and Mrs. Anderson and their little boy, real easy money. Until one night she discovers a check from Mr. Anderson for a mysterious R. Stout in Albany, NY for $100,000 hidden under a table cloth. Who is R. Stout and what could warrant that kind of money from Mr. Anderson? Could it be... blackmail?

A quick read that gets quite intense, it is very deceiving when you are first starting out. The 16 year old baby-sitter Sue is very simplistic, very curious, and a very upstanding young lady. She often lays out the standard issues of a teenage girl, mainly boys and trying to maintain her perfect grades. When I first started the book I figured it was going to be more of a mystery than a thriller, things go at a decent pace and more and more information is revealed to draw you in. It often gets you with some simple and tense moments, and a main character you really want to like. The other characters come across as one-sided until a decent payoff later on.

The mystery early on is very intriguing with lots of information showing itself as you go, but the mystery isn't actually the big issue. The mess Sue gets into and how she could possibly get out of it safely is what will really keep you turning the pages of the last few chapters. All in all, a very fun ride you'll enjoy all the way through. Toward the end it does some interesting things with the perspective that really surprised me and drew me even deeper into it.

I would recommend hunting it down.

Here's some copies listed on amazon for $.01 Isn't that a great cheap habit to feed?

I chose this book, as I choose most of my YA thrillers, based on the cover art. It doesn't disappoint, a terrified young girl turning from the television with a phone dangling in the front. It immediately gives me flashbacks to the "the killer is calling from inside the house!" urban legends I grew up hearing. The Baby-sitter's Nightmares line of books appears to only have had 4 books total, I only own this one... for now... But oddly, in this line which I assume was possibly trying to cash in on the Baby-sitters Club or maybe even Fear Street Cheerleaders, there are different authors on each book.

The book's author's name is J. H. Carroll, I can find nothing of this man at all outside of this book, and I really tried. He did however leave very minor clues in the dedication and in the "about the author" page at the end of the book.

"Thanks for the inspiration and accommodation-
J. H., E. F., S. B. W., and E. M.
And especially Lemmy for the good gig."

"J. H. Carroll was born in the eastern Oregon woods and now settles for Portland. The key to the rucksack revolution, he believes, is a steady diet of green tea, high-altitude hiking, and plenty of yabyum. J. H. applauds real-life slackers everywhere."

This stuff was like secret code to me, I mean really, could you be more cryptic? No wonder he wrote a good mystery, guy speaks in codes and riddles, codes from a time long gone... But lucky for you, I've got a lot of time on my hands, so...

Firstly, the "rucksack revolution" is reference to a movement of people who follow a kind of Buddhist philosophy of traveling and not being confined to the material society, as referenced in Jack Kerouac's The Dharma Bums. With that in mind, my imagination goes off into the idea that maybe J. H. or whatever his name is, was doing a lot of couch surfing looking to find himself and then landed on some guy named Lemmy who hooked him up with writing a paperback novel for some cash. This is all what I imagine while reading the evidence in the book, not at all based in fact.

But my favorite part is his reference to "yabyum." Yab-yum is a form of sexual meditation where two partners are intertwined with the male sitting in lotus position with the female straddling him. So, Mr. Carroll was referencing some good old fashioned lovin' in the end notes of his novel for teens in a buddhist code none of the editors would understand. Like me, they probably thought it was some kind of hipster beverage or candy that was local to Portland.

Well played sir, this is getting fun. I'll be back soon enough, please feel free to comment if you have anything to add or any insight, I'd love to hear from you. I just hope that somewhere, somehow, J. H. Carroll is still slumming it up with his hiking, his yabyum, and the attitude he gave across in this book.

Till next time,


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