Super Thriller #5: Murder on the Line

12 May

murder on the line

Estimated Elapsed Time: 2 weeks?

Summary/Overview:

Jessica and Elizabeth are working as interns at the Valley News for what appears to be the second time, because they are driving the Jeep and the back of the book mentions the word “again” as if this is the second time, but it’s really, really hard to tell.  At any rate, it is their second week on the job, Jessica is already bored, and Elizabeth is totally kissing the ass of the newest hire, Bill Anderson.  Because of construction going on near the newspaper’s building (construction being done to create the tallest building in downtown Sweet Valley, courtesy of George Fowler), the paper’s phone lines are a total mess.  People keep intercepting other calls, and this is probably the thing that Jessica finds most interesting about her days at the paper.  She eavesdrops on a ton of calls until she hears a man identifying as “Greenback” threaten to kill someone else.  When she tells Liz about it, Liz brushes it off.  Jessica leaves work early to meet Lila at the beach, and the two are sunbathing when someone screams because a body has just washed up on shore.  Totally out of character, Jessica actually faints.

The next day, Jessica goes straight to the police.  She talks to a Detective Jason, who wants her to keep listening in on the phone and report back to him everything she hears.  She also finally, finally makes contact with Mr. Gorgeous, a young guy who works the next building over whose attentions she’s been trying to attract for days.  He introduces himself as Ben Donovan, and he tells her he’s an accountant.  Her interest in him dwindles as he tells her he’s also really into reading and classical music.

When Bill Anderson tells the twins that Rose, the receptionist quit, he assigns Jessica the job of manning the switchboard.  She can’t listen in on the phones while she does this job, but she figures out a way to call her own extension and listen that way.  It isn’t long before she overhears another call by Greenback, and this time, she records his conversation with a Dictaphone.  She plans to show it to Detective Jason later.  But as the conversations continue, she hears Greenback mention a friend in the police station, and undercover cop, and makes a comment about how a “spy” can’t be listening in at the office.  Jessica is worried, but not enough.

Meanwhile, Seth Miller and Elizabeth Wakefield are trying to solve the murder of Tracy Fox, the girl who washed up dead on the beach.  She was found with cocaine on her, and that’s why she ran away from home, according to her mother.  Liz and Seth go all over the place trying to figure out who knew her and why someone wanted to shut her up permanently.  But this is complicated by the fact that Jessica becomes convinced that Seth is Greenback–because he seems to be flush with cash and because the Telex in his office makes a similar noise to something she heard in the background of one of Greenback’s phone calls.

Elizabeth brushes off Jessica’s theory until she remembers that she actually saw Tracy Fox at the Western building shortly before she died.  When they check the visitor’s log, they find out that Tracy was there to see Seth! HOW CONVENIENT!  Elizabeth still isn’t convinced that Seth is Greenback OR a drug dealer, so she asks Jessica to give her some to figure it out.  Jessica agrees to wait until the following Monday.

While Elizabeth talks to Seth about his possible involvement (he mentions that he never met with Tracy but did receive a phone call from a scared-sounding girl), Jessica confides her suspicions in Bill, who tells her they’ll meet back at the office that night and go to the police together.  Jessica doesn’t think this is weird at all and agrees to it.  Liz and Seth meet at the Box Tree Cafe while Jessica goes ALONE to meet with Bill.  Liz and Seth piece together that Bill has moved all over, and every place he’s lived has had a drug-related death.  When they call the police to send help for Jessica, Detective Jason blows them off, so of course they race to save her.

Meanwhile, Jessica meets up with Bill, who is totally high on cocaine (she sees it on his desk) and chases her up onto the roof, where he tells her to jump off the roof with the conveniently-planted coke he wants to place on her.  He’s going to make her death look like a drug-fueled suicide and then frame Seth for the murder.  Wait, what?

LUCKILY Ben Donovan is the real undercover cop, and he arrives on the scene with Elizabeth and Seth.  He manages to save Jessica as Bill dives at her, sending Bill off the roof to his death.  Whatever, this is ridiculous.  Anyway, everything works out okay.  Detective Jason is “detained” for questioning, Ben asks Jessica out, and the twins are treated as heroes.  And we are treated to more didactic rambling about how drugs are bad.

Trivia/Fun Facts:

  • Adam Maitland is still? living with the Wakefields
  • Todd is vacationing elsewhere with his family
  • I had to Google what a Telex is, and it’s basically like a fax machine?  I think?

Memorable Quotes:

  • “‘Not metallic silver,’ Jessica murmured. ‘No matter how you’re shaped, it’s bound to make you look like a station wagon!'” (19)
  • “A violent murder had taken place, right there in the Sweet Valley area.  This kind of story was rare.” (59)
  • “‘If I had my way, you’d be shark bait by now, Jessica Wakefield,’ he rasped. ‘From now on, you’d better keep your mouth, eyes, and ears shut, or I’ll shut ’em for you.'” (116)

A (Totally Unqualified) Critical Analysis:

I’m not sure why the timeline of this one bothers me so much.  I mean, it’s not like a completely wonky timeline is so out of the norm for this series.  Maybe it’s the flagrant disregard for continuity?  Like, the publishers didn’t care enough to give the readers a story that makes sense within the bounds of physics?  How do the twins have the Jeep in this one?  How are they still 16 even though it appears to be the summer following junior year?  Why is Todd around but not Sam?  Why is Adam Maitland making an appearance after disappearing for like, 25 books?  WHY?

Also, how dumb are the twins in this one?  The jumping to conclusions, and the complete logic fails make me crazy.  All of it is so contrived and so obviously a way to move the plot pieces around I can hardly stand it.  I’m thinking about this too much.  I should go lie down.

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