So after three books of jerking the reader around with random beach shenanigans in SVU 30-32, SVU finally returns to the main plotline for this book. As you may recall, Todd's girlfriend Gin just died.
We open at the funeral. Liz has to leave because she's just so overwhelmed. Bitch stole the dead girl's boyfriend and we're supposed to feel sorry for her at the funeral. I love it! Nina comes out and Liz basically recaps the 29 for us. Nina assures her that Gin's family doesn't hate Liz, after all, no one could hate Liz. (She must not know about this group.)
Because she's stupid, Liz tries to talk to Todd at the funeral but he doesn't want to talk to her. Todd is in the "special" area with his dead girlfriend's family. For some reason he doesn't want to hang out with the girl he cheated on the dead girl with AND the dead girl's family. Liz cannot understand this. Todd tries to get away from her and she literally chases after him. Hilarious. Run, Todd, Run!
Jessica watches Liz run after Todd. She attended the funeral with Nick Fox. Actual paragraph from the book:
Jessica's mind wandered back to that day in Waggoner Hall. How was I supposed to know Gin-Yung was dying? And, anyway why should I feel guilty? I did it for Liz. I wouldn't get myself into these situations if my sugar-sweet twin wasn't such a doormat.
What happened at Waggoner Hall? Did Jessica fuck with the dying girl? That's awesome. I was hoping it'd be in #29. (And, yes, this was the point when I put down this book and ordered #29. Jessica fucked with the dead girl? SWEET VALLEY EMERGENCY!) Regardless, it's still the best paragraph ever. And the last sentence is the best sentence in the history of sentences. Did you get that? First, it acknowledges the truth of the doormat syndrome.
Secondly, it proves my theory that all evil in the world stems from Liz Wakefield. See, if all the bad things Jessica does are Liz's fault. Then (since we know the Wakefields are the center of the universe), everything bad in the universe must be Liz's fault. Liz Wakefield caused the Holocaust. You're welcome.
Todd breaks up with Liz. You know, again. I bet she's sorry she ran after him now.
Jessica runs over to comfort Liz. She says she shouldn't break up with Todd. Liz is like, “Um, Todd wants to break up.” Jessica doesn't think that matters since Todd and Liz are ment 2 b. But Liz is determined to be angsty and dramatic. She blows a kiss in Todd's general direction as she gets in her car to leave.
Then the book cuts to Lila. Yay!
Upon realizing that she had not worn her (what I can only assume is a stylish) suit since the funeral for her Count, Lila becomes overwhelmed with emotion. She cries for her poor dead Count. Bruce is with her and he tries to comfort her. She realizes he knows what she's going through because of Regina... What? Wait. Oh, hell no. Either the ghostwriter never actually read the book where Regina died or this is another instance of the ghostwriters retroactively making Bruce's love for Regina pure. I recapped both books and the situations were not similar at all. If anything, Bruce might know how Todd feels after cheating on the dead girl.
Speaking of being angsty and dramatic, Tom is sad that Liz is not his girlfriend anymore. ”Beautiful, innocent Elizabeth Wakefield. The most wonderful person who'd ever come into his life was no longer his.” I need a drink. Tom gets his mail and he has a letter from his biological father, George. Did they not have phones in 1997? What's with all the letters? George apologizes in the letter and offers Tom two memberships to a country club as a token of his forgiveness. What a crappy consolation prize. “Sorry it turns out your father is a perv; how about some tennis?”
Jessica harangues Nick to let her tag along on his cop adventures. Nick is afraid she'll die like Gin. Okay, aside from the whole “she might die thing”? Don't they have laws against people just pretending to be cops? Sounds like an insurance nightmare to me. Not that Jessica cares. She tells Nick she has a dull existence. Ha! She's been a model, a beauty queen, a TV star, and an elite gymnast; every boyfriend she's ever had has died; and Jessica herself has been nearly killed or raped every other book. If that's dull, having an exciting life sounds downright exhausting.
Nick decides he's going to quit his job to keep Jessica safe, apparently unaware that as long as she is Liz's twin, she'll never be safe. Oh, but he takes one more case first. Maybe he subconsciously knows quitting his job for a chick he just met is a bad idea. Or maybe it's just a contrived plot. You decide!
Liz goes to the beach and cries over Gin, Todd and Tom. Actual line from the book: She cried until she couldn't cry anymore. (Those of you who never want to see Liz cry anymore, don't get your hopes up. False advertising.) As if that weren't dramatic enough, upon watching waves break on the shore she says aloud to herself (crazy person alert!): ”My life is like the newly washed sand. I'm starting over.” I bet the ghostwriter thought that was deep. Liz is more like the sand because she keeps getting hit with the same Todd-related problems over and over again.
Jessica calls Lila to hang out. But Lila is sad about her Count still. She tries to talk about her feelings with her best friend but Jessica doesn't want to talk about it since she wasn't there when Lila was married. Way to be self-centered, Jess. You know it's bad when Bruce Patman is a better listener than you. Lila tells Jess she can't hang out tomorrow either because she and Bruce are going to the ultra-exclusive Verona Springs Country Club. Jess tries to scam an invite but Lila isn't having any of it. Lila tells Jess that she and Bruce are “couples only” members but they want to be VIP members. Oh, and there's a very secret third floor that only VIP members are allowed in to.
Need I mention that this is the country club George gave Tom invites to? I didn't think so. I bet they keep pervy pictures of their children's significant others in the third floor!
Need I also mention that Nick's “one last case” before quitting the force is a murder investigation. Guess where the murder happened? Verona Springs Country Club. You're shocked, right? A caddy was found dead in the lake. But the cops didn't hear about it for a week because the Verona Springs people kept it hush-hush. A WEEK? Why isn't the club shut down? Where are the obstruction of justice charges? Conspiracy to commit murder? I guess when the hired help dies it's not a big thing.
Lesson: It's okay to kill people in Sweet Valley if you're rich.
Another caddy has been implicated in the murder. They found the dead one's things in his locker, as if he stole them. But it's clearly a setup and I'm not even going to pretend otherwise.
The rest of this plot is pretty boring and predictable. Nick has to go undercover as a club member to solve the murder. But since they can only get a “couples” membership, he has to partner with female officer Eileen. Jessica doesn't like that Eileen is pretending to be her boyfriend's girlfriend and gets all crazy, naturally. She thinks he's a) working with Eileen because he doesn't think Jessica's good enough. The fact that Jess doesn't cross her mind. And b) that Nick is actually cheating on her with Eileen when they pretend to be “undercover.” I don't see how both are possible at once, but then Jessica was never the most reasonable person.
Then Liz starts working at the Sweet Valley Gazette with sycophant Scott (from last book). She's irritated that she and Scott have to share a desk. I guess she thought they'd roll out the red carpet and give her a corner office with a view on her first day there. With her alleged "mad journalism skillz", Liz discovers the kid murdered went to SVU decides to investigate with Scott.
But guess who else is going to the club? Tom Watts (and Dana) with his little invites from his father.
Here's how I would've written this if I were in charge: All the above happens and everyone jockeys to solve the murder. But just as they're about the crack the case, the bust in on Lila and Bruce sitting by the pool and sipping martinis all, “Oh you guys are still looking for the murderer? We solved that days ago, darlings. Drinkys?”
Alas, that's not how it happens.
Bruce and Lila disappoint me. Lila sucks up to rich bitch Pepper Danforth because she wants to get a VIP membership. Pepper constantly complains about “the help.” I bet she says things like “It's so hard to get good help these days” unironically. Thankfully, Lila doesn't actually like her; she just wants that damn fancy membership. Meanwhile, Bruce congratulates himself on how much he's grown since he was “a bit unbearable with the money thing”(understatement of the century alert!). I attribute any reformation to Lila. He must know she'll stab him with her keys if he tries to paper cup rape any more chicks.
Unfortunately for Bruce, his crazy ex-girlfriend whose name is (I shit you not) Bunny Sterling shows up at the club and Bruce is forced to hide from her and stuff. I guess it's supposed to be humorous but I'm not going to tell you much more of it because I have Bunnyphobia—the fear of fictional characters named Bunny.
Dana practically gives Tom a lap dance for inviting her to the country club. She also spends the whole book thinking what a bitch/whore/terrible person Liz is. I wonder if she's a Delta Nu, because her methods of getting Tom “back” can be summed up in song:
Pepper Danforth's boyfriend is named Anderson Pettigrew (relationship to Peter? Debatable.). And Nick gets his invite from a Judge Pettigrew, who wants to help the investigation. We are then supposed to be surprised later one when it turns out Anderson is the judge's grandson. The ghostwriters must really think very little of the Sweet Valley readers.
Then Eileen's father gets a convenient heart condition and she can't work the case anymore. Nick's police chief actually asks Nick to bring Jessica instead. Is there only one female police officer in Sweet Valley? Wait, don't answer that. We all know they like to keep their women in the kitchen in the SV.
Anyway, the day Liz and Scott show up to investigate is the day Tom and Dana show up to redeem their sorry-I'm-a-perv coupons. The foursome happen upon a gardener named Juan who is the uncle of the boy who was killed. He tells Liz to be careful because people at Verona Springs think they can get away with murder. But then he runs off when he hears Tom is a member, because he's not supposed to talk to members. Here's what I want to know: what kind of guy stays employed at the place that killed a family member? I mean, does he go home at night and say, “I know they're horrible people who killed our nephew, honey but the dental plan is awesome.”
Tom decides he's going to get to the bottom of the story and scoop Elizabeth. Ex-Lover Journalism Battle! It's like Britney and Justin's Dance Battle but... way less fun.
But the Battle will happen next book because this one ends here without explaining to me why Enid and Winston are on the cover if they're not in it at all and why exactly that boy (Nick?) is “Out of the Picture”? What does that mean? When did Sweet Valley covers become dadaistic?