Before Christopher Pike became famous for the Thirst series, he was very popular for writing teen horror. I remember reading his books (This was after My Sweet Valley, Sweet Dreams phase and I was becoming quite an angsty teen) and liking it better than his contemporary R.L. Stine. I felt that the difference in their stories lie in the fact that Christopher Pike is more realistic in his writing and has no qualms about killing lead characters if he needed to, which R.L. seemed to hold out on as much as possible.
Anyways, I chanced upon the complete Remember Me trilogy and was set to get started on it. After the first pages though, I found myself missing Marvin Summers a.k.a Mack Slate, my favorite Pike character so I picked up my old copy and started rereading it.
Marvin is the 17 year old bestselling author of The Mystery of Silver Spring series, which is all the rage around the nation, partly because no one really knew who the writer was. While it may seem like a publicity gimmick, Marvin actually refuses to come forward to reveal his identity until his 18th birthday in order to protect his millions from the control of his drunkard and dysfunctional parents. Adding to his domestic problems, Marvin, whose only confidante is his 11 year old sister Ann, is also plagued by a stalker who seems to know his true identity, and is roped into solving the murder of his “girlfriend’s” ex boyfriend, all this while trying to meet the deadline for the concluding chapter to his series, which he himself is not sure how he will end.
The last time I checked in with Marvin and his lot was close to a decade ago, and I felt at the time that it was a well written, and well plotted whodunit. Marvin is a charismatic hero, although he also harbors a dark and twisted side. How could he not? He is a bestselling author who is in possession of millions of dollars for writing about murdered teens in a fictitious town not too different from his own. This time around, I still found the book interesting. Reading it again seemed like a new experience to me because I forgot most of the resolutions to the mysteries, leave for some familiar scenes from before.
What I like about Christopher Pike is that he really thinks about how things will unfold. He reveals one new facet with each sequence and helps the readers catch up to Marvin as he solves the mystery. Not like a Nancy Drew or a Hardy Boy mystery, however, Marvin is not in it for the glory of finding simple answers. He finds himself involved with the plot and wants to get his own pound of flesh when he finds out that he is being played. While he is miles ahead of his peers in terms of intellect and maturity, Marvin is still, basically a teenager, dealing with the typical issues plaguing teens his age and his actions all make sense to that particular demographic which makes it such a no brainer why Pike is such a hit with the kids.
It is my belief that Master of Murder is such a great book because Christopher Pike has infused some of himself, his work habits and personality in Marvin Summers. But when he is not Marvin, Pike manages to get inside his character’s heads and conveys to the readers their thoughts and their feelings and speaks to them in a voice that they understand. His voice echoes in the thoughts of this particular character and this makes for not only a convincing hero but one who is flawed enough for the audience to sympathize, and care about.And he does this while minding his writing style, not too simple but not too sophisticated to achieve that balance in reaching both young adults and adults alike. Master of Murder plays like a movie in your head, and it makes for one exciting read.And while plotting to kill a romantic rival is too extreme to pull off in the real world, readers will find themselves inadvertedly amazed at the complexity of the plan, and waiting with bated breath how the plot will turn out.