There are three main plots in this one, so that's how I'll break it down.
Stacey and Claudia are heading up to NYC for a bit (Stacey is staying with her dad until New Year's, and Claudia will be heading home on Christmas Eve). Stacey is looking forward to seeing Ethan again, but Claudia is a little apprehensive after what happened with Robert on Fire Island. Stacey is determined NOT to ditch Claud, though. In fact, she really wants her to meet Ethan since they're both artists. Right from the start, though, Ethan is acting a little bit strange. He won't let them see the inside of his coat closet, or his bedroom. Plus, Stacey and Claudia BOTH notice Ethan staring at her when he thinks she's not looking. It's not cute, either; it's weird. Ethan isn't the only weird thing happening for Stacey and Claudia; both girls feel like they're being watched wherever they go. Then, weird things start happening in Stacey's apartment building. First, they find red liquid on the elevator buttons and the floor by Stacey's apartment that looks an awful lot like blood. There's a note tucked into the door that says, "Your time is up." They call Carl, the doorman, for help, and he discovers that the blood is really just something chemical. He hasn't let anyone in to visit the McGill apartment all day, and has no idea who could have left the note/blood. Later that same day, Claud and Stacey hear something at the front door. Rather than go check themselves, they call Carl back up to do it for them. He finds a box, and inside...a jack in the box with a picture of Stacey's face pasted over the face that SHOULD be there.
Meanwhile, Ethan is still acting strangely. He STILL stares at Stacey, he STILL won't let them into certain areas of his apartment, and when they run into a girl coming out of Stacey's apartment building as they're arriving, he seems really unhappy to see her. Stacey can't figure out what's going on with him, OR what's going on in her apartment building. Someone puts gum under the elevator buttons so they don't work, and when Claudia and Stacey try to take the stairs later, they find an "out of order" sign posted on the doorway. They head back to the elevator, only to have it break down while they're still on it. When they finally get back upstairs, they find another note. This one appears to be in Ethan's handwriting, and it says, "Meet me in the basement. Tomorrow. 5pm." Stacey decides to confront Ethan, who claims to have had nothing to do with the note. He DOES have two confessions to make, though. First, he's been staring at Stacey so much and not letting her into particular areas of his apartment because he's working on a sculpture of her for her Christmas present. Second, he used to date a girl in Stacey's building; she's the one he seemed so uncomfortable to run into before. Her name is Cybil, and she's a wee bit unstable. She's the one that's been causing all the problems in the building, following Stacey around, and even trying to push her onto the subway tracks. Stacey, Claudia, and Ethan decide to go to the basement together to see what happens. Sure enough, Cybil shows up,. First, she turns the lights off. Claudia gets knocked down, and Cybil confronts Stacey and Ethan. She's totally unhinged, and thinks she should still be with him. Stacey and Ethan keep her distracted, while Claudia sneaks up behind her and knocks her down. The three of them overpower her, and Ethan takes her back up to her apartment and her parents.
Stoneybrook - Burglaries
Kristy's younger siblings wake her up one morning with big news: the Hsus were robbed. As soon as she can, Kristy rushes over there to be nosy...umm....I mean, offer her baby-sitting services. The Hsus are glad to see her, and Kristy gets a chance to look around. The place is trashed, but nothing is missing except a few electronic items. The weird thing, though, is that someone wrote "naughty" in big, red letters on the wall. The Hsus don't have any enemies, so no one can figure out what's wrong. Then, the same thing happens to the Papdakises. This time, though, they also find dirty footprints in the house that definitely weren't made by any member of the family. After that, Kristy finds a note in her family's mailbox that says "nice." It's in red letters, just like the "naughty" messages written on the walls of the families that have been burglarized. At first, Kristy thinks it might just be from some girl that has a crush on Sam or Charlie, but then, Abby's family gets one, too. This one isn't just left in the mailbox, though. Someone breaks a kitchen window and drops it in that way. Mrs. Porter also has one of her windows broken in the middle of the night, but no notes are left. Dawn is the one who finally puts two and two together: all the naught houses are the ones who recently fired their gardener, Mr. Nixon, in favor of another gardening service. All the nice houses are the ones who haven't done that. The police set a trap for Mr. Nixon by having Watson fire him. The Brewer-Thomas clan then makes a big show of leaving the house for the night, and sure enough, Mr. Nixon shows up. The police catch him, and yet another Stoneybrook crime wave is over.
Stoneybrook - Mary Doe
Mallory and Jessi are on the way home from their church Christmas pageant rehearsal when they come upon a strange woman. She's confused, and doesn't remember who or where she is. She's also very, very pregnant. The girls take her back to the church, where people there take charge of her. She's taken to the hospital, where she's checked out. She has a mild concussion, but her baby is fine. She still doesn't remember who she is, though. The story is all over the media, who have named the woman "Mary Doe." The only real clue to her identity is the ornate gold ring she's wearing, but there's no personal engraving or anything. Later, Mallory also notices a label inside one of her sweaters from a maternity store in California. She calls them, but they have no way of tracing everyone who may have bought the sweater.
Since Mary is well enough to leave the hospital, the Pikes invite her to stay with them for Christmas. Mallory decides to fax a drawing of Mary's ring to a jewelry store in the same CA town where the sweater was bought to see if anyone recognizes it. Before she can get an answer, though, two things happen: Mary goes into labor, and the phone lines go dead because of weather. Sharon drives over in her all-wheel drive SUV and takes Mary to the hospital. When the phones DO come back on, Mallory gets a call right away from the jewelry store. The owner's nephew had designed it for his wife before he left on a business trip; Mary Doe isn't Mary Doe after all; she's Lisa Papademetriou. As it turns out, Lisa had been on her way to visit family in Washington D.C., and she decided to take a cross-country train trip back, from New York to CA. They think she may have been mugged or purse-snatched in Stoneybrook, which might explain the memory loss. Lisa's husband catches the next flight back from his trip, to see his wife and meet his new son, Nicholas.
Thoughts and Things
- I like that this book acknowledged that there ARE religious aspects to the holiday season, both Jewish and Christian. I was a little surprised that the Pikes and Ramseys were suddenly so involved in church stuff, though. The Pikes even say grace before a meal!
- Kristy was so annoying in this one, when she kept invading the homes of the robbed families. She didn't care about being a good neighbor and helping them out; she just wanted to be a hero and solve the mystery. Elizabeth actually suggested that Kristy let the police do their jobs, though. Good for her!
- The crazy Cybil plot was very reminiscient of the crazy Liz Conner plot from Stacey and the Haunted Masquerade. They really WERE running out of ideas at this point in the series!
- There's a new copy of this book selling for $225 on Amazon. I got mine for $0.25 at Goodwill. :)