9780590112918What’s it about?

On their way home from an April Fools Party (who DOESN’T have one of them every year? They’re TOTALLY a thing!), Belinda, Frank and Hildy witness/cause a fiery deathtrap of a car accident. As Belinda watches the other car’s inhabitants burn to a crisp she sees a shady figure watching her. They’ve been seen seeing. Before long, someone is sending Belinda creepy messages to let her know she’s not off the hook.

Creepy Messages?

Yeah! Weird smelling dolls are left in her mailbox; calendars covered in blood; cars following her around; people watching at her bedroom window.

Who could it be?

Well, this is where it gets complicated. In a highly coincidental twist, Belinda is hired to tutor a young man who has just survived a fiery deathtrap of a car accident. Adam, hunky in a psychotic sort of way, seems to have Belinda’s number. Or how about his frosty stepmother or the mysterious British butler, Cobbs?

dalek-destinyThe Girl

Belinda Swanson, while not as punchable as our last RTC heroine, Martha, is, I’m afraid TSTL. Yes TOO STUPID TO LIVE. Within about one chapter, Belinda has figured out Adam may well have been in the crash SHE CAUSED yet she keeps going back to his house of her own volition. TIP: JUST DON’T GO THERE. And yet she does, chapter after chapter, mainly to kiki with Cobbs for half an hour, go to Adam’s room for about a minute and then flee in tears. It’s exhausting.

Far more exciting is veiled Alexis Carrington-esque Mrs Thorne, Adam’s stepmother. You can count how many shits this gold digger gives on one finger. Just the one, for herself. Sadly, the best character sashays away after about three chapters.

A final word on Hildy’s SILVERY BRAIDS. I’ve tried really hard to imagine what this must look like, or what week of the 90s they might have been popular, but I’m really struggling. Even Belinda admits ‘No-one else in the world has hair like that.’ I’m literally baffled. SILVERY BRAIDS.

The Love Interest

Well Frank joins The Babysitter’s Chuck as the most repellent characters in the Point Horror world, so it’s a good job Belinda has both Adam and his half-brother Noel to lust after.

Adam is BAD BROTHER with his scars and brooding while blond Noel is GOOD BROTHER. For the first time in PHBC history, things even get a little racy…

‘His lips moved gently down her neck…his arms went around her, turning her to him, and as her body pressed against his, she could feel his heartbeat, as rapid as her own….Belinda tried to pull back, and his eyes lowered to the lace at her breast.’


Dialogue Disasters

‘Honey, you’re a natural with sick people.’

‘Your accent of course…and you’re very stiff.’ Ooh matron! The Cobbs character is possibly the most racist depiction of a British person ever commitment to page. He might as well serve fish and chips out of his bowler hat.

‘I like to watch you. You look nice in this soft light.’ Is that a read, Noel?

‘You’re looking pretty sentimental.’ Go to a mirror and practice your best sentimental look. Not easy is it?

And a whole special category goes to the HILDY SCHOOL OF BEING A FRIEND:

‘You’re acting kind of depressed…Snap out of it will you? It’s been two weeks.’

‘You better get your act together, you’re being a real bore with all this.’

‘Forget Adam, you’re the one who’s completely crazy. Totally over the edge.’

You got a friend in her.

Body Count: 2

Did the best friend do it? No, although you will want to kill the best friend.

Some Mild Peril

There are actually some scary bits. I found the whispering figure at Belinda’s bedroom window effective and the early scenes with Adam lurking in the shadows are chilling in a Hitchcock way. Depending on your views about snakes there’s also some snake action (although why the Thorne’s have a hallway full of snakes is anyone’s guess).

Is it any good?

Following on from last month’s revelation with The Yearbook, April Fools is yet more proof that 13 year old me was after something very different to 32 year old me. April Fools is archetypal Point Horror, but reading it now really was a chore.

The problem is there’s little to like: Belinda is whiny, Noel is smarmy, Adam is cray, Frank is a dick, Hildy is a grade A bitch. I found myself praying for a scene where Cobbs trapped the lot of them in the garage and left the engine running.

The final twist was neat, but hardly surprising and by that stage you’ve stopped caring. Belinda repeatedly returning to the Thorne house (over and over again) is just too stupid to forgive and the reader’s patience has been exhausted.

I hate being mean. Perhaps Belinda wouldn’t have bothered me twenty years ago. I swear we WILL find an RTC that I love. Teacher’s Pet is in my head as one of the very best.

1d4d017b42a0b3a47f1cf110Next month we pay homage to the MASTER of teen horror, CHRISTOPHER PIKE as we read his only contribution to Point Horror COLLECT CALL from 13 TALES OF HORROR.

Over to you:

1. Why, Belinda, why?

See you next month!


10 thoughts on “PHBC: April Fools by Richie Tankersley Cusick

  • May 13, 2014 at 1:02 pm

    Oh, this made me laugh my silvery braids clean off, this did, James. Bravo, and congratulations on lifting me out of the mire of glowering rage that this book plunged me face-first into.

    Where to begin? I guess we’re used to our Point Horror heroines being a bit on the stupid side, but Belinda was so irredeemably thick I came close to slipping the book quietly out of the bus window on more than one occasion. I know you’ve covered this, but the endless, endless, ENDLESS visits to that stupid house to mope around in the kitchen with stupid Cobbs and then get a bit wibbly in stupid Adam’s stupid bedroom were some of the most repetitive scenes I’ve ever read. Forget April Fools, RTC should have called this effort Groundhog Day, which would at least bear some relation to the plot. The fact that the opening scene took place on April 1st ultimately proved even less relevant than that FIVE PAGE scene which consisted of LITERALLY NOTHING but people offering lifts to other people.

    But back to stupid Belinda. Any shred of sympathy I might have felt for our empty-headed protagonist was quietly, depressingly snuffed out when a leaf blowing across the pavement made her borderline hysterical. Not a cat jumping unexpectedly from a rubbish bin. Not a car backfiring in the distance. A leaf. Think about that.

    Silvery-braided Hildy, of course, bullies Belinda horribly (one to add to your list: “It’s been two weeks and it’s over with…You’re being really dramatic about this”). In fact, Hildy is a bit of a psycho herself. A prissy bore Belinda may well be, but what even was the POINT of the post-manslaughter pranks? Hildy and Frank truly deserve one another; I’d have waved them over the edge of that convenient chasm at the end. Then pushed Belinda in.

    Which brings us to Cobbs, and a primal scream of sheer rage as my final shred of patience is tested and found lacking. WTF, RTC? Apart from being a lazy stereotype, Cobbs is as thick as Belinda. For one thing, how many British people do you know who drink their tea with CREAM? Not even the Queen does that, Cobbs, you weirdo. Not. Even. The. Queen. And don’t even get me started on that final scene, in which newly-wealthy Cobbs offers to come and work for the Swansons FREE OF CHARGE. RTC didn’t so much jump the shark at this point, as glide swivel-eyed past it on a flying unicorn. You’re rich, Cobbs! Treat yourself to a hundred car telephones and a new teapot, for sobbing out loud.

    Other problems I had:
    1. The stupid clifftop finale, which was all (histrionic but pretty well-handled) set-up, ruined by a vague two-line resolution. Did we learn nothing from Camp Fear?
    2.The fact that the villain was presumed evil from the start, acted evil throughout, and, erm, continued to be evil at the end.
    3. The fact that this took me A WEEK to read.
    4. Did I miss something, or was the ramming of Noel’s car never explained. To be fair, it’s possible I just napped through one of the many, many interminable expository monologues.
    5. Additional dialogue disasters:
    “Come on out, King of Fools – the joke’s over.”
    “It’s not that hard to jump out of a car, I suppose – if you know what you’re doing.” (Erm, wha’?)

    The only thing RTC (Really Tedious Chapters? Riotously Thick Characters?) had going for her this time was the sensational but underused Mrs Thorne (played in my head by Anjelica Huston), the discovery of a doll in a mailbox full of entrails (unsettling by anyone’s standards), and the rarity of having two main Point Horror villains for the price of one (very proto-Scream). Apart from these glimmers of hope, I was left cold, hurt and angry by April Fools. RTC has got some serious making-up to do.


    Collect Call is a VERY interesting choice for next month. I read and re-read it obsessively as a teenager; if memory serves, I think we’re in for a treat.

  • May 13, 2014 at 7:10 pm

    I salute you both…great reviews on the book .. Your comments made me laugh so much. Younger me always thought this ph was brilliant but reading it again…. Omg! If I hard a tardis I would warn my younger self…. Lol. Future RTC….I always remember fatal secrets being a good one from what I remember but hey I held April fools in high regard before the reread… Now off to get my hair done…with silver braids!
    Ps I’m hoping I have a copy of 13 tales of horror but I have a feeling this is one I didn’t have! (Crying)

  • May 13, 2014 at 7:28 pm

    Well I can’t say I wasn’t entertained. I was, but in the way I’m entertained by Asylum movies. Slightly mind boggled, and not entirely sober.

    Where to begin. First off, what’s up with these people’s names? Belinda, Frank and Hildy all sound like they belong in Grease. Although I suppose that does fit in with the handkerchief clue. I mean seriously, who the hell uses hankies anymore? OLD LADIES. Not hot psychopathic teens. I also like to think that Belinda and her handily absent parent are the poor relations of the rich but totally cray cray Swanson family in RTC’s Help Wanted. What can I say, I am a mine of useless 90s trivia. Although even I don’t remember when silvery braids were cool.

    Anyway, back to the book. Yeah, Belinda is a nightmare. Apart from being a total drip, she is the Worst Tutor Ever. She can’t spend more than five minutes with Adam per visit, and when she’s there all she does is cry or swoon or have an attack of the vapours like some Victorian maid. Then she gets lifts back home. I suspect that actually all she wants is free tea and a lift, to be honest. Probably this whole tutoring thing is a scam.

    And THANK YOU PAUL for bringing up the cream in tea thing. WHO DOES THAT. That was easily the most disturbing thing in the whole story. I’d actually rather have an entraily doll than tea with cream in. Cobbs (who by the way I am picturing as Geoffrey from the Fresh Prince) is clearly not even British. He probably just has some weird making-tea-wrong fetish. I also found his relationship with Belinda a bit…odd. I mean obviously he’s set up as another suspect, but Belinda seems to turn him into her surrogate dad/confidante uncomfortably quickly. Maybe there is veritaserum in all the Wrong Tea. Also what is up with him moving into her house and adopting her family like he’s a stray dog and her mum is fine with it? So weird. Although I suppose her mum does buy the whole “Belinda is ill and needs to stay over for a night” story which I can tell you right now my mum never would.

    Speaking of which, we need to talk about Noel giving Belinda his MUM’S NIGHTIE to sleep in and then snogging her in it. Frankly at this point I see him as a blonde Anthony Perkins in Psycho.

    Also I cannot believe I am the only person to mention this line: “how many seconds in six…slippery…inches?” Teehee.

  • May 13, 2014 at 8:05 pm

    Bahaha! “Attack of the vapours” is exactly right. What a chump.

    And ohmigod I can’t believe I forgot to mention the making out/mum’s nightie horror show. All the wow.

    Bookie, I bow before your superior knowledge – even I didn’t notice the Swanson connection. Excellent sleuthing. I say nothing about your filthy final comment; the Point Horror Book Club is no place for childish innuendo (snigger).

  • May 14, 2014 at 4:26 pm

    HOW DID I MISS THAT? I must have been trying to count my eyelashes out of boredom. Yeah the mum’s nightie is REALLY WEIRD.

    Regarding Cobbs – yeah another one for Yew Tree.

  • May 16, 2014 at 12:21 pm

    I always pictured the “silvery braids” as Hildy had that very pale blonde hair which almost looks kind of greyish? But I don’t know why I’m making excuses for this book.

    Re: the cream in tea. I feel certain RTC had never met a British person. Weird how, when Americans say British, they always mean an English person. And not just English but a caricature of an 18th-century English person. Also think RTC possibly heard the expression “cream tea” and assumed that you put the cream IN the tea. Clearly some kind of cultural exchange programme needed here.

    Wasn’t there also a weird bit right at the end when Belinda tells Cobbs she loves him, and he replies misty-eyed, “And I you, miss”. COME ON, YOU HARDLY KNOW EACH OTHER. I expect RTC got the idea from Mr Darcy’s speech to Elizabeth in Pride & Prejudice, and assumed all “British” people randomly declare “how ardently I admire and love you” to virtual strangers.

  • June 15, 2014 at 4:55 pm

    Hi Paul – thanks! I’ve still several to get through (midway through Dream Date at the moment), and not sure I will bother with the Forbidden Game ones JUST yet, but I live revisiting these books and hope we get through all of them. I got a shed load from EBay (someone was selling about 30 of them in bulk), so I’m good to go pretty much!

    I must say your wit and observations are what made me want to join the club!

  • July 1, 2014 at 12:43 pm

    Yikes this one was a chore to plough through. First things first: cream in the tea. What on earth?! I’m as shocked as you all are, I’ve never known anybody in my life to ever put cream in tea! Sacrilege! Second, the Silvery Braids ™: this 90s fashion faux pas also missed my neck of the woods, but I was picturing them as two giant silver pigtails. And what a callous bitch Hildy was. They caused an accident and witnessed a man BURN TO DEATH and she’s being completely blase about it and telling Belinda to “get over it” as it’s “been two weeks”. Wow.

    Belinda isn’t even worth commenting on. You all have said it so well.

    My last comment is how gutted I am that Frank survived. I would have loved to have seen the tombstone:

    1976 – 1994
    King of Fools


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