My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I was a big fan of Joan Lowery Nixon’s books when I was a kid, and was kind of excited to revisit my childhood. Jennifer’s best friend Bobbie has been accused of murdering her (Bobbie’s) mother, but Jennifer knows Bobbie couldn’t have done it. So she embarks on a quest to discover the real murderer, teaming up with a retired police detective to hunt down clues and figure out whodunit.
As a young teenager, this book would have drawn me right in. It has murder, mystery, and a teenage girl who believes she knows better than everyone else, breaking the rules and disobeying direct orders to achieve her goals (yet it all works out in the end, of course). But this book was published in 1985, and you can tell. There are obviously no cell phones, a yet-to-be invented device that would have drastically changed the entire course of Jennifer’s investigations. When Jennifer finds herself in trouble, she doesn’t call 911 – she calls the operator (from a landline) to request police assistance. And the romance between Jennifer and her boyfriend Mark is quite tame and a bit unbelievable, given the characters’ ages. I also didn’t personally care for Mark, who tells Jennifer flat-out that she’s wasting her time by playing detective instead of being a loving, supportive boyfriend.
There also isn’t much background information given on the secondary characters (the fore-mentioned detective, the boyfriend, the best friend) – they’re only there to move Jennifer’s story along. The reader never really understands WHY Jennifer loves Mark or what’s so special about Bobbie that makes her Jennifer’s best friend, you just have to accept that that’s the way it is. The title is also a bit disingenuous, as there isn’t really much “stalking” going on. The book is mostly written in third person as it follows Jennifer’s adventures, but there are short intermediate chapters written in the killer’s first person POV that show him kind of keeping an eye on Jennifer in case she figures out too much. For a book titled “The Stalker,” I’d really expect there to be a lot more focus on actual stalking.