Lately I've been reading some later-period Christopher Pike books that I had never read before, but Pike's Last Act came out in 1988, when I was twelve -- perfectly timed for my post-Little House on the Prairie / Narnia love and my pre-Stephen King glut. But would the 34-year-old me like this as much as I did 22 years ago? (In addition: 22 years ago? How the hell did that happen?)
Well, I don't know that I liked it as much, but it still packs that Pike punch, and it is a much tighter and more enjoyable mystery than some of the later ones. In Last Act, Melanie Martin and her father have moved from San Francisco to a small town in Iowa after her parents' divorce. She is having a hard time making any friends until she impulsively helps popular Susan Trels with a trigonometry quiz, strikes up a conversation, and ends up going to audition for a play that Susan is directing at the high school. Melanie gets the part and is thrown into the tangled relationships of Rindy (beautiful, rich, and distant - she and Melanie got into a fender bender earlier in the year), Marc (handsome, athletic, Melanie's dream man), Carl (young and dorky, Rindy's brother), Jeramie (tall and crazy, but smart), and Tracy (ditzy and rude). Susan directs this group in a play filled with twisted relationships, unrequited love, injury, and jealousy that conveniently matches the real-life teenage emotions of this group from before Melanie came to town.
At the end of Act 2, Melanie's character shoots the beautiful Rindy. They had practiced the scene dozens of times, and Melanie loaded the blanks into the gun herself, but when Rindy falls there is way more blood than there should have been, and she never gets up. Melanie, with the help of a friendly detective, sets herself to untangling the twisted lives of her new friends and solving the murder of Rindy to clear her own name.
This book follows a lot of Pike's usual plot points: beautiful people who seem mean end up being nice; beautiful people who seem nice end up being evil; and perfectly ordinary teenage angst harnessed into elaborate plots of murder and revenge. Still, the hokey dialogue and descriptions are kept to a minimum here, the mystery is solid (although unrealistic), and the climactic scene is action-packed and suspenseful. If you have been thinking of re-reading some Christopher Pike, you couldn't do better than picking up Last Act.