HE MAY HAVE PHOTOGRAPHED A MURDER.
Herb just wanted to photograph the cheerleaders in the school showers. He planted his camera high in the corner where no one could see it, and rigged it to a special homemade timer. He did that Thursday night, and he hoped that by Friday night he would have an exciting roll of film to develop.
But a girl dies Friday afternoon. On the surface it appears to be nothing more than a tragic car accident. But when Herb finally does collect his roll of film, he develops a picture that shows a shadowy figure sneaking up on the girl who has died -- sneaking up on her with a baseball bat.
It makes Herb wonder if the girl was dead long before the car accident.
But unfortunately for Herb, he doesn't wonder if the murderer knows he took the picture.
Everyone by now knows who Christopher Pike is (if you don't...well, you suck). The Stephen King of 80's teen novels. R.L. Stine before R.L. Stine was R.L. Stine. The only weirdo in the publishing world who could write about vampires from space without making it as cheesy as it sounds. This guy probably indirectly influenced every teen author today, and yet still remains of relative obscurity throughout the masses. Consider this review one step foreword in the Battle to Bring Pike to Light.
Die Softly begins (or ends) with a dream.
Herb Trasker and his friends, Lisa, Alexa, Theo and Stephan, find themselves in the wild west, stranded in the desert with dying horses and no water. Theo's dead brother, Roger, appears with empty-but-filled canteens of water and the revelation that both he, Lisa and Stephan are dead.
He is awakened by a phone call from Officer Fitzsimmons, a Lovable Concerned Police Officer. They begin to discuss the mysterious string of murders involving the very people Herb was dreaming about.
Most of the events in Die Softly are Herb's recounting of them. He's the atypical Lovable Geek, the only thing setting him apart from his fellow nerds being his photography; see, the cheerleaders need their pictures taken for the yearbook...
Not that this could really be a problem, but my main issue was how long Pike spent on these pictures. It is so not the point, and it was distracting listening to how hot Lisa and Alexa are.
Anyway, Herb's Fat Best Friend Who Is a Girl, Sammy, somehow convinces him to set up his camera in the girl's locker room and set it to go off while the cheerleaders are showering. They plan on posting the pictures all over the school to embarrass them. Or something. After many pages of Herb getting to know Alexa, battling with his conscious and his overwhelming urge to do something naughty with Alexa, he finally sneaks into the school in the middle of the night and plant the camera.
The next day, he finds head cheerleader Lisa dead. Rolled over a cliff and set ablaze in her boyfriend's car.
And the pictures show Alexa holding a bat over her head.
My favorite part about Pike's writing is how he makes everything plausible. Not like the significantly less talented R.L. Stine, who expects his reader's to believe every adjective he spews out, No Questions Asked, Pike gives explanations. Scientific, logical ones. Not too boring, not too simple. He assumes his readers are not idiots, but they don't know about (blank).
Die Softly is a strange kind of mystery. It's kind of like you saw it coming, but you didn't see how is came. Possibly one of the strongest characteristic of Pike's writing, he's able to let you think you won, but then flips it on it's head and makes you feel like a moron. In a good way.
Most of the characters are seen through the narration of Herb or the description of Alexa, as most are either dead or somewhere else during the plot. Again, not really sure if this is a bad thing, but it's worth noting.
Overall, Die Softly is a real mystery, something you can re-read over and over without ever getting bored.
Rating: 8 out of 10
Also: I always love Pike's cheese ball covers :)