Monday, April 20, 2009

BSC Mystery #3: Mallory and the Ghost Cat

Brief Synopsis:

This was one of the most non-mysterious BSC mysteries out there. In fact, the main plot really has nothing to do with the ghost cat--it's mostly about Mallory's great uncle Joe. I get the feeling that this was supposed to be a Very Special Book entitled Mallory and her Demented Uncle but they recycled it into a mystery when they started the BSC mystery series. I mean, the BSC mystery serial.

So the main storyline is that Mr. Pike's Uncle Joe is coming from the nursing home where he lives to stay with the Pikes for a month. Mr. P always told the kids stories about all the fun things he used to do with Uncle Joe, but when they meet him, it turns out he's stiff and not very lovable. Oh, and he obviously has Alzheimer's (often forgets things in the short term but has a keen grasp of things from a long time ago, gets confused about what time it is, doesn't remember the kids' names, etc.) but the Pikes don't think to tell their kids till the end of the book. So they cut short the visit since he needs more intensive care. Finally, it turns out that Uncle Joe IS nice but the kids don't realize till the last day. He's more comfortable with interacting with the kids one at a time. Then they visit him in his nursing home, and all's well. I guess. Except that Alzheimer's isn't curable yet, so this is actually pretty depressing.

Mysteeeeeerious subplot. Mallory is sitting for a new family, the Craines. They have three girls (Margaret who's six, Sophie who's four, and Katie who's two). When sitting, Mal and the girls find a white cat in the attic. The mystery is that sometimes Mallory hears mewing noises from the attic when the cat (named Ghost Cat) is downstairs. And also they find some letters and photographs in the attic from the original owner of the house who talks about having this white cat named Tinker that he loved. Then Tinker dies and the old man (Kennedy Graham) goes a bit mad and hears cat noises. Oh, then Ghost Cat's real owner shows up and he looks just like Kennedy Graham. So...he was a ghost? Then the girls adopt their own cat, called Tinkerbell, who's deaf, much like Matt Braddock. Maybe Jessi will show up to teach us all ASL for cats. And...scene. God, I don't even care.

  • In the early chapters where all the descriptions are given (you know, how many different ways can we say that Mary Anne should be on some kind of emotional suppressant and that Jessi's skin is the color of ebony), Mal tells us that she doesn't like her looks, but that her dad says one day she'll be a knockout. Why do I have an image of Mallory standing in front of a mirror a few years in the future, her glasses and braces off, all made up, saying, "I'm...I'm ugly...I'm an ugly girl, daddy."
  • So it's mysterious that there are mewing noises heard only by only Mallory (and also by Kennedy Graham). No mystery there. Mallory's as cracked as an old man who's been living alone with only the company of a cat. (Hey, rooming with Vanessa Pike will do that to you!)
  • Oh, it's also mysterious that the cat gets out of the laundry room where it was staying and runs around the house. They all look for it everywhere but can't find it. And then they find the cat in the laundry room again. Okay, next let's solve the mystery of why the cat turns into a demon at 6:00 AM when everyone's still in bed and he absolutely must be fed. (Hint: cats is weird.)
  • When Uncle Joe first arrives, Mallory's a bit shocked that he doesn't say anything about the hideous banner Claire and Margo made welcoming him to the house. And then Claire grabs him by the hand and leads him into the house, at which point he asks Mrs. Pike if he can wash his hands because Claire's hands were sticky. Mr. and Mrs. Pike think this is indicative of some OCD tendencies. Uh, no, he's not an elderly Adrian Monk. Your unwashed kids are just not that cute. And Uncle Joe? I think I love you. Can you roll your eyes at "silly billy goo goo" next? Please?
  • Mallory and Claudia are babysitting together for the Pikes at one point. When Claudia first meets Uncle Joe, she's gushes, "Hi, Uncle Joe!" He stares at her and is all, "My name ain't Uncle. It's Joe. Mr. Pike, if you're nasty--which you are." Well, not really, he just tells her to stick to Mr. Pike. When he's gone, Claudia's in shock and blurts out what a mean old man he is. Okay, if my awkward great niece brought home a ridiculous looking moppet who called me Uncle, I'd be weirded out, too. But then every old person in Stoneybrook seems to relish being called Grandma or whatnot by relative strangers (Mimi, Nannie, etc.).
  • So during dinner (again, while Mal and Claud sit for the kids), Margo and Nicky squabble, and then Jordan laughs and spits food out that lands a few inches from Uncle Joe's plate. Uncle Joe gets pissed and leaves and the others are in shock because this was a relatively calm dinner for the Pikes. Okay, but Mallory? You think it's normal that your seven year old sister vomits at the drop of a hat and peels bananas with her feet. And Greasy Grimy Gopher Guts are a staple of the Pike kids' dinner conversation. You don't get to judge what's gross.
  • Later on, Margo and Claire bring Uncle Joe a slice of cake and perform their "play" for them (it's some lame fairy tales). Uncle Joe falls asleep while they perform (thank you, Uncle Joe, the Pikes put me to sleep as well). But Mallory thinks it's slightly encouraging that the chocolate cake is gone. No, it doesn't mean you guys are any more tolerable, Mal. It just means that Uncle Joe, like all normal human beings, enjoys chocolate. I'd sit through a Vincent Gallo production if it meant a steady stream of chocolate.
  • Jessi and Mal feel like their parents treat them like babies. But the other 13 year old sitters assure them that that's normal at age eleven. I really hated when they got all world weary about being thirteen. You can't be jaded yet! None of you even menstruate! No one here has gotten a weird piercing. No one's been anorexic, smoked so much as a cigarette, or had a drink. Go rent Thirteen, then we'll talk. (I'm giving Dawn a pass for taking a sip of wine cooler in California Diaries.)
  • In one scene, Uncle Joe and Mallory's dad are reminiscing about the old days. All of a sudden, Uncle Joe gets confused and says he doesn't remember Mr. Pike's name. Oh, Uncle Joe, it's John. It's always John. John Ramsey, John Pike, John Kishi, and every other client is a John. (That sounded so dirty.)
  • Also, Mallory seems to think it's weird that Uncle Joe arrived at the Pike house wearing a blue suit buttoned all the way to the top. I'm not taking fashion advice from the girl who wore an "I HEART KIDS" shirt to her first BSC meeting. I'm just not. Uncle Joe, I already like you way better than most of the BSC members.
  • Dawn shows up at one of Mallory's sitting jobs to test if Ghost Cat is...well, a ghost. Mallory says that the Craine girls are still at the age where ghosts aren't scary but rather are fun. Really? Because I seem to remember Andrew--and pretty much EVERY small child--being utterly terrified by Karen's stories about Old Ben Brewer. Also, does that mean when you reach the age of eleven, it's the age where you learn that ghosts are frightening and real?
  • Well, anyway, Dawn has this ectoplasm meter that she sent away for (advertised on the back of a comic book) made from cardboard that's supposed to test if something is a ghost. Huh. Dawn reads comics. Then they test to see if Ghost Cat is transparent or if he's actually solid by having him go through a piece of string. (Um, how about the fact that you can pick him up?) Then Unchained Melody plays as Mallory and Dawn sculpt a piece of pottery--oh, no, wait. They take a Polaroid shot of Ghost Cat and he shows up, so it looks like he's not a Vampire Cat either, in case you were worried. (Speaking of vampire books, why couldn't this book be Bunnicula instead?!) It disturbs me that neither Mallory nor Dawn displays a hint of irony. Then again, Mary Anne genuinely believes that ghosts drove her out of Dawn's room in Dawn's Wicked Stepsister.
  • Speaking of an unchained (or unhinged?) Melody, Kristy babysits for the Korman kids, and her own sister, Karen. Melody Korman, who's Karen's age, spends the evening pretending to be a cat. Skylar (her one year old sister) is scared at first because she's got a cat phobia. Skylar's also scared of the fish fountain in the hall so they never turn it on. Did I mention I hate Skylar? Kristy thinks Emily Michelle's weird for being afraid of the dark and for having separation anxiety. But you just know that one day, one of the sitters will walk in to find Skylar curled up in her crib rocking back and forth anxiously screeching "NO TAT!" or howling something about the Toilet Monster.
In conclusion, now I know why Mallory and Jessi each only got one mystery book. This was abysmal. It was a bad mystery (well, non existent, really) and a bad Very Special Book (c'mon, when Full House does a better Alzheimer's episode, you know your book is lame). I always hoped that maybe this cat plot would dovetail with the Uncle Joe plot. Like, maybe Uncle Joe was Kennedy Graham in a past life? Or he'd adopt Ghost Cat and be happy? But no, these are two hastily slapped together plots in one book.

Also, Uncle Joe is my new favorite character. I want to hang out with him. We can kvetch about "kids these days" and make fun of Dora the Explorer, Miley Cyrus, and Teen Vogue. And then I'd film a movie starring him!

On that note, I don't really have anything in mind for my next recap just yet. If anyone wants to suggest anything (specific BSC titles or anything, really) to help me get my snark on, suggestions are more than welcome.