Original Publication Date: 1997
Ghostwriter? Yes, Nola Thacker
Creepy things are happening around the holidays. The main mystery takes place in Stoneybrook, where a series of vandalism and break-ins occurs in Kristy's neighborhood. Stacey and Claudia are in New York City, and deal with a strangely-distant Ethan who they think is reponsible for some freaky things. Turns out he's just distracted by creating a sculpture of Stacey, but his psycho ex is the one messing with Stacey. I'm not using the term "psycho" loosely either. It's kinda creepy.
Back to the 'Brook. The break ins (and even a burgary or two) come with spray paint designating the occupants of the houses as "naughty." A few other houses, including Kristy's and Abby's, are left notes marking them as "nice." Dawn stumbles upon a critical clue, which reveals the culprit: the gardener who works for many of the families (the "nice" ones), but had been let go from others ("naughty"). The police have Watson "fire" the man to set up a sting and catch him red-handed. I guess he was planning to scare his former clients and not be caught but have them make the connection that they should rehire him?
And another mystery: a very pregnant woman shows up at Mallory's church (she's religious for plot purposes, but not specifically Catholic which is kinda nice because of the stereotype of big Catholic families), with no idea who she is. Mallory and Jessi help her to back to the church, where someone gets to a hospital. During a visit, Mallory notices that the woman's sweater has a label from what seems to be an independent store in California. Mary Anne comes up with the idea to fax a picture of the woman's distinctive ring to some jewelry stores in the area in hopes that it was custom made. Because of cliches, the woman goes into labor on Christmas Eve. Just after she's been taken to the hospital, someone calls, recognizing the ring. The woman is Lisa, and with her husband in Australia on business, she went to visit some family on the East Coast (I wouldn't travel so far that late in pregnancy...). Her husband was due back Christmas Day, and just continues east to Connecticut, where his wife is regaining her memory after going through childbirth. She has a boy, Nicholas.
Established or continued in this book:
The Girls (and Logan):
Claudia candy: none mentioned; she's in NYC for most of the book
Logan and Shannon have inconsistent hair these last couple books. Both have curly hair sometimes. Shannon is consistent in always wearing mascara, though.
Ethan won't let Stacey and Claudia see his room because it's messy (really it's because his work-in-progress is inside). Claudia says she doesn't mind a messy room, which I'm sure is absolutely true.
Dawn's trying to be polite about exposure to unusaul food,, but she slips and asks in a worried tone about how much fried food is involved in a Hanukkah dinner, during the festivities. If you have food restrictions that you can't ignore at a religious or cultural celebration, you need to talk to the hosts before the event to see what you should avoid (for example, what might have allergens).
Stacey and Claudia drink coffee. While that's not unusual for young teens today, it was pretty weird back when I was in high school, and that was a couple years after this book was published. AND I live in the Seattle area, where my dad and I may be the only people over the age of ten who don't drink coffee.
Mallory's family is apparently involved enough in a church that they always help with the Christmas pageant.
Becca's in the same pageant...so does Jessi's family attend the same church? Jessi's really the only one who even mentions the idea of prayer, and only vaguely. (For example, in Jessi and the Awful Secret her internal narration goes "I prayed Mme Noelle would take me seriously.")
Mrs. Pike very sweetly brings the pregnant woman some maternity clothes to replace her "drafty" hospital gown (Mrs. Pike's euphemism). I've worn a hospital gown twice, once for knee surgery and once in labor, and both times they tied at on side and wrapped around to tie again at the other side. These were both at the same hospital though, so perhaps the types with open backs are more common other places. But even gowns I've worn for exams have covered decently.
When Stacey graduates high school, her dad has promised to buy her earrings from Tiffany's.
Mallory's parents tell the Pike children they have an announcement. Mallory's first thought is that Mrs. Pike is pregnant, but it's that the pregnant woman with amnesia will spend Christmas with them.
Sharon drives a Subaru Outback. She wanted all-wheel drive for the snow, and Subarus comes with that standard. Makes sense.
It's not clear whether Jeff is visiting for Christmas.
The Club (and clients):
Jackie is also in the pageant, so perhaps the Rodowskys attend the same church as well.
The school's boiler broker so Christmas break starts two days early for SMS. Claudia and Stacey would have missed those two days anyway, due to the timing of the NYC trip.
If you happen upon a crime scene, DON'T TOUCH ANYTHING. The only exception is if a victim is still at the crime scene and alive. The Papadakises start cleaning up after a break-in and...just...all the evidence they're destroying...
Transporting a laboring woman in your car? Get a tarp or shower curtain or at least a towel for her to sit on. Childbirth is messy.
This is the last Super Mystery. Yay! I don't like even the regular mysteries. Although I enjoyed this one more than most.
This copy used to belong to the Port Jefferson Free Library of Port Jefferson, NY. It was once sold for $4.50.
Slight typo on page 189 when Mary Anne is supposed to be the narrator but is referred to in third person.
This book has far more references to religion than most BSC books, but they're respectful and even informative, like the parts about Hanukkah and its traditions. It's too bad that there's no mention of the Papadakises celebrating Epiphany in place of Christmas. They're Greek, so I could see them being Greek Orthodox without too much trouble.
At least in the US, robbery and burglary aren't synonomous. The former is an attack on person, like a mugging, and the latter is a property crime, like a cat burglar sneaking in and stealing something. Both are theft, but they're done different ways.
It's hard to tell whether this is the same Christmas as in The Secret Life of Mary Anne Spier. Mary Anne's not in this book much, and she was busy with her secret life. But there's no mention of the fundraiser. Dawn's visiting, which is the same, but Mary Anne wouldn't have had to miss school to go to the airport if SMS closed two days early, and couldn't have had the conversation with Claudia that she does in the previous book. And Hanukkah starts before Christmas this time around, and you'd think Sharon and Richard driving an amnesiac woman in labor to the hospital Christmas Eve would be mentioned...I think I have enough to count this as a separate holiday season from the last book!
Actually, the church pageant director's decision to have identical triplets play the three wise men is funny but not brilliant or inspired, as Mallory claims. There's no indication in the Gospels of how many wise men there were, just that there were three gifts. Traditionally, they're depicted as three men who couldn't be less identical: one from Africa, one from Europe, and one from Asia; and are even different ages. They're a symbol of how the Gospel message is for everyone. It's cute to have triplets play them, and I might even jump at the chance, but I'd never call it inspired. Also, the wise men didn't show up when the shepherds did; they came later on.
There are a couple reference that lead me to believe the pregnant woman is swollen and retaining water more than normal. I hope the hospital checked her for pre-eclampsia. I had it with my first pregnancy, but so far nothing this time around. My blood pressure's been behaving very well, better that it was even at my first prenatal appointment in 2010. I've got about three months to go; fingers crossed!
Starting 8th grade: 10
Halloweens in 8th grade: 6 (plus one in seventh)
Thanksgivings in 8th grade: 3
Winter holidays in 8th grade (that BSC members celebrate in the plot of a book, not just reference): Christmas-5, Hanukkah-2, Kwanzaa-3
Valentine's Days in 8th grade: 3
Summers after 8th grade: 10
BSC Fights: 11
SMS Staff and Faculty: 67
Students (other than the BSC): 214: 120 8th graders (not including Amelia Freeman, who is deceased), 29 7th graders, 48 6th graders, 15 unspecified. Baby-sitters' Winter Vacation tells us that SMS has about 380 students.
Clients: 37 families
Types of candy in Claudia’s room: 134