Tales Point Horror Book Club – Fatal Secrets by Richie Tankersley Cusick

Do you remember the Point Horror Book Series from the 90’s?  The Point Horror Series was a series of young adult point horror books and was launched in 1991 by Scholastic always with the Point Horror banner on the spine and on the top of every point horror book.  There were a number of authors that wrote these books for Scholastic: R L Stine, Diane Hoh, Caroline B Cooney, Sinclair Smith to name but a few.

Are the Point Horror books we loved as a teenager still our favourites on the re-read?  Are you new to Point Horror?  Has our opinion changed?  Are they still as good?  Do they stand up to modern day YA Horror?  Or are they a whole load of cray cray?

Lets find out…


 Join in the discussion with this months title!

Fatal Secrets by Richie Tankersley Cusick


Don’t forget to use the #pointhorrorbookclub on twitter so I can see your thoughts or tweet me using @chelleytoy

 There is a link to a poll at the bottom of this post to vote for your next #pointhorrorbookclub read for November! The next book will be announced on 17th October 2016

Don’t forget up for missing last months #PointHorrorBookClub I am posting a special Halloween treat on the 31st October where we will be discussing Halloween Night 2!


For links to #pointhorrorbookclub posts old and new, Point Horror guest posts and interviews with Point Horror authors please click here

Also do check out our Q&A with the one and only Richie Tankersley Cusick that went live last month – here !

** Please note that as this is a discussion there will be spoilers**

The Tagline

Skating on thin ice…

Okay ….so…What’s It All About?

Ryan McCauley has just watched her sister drown in icy cold water with only her red ribbons left floating on the surface…all in what seems like a tragic accident with no body left to be found.  But just before Marissa died she gave Ryan a roll of film to develop and tried to tell Ryan a secret!

A secret?  Oh I love secrets!  Do tell!

Well that’s the thing Ryan doesn’t know and when strange things start to happen she begins to think that someone is after her next wants her dead too!

Surely not?!

Yep…..thus begins the moving dolls, presents from the dead, honking car horns, hallucinations and hearing her dead sister Marissa, spiked cider and creepy Father Christmas’s chasing Ryan down the street!

Not a creepy phone call in sight in this book!

For realises?  OMG!

But never fear because she has the best Point Horror boy ever to help her and you can always rely on your boss and your parents right?!

The Girl

Ryan McCauley with her brown hair, brown eyes and love of doll houses and pine cones was actually a pretty decent Point Horror girl I have to admit!  I actually really liked her.

Her sister Marissa’s death seemed to have a huge impact on Ryan and rightly so as she basically watched her drown in the opening chapters and I think this was actually really well done!  Feeling pushed out by her mother and forgotten about all seemed part of the grieving process that the family was going through and I thought RTC captured this well.

I loved he scenes when she was hallucinating in the toy shop, beating up an unsuspecting snowman and being chased by a Father Christmas with a bell….I actually felt scared for her at some points as the tension was mounting!

I mean she actually became scared to death it sent her over the edge…..but wouldn’t you be with all that happening to you?

But most of all I loved her flirting with Jinx!  More on him in a minute!

The Love Interest

Prepare yourself……

Are you ready?

You know what’s coming don’t you!?


*kisses every page Jinx appears on*

Be still my beating heart!

Look I’m a sucker for a funny, cheeky boy and Jinx ticked all these boxes and more!

The so called irritating little brother of Ryan’s best friend Phoebe with his brown eyes , baby face and one dimple in his little cute cheek. He was always making Ryan smile and of course me and lets not forget how his room reflected his personality.

He lit up every page!  I’ve never shipped a Point Horror pair quite like I have with Jinx and Ryan!




Jinx and Ryan’s flirting was everything!  And when Jinx got a little jealous of hunk Winchester my heart ached!

And his love of pizza held no bounds!  The scene when he ran (in slow motion in my head) to Ryan’s rescue dropping his pizza on the floor as quick as anything is surely a pure sign of love!


The Gang

Only fair to start with Ryan’s blond curled hair sister, Marissa, who basically dies on page 8!  The typical first victim of any good horror!

With her love of red ribbons in her hair and a blouse that got wet and turned red like blood she was destined to be the victim leaving little clues behind about her “secret” and an undeveloped film which gave me nostalgic flashbacks to those good old days of sending rolls of film off to Truprint!  Oh and don’t forget she prefers the smell of turkey not the cold!  You know because they are totally related!

Then we have the typical best friend, Phoebe, with her dimples, blue eyes, her need for natural curly hair, crazy about guys and lets not forget fancying Steve!  Yes, she fancied Ryan’s Mom’s boyfriend….because he’s such a catch….and an evil gun wielding drug lord!

Phoebe seemed like the best friend that we have come to know and love from our Point Horror’s especially as she was crazy about guys too!

I loved the fight she has with her brother Jinx (*swoons*) …and basically revealed all his deepest darkest secrets out of spite for him getting her grounded!  Loved it!

Winchester the loner with his shy looks, shy slow smile, hair as black as ravens wings and gorgeous looks he was our bit of hot Point Horror totty lets be honest here.  He made me imagine Nick Jonas….which is never a bad thing!


 He was very caring about his family and basically went out with Ryan’s sister when she was alive but it turns out that he was really after Ryan *eye roll*

However, he was drawn into the drug ring of being the delivery boy….but I will forgive his devilish good looks because his family’s life was being threatened and he basically turned hero in the end by trying to save everyone which I’m tempted to write allllll the fan fiction about especially in his tight fitting jeans!

*fans self*

And there’s creepy Charles Eastman an apparent friend of Marissa’s, a stranger to Ryan and her Mom, who came bearing gifts and was invited to stay in their house!  With his blonde hair, intense stare and creepy personality he charmed his way around Ryan’s Mom all to try and find out if Ryan knew anything about Marissa’s secret.  He was vile from the first page I laid eyes on him and lets not forget he was the worst driver ever!  He got lost, hit a dog, got a flat tyre and drove off and left his intoxicated passenger in the middle of nowhere in the snow!


Moving on swiftly to the “artsy section of town”…… to Mr Partini and his toy shop where he makes all the toys himself…..you know to STASH HIS DRUGS IN!  An old Italian man who lost his wife 25 years previously and who employed Ryan in his shop was in on it all along!  Calling Ryan his little Bambalina was just a cover up for his evil streak.  Who would have thought it?!

The Parents!

Yep I’m giving them a whole section to themselves as again this Point Horror reminds me why we should never moan that parents are often “absent” from Point Horror….and not in the way you might expect.

I mean we had Ryan’s Mom….a widow and totally in love with her new beau Steve.  I liked Ryan’s Mom…..she was grieving for one of her daughters who had died and her body not found, she cared for Ryan although Ryan couldn’t necessarily see that.  I mean okay she let a stranger called Creepy Charles stay in her house but still she was a good example of a Point Horror Mom trying her best.

And then there’s Steve……rich, college professor Steve.  With his sports car, boat, cute smile, funny personality, hair thinning on top and a mole on his……(that sentence was never finished and it scares me!).  Oh and lets not forget he’s a drug lord and a killer.

Once I found out he was part of the reveal everything about him literally gave me the creeps.  All the little Step Father pep talks to Ryan and little winks and acts of kindness just to try and find out if Ryan knew anything ….ugh!  And there’s the fact that Marissa had found out about his little drug ring with the others so he got her killed to protect himself and his “business”.  I always remember being shocked when I read this in my teens that an actual parent figure was in on it and I wonder if that’s why this book stuck in my mind all these years later as a fave….I couldn’t remember why it was a fave, but I definitely think this twist was one of the main reasons.  I mean who doesn’t love a good twist?!

Fashion Faux Pas

I did not find any!

Unless you count the blouse that Marissa remembered wearing that got wet and turned red like blood…..knock off?

Dialogue Disasters

I didn’t find too many dialogue disasters in this one…just a few things that made me chuckle as normal….

“Ryan you couldn’t be mean to anybody”

Tell that to the poor snowman she beat up!

“You need a boyfriend”

Pheobe has the best solution to Ryan’s problems…..not!

“And Mr Partini wouldn’t let anything happen to me”

Oh wouldn’t he?

“Ryan wondered how he could often look so cuddly and be such a holy terror”

*daydreams about Jinx*

“Ryan felt like a sack of lead”


“Your entirely too high strung”

With just reason!

“Shadows don’t honk.  Shadows don’t talk”

*coughs* this is Point Horror! *coughs*

“You’ve got about as much self confidence as a rabbit”

Jinx is trying the tried and tested Watership Down chat up line…..I still would 😉

“They’re all big ones”

Point Horror stumbling into Point Romance territory!

And last but by no means least the line that wins ALL of the awards…..

“Without warning the elves started singing their Christmas Carols….but on low speed, demons voices”

Forget killer clowns…..evil demon elves is where it’s at!


Body Count


You heard me right!


Well 3 if we count the beaten up snowman….RIP Snowy!

But Yayyyyyyy!

Richie gives us Point Horror fans exactly what we crave! One death by drowning in icy cold frozen water at the start and one death by gunshot right at the end!

I feel bad…..but WHAT A TREAT!

Is it scary?

Not entirely, but I did find they whole being chased by Santa with his little ringing bell quite terrifying I will be honest.  How scary was that scene?!

Did the best friend do it?

Nope not this time…..but basically the whole town was virtually in on it….

Okay I exaggerate….it was only the shop owner, the creepy stranger, the handsome hunk and the step dad….no big deal!

*blows mind*

Some Mild Peril?

I guess the whole barn shotgun showdown at the end is a huge mix of mild peril….but up until that point Ryan wasn’t exactly in too much danger really was she?

Oh except those icy roads and creepy Father Christmas!

Is it any good?

I always said that this Point Horror was a favourite of mine back in the day and I always knew the twist at the end kind of shocked me and it’s stayed with me all these years and I have to say this book did not disappoint me at all.

I loved it!

I think the characters were great.  The storyline was great.  The twist and reveal was great.

I even loved the little popcorn mention on page 20!  Mmmmmmmmmm

Final Thought

Who actually did get sent to kill Marissa?

Cover Wars!


Over to you!

As well as your thoughts on the book I’ve added some fun questions to ponder!

  • Winchester, Jinx or Charles?
  • Who really did kill Marissa as Steve did not like to get his hands dirty?
  • You want to send someone mad to retrieve a secret…what would you do?

You can leave a reply by using the reply button at the top of the page!

See you at #pointhorrorbookclub for a one off special on the 31st October 2016 to discuss Halloween Night 2 !


You can vote for your next #PointHorrorBookClub read for November here!

Voting closes on the 17th October 2016!

And the winner was…..


The next read will be announced on the #pointhorrorbookclub page here and on twitter using the hashtag #pointhorrorbookclub on the 17th October 2016!

For links to #pointhorrorbookclub posts old and new, Point Horror guest posts and interviews with Point Horror authors please click here

Thanks for joining in….



Written by

I am often known to be a bit clumsy and a little loopy! Book loving (obsessed), theatre loving, slasher film loving csi geek! Winner of UKYABA Champion Newcomer 2015 and nominated for Champion of Social Media 2016 and Blogger Of The Year 2016! © 2014 - 2021 Michelle Toy All Rights Reserved

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8 Responses

  1. Paul P says:

    Oh dear. I read this over a month ago and have almost completely forgotten everything about it! For me, it didn’t stick in my head the same way some of Cusick’s others have. “Teacher’s Pet”, mostly for nostalgic reasons, will always remain my favourite. “Trick Or Treat”, “April Fools” and “The Mall” are ones I can remember clearly too. As for “Fatal Secrets” I even can’t remember the being-chased-down-the-street-by-Santa bit! I’m ashamed of myself! That alone has me wanting to pick it up and read it again. I do remember being genuinely surprised by the number of characters involved in the conspiracy; it’s a nice deviation from the norm and was quite unexpected. I like it when a book can surprise me.

    I also recalled getting a little frustrated with Ryan. You can tell Cusick is strongly influenced by gothic elements in her tales – I find many of her heroines just a little too timid for my liking. It seems like something as simple as a door banging against a wall is enough to send them loopy!

    Like all good Point Horror (although technically, as Cusick herself pointed out, this wasn’t a Point Horror), it’s enjoyable to read and the suspension of disbelief required to swallow all the plot explanations is quite amusing. However, it just wasn’t particularly memorable for me. I read “The Mall” around the same time as this, and the fact I can still remember that one clearly says to me that “Fatal Secrets” just didn’t grab me.

    Winchester, Jinx or Charles? Seriously – I can’t remember them to tell them apart! I’ll go with Winchester, due to the Nick Jonas comparison.

    Who really killed Marissa? The book didn’t tell us? Why can’t I remember? Unfortunately, I have no idea.

    How to send someone mad to retrieve a secret? Get them to read “Call Waiting”.

    • Chelley Toy says:

      Hi Paul….I know what you mean. I think Fatal Secrets holds that nostalgic value for me too….so completely understand.

      Also I’m sure it wasn’t revealed about Marissa as Steve said he doesn’t do his dirty work himself…..but maybe I’m wrong and just missed this?

  2. Cazzy says:

    Hey PHBC,

    This one was new to me as I’d stopped reading PH by the time this was published and now feel like I definitely missed out!

    I really liked this one. The writing and storyline seemed much tighter than many of the other PHs and I wondered whether it was because this was something that RTC had the idea for and wrote instead of being given a title to write around?

    I agree with Paul P that the heroine was pretty jumpy (whimpy) but I thought under the circumstances it was allowable: she felt in the shadow of her older sister, was grieving for her and felt neglected by her mother who was dealing with her own grief.

    I suspected Steve, the moment he was mentioned, even before actually meeting him in the book, but towards the middle I started doubting myself! My initial idea was that he’d had an affair with Marissa but i was definitely barking up the wrong tree there ? I didn’t trust Charles one bit, but wasn’t exactly sure what his motives were. What did shock me was the old toy maker/drug Czar and the fact that drugs were integral to this story. I thought that was quite an adult theme, that maybe would not have been accepted had this been written specifically as a PH book.

    Overall, I think this is one of the better ones.

    Winchester, Jinx or Charles?

    Who really did kill Marissa as Steve did not like to get his hands dirty?
    Old toy maker man/ drug Czar gets my vote!

    You want to send someone mad to retrieve a secret…what would you do?
    Lock them in a room and repeatedly play Crazy Frog until they spill.

    • Chelley Toy says:

      Yay….so glad you liked this one Cazzy! I think maybe it’s important to remember that RTC told us in our Q&A that this one wasn’t actually written for the Point Horror brand, but was packaged that way here in the UK…..there seemed to be a difference that knowing that I could see I think.

      I remembered a vital question I should have asked too!!! Where actually was Steve mole???!!! :-0

  3. Chelley, I join you wholeheartedly in your Jinx love. He was AMAZING. I love that kind of sarcastic, banter-y support. He was totally there for her, but in such a sardonic way I think it was probably bracing. LOVED him.
    I swear, I would almost write fanfiction of those two.
    Anyway, the rest of the book. I read this one fairly recently for the first time and I was boggled and amused by the way everyone (practically) was involved in the drug plot. In a way it makes sense, since drug smuggling isn’t really a solitary pursuit, but it still made me giggle when more and more and MORE people showed up at the end. Yeesh.
    Charles Eastman was genuinely creepy. Ugh, Ryan’s mother had ZERO judgement. I know she was grieving, but really, lady, pull it together. How anyone could let him stay in the house was beyond me. If he’d had the word THREAT tattooed on his forehead it couldn’t have been more obvious.

    1. Winchester, Jinx or Charles?
    Definitely Jinx. Although I dated a real life version of Winchester once.
    2. Who really did kill Marissa as Steve did not like to get his hands dirty?
    Hmmm. Maybe the creepy toymaker. Or a whole bunch of other characters we never got to meet? This drug plot seemed to have a cast of thousands!
    3. You want to send someone mad to retrieve a secret…what would you do?
    Hire clowns to follow them everywhere. That’d work on me, anyway!

    I have the sort of boring-but-pretty blue ice cover. I like the other one much better; it’s cheesy but classic, somehow.

  4. Caroline says:

    I got kinda obsessed reading this one. I definitely enjoyed it. My review on goodreads is slightly out of control https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1739622875?book_show_action=false&from_review_page=1

    Cover wars

    Totally the one with dolls on it. Dolls scare the crap out of me. I had the broken ice ribbon version as my copy. The doll cover would have been one of those you turn upside down before bed so they can’t look at you in the night.

    Q1. Winchester, Jinx or Charles?

    I’m not normally into bad boys but Winchester all the way – though I did really like Jinx. Do you remember the TV series Due South? I loved the mountie in that so much as a teenager. I mean loved. So much. So even though Winchester was in on the drug cartel, the fact he has a log cabin scores major bonus points with me.

    Q2. Who really did kill Marissa as Steve did not like to get his hands dirty?

    Ooh! Can’t believe I didn’t question this!! I think Santa did it. He was in on it too right?

    Q3. You want to send someone mad to retrieve a secret…what would you do?

    I would just pretend to be Marissa’s ghost but hang around for longer and say “I forgot what I said… oooohh…. what were my last words again?…… ooooohhhh”


    I would pretend to be a school counsellor and say “It is very important you write an essay about your sisters death. You cannot move on and gain closure unless you complete this assignment. What you remember about her last hours, how many pinecones she collected, exactly every word she said before she died. That sort of thing. 5000 words. On my desk by Monday morning”

  5. @PaulHi says:

    Hey guys!

    I’m late this month, so I’ll keep this brief: I bloody LOVED this one. I was genuinely gripped, and the world-and-his-wife ending was both audacious and hilarious (well, if it’s good enough for Agatha Christie in Murder on the Orient Express, I guess it’s good enough for RTC).

    Chelley and Necromommycon: you can both keep your grubby little mitts off Jinx. I will fight you for him and I will drown you in the woods and I will win and he will be mine. I loved him. Also, the bantery dialogue between him and Ryan was genuinely funny at times. Hurray for RTC.


    1. Jinx. Jinx Jinx Jinx. My lovely Jinx.
    2. My theory is that ALL of the drug gang were en route to off her, but before they could arrive she tragically tripped over a discarded drug-filled toy and plummeted face first through the ice.
    3. Ask them to explain the plot of The Cemetery, and watch their brain implode.

    I love BOTH covers this month. I think I prefer the classy blue version, but the bonkers US one is a hammy treat!