This must be only the second time I’ve read this particular Sammy Keyes book; I didn’t remember any of it. The only familiar part was the whole Sammy and Casey meeting at the graveyard plotline. Right up to the end, I had no idea what would happen next.
The series core group–Sammy, Marissa, Holly, Casey and Billy–goes trick or treating as zombies. This leads to a troublesome graveyard shortcut, a nasty run-in with Heather, and suspicions a-plenty when someone is beaten by a “cop.” To top it off, the graveyard trouble gets weird when Billy realizes he picked up a pair of skulls in the process. The book includes a lot of sneaking around, sometimes by the core group, and sometimes by those tailing the core group…
Despite all the previous Acosta drama, I think this is the first book where Casey is officially banned from seeing Sammy. That’s something I expected at some point, but earlier. Then again, why would he needed to be banned from seeing Sammy if they weren’t dating before this book? I guess the banning was an inevitable fallout, and not something to introduce before the relationship was official.
A lot of the book feels that way. Inevitable. Danny turns ultra-dark. I didn’t expect his turn as a villain to involve going to jail, but still… He was never a good guy, and any hope of “redemption” was dashed in Cold Hard Cash when Sammy and Marissa finding him making out with Heather.
Another inevitables? Billy begins dating someone else from the core group (Marissa). Marissa finally has a moment of closure with Danny. Elyssa, Dusty Mike and more (Runaway Elf) come back into the story, however brief it may be. van Draanen is not one to introduce side characters without bringing them back for cameos. (Unless you are that blackmailer also from Runaway Elf).
Night of the Skulls has a tame mystery, though it does take some clever piecing together of seemingly unrelated facts for Sammy to figure it out. Really though, I think this book was written for the inevitables. After the game-changing moment of Sammy and Casey officially dating, there needed to be a moment of calm. Because all that’s left after this is Power of Justice Jack, a huge book for character development; Showdown in Sin City, the greatest series climax of all time; Killer Cruise, a book I never thought we would get, because I never thought we would meet Sammy’s father; and Kiss Goodbye, the end of it all.