Darci Miller (17), a timid and sheltered girl, lives on a small farm with her overprotective father. Her mother was accidentally killed on Darci’s eleventh birthday, leaving Darci consumed with guilt. Prior to the accident, she overheard her parents whispering about a disturbing incident her mother incurred when she worked at Camp Chickadee years before, so Darci takes on the same job her mother had in a pursuit to discover what really happened.
When hot dogs explode during the welcoming ceremony, she is drawn into a dangerous game involving playing cards and a red joker. She discovers that the evil pranks are tied to her late mother. As she unravels more clues, her world is turned upside down once again when she discovers that the Joker is related to her, and that he was murdered with poison mushrooms by someone currently working at the camp. Determined to break out of the suffocating bubble that is her life, Darci draws upon her inner strength as she faces one challenge after another.
The story takes place in the summer of ’72 at a girls summer camp on the shores of Lake Secobee in Maine.
CHECK OUT THE 5-STAR REVIEW FROM READER'S FAVORITE UNDER "REVIEWS"
March 19, 1966. The worst day of Darci Miller’s life.
The living room was abuzz with the chatter of young girls gathered in the little farmhouse, its chipped and faded clapboards pleading for a coat of white paint. Darci’s mother set the birthday cake on the table covered by a red checkered tablecloth, the inviting aroma of sugar and vanilla lingering in the air. The dingy wallpaper and secondhand furniture faded into the background as the sun reflected off the snow-capped trees, illuminating the balloons and gifts adorned with glittering ribbons and bows.
The eleven candles were shaped into two fish swimming in opposite directions—Darci’s zodiac sign. Her mom smiled as she stared at the fish, knowing her daughter liked to escape into her dream world now and then.
After the gifts were opened and most of the guests said their goodbyes, Darci and her cousin Sandy stayed up to style each other’s hair and apply a touch of makeup, which was normally forbidden. A special day called for some rule bending.
But soon darkness descended upon the happy home, a nefarious energy overshadowing the colorful decorations like fog over a dazzling rainbow. The most joyous occasion in Darci’s life became her worst nightmare.
“Darci! Time to get up. Breakfast doesn’t make itself, you know. I did you a favor and collected the eggs this morning, but don’t get too spoiled ’cause I’m not gonna do that every day.”
“Okay Daddy, I’m coming.” She pulled a tissue from the box and dragged it across her clammy forehead, glancing at the alarm clock perched upon her aging dresser. 5:00 a.m. A puppy graced the front, and two keys in the back set the time and wound it up. It was a birthday gift from her parents on her tenth birthday, one of the last she would have with her mother. She stared at the framed picture of her mom kneeling in front of her prized lilac bushes, the sweet fragrance of the blooms still fresh in her memory. Now it was just Darci and her dad, doing their best to make ends meet and keep the meager farm going.
She brushed her long brown hair and wrapped her flannel bathrobe over her pajamas, staring at her feet as she pounded down the stairs. “I’ll start the coffee.”
“Get up on the wrong side of the bed this mornin’, did ya? If you don’t stop shakin’ you’ll dump more water on the floor than in the pot. What’s the matter?”
“I had that dream again, you know, the one I told you about. You should see this monster, he’s like a depraved clown. He was chasing Mom, and…”
Mr. Miller held up his palm. “Darci, stop. We have no time for such nonsense. Now scramble those eggs and do your chores before the bus comes. You don’t want to be late for school.”
She dumped cream into the eggs, whipping them into a frenzy before pouring the remaining cream into her father’s coffee cup. “I won’t be late.”
Taking a seat at the table, he noticed something poking out from underneath her chair cushion. “What’s THIS?” He ripped the magazine from the chair. “Teen Magazine?” Cheryl Ladd graced the cover. He flipped through the pages. “How to apply makeup? Belly dancing? Birth control? Don’t you have more important things to do than waste your time on this garbage?” His eyes narrowed as he unfolded a newspaper clipping tucked between the pages. “Well looky here…it’s that horoscope baloney again.”
“It’s not baloney. All my friends read their horoscopes. There’s nothing wrong with it. It’s 1972, not 1952!”
“Don’t sass me, young lady. I know perfectly well what year it is. You know, I thought time would heal the hole your mother’s death left in my heart, but each year seems to get harder, not easier. If only—.”
“Don’t go there Daddy. Don’t you think I’m hurting too? Mom meant everything to me. She read me stories, helped with my homework, baked cookies for me and my friends even when she was tired from working all day.” She gripped a chair as heat flushed through her body.
“And I know something bad happened to her when she was my age. I don’t know what it was, but…” She bit her lower lip, catching herself before more words came spilling out. The subject was off limits with her father. Tiny drops of blood spilled onto Cheryl Ladd’s blonde hair, melding with a trickle of salty tears.
“Of course I care how you feel.” He ran his hand through his thinning hair, ignoring her comment about her mother. “I’m sorry Darci. The stress of being a single father and putting food on the table has gotten the better of me. I’ll try to make it up to you.” He picked up the magazine and dabbed a napkin over the damp cover. “Make sure you read the article about money making ideas, we could sure use some.”
She tapped a fork against her chin, her eyes fixated on an expanding crack in the wooden table. “Thanks Daddy, you just gave me an idea.”