I was super excited when I came across a copy of the 1997 Christopher Pike novel, Execution of Innocence, in my collection of used paperbacks. Along with R.L. Stine, Christopher Pike was one of the kings of YA horror and suspense literature in the 1990s. In fact, his books were often a bit more macabre than even Stine’s. If Stine killed off four people in a book, Pike would probably kill off 8. I was looking forward to reading Execution of Innocence. Just the title alone promised all sorts of morbid drama! Unfortunately, the book itself doesn’t really live up to the promise of that title.
The book opens with Mary, a teenage girl, sitting in a police department. It turns out that one of her classmates, the wealthy Dick (and that does turn out to be an appropriate name) is dead. The cops thinks that Mary’s boyfriend, Charlie, murdered Dick because he got jealous over Mary and Dick going to the school dance. Charlie, it turns out, is a mechanic from the bad side of town. Mary’s a good girl and Charlie’s a bad boy, and Dick’s dead. And now, Charlie has mysteriously disappeared.
The problem is that Mary swears that she doesn’t remember what happened the night that Dick died. The cops are skeptical, especially when another witness comes forward and declares that Mary threatened to kill Dick herself! Now, Mary has to work with her friend Hannah and prove that she didn’t murder Dick. But what Mary doesn’t realize is that Hannah has secrets of her own….
This is one of those books where describing makes it sound more than it actually is. The mystery of who murdered Dick has the potential to be intriguing but Pike, instead, continually has his characters act in the most illogical and improbable of ways. The reader spends a good deal of the book trying to understand everyone’s possible motives just to discover that the actual motives either don’t make sense in the first place or, in the case of one major character, they feel a bit homophobic. It also doesn’t help that the book attempts to present Charlie and Mary as being some sort of ideal couple when they’re relationship is actually about as toxic as they come. You really can’t help but feel that all of Mary’s friends (and the cops) had a point when they warned her away from the guy.
Execution of Innocence is definitely not first-rate Pike. Try re-reading Monster instead. That’ll give you nightmares!