|Alternative Title||UK:High Stakes|
|Publication date||5 November 2004|
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Ninth Key is a novel written by Meg Cabot for teenagers and young adults. It is the second book of The Mediator series. Its alternative title is High Stakes.
Ghosts ruin everything. Especially your love life.
Everything is going great for Suze. Her new life in California is a whirlwind of parties and excellent hair days. Tad Beaumont, the hottest boy in town, has even asked Suze out on her very first date. Suze is so excited that she's willing to ignore her misgivings about Tad.particularly the fact that he's not Jesse, whose ghostly status-not to mention apparent disinterest in her-make him unattainable.
What Suze can't ignore, however, is the ghost of a murdered woman whose death seems directly connected to dark secrets hidden in none other than Tad Beaumont's past.
The book begins with Suze contracting a poison oak rash on her hands after falling into a clump of it at a pool-party of one of her peers, Kelly Prescott. At the party, Suze meets and dances with 'Tad', a student at a local school, Robert Lewis Stevenson.
Later that night,when Suze is asleep, a ghost woman appears and starts yelling, hysterical. The woman asks Suze to tell "Red" that he did not kill her. Suze does not know who this woman is, or who "Red" is, but the ghost disappears before she has the chance to ask. Suze asks around to see if anyone knows who Red might be and is informed by her friend, Cee Cee, that a local businessman called Thaddeus Beaumont goes by that name.
Suze tries and fails to get in contact with Mr Beaumont. While scheming over how she might get a conversation with him, she encounters the spirit of a young boy named Timothy, who tells her his parents abandoned his cat, Spike. Suze promises to find the animal and get him a good home.
With the pretense that she is there as a reporter for the school paper, Suze goes to Mr. Beaumont's mansion and meets him. In his office, she delivers the ghost's message, saying the woman appeared in a dream. Mr Beaumont doesn't have the reaction Suze expected, seeming only interested that he wasn't the cause of the woman's death, and that Suze was able to speak to her. Mr Beaumont is very eager to get Suze to summon the spirits of other people he says he has killed. Feeling disconcerted, Suze tries to leave, only to find that the elevator won't open and the windows are barred with heavy shutters. Mr Beaumont claims he is allergic to sunshine which is why he had to cover the windows.
Just as Suze is beginning to become nervous, Mr Beaumont's brother Marcus arrives and escorts her out, looking anxiously at her throat and asking if Mr Beaumont harmed her. On the way out of the mansion, they encounter Tad, Mr Beaumont's son. Recognizing her from the pool party, Tad offers to give Suze a ride home.
As Suze leaves the estate, Tad invites her to go have a coffee. Suze agrees and when he drops her off they start kissing in the car. Jesse purposefully shows up in the backseat to prevent Suze from going even more "forward" with Tad. Suze screams when she sees Jesse and tears into the house, leaving Tad alone in the car to drive away.
When Susannah explains what happened to Father Dominic, her principal and fellow mediator, he thinks that the strangeness of Mr Beaumont's behavior could be that he is a vampire. Suze disagrees with this at first, but Father Dominic says that they both know ghosts exist, so perhaps vampires do too.
Several days later, Suze retrieves Spike, Timothy's cat, from a field and will, for the time being keep him in her room. Cee Cee, who researched Mr. Beaumont after Suze asked her to, discovers disappearances linking to the production companies of Mr Beaumont. The disappearances are of people who opposed or tried to stop Beaumont Industries expanding their land and business. Cee Cee finds a picture of one of them, called Mrs Fiske, and Suze thinks it looks like the woman who appeared in her bedroom.
Adam, a mutual friend of Cee Cee and Suze, takes them all to Cee Cee's aunt's house. Cee Cee dislikes "Aunt Pru" as she is a fortune-teller. Adam tells Aunt Pru of Suze's "dream" and so Aunt Pru tries to summon one of the victims of Mr Beaumont, Mrs Fiske, using Tarot Cards. Mrs Fiske does show up in spirit form and confirms to Suze that "Mr Beaumont" killed her. However, Suze realises Mrs Fiske is not the woman who asked her to pass on the message.
Mr Beaumont and Tad invite Suze over for dinner at the house. Suze tries to avoid the invitation but can't, because her mother is so happy she has finally found a boyfriend. At the house, Mr Beaumont drugs Tad and tries to talk to her more about her alleged psychic abilities. Suze, frightened because she believes Mr Beaumont is a vampire, stabs him in the chest with a pencil (similar to a stake in the heart), however fails to kill him. Marcus tells Suze to never return and not speak of Mr Beaumont's so-called vampirisim, that he says is an illness. Suze later receives a phone call at home from Tad and gets in a fight with him. She tells Tad about his dad's illness, but Tad denies this. Suze suggests he ask Marcus where all his money comes from, implying she knows something about the disappearances of the people who opposed Beaumont Industries.
The next morning, Suze is sent home from school to change her outfit, a miniskirt, boots, and leather jacket, and is captured by Marcus and two thugs on the way. She fights hard to escape but Marcus forces her into Mr Beaumont's office, telling her to change into a swimsuit and leaves; him planning to kill her by sending her and Tad into the ocean on a boat during a storm and make it appear as though they drowned. Suze smashes the glass wall of the aquarium in the office when Marcus returns to check on her. Suze pulls the bulb out of one of the aquarium lights, and throws the cord with frayed wires into the water Marcus is walking through, electrocuting him. As the building catches fire, because of Suze overloading the circuit panel, Jesse, the ghost who often inhabits Suze's bedroom, appears, claiming Susannah "called" him, and breaks the window shutters to allow Tad and Suze escape the burning building.
Suze returns home safely, but is grounded by her parents as she is unable to tell them the full story, and just says that Marcus offered her a lift, and that the house caught fire. The story ends as Brad walks into his step-sister's bedroom discovering Spike, the cat, and tells her she is "busted" because Suze is not supposed to have animals in her bedroom.
Susannah 'Suze' Simon-The 16-year old narrator of the novel,she is a mediator.
Hector 'Jesse' de Silva-Jesse is the 150 yr old ghost haunting Suze's bedroom. (apparently was 20 years old when he died)Quotes
Jesse (about kissing Tad): I may have been dead for the past hundred and fifty years Susannah, but that doesn't mean I don't know how people say good night. And generally, when people say good night, they keep their tongues to themselves.
Susannah (about Brad and Debbie): This is not to say that I wasn't completely repulsed. I mean, I wasn't exactly proud that my stepbrother was in there tongue wrestling with the second stupidest person in our class, after himself.
Susannah: I swear, sometimes I am convinced my life is just a series of sketches for America's Funniest Home Videos, minus all that pants-dropping business. Except my life really isn't all that funny if you think about it.
Jesse (about Suze meeting the ghost of a woman in her bedroom): Now that, was your finest performance yet. You seemed caring yet disgusted.
Susannah (to Father Dominic, about Mr. Beaumont): Okay. This has gotten a little too Stephen King for me. I gotta get back to class or Mr. Walden's going to think I'm AWOL. But if I get a note from you later saying I'm gonna have to stake this guy in the heart, all bets are off. Tad Beaumont will totally not ask me to the prom if I killed his dad.
Jesse (to Suze- she imagines it): If kisses were what you were looking for, little fool, why didn't you come to me?
Doc: A society that valued its members solely for their outward appearance was a society destined for destruction.
Suze (to Marcus Beaumont): You can't kill your own nephew. I mean, I can't imagine something like that is going to make you too popular at Grandma's around the holidays.
Susannah: I’m sure that in Poland, or somewhere, it is considered cool to drive a Porsche and wear necklaces and black silk, but at least back in Brooklyn if you did those things you were either a drug dealer or from New Jersey.
Susannah: Tad’s father was clearly a couple of fries short of a Happy Meal.
Doc: While statistics concerning domestic violence are always difficult to obtain due to low reportage, incidents in which females batter male family members are reported even less, as the victims are almost always too embarrassed to tell members of law enforcement that they have, in fact, been beaten by a woman.
Suze (to Jesse): Golly gee, mister! I forgot all about your superpowers.
The Guard at the Beaumont Residence (to Suze): Honey, you talk faster than anyone I ever heard in my life. Would you care to repeat all that? Slowly, this time?
Jesse (to Suze, about the cat): He just doesn’t know you. I will introduce you.
(Picks up the cat and points him towards Suze.)
Jesse: Cat, this is Susannah. Susannah, meet the cat.