Lois Duncan’s mystery book, Killing Mr. Griffin is known for its television film that aired on April 7, 1997. It was praised for its thrilling adventure and the story was enticing, but would you recommend this story to anyone?
The story is taking place in Albuquerque, New Mexico, at Del Norte High. Mr. Griffin is known for treating his students strictly on their work, and his excuse from the book is, “Because they can help it, especially with today’s technology. Anybody can Google a word if he doesn’t know its meaning or use spell-check if he doesn’t know how to spell it. Time can be planned so that assignments come in on time. There’s no excuse for carelessness.” Since then, many of his students have a grudge at the teacher, especially Mark Kinney, who was held back by Mr. Griffin.
The exposition begins when Mark decides to get revenge on Mr. Griffin by doing a kidnapping prank; taking him to the mountains and faking a kidnap. Betsy Cline and Jeff Garrett join, and attempts to bring in David Ruggles to also drag in Susan McConnell. Mark wanted Susan in because of how innocent and easy it’ll be to use her, since her crush, David, is involved in their plan. Honestly, we all know what happens when Susan is driven by peer pressure; she joins anyway.
In the rising action, the group decides on how their prank will go and even plan on their alibis to prove that they aren’t responsible for this “possible” kidnapping. Now, Duncan made sure to describe how they were able to provide any evidence for their alibis, which, is actually pretty decent and understandable, using Susan to make a conference with Mr. Griffin to stall him until no one else was on school grounds. Their plan worked as their strict teacher was tied down with a bag over his head, but apparently no one witnessed having a tied up grown man in the passenger seat with a bag over his head on the way to the mountains, which doesn’t make sense at all.
They successfully take Mr. Griffin into the mountains, with Betsy late to their arrival in Jeff’s car, and by changing their voices, they taunt and ask Mr. Griffin. Now, they didn’t change their voice at all when he was still conscious once he was bagged and tied up, so Mr. Griffin could possibly know of who was playing this prank on him. Mark decides to leave the teacher on the ground after he had crushed Mr. Griffin’s pills, and all that were present (Betsy, Jeff, and David) left.
The climax begins (by guess) the next day when David calls to take Susan out to eat, but she persuades him to take her to where they left Mr. Griffin. Before, he was going to take her to get a snack at a restaurant to (by the most reasoning guess) apologize from the whole prank, but his apology will have to work by taking her up to the mountains to free the teacher. All goes to Susan’s request as they drove to where Mr. Griffin was, but find him dead.
The summary explains how everyone involved in the prank face an awful truth that someone murdered the teacher, but in the story, the only one devastated by Mr. Griffin’s death (besides Mrs. Griffin) is Susan. The others don’t care at all about the death of their teacher, so putting down that the others face the awful truth isn’t much help.
The falling action is when Mark does everything to cover up the disappearance of Mr. Griffin. He convinces everyone to get rid of the teacher’s car and for Susan to lie to a detective about the accident. This only causes suspicion, as Mr. Griffin’s wife and the detective start to question the teens more. But David decides to take Mr. Griffin’s ring, and hid it at home, where his grandmother finds it and accuses her grandson to sneaking out to meet his dad, who had ran away. Mark, being careful not to get caught or exposed of the accident, decides to murder David’s grandmother to shut her up about a week after Susan discovers the death of Mr. Griffin.
The death of his grandmother happened while Betsy, Jeff, and Mark were at Susan’s house to discuss more on covering up the accident. Once David phoned in and told Susan the description of the murder and it perfectly matched up Mark’s look. Panicking, she wants to call the police, but Mark, Betsy, and Jeff all disagree, and decide to shut her up too; tying her up and allowing Mark to try to kill Susan by lighting the house on fire. Luckily, Mrs. Griffin and the detective were about to enter the house, and catch the teens.
The resolution is that Mark, Betsy, David, and Jeff are to be put on trial for the death of Mr. Griffin, with Mark on three for Griffin, David’s grandmother’s death, and the attempt to kill Susan. But Susan’s lawyer is also trying to get her off the case. The story ends with Susan reading a note that Mr. Griffin wrote about her accomplishments and praising them. The theme would be to not be tempted to join to peer pressure, because Susan only joined the prank because David was part of it as well.
The storyline is intense, but how the characters play it out doesn’t make the story any better. To say it bluntly, almost all of them didn’t care about the whole death of Mr. Griffin, unlike what the summary had explained it. From a perspective of a deep reader like myself, I wouldn’t really recommend this story to anyone with a taste for a new mystery story, but I most certainly don’t hate the story as well.
Duncan really did play out the whole crime, but the ending was fairly amazing. Not too detailed, nor plain. It leaves us on a cliffhanger to see the fate of the teenagers of their potential crime, or even if some of them will be let off. But also the storyline is good to teach us the theme to not be tempted by peer pressure. Duncan purposely put this theme in to warn us, because Susan in the story can represent us in for this purpose because she herself, without thinking, agreed thanks to David, and now she’s facing the consequences from doing so. So anyone can also recommend this story to someone to tell them to not buy into, or to learn from this.