The Books of Fell -- M. E. Kerr
The Books of Fell is actually a trilogy. The three novels included are Fell, Fell Back and Fell Down. A few years back, I came across a newer trilogy called The Wessex Papers. At the time, I loved them—they were a totally fun (albeit slightly trashy) mystery/action story set at a private boarding school. Now I feel like I have to go back and re-read them, because if they aren't dedicated to M. E. Kerr (or there isn't at least a mention of the Fell books), then they're a huge rip-off and I'm going to be mad.
In Fell, we meet our hero, John Fell. His dad, a detective, is dead (heart attack while on stakeout), his mom is a compulsive shopper, and his sister is rather precocious and has a paper doll that she takes everywhere with her. He's dating an extremely wealthy girl, Keats. Her dad hates him because he's from the working class. But that isn't what the book is about:
On the night of the Senior Prom, I was stood up by Helen J. Keating—"Keats" they called her in Seaville, New York.
This isn't a story about Keats and me, and it isn't about that humiliating event in my seventeenth year. But Keats is a part of the story, and that humiliation was responsible for everything that happened to change my life...and even my name.
The same night that Fell doesn't go to the Prom, he meets Keats' next door neighbor. A strange friendship develops, leading to a bizarre—but irresistible—proposal: John Fell will be paid $20,000 (the book was written in 1987) to take the place of Woodrow Pingree's son at a prestigious private school, Gardner, for two years. If he is inducted into the school's secret society, The Sevens, he will automatically and immediately receive an additional $10,000.
Of course, he goes to Gardner. And of course, he gets into Sevens.
Fell ends with a mysterious death—one that most people chalk up to suicide, but that Fell knows was murder. Fell Back tells that story.
Fell Down seems to be the book that people don't agree on. I liked it, but I seem to be in the minority. It's very different from the other two—it still revolves around Sevens, but less so around Fell. The larger mystery is in the past rather than the present, and it's more surreal than the other two. It also involves ventriloquist dummies, which totally creep me out. So the third one was pretty weird. But it still left me wanting more Fell. But three is all we get.