10 months ago
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
On The Road Again: Trixie Belden #2 "The Red Trailer Mystery"
Do you remember the 50's? When people freely roamed the country in RV's and campers? Some even lived in their trailers permanently. Rest stops and RV parks didn't conjure up images of scary transients and shady drug deals like they do today. Oh, and trailers didn't come equipped with televisions and air conditioners and posturpedic mattresses. Those were the days.
The Red Trailer Mystery, Trixie, Honey, and Miss Trask set off to track and find Jim to tell him about his inheritance. They take the Wheelers camper,
the Silver Swan. You will notice that the trailer on the cover is not the Silver Swan, but The Robin. The Robin will become a permanent fixture in later books.
This book is all about travelling, tracking, seeking, and finding. The characters (Trixie and Honey, Jim, the Darnells, Jeff the Waiter, and the bushy-haired man) kind of intertwine throughout. They keep ending up in the same places at the same time. It comes off as kind of coincidental, but I guess the area they are travelling in isn't really that big. It makes for an intricate, if mildly confusing, plot.
Trixie, Honey, and Miss Trask get off to a late start, so they first stop at a campsite in Poughkeepsie for the night. They're ultimately heading for a place called Autoville, which is like a mini-village for RV's. It has a restaurant, pool, stables, the works. From there, they can ride out to the four camps that Jim might possibly be working at. In Poughkeepsie, the Swan ends up parked next to large expensive-looking red trailer. It's The Robin! This doesn't mean much to the girls at the time, but I'm already looking forward to its re-appearance in The Mysterious Visitor.
Ahem. Anyway, the girls notice that the occupants of The Robin have the shades pulled already, even though it's early in the evening. They let the dogs out, and a little girl comes out of the red trailer and picks up Bud. Her name is Sally, and she wants to keep Bud. Her mother and siblings come out of the trailer. Mom wants Sally to go back inside and leave the puppy with Honey. She seems afraid to have anyone see them. The girls note the frayed and worn condition of the family's clothes, and how sick and half-starved they look. There is an eleven year-old girl, Joanne, with them. About this time, the family's father appears and makes them all go back in the trailer. He has bushy black hair and a bushy black beard. Take note, reader- you will hear a lot about bushy hair in this book.
During the night, Trixie hears voices coming from the red trailer. The woman (Sarah) and man (Darney) are arguing. He says "it has to be this way" and that his family is turning against him. Sarah says he "has to take it back." After the argument ceases, Trixie hears the man sobbing.
In the morning, the girls and Miss Trask go to eat breakfast. They leave the dogs in the trailer, but Buddy is gone when they get back. They can't find him and eventually have to leave for Autoville. The way the dogs are treated in this book annoys me. They let them out to run around in a strange place, no chains or leashes, and then go off and leave them when they can't find them. Maybe it's just me; I mean, my dog would be gone for good if I let him off the leash in the woods.
When they stop for lunch, the girls are surprised to see The Robin is also parked there. Joanne shows up and brings Buddy back to Honey. Apparently, Sally climbed into the Swan and took him. Kind-hearted Honey offers to let Sally keep the dog, but Joanne says they couldn't afford to feed him. She runs off into the woods, crying. Before they leave, Joanne's father comes up and asks the girls if they have seen her. They tell Mr. Darnell about Joanne running into the woods. The father indicates that she ran away on purpose. The family goes ahead and leaves! Dogs, kids- everyone gets left in this book!
TheSwan reaches Autoville before dark. There are two state troopers there, asking if they've seen a big red trailer. There have apparently been a rash of trailer thefts in the area. Plot point! Miss Trask says they did see a red trailer, but the girls point out that the driver had his family with him, so it probably wasn't stolen.
They have dinner in the Autoville restaurant. A waiter gets really, REALLY mad at Trixie for bumping into him and making him drop some dishes. He gets in trouble with his manager, and the waiter (Jeff) tells Trixie she will pay for it. Later, the girls hear and see Jeff talking to a bushy-haired man about "switching jobs." They cannot tell if the man is Joanne's father or not, but he looks similar.
The girls make several horseback trips to the local camps, but Jim isn't at any of them. He has stopped by asking for work, though, and he's apparently on a bicycle now. On the way back to Autoville, the girls find a van hidden in the woods. The girls think the van was probably used to haul away loot from the trailer robberies.
That evening, the girls hear Jeff and the bushy-haired man talking again. It involves hiding something in an old barn and orchard. Trixie also realized by watching Jeff in the restaurant that he eavesdrops on the customers' conversations. That's how he figures out where they're going and what they have with them.
On another ride, the girls notice an old barn and orchard, just like Jeff had talked about the night before. During the ride, the horses get spooked and run off, which gets the girls lost. They end up at a farmhouse owned by the Smith's. Kind-hearted Mrs. Smith brings them inside for lemonade and cookies. She's a chatterbox who calls everyone "lamb", and she tells the girls all about how they need help on the farm bringing in their bean crop. Luckily, a bushy-haired man and his family had happened by the day before and the Smiths hired him. The girls are sure it's the Darnells. Oh, and Mrs. Smith cut his hair so he wouldn't get too hot, so we now know Mr. Darnell isn't the Bushy Haired Man (or BHM) the girls heard talking with Jeff. They don't tell Mrs. Smith about the stolen trailer.
Trixie feels guilty, so she goes back the next morning to warn the Smiths about the possibly stolen trailer. She finds Mrs. Smith in tears. The Darnells apparently took off abruptly, after the girls had stopped by the day before. Mrs. Smith can't find her locket, either, and she thinks the Darnells "borrowed" it, like the trailer.
Later, Trixie and Honey come back to investigate the barn. They find the locket in a crow's nest (it's a long story), so they return it. Mrs. Smith is very happy, and she also says two boys showed up looking for work after Trixie left that morning. They're out picking beans right now. The girls go to the barn and find what is apparently the loot from the stolen trailers (TV's, radios, appliances, etc). They hide in the loft as two men come in. It's BHM and Jeff. In true dumb-crook fashion, the two lay out their entire scheme as the girls listen upstairs. They also say that someone let the air out of their tires in the woods, and that they caught a husky red-haired boy up in the barn loft the day before. Jim! Jim is repeatedly referred to as "husky" in this book. I always though of him as a farm boy type, lean and muscular. Maybe "husky" meant something different back then.
The crooks argue. BHM is about to double-cross Jeff when Honey sneezes. BHM climbs up and threatens to kidnap the girls and hole them for ransom. Trixie stays calm and tries to talk him down. BHM speculates that maybe the girls and Jim are part of a teenage gang of thieves. Honey tries to go gansta and shouts "This is our territory, see? Scram out of it, big boy, or you'll get hurt!" LOL!!!
Thankfully, the police arrive around this time. Someone had placed an anonymous call telling them of the thieves location. It wasn't Jim; it was a man's voice on the phone. The girls are remarkably calm after all this goes down.
Let's see- I need to wrap this up. The girls finally figure out that the "two boys" who are working at the Smith's are actually Jim and Joanne. They are reunited with Jim and tell him about the half-million dollars. The Darnells are reunited with Joanne. Mr. Darnell was the one who called the cops, and they're grateful for his help and let him off easy. Apparenly the Darnells are from Sleepyside, but they had fallen on hard times and "borrowed" the Robin. It belongs to Mr. Lynch, who said they are welcome to use it as long as they need to. Mrs. Smith says they must stay there and live with her, after they return the trailer. Honey gives Bud to Sally to keep, which is sweet of her. Back at Autoville, the Wheelers and Mr. Rainsford have arrived. Apparently, Mr. Wheeler knew Jim's father in school. They want Jim to come and live with them and will eventually adopt him. So it's a very sticky, sweet, happy, wholesome ending. Trixie even says "sometimes dreams DO come true." Gag.
Coming soon- #3 The Gatehouse Mystery Thanks for stopping by!