I’m so sorry for the delay. I started a new job, and then Christmas, so life got crazy for a bit (not that it still isn’t!)
I also apologize for the crappy quality of the cover pictures. I'm trying to take my own photos and not bootleg them whenever possible, but my camera refuses to take a good quality picture unless the flash is on. When the flash is on, I get a big glare spot in the middle of the photo. Grrr. Anyway...
I didn’t get this recap up in time for Halloween by a long shot, but it will still work. Despite the title, it’s not really a Halloween story. It does take place in the Fall, though. The Bob-Whites are planning a charity bazaar to benefit UNICEF. Everyone is excited, but Trixie is worried because Diana is avoiding her. She seems worried and preoccupied. The Bob-Whites are finally able to talk to her about it on the bus. Di explains that Harrison (the Lynches proper and uptight butler) is missing. He got a phone call the evening before and left suddenly, saying he would be back in an hour or so. But he never returned. Diana feels responsible because her parents are away and she wants the household to run smoothly. Plus, Harrison is supposed to oversee the bazaar tomorrow. It’s the mystery of the missing butler, and of course Trixie and the Bob-Whites spring into action. They immediately saddle the Wheeler horses and go looking for him. Regan says he saw Harrison last night, riding a bicycle along Glen Road.
The Bob-Whites split up when they get to the woods, and Honey and Trix find a trail of bike tires. They follow it to a little home set back in the forest. It always amazed me that Trixie and Honey (well Trixie at least) have lived in this area for years, yet they’re always stumbling across houses that they didn’t know were there. The place is called Sleepyside Hollow. They find Harrison’s bicycle propped against the front porch, and they find Harrison inside, locked in the cellar. He has a gash on his forehead and his cold and a little shaken up, but otherwise OK.
Harrison says he came to the house to feed the cat when the owner, Mrs. Rose Crandall, was called away. He says he fell down the stairs and hit his head, and the door locked behind him. Trixie is, of course, suspicious, because the basement door was bolted. Which would indicate either that someone else was in the house with Harrison, or that Mrs. Crandall has one clever and crafty cat. Trixie’s suspicion causes friction between her and Diana which continues throughout the book. Di says what Harrison was doing is really none of their business (and she’s kind of right, really), but you know Trix isn’t going to let it go.
At the Belden family dinner that night, the children tell their parents about the days events. Mr. Belden tells them about Rose Crandall’s husband, Jonathan. He was curator of the Sleepyside Museum until he died suddenly of a heart attack. Mr. Crandall had taken a priceless Ming vase home with him for safekeeping that same weekend, but he passed away and no one knew where he had put the vase. A lot of the townspeople thought he stole the vase, so his reputation became tarnished. Even Mr. Belden isn’t sure. Harrison was a good friend of Jonathan Crandall’s, though. Mr. Crandall was one who loved puzzles and games, and had also hidden his wife’s birthday present the same weekend. He gave her a clue (“It’s elementary”), but she never could find it.
That night, Trixie and Honey venture back to the house because they’re afraid they left the cat locked in the cellar. They bike back to Sleepyside Hollow after dark, where they see a figure all in black riding a horse near the house. A headless figure! The horse glides silently by, without even making the sound of hoof beats. Like he was wearing socks (would that really deaden the sound of hoof beats that much? Horses aren’t exactly lightweight.) Honey wants to leave (smart girl), but Trixie wants to investigate. But Mrs. Crandall is home, and she sees them and invites them in for cookies. I want to live in Sleepyside; every time the Bob-Whites end up at someone’s house unexpectedly, there are always fresh cookies waiting for them.
The girls talk to Mrs. Crandall about Harrison, and she tells them that she got a nasty phone call the night before. Someone called telling her that her sister had taken ill, so Rose rushed to the hospital. Her sister wasn’t ill, so it looks like someone was trying to lure her away from the house. The girls don’t say anything about the headless horseman.
The bazaar must go on, and Mrs. Trask agrees to head it up in Harrison’s absence. There is a nice scene for the ‘shippers of Jim and Trixie picking up donations, and Harrison’s derby hat (which was left behind in the Wheeler stables the night before). Di insisted that Jim bring it over. Trixie thinks Di is being bossy, but Jim suggests that maybe Trixie is used to being the boss and doesn’t like someone else taking over. Hee! Good call, Jim.
Trixie and Jim stop by the hospital to see Harrison. Someone steals the hat from the station wagon, which is odd because the wagon is full of much more valuable items than that. Trixie and Jim see a “mysterious” man and woman leaving Harrison’s room, but when they ask him, he says he has had no visitors. Trixie is upset that Harrison is lying to them again.
She is also upset later at the bazaar, when Mart says he told Di about Trixie’s suspicions. Di gives Trixie the GLARE and head toss of DOOM, so things are not well between them. Trixie wants to find the vase and clear Jonathan Crandall’s name, but pursuing the mystery will continue to cause friction between her and Diana. You know she’s not going to let it go, though.
Stuff happens…they keep seeing Harrison and his cronies around town, and around Sleepyside Hollow. Trix thinks they are looking for the vase as well. She and Honey end up hiding in a hayloft of an old barn, again, and they overhear Harrison and the man and woman talking about the vase. She’s more convinced than ever that Harrison is a thief, and this splits the whole Bob-White group into factions. Even Brian and Mart are on Di’s side. Dan suggests that the girls get together and do something girly like go shopping together to remember why they’re such good friends in the first place. Honey sets it up. Di and Trixie are cold to each other at first, but Honey loses it and tells them to grow up, basically. Honey rocks. Trixie agrees to let the business with Harrison go, and things are OK for a while. But then she sees one of Harrison’s accomplices on a bicycle and can’t let it go.
Di gets mad and takes Trixie and Honey to the Sleepyside Museum to settle things once and for all. The mysterious woman and man are both there. The woman is a museum lecturer, and the man is a guard. Di says they have been friends with Harrison for years. She is feeling good about winning, so she takes the girls up to a display of an Oriental jade figure that was donated by her family. When Di sees the statue, she gets very upset and runs out of the museum. Later, she tells the Bob-Whites that the statue in the museum is a fake. Harrison is the one who delivered it there, and now she believes Trixie that he is indeed a thief. She had been worried all along that Trixie was right (because, let’s face it, Trix is usually right about these things), and that’s why she was so upset.
The gang heads back to Sleepyside Hollow. Trixie thinks the vase is probably in the same hiding place as Mrs. Crandall’s birthday present. They go back to the barn, and Mart finds the Headless Horseman’s costume. It’s a cape on a wooden frame that is made to fit over the head, so the rider will look headless. Someone is definitely trying to scare Mrs. Crandall away so they can find the vase. The Bob-White head back to the house, because Trixie has finally figured out where the vase is hidden. Under one of Mr. Crandall’s grafted fruit trees. It has the letters LMN on it. Elementary? LMN tree? Get it? Harrison is at the house as well, and the Bob-Whites are about to attack, but Trixie stops them. Harrison and his buddies were only trying to find the vase to save Jonathan’s reputation. The real bad guy is the museum’s current curator, Alfred Dunham. He shows up with a gun, but the boys make quick work of him, with a little help from Reddy. Mr. Crandall’s name is cleared, Mrs. Crandall gets her last birthday present, and a thief is captured.
I’ve realized the last few lines of these books are usually incredibly cheesy, so I’m going to start closing my posts with them. This book ends thus:
“Not bad, Miss Sherlock,” Mart told her. “Not bad at all.”
Everyone laughed as Trixie chuckled and answered, “Why, it was elementary, my dear Mart!”