Saturday, August 29, 2009

Unicycling Poachers: Trixie Belden #5- "The Mystery Off Glen Road"

I have to admit, I was dreading this re-read. This is a book I’ve never had much desire to go back to. I know it’s by the original author and a lot of fans love it and all. But I have a very low threshold for embarrassment, and Trixie has to do some really silly things to accomplish her goal in this book.

With that said, the book wasn’t quite as bad as I remember it, except for one scene. There is a great moment between Brian and Trixie; probably the best in the whole series. And, most importantly, it explains the title of this blog! So here we go.

It’s November, and a storm is brewing. A hurricane! Trixie and Honey are down at the Bob-Whites now-finished clubhouse, admiring their work. Trixie is worried that the storm might knock down one of the big trees surrounding the clubhouse and damage the roof. But there is no time to stand around and worry. Tom and Celia’s wedding and reception are in an hour. Is getting married during a hurricane good luck or bad luck? Seems like a sign of things to come. (just kidding- I love being married.) Sidenote- Celia’s gown is described as “lace over satin,” which sounds really pretty.

The wedding goes OK, but the storm does a lot of damage. Trixie’s worries come true; one of the tall spruce trees beats the clubhouse like a red-headed step-child. The roof is torn off, and the back wall is damaged. There is no money in the treasury to fix it. None of the Bob-Whites have any cash, except for Brian. He has saved fifty dollars to buy a used jalopy from Mr. Lytell. I looked up “jalopy” expecting to find a specific vehicle from the 50’s. But wikipedia says jalopy is just a term for an old, beat-up, piece of junk car. The book does say the car is in good condition and is a steal at fifty dollars. It is referred to as a Ford later on.

Because he is so honorable and noble, Brian insists on giving up his fifty dollars to fix the clubhouse. They can’t wait any longer because winter is almost here and the clubhouse won’t survive without a roof. Trixie suggests that the Bob-Whites work as gamekeepers for the Wheeler game preserve, since the old gamekeeper just quit. The Bob-Whites like the idea, but they still won’t have the money until after the first week, and by then the car will be gone. Mr. Lytell is only holding it until Saturday.

This is where things get wacky. Trixie comes up with an idea. She tells Honey that she can give the diamond ring that Jim gave her to Mr. Lytell as collateral to hold the car another week. By the end of the week, they will have the fifty dollars from the gamekeeper job and can buy the car for Brian. It’s a good idea, but her parents have put the ring in a safety deposit box at the bank. Honey says no one is going to believe she suddenly wants to wear a diamond ring, so she’s going to have to gradually start acting girly. Honey says she should fall in love- because that’s what makes girls suddenly change overnight. Her cousin Ben Riker is visiting for Thanksgiving, and Honey says he would be the perfect candidate. One problem- Trixie can’t stand him. But this is for Brian, so she will go along with the plan. I never understood this, even as a kid. Why not just tell her parents what she wants to do and have them get the ring? Trixie just says that she would never get permission (I guess because of the ring’s value), but I think she underestimates them. If I had a kid who wanted to do something that nice for their sibling, I would be really proud.

Anyway, Trixie starts fluttering around, moaning about dishpan hands and how Ben wouldn’t like it and all that. She comes down to dinner in a dress and starts dropping hints about how she should really have her nice ring to wear, to impress Ben. It’s really, really embarrassing, so I’m gonna skip over it. It eventually works, and Mr. Belden does get the ring for her.

The girls give the ring to Mr. Lytell, who agrees to hold the jalopy another week. They also get the game keeper job, so they start patrolling early mornings before school while the boys are busy working on the clubhouse.

Oh, yeah, there is a mystery in this book. The girls find strange footprints in the preserve. They see an older man in outdated clothing leaving Mr. Lytell’s store. And they find a deer carcass lying in the preserve. They think that the dogs (Reddy and Patch) ran it down and killed it. They agree not to say anything to the boys, because the dogs would undoubtedly be put down.

Honey gives Trixie a fake diamond ring to wear, since hers is at Mr. Lytell’s. Ben comes, and the girls convince Diana to capture his attention so that Trixie doesn’t really have to flirt with him. Because Diana is so beautiful that no boy can resist her, it works like a charm. Trixie sneaks off back to the place where she found the deer carcass and discovers it is gone! She also finds strange bike tire tracks. Single, like a unicycle, not double like a bicycle. How can she tell the difference? Wouldn’t they look the same? And why does her mind automatically go to “unicycle?” Wheelbarrow, hello? She and Honey have some funny conversations about an escaped circus performer, balancing on his unicycle while toting a deer carcass over his shoulders. Honey points out that circuses “aren’t insane asylums. People don’t escape from them.” Heh.

The boys...oh yeah, the boys tease the girls a lot in this book, as usual. They don’t like Ben either, and don’t really want Trixie with him. Jim is jealous and Brian is clueless, but Mart is suspicious. The girls tell him about the suspected poacher, and he agrees that they should keep investigating.

The day before Thanksgiving, Trixie and Honey go for an afternoon patrol. The horses bolt, and when they finally stop, they’re in a clearing with a cabin in it. Maybe the poacher lives here? Pretty brave of him, to live right in the middle of someone else’s land. Or the cabin could belong to a squatter. During all of this, Trixie loses the compass she was wearing. It belonged to Bobby, and that’s not good. She gets back home for the evening and Bobby insists that he needs the compass, so Trix has to confess that she lost it. This doesn’t go over well, as you can imagine. After the smoke clears, Mart tells Trixie he will lend Bobby his compass if she tells him why she wanted the ring. She does, and Mart is ecstatic. He says he and Honey will try to find the cabin tomorrow, while Trixie helps Moms get ready for their Thanksgiving open house.

Everything comes to a head Thanksgiving Day. Honey and Mart don’t find the cabin. Bobby finds Trixie’s (fake) ring and takes it, to get back at her for losing his compass. Then, Bobby disappears as well. The Bob-Whites initiate a frantic search. Trixie finally finds him up at The Robin (the trailer that now belongs to Tom and Celia, who are apparently taking a very very long honeymoon). He says the ring “sorta slipped down the drainpipe” in the sink. Bobby is upset, but Trix tells him it wasn’t real anyway. She explains about using the real ring as collateral for the car, and then hears someone behind her. It’s Brian, and he heard the whole thing. He gets kinda choked up, and there are warm fuzzies all around. Very nice scene.

Honey and Trixie wrap up the mystery of the poacher/squatter by finally getting back to the cabin the next day. It belongs to the man they saw at Mr. Lytell’s store earlier. His name is Maypenny, and his family has owned some land right in the middle of the preserve for years. He’s kind of a hermit, and he has permission to hunt and set snares for his food in the preserve. So there wasn’t really a mystery at all, and I kind of hate that in “mystery” books. The girls think Mr. Maypenny would be a perfect gamekeeper, and he agrees to take the job. He also helps the boys get the clubhouse fixed, just before the snow flies. The Belden parents find out about Trixie’s ring swap and they aren’t mad. Oh, and Mrs. Belden insists that Ben Riker is a nice boy, but “you can’t expect an only-child to be as well-adjusted as one with siblings.” This only child objects, Moms.

I will be on vacation the second week of September, so this blog will be on a little break. I should be back either at the end of September or beginning of October. I really am wowed by all the positive response so far. Please, if you have any comments, leave them- I would love to hear from you!