Friday, December 3, 2010

Merry Christmas from Brian's Jalopy!

I'm sorry for the delay between updates. Real-life drama got in the way for a while. I meant to do one more before Christmas, but it's just not going to happen. So this blog will be on hiatus until the end of the year. Don't worry; I'll be back in January with more recaps, more snark, and all things Trixie! Thank you for your patience. I hope you have a wonderful holiday season and a blessed new year.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Great Costume Caper: Trixie Belden #29- "The Mystery of the Velvet Gown"

This isn't a particularly memorable Trixie book, which probably explains why I couldn't remember what happens in it. This was like reading a new volume for me. It's not bad or anything, but it's not super good, either. It's just kind of...there.

It's just after New Year's and the beginning of a new school semester. Sleepyside High is getting ready for its annual Freshman Class play. This year's production in "Romeo and Juliet." Hey, we read that my Freshman year of high school, too! The entire Freshman class is involved in one way or the other, and the Seniors act as guides or mentors or whatever you call it. Trixie is a stagehand, Honey is on the costume crew (of course), and Diana is trying out for the part of Juliet (of course). We all know Di is pretty enough to play Juliet, but can she really act? Apparently so, because she gets the part. Of course, not everyone is happy for her. Trixie overhears a girl named Jane Morgan saying that Di didn't deserve the part, and that she would make her sorry, blah blah blah. She and Honey decide not to tell Di what they heard, since she is nervous enough anyway.

The play is being headed up by Miss Darcy, a teacher at Sleepyside High who is also a friend of Miss Trask's. Miss Darcy has a lot on her mind besides the play, though. She receives from England that her father has been kidnapped. And on a snowy night as she is driving to The Manor House, Miss Darcy accidentally hits a dog with her car. It's not just any dog; it's Reddy! Poor thing! Bobby is there, and everyone is upset, and it's a really terrible scene, actually. The Belden kids take Reddy to the town vet, Dr. Samet, who also happens to be Jane Morgan's uncle. Reddy has a broken front leg, but he will be OK.

Rehearsals for the play start the next day. Miss Darcy is stressed and she snaps at Diana, which doesn't help Di's nerves any. Her fiance, Peter Ashbury, starts hanging around the rehearsals. For once, Trixie doesn't automatically find him suspicious. Honey, however, feels that she has seen him somewhere before but she can't remember where.

Rehearsals continue. Di continues to be nervous, Miss Darcy continues to be tense, and Jane Morgan continues to be a jerk to the Bob-White females. There is one bright spot. Valuable, authentic, expensive costumes are being loaned to the school to be used during the play. One of them is the velvet gown of the title. It's jewel-encrusted and it sounds awesome. Both Miss Darcy and Peter Ashbury seem pretty protective of the costumes and nervous about letting the students touch them. Trixie overhears them arguing with each other after rehearsal.

Some weird things happen, but really, they are pretty low-key. Miss Darcy gets very possessive of a costume catalog in her office. She doesn't want Trixie or Honey to look at it. She also gives Trixie the wrong envelope at one point. Instead of containing money to pay Reddy's vet bill, the envelope contains a receipt and slip to a safe deposit box, and some photos costumes from a catalog. The school newspaper also has some actual photos of the costumes that they had taken, but the photos disappear. Catalogs, safe-deposit boxes, missing photos...reading back over it now, it's not really that interesting.

Slightly more interesting is when Trixie sees Miss Darcy in her office with the velvet gown and scissors in her hand. She tells Trixie that she was sewing the jewels back on because some of them came loose, but Trixie can tell that she is cutting them off. Trixie and Honey decide they have to find out more about Peter Ashbury. They go with Miss Trask to New York City (where he lives). She leaves them at the museum for a couple of hours while she visits her sister. Of course, they don't stay there. They find Asbhury's address in the phone book and track him down and follow him for a bit. They find him with another woman and a couple of small children. He finally sees them and gets mad, but they play it off as a coincidence. On the way home, Miss Trask finds a newspaper article about him. It says that Peter Ashbury was a gemologist for a prestigious Park Avenue firm, but he was fired and will be indicted on charges of fraud. He has a habit of taking real gems and replacing them with fakes ones to sell to his customers. Honey finally remembers that must be where she has seen him before, since her mother buys expensive jewelry all the time. Oh yeah- and that woman he was with was definitely his wife, and the kids were his kids. Miss Trask is upset that her friend Miss Darcy is being played.

Things get truly serious when the costumes disappear. Trixie and Diana are accused of having something to do with it. Guess who accused them? Jane Morgan still hasn't given up on her vendetta against them. They both claim innocence, and Trixie promises Miss Darcy that she will get the costumes back by the next day. Maybe not the smartest thing to say when you are claiming you know nothing about their disappearance, Trixie.

Trix is sharp, though. She thinks Jane Morgan took the gown so she could blame Trixie and Di for it, and she is correct. Jane actually comes to Trixie for help, admitting that she let things get out of hand. All four of the girls go to find Miss Darcy and tell her what happened, but she's not in her office. They find a paper there, instructing Miss Darcy to remove some of the gems from the gown and place them in a safe-deposit box. Otherwise her father will be killed.

Before they can contact Miss Darcy, Peter Ashbury finds them. He forces them into his car at gunpoint. They go to Manor House, knowing that Miss Darcy most likely went to Miss Trask for help. Peter Ashbury waves his gun around and intimidates the women, but he's no match for the male Bob-Whites (minus Dan) and Regan. They overpower him and Sergent Molinson takes him away in handcuffs. (And seriously; where is Dan? He's mentioned in the beginning of this book, then he disappears). The police inform Miss Darcy that her father has been found and he's OK. Another happy ending. But we never do find out how the play goes.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Cool Trixie Stuff- handbags

I'm always on the lookout for cool Trixie stuff to share with you all. I've seen these handbags before, on Etsy and on Ebay, but I'm not sure how I feel about them. On the one hand, they're cute and very creative. On the other hand, an old book has to be destroyed in order to make them. Still, I like the idea that Trixie and company are still remembered fondly today. If you'd like to buy this bag, you can find it here.

This bag is also cute, and it looks as though no books were harmed in the making. Very retro picture of Trixie and Honey there. Thought I definitely have my own personal view of how Trixie should look, it is interesting to see how the different cover artists drew her.

Sorry this update is so brief, but I'm leaving for vacation with my husband on Monday. Expect a proper blog update later in the month of September. Until then!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Cross-Dressing Wedding Crashers: Trixie Belden #17- The Mystery of the Uninvited Guest

In the past, if I were pressed to choose a favorite Trixie book, it probably would have been this one. Re-reading it solidified that decision in my mind. I love this book. Definitely my favorite. I'm a little surprised that it doesn't score higher on a lot of people's lists. Some say the tone of the book is off, but I think the writing style of this one is great. It's more introspective, contains better dialogue, and the humor is actually funny. Some of Trixie's faults are pointed out and dealt with in this book, instead of being glossed over as they often are. And everybody gets to play a role in this one. Di, Dan, Bobby, Regan, Mr. Maypenny, Mrs. Vanderpool- everyone is invited to this party. Oh, and I like the cover too, except for Jim's fuchsia red hair. Trixie looks really pretty in her bridesmaid dress.

I don't mean to sound lazy, but I'm not going to try to recap the whole thing. It's just too involved. This book picks up where the last one left off. It's still summer in Sleepyside, and everyone is getting ready for Hans and Julianna's wedding. They're to be married in the Manor House garden, and all the Bob-Whites will play a part in the ceremony. It should be a happy time, but Trixie is upset by the arrival of her cousin from Idaho, Hallie Belden. Hallie is tall and slender and even prettier than Diana, if such a thing is possible. Trixie and Hallie have never gotten along very well in the past, and this visit doesn't start off very well either. Trix sees someone at the window of the Belden's home, looking down the lane with binoculars. She accuses Hallie of spying on her, but it's actually Bobby who is the culprit. He tells them some jibberish about seeing a wheelchair and someone stealing mail. Bobby actually sounds more grown-up and articulate than usual in this book, but still, no one can make sense of what he is talking about.

The wheelchair becomes very important throughout this story. Trixie grudgingly lets Hallie help her investigate. They find that the chair was supposed to be delivered to the Glen Road Inn, but was lost along Glen Road instead. It eventually ends up at the Inn to be used by elderly cripple Miss Ryks. Miss Ryks is staying there along with her nephew, the scrawny Dick Ryks. Miss Ryks manages to finangle an invitation to the wedding, even though neither Hans nor Juliana is really sure who she is or how she knows their families.

The wheelchair isn't the only thing that goes missing. The Lynch mansion is robbed while the Lynches are having dinner at their country club. Diana never receives an invitation to the wedding, even though Honey is sure one was sent to her. Trixie thinks that whoever Bobby saw stealing mail must have taken it.

Worse yet, Juliana's diamond tulip engagement ring goes missing. (It has to be a tulip, because they're from Holland, see?) Suspicion falls on Dan when the ring is found in his handkerchief, shoved into a drawer in Uncle Regan's desk. Before they can confront him about it, Dan disappears. Some members of his old gang have been seen hanging around Sleepyside. The adults think maybe Dan has gone back to his old ways, but the Bob-Whites are worried that something sinister has happened to him.

Food begins disappearing from the Belden house. Moms thinks she is losing her mind. Scooters, bicycles, and wagons disappear all along Glen Road. Bobby is acting strange, too; he's quiet and withdrawn and not nosing his way into everyone's business like he usually is. Something is bothering him, but Trixie is too busy with wedding preparations and the search for Dan to find out what it is.

Things start to make sense when a couple of the gang members are apprehended by the Bob-Whites and the police, trying to sell the stolen wheels and the stuff from the Lynch robbery at a big yard sale. It's a pretty funny scene, actually, with the Bob-Whites managing to get in everyone's way and keep anyone from buying the stolen goods. It turns out the gang members had been hiding in the woods and had convinced Bobby to bring food to them by telling him he could be in their "club." When Bobby got suspicious, they told him they would hurt Reddy with their knives. That is big-time creepy, especially for a Trixie Belden book! Poor kid!

Even with the gang members captured, there is still no sign of Dan. Trixie and the Bob-Whites still can't figure out who Miss Ryks is or how she and her nephew ties into all the robberies. They have been to the inn to spy on both the Ryks several times, but they never seem to be there at the same time. Usually the only person they see is Dick. Finally, they manage to catch Dick dressing up as his "Aunt Kate." They're the same person! Trixie tells the police, but they are skeptical. They agree to send a couple of officers to the wedding to help guard the gifts, and they will keep an eye on the inn, but that's all they can do.

The big showdown happens at the wedding. Hallie goes missing before the ceremony. Miss Ryks shows up, and Trixie manages to show her as a fraud once and for all. He/She/It is actually the person Dan's old gang was reporting to. Dan and Hallie are found tied up back at the Inn, in an upstairs room. And somehow, the wedding goes off more or less without a hitch, and Hans and Juliana never suspect a thing. That may be the biggest miracle Trixie has ever pulled off.

Last lines: "No, Hallie, that's not quite right." Trixie did her best imitation of a drawl and linked arms with her new friend. "You're an OK kid yourself!"
"Oh, jeeps," Hallie chuckled.
"That's "gleeps!" the Bob-Whites chorused.

Thank you for your patience- this was supposed to be up last week, but I got sick. Next book will be...well, I'm not sure yet. Guess you will have to wait and be surprised. Thanks for reading!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Your comments

Just a quick note to say I really really appreciate your comments. I'm sorry I haven't replied much before now. I was trying to, but E-Blogger was giving me fits. I think I've figured it out now. I hope this blog will inspire discussion of the Trixie Belden book series, so by all means, let me know what you think! I'll even throw out a question: What is your favorite Trixie book? Or favorites, if you can't pick just one.

Monday, June 28, 2010

If You Ain't Dutch, You Ain't Much: Trixie Belden #16- "The Mystery of the Missing Heiress"

I chose this book (#16) for recap because I wanted to do a recap of #17, The Mystery of the Uninvited Guest, and I knew this book’s story dove-tailed into that one. I had forgotten most of the events of #16, and I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed it. The continuity is good, Di and Dan are involved, and the characters are actually in-character and well-written. My research indicates a possible author of Nicolete Meredith Stack, but no one really knows for sure.

It’s summertime at Crabapple Farm. Does anyone else feel like the books that take place mostly at the farm or the Manor House have a wonderful cozy, homey feel? I want to live on Crabapple Farm in the summer. The Bob-Whites are excited because Mr. Wheeler has given them his old station wagon to use for a club car. (Doesn’t that violate the rule that they can only use things they paid for themselves?) Each Bob-White will own 1/7th of the car. I wonder which seventh Trixie gets. There is no time to try out their new ride, though, because the horses need to be exercised. The Bob-Whites ride through the game preserve to the marsh, which ends next to some very fragile cliffs. There are danger signs all over the place, warning people to stay off them. The Bob-Whites find some men working in the swamp. They say it is going to be drained an a factory built there. The Bob-Whites are upset, as they love the marsh. Trixie sees a “sinister” old man disappear into the woods, but the others don’t see them. The workers say he was asking questions about the marsh as well.

The next day, a “mysterious-sounding” man calls Manor House, asking for Jim. He gets Trixie instead. He asks if Jim has an aunt named Betje Maasden. Trix doesn’t know, so the guy gets mad and slams down the phone, saying he will find out some other way. Trixie remembers the name Betje Maasden from a newspaper article about the new factory. Her name is the last one to appear on the title for the marshland, but no one has been able to locate her yet. The Bob-Whites figure this is a job for Mrs. Vanderpool, because she apparently knows everybody who ever lived in the area, and plan to go see her that afternoon.

Mrs. V does indeed remember Jim’s Aunt Betje (Betty) Maarsden, his mother’s sister. She says that Betje and her husband Wilhelm and their daughter Juliana died in a car accident years ago. If that is true, it would make Jim the rightful owner of the marshland. Mrs. V has a picture of the Maasdens with an address in The Hauge, in Holland. Trixie writes a letter trying to find more info about the family. She waits patiently for a response. Just kidding! Trixie is never patient about anything. She and Honey pass the time working as candy stripers at the hospital, and the whole gang has to practice riding the horses for an upcoming Turf Show.

Finally, the letter comes from someone named Minna Schimmel. She says that Juliana survived the accident and was raised by the Schimmels. The Schimmels daughter, Mrs. De Jong, moved to the U.S. when she married, taking Juliana with her so she could go to school here. They live in the Bronx, and Juliana is engaged to a lawyer from The Hague. Mrs. Schimmel says she will write to Juliana to tell her she has a cousin. Jim is happy and a bit overwhelmed at the news of having a real blood relative. The Bob-Whites find the phone number of the De Jongs in the Bronx, but there is no answer when they call. They decide to take the new station wagon down to the city to meet them in person.

When they get there, the De Jongs aren’t home. Bummer. A neighbor tells them that the family is on vacation in The Poconos. Juliana saw the article about the land in the paper and was going to Sleepyside to inquire about it. Then she was going to go on to the Poconos with her family. When the Bob-Whites come out of the neighbor’s house, they find that someone has messed with the station wagon. It won’t run, and they have to get a mechanic to fix it. The neighbor says it must have been some weirdo, but Trixie isn’t sure. She thinks it is the same person she saw at the marsh.

Back in Sleepyside that evening, Mrs. Belden tells the Bob-Whites that Juliana is in town already! She is staying with Mrs. Vanderpool while she finds out about the land deal. The gang heads over after supper to meet her.

Juliana is tall and beautiful and charming and all that. Jim agrees to drive her to the courthouse the next day to sign the paperwork. But the clerks tell her it might be weeks before her claim is settled. She is frustrated and a bit angry, but the others calm her down. Trixie and Honey tell her about a young woman who is a patient at the hospital where they volunteer. She was in a car accident and now has amnesia. They’ve been calling her “Janie,” because she can’t remember her own name. Juliana seems upset by this news, and she wants to meet Janie and try to cheer her up, so Trixie and Honey take her to the hospital the next day.

Against doctor’s orders, Juliana pushes Janie to remember details about her accident, and seems frustrated when she can’t. She gets defensive when the others ask her to back off. Trixie begins to wonder about Juliana, but then feels bad about doubting her.

Moms thinks it will benefit Janie to come stay at Crabapple Farm until her memory returns, and the doctor agrees. Juliana is not happy about this. She thinks Janie might be dangerous because of her memory damage. The Belden kids laugh at her, and she gets mad and flounces off. Janie loves it at Crabapple Farm, and who wouldn’t, really?

Trixie looks through some newspapers at the library and finds an article about a missing girl from Chicago. She thinks it might be Janie, and they make arrangements to fly Janie out to meet the missing girl’s sister and brother-in-law. What follows is a pretty sad and emotional scene, by children's book standards. As you probably guessed, Janie isn’t the woman’s sister. The Bob-Whites throw a surprise barbeque for Janie back at Crabapple Farm, to cheer her up. There is food and singing and dancing, and the whole thing sounds like a lot of fun. But someone in a green car stops and asks Bobby if he knows where Mrs. Vanderpool lives. The others don’t see him and don’t think much of it. Janie has a moment where she seems like she is about to remember, but Juliana mouths off and breaks the spell. She asks Jim to take her home, and he sees her leaving Mrs. V’s in the same green Buick that drove by the Belden’s earlier. Mrs. Vanderpool says Juliana gets lots of calls and is gone most of the time. The next day, the girls and Jim are worried and suspicious, and wonder if she is seeing someone behind her fiancĂ©’s back. But Moms reminds them that Juliana is an adult and is allowed to have a private life.

Janie goes for a walk in the woods, but doesn’t return by 5pm. The gang goes looking for her. She has fallen down the dangerous cliff by the marsh, because someone removed the signs. In a move she picked up in Bob-White Cave, Trixie goes down the side of the cliff to help her. She and Janie are pulled back to safety, and there is much applause for Trixie’s bravery.

Juliana stops by when she hears about Janie’s accident. She mouths off and storms out the door, again. Jim sees her getting in the green Buick yet again. Even Mrs. Belden seems a bit flustered at this point. The Bob-Whites have dinner that evening at Mrs. Vanderpool’s, and she tells them Juliana has been working on making dolls to sell at the upcoming Turf Show. The Bob-Whites again think they may have misjudged her, but the whole thing is hard to figure out.

That same night, everything comes to a head. The gang finds out that Juliana’s papers from Holland have finally come through and she can settle her claim and move on. In the middle of the night, Trixie sees someone crossing the yard, heading towards Janie’s window. She and Honey go to investigate, instead of doing the sensible thing and waking everyone else up. It turns out to be Jim’s cruel stepfather, Jones, and he is not happy to see them. He had cut the power to the house and drugged poor Reddy the dog, and was going to drug Janie as well.

That morning, a call comes through from the De Jong’s neighbor in the Bronx. Juliana’s fiance Hans Vorwald has shown up, looking for her. He is on the bus on the way to Sleepyside right now. The Bob-Whites agree to pick him up and try to call Juliana, but of course, she’s not home. The pieces finally fall together for Trixie, who takes the gang on a wild chase around town. First to the bank, where they find Juliana has already cashed the check for $150,000. The others think Jones must have tried to kidnap her, but Trixie takes them to pick up Hans again. She won’t explain what is going on as she directs them back to Crabapple Farm. In a twist you probably saw coming, Janie gets her memory back as soon as she sees Hans. Janie is really Juliana, and the other Juliana was an imposter working with Jones and some other criminals that Trixie had helped capture before. (Guess they didn’t learn their lesson last time). Jones is the one who caused Janie/Juliana to run off the road and caused her to fall off the cliff. In the end, all of them are apprehended. Mouthy as ever, Jones tells of seeing the article about Betje Maasden in the paper and recognizing the name as his former wife’s sister. He couldn’t cash in himself, so he hired the fake Juliana to take the real one’s place and get the money. In the end, an evil plot is foiled, bad guys are re-jailed, a memory returns, and a wedding is planned, which we will read about in the next book.

Last lines- “I’ve never in my whole life been anyone’s maid of honor! I’ve never even been a bridesmaid!” she added. “Gleeps, just imagine! Me!”

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Spelunking Sleuths: Trixie Belden #11- "The Mystery at Bob-White Cave"

Nice cover, and fairly accurate, except that the artist drew a girl with black hair who looks a lot like Diana, even though she’s not in this book. Not sure why Slim is dressed like a detective, either.

I have to be honest. Upon re-reading it, I did not like this book as much as I remember liking it. This is the first time that has happened, and it was a surprise to me. I will try to be at least somewhat positive, but I’ve given fair warning that this is not my favorite.

The Bob-Whites are visiting the Belden’s Uncle Andrew in the Ozark Mountains of Missouri. No explanation is given as to why they are there, so I guess it’s just a vacation. (I seem to remember Uncle Andrew being in an earlier book, though. The one set in Iowa, maybe?) They’re not having much fun as the story opens. It’s pouring rain and they are stuck in Uncle Andrew’s lodge home. Trixie is throwing a fit about how she’s bored and she hates it here, and the others call her on her rotten attitude pretty quickly. She apologizes and flips through a magazine to kill time. Trix finds an article about ghost fish. They live in the springs that run through the caves in the area. A scientific journal is offering a $500 reward for three ghost fish specimens in various stages of development. Trixie insists that the Bob-Whites have to find the fish and get the reward so they can donate the $500 to buy a station wagon for handicapped children. She is really, really pushy about it. She wants to leave right away (it stopped raining while she was explaining all this), but the others convince her to wait for Uncle Andrew to get back. At the moment, they are at his home with his housekeeper, Mrs. Moore and her teenaged daughter Linnie. They live behind Uncle Andrew in a three-room log cabin. Mrs. Moore’s husband Matthew disappeared when Linnie was four. He went on a fishing and hunting trip and never came back.

After lunch, the Bob-Whites go fishing, though Trix is secretly on the lookout for a cave to explore. Another storm comes up, and they do indeed find a cave to take shelter in. Trixie is nearly attacked by a wildcat. At the last second, the cat drops dead, shot clean through the head by a rifle. The Bob-Whites don’t see anyone around who might have fired the shot. This is the first of many “ghost” encounters in this book.

Back at the lodge, Trixie is still wound up about the ghost fish. Even Honey seems reluctant to get involved. In a rare moment of total honesty, Honey tells her that sometimes she wishes they could just go places and have fun, and that Mart said the same thing. Wow. Trixie accuses her of not caring about the handicapped children, (again, wow) and Honey gently tells her she knows that isn’t true. She just wants to have fun. Trixie says exploring caves and finding the fish will be fun. After dinner, Mrs. Moore shares some creepy local ghost stories and insists that a ghost saved Trixie’s life that day. Uncle Andrew agrees to her plan, but he insists that they follow the rules of cave exploring (go in threes, leave a note saying when you go in and expect to come out, etc.) and that they have proper gear. Oh, and that they take a guide with them. He suggests a local youth named Slim Sanderson. Trixie is unhappy with the delay (it will take a whole day to get to town, get the gear, and meet Slim), but she agrees.

In town the next day, Uncle Andrew buys the Bob-Whites helmets with carbine lamps, rope, candles, etc. Very generous of him. They also meet Slim, to whom Trixie takes an instant dislike. She kind of does that with a lot of people. Although Slim is, well, a jerk. He thinks they don’t need all the cave exploring equipment, and he seems to dislike Trixie. He’s cruel to both her and Honey. But he agrees to meet them at 8am the next day to go exploring.

They head off to a cave on Uncle Andrew’s property, which has to be reached by boating across a small inlet of water. On the way over, they see a man who has fallen out of his boat and is drowning. The Bob-Whites rescue him and take him back to the lodge. His name is Glennending, and he’s come to Missouri all the way from England. Trixie sees a dip net and cave exploring equipment in his canoe, and she thinks he might be after the same thing they are.

Finally, that afternoon, they make it inside the cave. Their is an underground stream, and they do think they see ghost fish swimming in it, but they don’t catch any. Slim agrees to come back the next day, though the Bob-Whites are already sick of him. He does something mean to the bats that live inside the cave, scaring them outside so the hawks can eat them. The Bob-Whites tell him to get lost and the boys take Slim back across the water. They get permission to explore alone from Uncle Andrew. Trixie finally gets one ghost fish, but it isn’t enough.

There is a whole sub-plot involving ghosts and a cabin and a strange man/possible ghost that I’m not going to get into here, or this post will be way too long. The Ozark people in this book are depicted as very primitive and superstitious. And while I know that was probably true in the 60’s, and maybe still somewhat true in some areas today, it’s still kind of odd to read about. To be fair, they are also very generous and helpful to one another, particularly towards people like the widowed Mrs. Moore. They have a wonderful party that night, which brings out all the locals. There is food and music and dancing, and it sounds like fun. However, someone sets a fire late that night which nearly burns down Uncle Andrew’s lodge and Mrs. Moore’s cabin. Some of her property (chicken coop, shed for the mules) is damaged. All of the neighbors come back to fight the fire. The Bob-Whites think Slim may have set the fire, but Uncle Andrew insists they need proof before accusing him. He is worried that the locals will hang Slim if they think he was responsible.

The Bob-Whites plus Linnie go back to the cave the next day. Trixie had left a bait bucket with the fish in it and someone took it, but then returned it. They think it was Slim, but why would he bring the bucket back? They do find Slim in the cave and throw him out, but not before they accuse him of setting the fire. He tries to throw the blame on the mysterious man living in the “ghost cabin,” but the Bob-Whites aren’t buying it.

A postcard arrives from Moms back in Sleepyside. She wants them to come home the coming weekend because she is going to have to go out of town. Only three days left to get the fish and claim the prize. Uncle Andrew’s neighbor Bill Hawkins agrees to go to the cave and keep a look-out for Slim while the kids explore.

The Bob-Whites split up, with Brian and Jim looking for rock samples outside and Honey, Trixie, and Mart looking for fish inside. In the part of the book that I always remember most, Trixie goes down into a sink hole which has a shallow stream at the bottom of it to catch fish with her net. She’s tied to a rope which is tied to a stalagmite and held by Mart and Honey. It goes well until a storm comes up and the sinkhole starts to flood. Mart can’t pull her up. She’s about to drown when the others come in and pull her to safety.

Uncle Andrew is mad at Bill Hawkins for letting her go (even though he didn’t know about it and he was keeping watch out for Slim like he was supposed to be), and Bill Hawkins is mad at himself, but no one really blames Trixie, even though it was kinda her fault for doing something stupid. Unbelievably, she wants to go back the next day and try again. Even more unbelievably, Uncle Andrew lets her, after the Bob-Whites agree to put some beams and a rope ladder across the top of the sinkhole, and to keep a close watch for rain. Trixie goes back down, and she finds all three specimens of fish they are looking for.

When they come out of the cave, they find Slim attacking a man by the water. Jim fights him off and they tie Slim up to be delivered to the local law. The man he was fighting is the one who has been living in the ghost cabin. In a coincidence that is, frankly, too fantastic for me to believe, he turns out to be Mrs. Moore’s long-lost husband Matthew. He fell and hit his head years ago, losing his memory. He was living in a state hospital, but something drew him back to this area. He is the one who shot the wildcat and saved Trixie. He’s been trying to help Mrs. Moore and Linnie, though he didn’t know why at the time. Brian’s explanation: “I think something happened and he lost his memory. When his head was battered by Slim, his memory must have returned.” I think Brian has been watching too much Gilligan’s Island. It doesn’t work like that in real life.

On their final day in Missouri, they go into town to turn in the fish and claim the reward. Bad news- the specimens they found aren’t the ones the scientific magazine was looking for. But the Bob-Whites did find some kind of fish that was even rarer than the ghost fish. So they are promised a reward at least as big as the $500 one. They will be contacted “in a week or so.” I say don’t buy it, Trixie! After a last meal at the lodge, the Bob-Whites head home. Money is raised, a criminal is captured, and the dead are brought back to life.

Last line: “Oh, dear, I wonder if we’ll ever have another project as exciting as this one turned out to be!” Wait until you get to St. Louis in a few books, Trixie!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

"He was close, dangerously close, to loving them." - A Time of Darkness

Wow. I honestly did not realize that I hadn't updated in two months. I am extremely sorry for that. (And I seriously thought it had only been one month. Wow). Real life interfered for a bit, but I think I'm back on track now. Anyway...

I received this book as a hand-me-down years ago. I read it, enjoyed it, then promptly lost it. I couldn't remember the title or the author; just vague ideas of what had happened in the book. Finally, with the help of the kind folks at The Dairy Burger, I was able to track it down. The title is "A Time of Darkness," published as "Rocco" in Australia. The author is Sherryl Jordan.

Rocco Makepeace is a teenager in Australia (I think, though the book doesn't actually say that). His father is a stay-at-home dad and potter; his mom is a career woman who doesn't seem to like him very much. Rocco has been having strange dreams about being in a cave and being attacked by a wolf. The dreams are really really real, and he doesn't know what to make of them. He is seeing the effects of the dreams in real life as well. He feels tired and sore from being attacked by the wolf. His eyes burn from sitting by a campfire. Rocco isn't sure what to make of all this. His family doesn't believe him and they think he may be on drugs and stuff.

Rocco reluctantly goes to visit his elderly grandmother (father's mother) in a nursing home. After he gets home, he falls asleep and wakes up in the Valley of Anshur, which is populated by a primitive tribe of humans. He is an outsider, but the village's sage, an elderly woman named Ayoshe, tells them to let him stay. Rocco has no idea how he got there or how to get back, so he begins to learn the ways of the tribe and how to live among them. But throughout, he is conflicted; torn between the feeling that he doesn't belong and his growing love for the tribe and the people in it. Will he be able to get back home? Does he really want to leave? How did he get there in the first place, and how did Anshur come into existence?

This is a beautifully written book, y'all. It's just lovely. The characters, the setting, the ways of the tribe...everything felt very real. I wanted to live in Anshur by the time it was over. The books raises some interesting questions about destiny and fate, and points out the power of simple acts. I can't really say much else without spoiling the whole thing. But if you can track this book down, I highly highly recommend it.

More Trixie in my next update. Promise. I'm setting myself a target date of May 23rd to have it up. You can hold me to it. If you're still reading, thank you for your patience.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

"This school should serve insurance policies with lunch"- Eat Your Poison, Dear

I read this book over and over again as a kid. It says "another Sebastian Barth mystery" at the top, but so far, I've only been able to track down three of these books. This one was definitely my favorite of the three.

Sebastian Barth is a fairly typical eighth-grader in a small town in Connecticut. Funny and well-liked, Sebastian apparently likes to solve mysteries and figure out strange happenings when they, well, happen. When the school nerd Milo Groot (seriously, how could he not be the nerd with a name like that? Poor kid!) throws up at lunch, it doesn't seem too mysterious at first. But gradually, more and more kids keep getting sick. Sebastian has a hunch that this is more than just the flu going around, so he volunteers to work in the cafeteria to check things out. When over 100 students throw up in one day (EWW!), the cafeteria is immediately shut down and a full fledged investigation is launched by the state board of health. Suspicion falls on spinster lunch lady Dorothy Swille, then on school bully Edward "Harley" Davidson. But Sebastian learns a hard lesson about not jumping to conclusions when he finally realizes that the culprit may be the one person nobody suspected.

The chapters in this book are very short, and very dialogue driven. We learn more about the characters by what they say than what they do. Both words and actions can be deceiving, as Sebastian finds out the hard way. The dialogue is sharp, with lots of humor, and the characters feel real. Definitely a recommended read for junior high ages, or for adults like me who still enjoy this stuff.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Greenbacks in the Green Mountains: Trixie Belden #22- "The Mystery at Mead's Mountain"

Forgive my fan-girly squealing. This is one of my favorite Trixie books of all time. Definite top 5. Maybe even top 3. I love it to pieces. It has a great location, an interesting mystery, in-character characters, and the right amounts of danger! and intrigue! During this re-reading, I noticed something I had never realized before. The remote location and cast of characters makes this story feel like an old-fashioned whodunit. Even the cover is good and accurate, right down to the color of the Bob-White’s sweaters. Let us rejoice in the re-telling.

It’s Christmastime, but all is not merry and bright for the Bob-Whites. The insurance payment on the Bob-White station wagon is due at the first of the year, and they are out of cash. In a profitable coincidence, Mr. Wheeler is in need of some “spirited young people” to check out a small ski resort in Vermont he is thinking about buying. He wants to turn it into a natural recreation area. He hires the Bob-Whites to inspect the resort and give him detailed reports on what they liked, what they disliked, and ways to improve the resort. They leave two days after Christmas and will stay for a whole week. Nice.

Oh, there’s a ghost, too. The resort is located on Mead’s Mountain, named for a cranky local trapper who tried to stop the settlement of the area. He was eventually hanged in the town square. Some think his long white-haired ghost haunts the area near the resort.

The Bob-Whites travel in-style in Mr. Wheeler’s private jet. The arrive in Groverville just in time for a snow storm. As Miss Trask is driving to Mead’s Mountain, Trixie thinks she sees a white-haired man out walking through the snow in the woods. The others say it was just her imagination, but Trixie isn’t so sure.

They arrive at the resort without further incident. I feel the need to introduce the cast of characters who are staying or working at the resort, because they will all play a role in the story.

Pat and Katie O’Brien- married couple who are the lodge’s caretakers. They have a mischievous but adorable four year-old daughter named Rosie. She and Bobby would get along well. Pat and Katie seem nice, and they obviously love Mead’s Mountain.

Linda and Wanda Fleming- twin sisters who run the lodge’s restaurant. They make very good food, and seem nice. Actually, everyone in this book seems nice, on the surface at least.

Jack Caridiff and Bert Mitchell- vacationing merchant marines. They seem out of place at a ski lodge, and they seem amused by the idea of teen-aged detectives. In fact, everyone at the lodge laughs at Trixie and Honey’s detecting aspirations. They will not be laughing long.

Eric- the lodge’s young and handsome ski instructor. He’s very good at his job, but he seems moody and tense at times. He and his mother were supposed to stay at the lodge for two weeks, but Eric showed up alone and looking for work. Suspicious, wouldn’t you say?

The Honeymooners- Exactly what it sounds like. A couple on their honeymoon. We don’t see much of them. They do baby-sit Rosie once during this book, which I find very mysterious. It wasn’t that many years ago when I was on my honeymoon, and baby-sitting was the last thing on my mind.

Strange happenings begin almost right away. Someone trashes the Bob-Whites suite and leaves a note saying “Leave my mountain now!” Signed T.L.M. Apparently Thomas Mead’s ghost can write. Someone locks the girls out of their room the next morning after they take an early morning swim.

Honey loses a valuable watch while the Bob-Whites are out at their first skiing lesson. She’s certain she left it on the dresser, but it’s gone when they get back. Wanda also mentions that a jar of quarters is missing from her room.

During their first skiing excursion, the Bob-Whites find an old cabin hidden back in the woods. Trixie is intrigued, of course, but the others laugh it off and laugh at her. Back at the lodge, Eric tells them the cabin is abandoned and rotted. Trix thought she saw smoke coming from it, but doesn’t say anything.

The next day is even crazier. Mart gets caught in an avalanche, but Super Jim and the rest of the gang manage to rescue him before he suffocates. Back at the lodge, the lights mysteriously go out just after dinner. Trixie, Honey, and Mart investigate and find another note lying next to the main breaker box. “Your life is in danger!” Mart is not amused, but Trixie asks him not to say anything. That night, she can’t sleep. Trixie steps out onto the balcony and overhears Eric below her, talking to someone whose voice she doesn’t recognize. She hears phrases like “The money looks good” and “search the woods.”

Trixie is determined to do some searching of her own the next day. She and Honey check out the cabin. Not only is it not abandoned, they find a grouchy old man living there. He’s not in the mood for visitors and he tells them to leave and never come back. Trixie notices that the blinds are shut and that the places smells like alcohol. The gang thinks he might be making alcohol, and dub him “Mr. Moonshine.” But being grumpy and making your own alcohol aren’t technically against the law. Trixie feels there is more going on, though.

Wanda and Linda invite the group to go to dinner in town that night, and Eric goes along with them. He ends up paying for dinner for everyone. Trixie wonders how he has that much money, and why he seems nervous after the meal.

On the way back from the restaurant, the van the Bob-Whites are riding in is almost crushed by a tree limb. A tree limb that has been sawed off! Another brush with death, another note. Trixie takes note of the boot prints near the tree. Since ghosts usually don’t use saws or wear boots, she figures all they have to do is find the person at the lodge whose boots match the prints and they will have their suspect.

Skiing the next day, the Bob-Whites see Mr. Moonshine skiing alone. He skis himself right into a tree, and the Bob-Whites give him first aid. Diana recognizes him as the famous but reclusive artist Carl Stevenson. She met his daughter Ellen Johnson at a benefit her parents hosted. This would explain his ink-stained hands and his not being a people person. Trix is a bit disappointed that he’s just an artist and not a criminal.

Back at the lodge, Katie tells the group that Rosie was the one who took Honey’s watch and Wanda’s quarters. Like a raccoon, Rosie is attracted to shiny things. She apologizes and all is forgiven. The mystery seems to be winding down, but Trix still wants to know who the ghost is and what Eric’s mysterious conversation was about.

As the Bob-Whites week at the lodge draws to a close, the mysterious happenings draw to a climax. Counterfeit bills are being passed in town, and Trixie thinks Mr. Moonshine may actually be Mr. Counterfeiter. She and Honey go back to the cabin, but this time Carl Stevenson drags them inside and locks the door. Instead of doing bad things to them, Carl starts lamenting about everything going wrong and wondering what to do now. He tells the girls that two people have kidnapped his daughter and are forcing him to make counterfeit bills for them before they will release her. Eric is Ellen’s son and Carl’s grandson. He knows what’s going on, and has been searing the woods for his mother. Carl can’t tell who the two people are; they always wear masks and are completely covered. One is short and one is tall. Two men, or maybe a man and a woman. They’re supposed to meet Carl at a nearby pond that night to make the final drop, and then they will tell him where Ellen is. Trixie and Honey promise to help and not to go to the police.

The girls are excited to get back and tell the boys what they found. But the boys aren’t buying it. Mart tells them that they just bought a sob story and let a counterfeiter get away. However, Jim says he will go with the girls to the pond tonight just to be sure. If no one shows up, they will go to the police.

Things go about like you’d expect at the pond. The bad guys show up driving Pat O’Brien’s truck. Trixie, Honey, and Jim are upset that he turns out to be a bad guy. Jim disables the truck and takes out the bad guy. How many has he knocked out at this point? I’m surprised he hasn’t broken his hand yet.

In true Scooby-Doo fashion, Trixie unmasks the villain, but he’s hiding behind a fake Pat O’Brian mask. No, not really, but it’s not who they think it is. Tall bad guy is Bert Mitchell, and the short one is Jack Cardiff. They are no longer doubting Trixie’s detective skills. Ellen is found in some nearby caves, and the Bob-Whites wrap everything up and return to the lodge in time to ring in the new year.

Last paragraph cheese (not too bad in this one): “Above the dark woods was the peak of Mead’s Mountain, gleaming in the moonlight. What a wonderful place to finish off a great year, she (Trixie) thought. I wonder what new places and mysteries this year will bring. If it’s anything like last year, what a very happy new year it will be, indeed!”