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!”