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!”