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.