Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Mary Lou #3, The Mystery of the Secret Band

Of all the Mary Lou books, this one had the most original plot. Mary Lou is asked by her father to stay at a guest house in Philadelphia and help the manager discover who has been stealing from the residents. Her side project is to find Margaret Detweiler, a local girl who has disappeared. Of course, the two cases end up being related.

Mary Lou poses as a guest of Mrs. Hilliard, the manager. She gets to know most of the guests and suspects several of them (an old maid who felt she should have inherited the house, the daughter of another guest, who elopes with her young man) before she moves on to the real suspect: a girl calling herself Pauline Brooks. ML realizes her mistake when she sees Pauline with another girl, Miss Jackson, and another guest id's Miss Jackson as the servant who cut out after two of the earlier thefts. ML realizes that there's a "secret band" of thieves working together to rob hotels.

Her search for Margaret Detweiler turns up that the girl was fired for theft from the store where she was working. Margaret was then offered a job by a mysterious Mrs. Ferguson, who witnessed the discovery of the theft. Of course, it turns out that Fergie is the head of the secret band (she planted the stolen item on Margaret), and Margaret is too good a girl to steal--she only stays with the loot, "under duress."

In the end, ML calls her dad to come help, and he's able to get everyone arrested, while ML drives out to the abandoned house to find the loot. She gets locked/boarded into the house by the local guy keeping watch. Mrs. Hilliard realizes something is wrong when ML doesn't come home that night and alerts Detective Gay. They come to the rescue and release her, arresting the watch guy, and finding Margaret in the process. They take all the loot back to the rooming house and distribute it to the residents, making a Merry Christmas for all.
  • Max is ridiculously upset about ML leaving over Christmas, because she's going to miss some important dance, and he's the class president. He then shows up in Philadelphia for a couple of days to surprise her (sweet, because she's homesick) and proposes a secret elopement (creepy). What does he think they're going to do, find a JotP, tie the knot, consummate the marriage in the back of his roundabout, then reveal everything on graduation? Yeah, actually just that. Well, the roundabout is implied. ML is appropriately horrified. How Beverly Gray of her.
  • In case you didn't figure it out, the previous two books took place over the summer between junior and senior years, and this book takes place over winter break of their senior year. ML is still 16 until spring.
  • The secret band? Wasn't the word "gang" in use by this point?
  • You know immediately that Pauline is going to be a bad guy because she's wearing "too much lipstick." If she were okay, it would have just been "bright" or "a lot."
  • Illegal activity for this book: when ML gets trapped in the house, it's because she BROKE IN a window, then the guy covers it up when he notices it. It's not an intentional entrapment.
  • Nothing happens to Margaret, even though she's been consorting with thieves for almost an entire year. I know she's supposedly coerced, but you think she could have told SOMEONE, if she's really so innocent.
  • Pauline and the other girls disguise themselves as drunk men to get in people's rooms. I was kind of surprised by the mention of drunkenness/portrayal of drunken behavior. I did check; Prohibition was repealed in 1933, so it wasn't actually illegal, though.
  • ML has a squirrel coat. And goloshes. And fashionable long snow pants.
  • The Philadelphia thing pretty much confirms the Pennsylvania location for the first book/Mary Lou's hometown, Riverside.
  • Edie does this in the other two books, but it's at its most annoying here: the upfront foreshadowing. Seriously, the end of every chapter is some variation on this: "Little did she realize at that moment how thankful she was to be . . . " Constantly. SHOW me, don't TELL me, Edie. Take me by surprise for once.
  • Unlike some other breeder sets or canceled series, it doesn't hint at any ghost titles in the end. It actually ends in such a way to finish the series pretty satisfactorily, really.
  • I love quaint inscriptions and bookplates. It's odd that this was owned by a boy, but I love he put that he was junior varsity, first team.

So, this series wasn't too bad. Lots of good fashion, very 30s, a little romance, three very different mysteries and settings, great cover art. My biggest complaint with the series is that I feel the secondary characters are lacking. They're either good or bad, without any real personality traits. These books totally need a Chubs. They're also not very gripping. It's not like the early Beverly Gray or Judy Bolton books, where I'm completely absorbed and have to finish and then read the next one, etc. I will say they're ahead of the times as far as being mystery-focused and stand-alone.

What's next? Shirley Flight, maybe? I did get inspired by aviation memorabilia on Antiques Roadshow this week. Speaking of which, I just love it when people are overwhelmed and cry on that show. Especially old ladies.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Mary Lou #2, The Mystery of the Fires

Well, thankfully, I quite liked this book, which gives me hope for the final volume, The Mystery of the Secret Band. It reminded me a lot of the Kay Tracey book, The Message in the Sand Dunes, with traces of Doris Force at Cloudy Cove. In other words, the basic idea of being on vacation at a beach cottage and being all chummy with the vacationers at other cottages.

ML, her mother, Freckles, and Jane are off to their cottage at Shady Nook (which there's a convenient map of in the front) for the summer. Sticking with the pattern of the last book, ML's dad is off on a case and doesn't show up until the final chapters. When they arrive, they're told that their friends' (the Hunters) cabin burned down last week, and arson is suspected. The main suspects are Cliff, who technically owns the cabin since his dad died and needs the insurance money, and Ditmar, an out of work architect, who needs the contract for the rebuild. Soon though, Flicks' cabin and inn/restaurant is torched, as well as the Smiths' house. David McCall, who is way unreciprocatedly into ML, manages to get Cliff arrested. Another suspect, Rebecca Adams, who is certifiably crazy, crops up.

In the end, ML figures out it's Mr. Frazier, whose overpriced inn is benefitting from the closure of the cabins and the rival inn, with the paid help of Rebecca's brother, Tom. Tom and Frazier catch ML eavesdropping and manage to get her committed by pretending that ML is actually Rebecca. In the end, ML manages to signal Norman and Max, who are out looking for her in their car. Tom and Frazier get arrested, and Cliff gets released.
  • Cliff is described as "homely," but very personable and a good guy. He's known for his card tricks. I like the break from the typical gorgeous athlete type. He and Jane have a sort-of-romance.
  • The mental institution bit is seriously scary. Every time ML tries to tell them who she is, they think it's part of her illness.
  • The institution is described as a pretty nice place of its type (which is definitely unrealistic for the time), and Rebecca decides to go live there voluntarily.
  • ML follows the Nancy Drew mold by not being super interested in any of the boys who are obsessed with her, even though she's grateful to Max for rescuing her.
  • ML rescues the Smiths' little girl from the fire, in series stereotype #322.
  • ML's dad seriously does nothing. He helps get the bad guys arrested, AFTER ML figures out who they are, and the boys rescue her.
  • ML is supposed to be 16, and David McCall is 22. Rather icky, no? Cliff is around 19(sophomore at Yale), ftr.
  • ML knows how to signal because she's a Girl Scout, which is also mentioned in the previous book (she uses it as a reason to not get rewards for good deeds). I don't really like these references, even though it's not surprising, since Edie was a troop leader. ML's just too old and not that much of a goody-goody.
  • As you can see in the map, Shady Nook is on the Hudson. Adirondacks, possibly? It takes them a full day to drive there, so that would be in keeping with a Pennsylvania locale.
So again, Edie gets points for scary situations, and I like Jane's character a bit more after this book, even though she's still a little bland. I'm optimistic for the next (and final) book, The Mystery of the Secret Band, which seems like it will actually involved her father and yet another setting (urban).

Mary Lou #1, The Mystery at Dark Cedars

The Mary Louise Gay books were originally published as a breeder set by A.L. Burt in 1935. They either never caught on, or Blue Ribbon Books chose not to continue the series when they bought out Burt in 1937. Edith Lavell wrote two other, probably more famous, series, the Linda Carlton series and one of the many Girl Scouts series. I've never read either, so I can't make any comparisons.

I had been warned in advance by Jennifer's description that Mary Louise is not exactly a law-abiding citizen. And, boy, was she right. Her m.o. seems to be, "As long as someone's guilty, you can do anything. ANYTHING." She's the daughter of a police detective, but neither he nor the police plays too much of a role. Her mother is very much of the, "Yes, dear," variety and is completely extraneous. She has a little brother known as Freckles (Joseph) and her best friend is named Jane. As far as I could tell, Jane's only personality traits are being less fearless than Mary Louise and more interested in boys.

Mary Louise has an eccentric miser of a neighbor, Miss Hattie, who lives at Dark Cedars, her decrepit mansion, with two simple-minded servants (Hannah and her husband) and her niece, whom she treats like a servant. It's this niece, Elsie, whom Mary Louise and Jane befriend and enter into the mystery. There are mysterious sounds at night, and then Miss Hattie's safe is burgled for gold and paper money. Elsie is the immediate suspect of everyone, but, a la Murder on the Orient Express, there are actually multiple culprits. In the end, Miss Hattie gets her money back, and Elsie is sent to live with a more sympathetic relative.

  • The book's opinions of "colored" people and gypsies would not pass current muster. At one point, Mary Louise gets important testimony from a black woman, the wife of a deacon, and her father tells her that the word of a colored woman doesn't mean a thing. And he's clearly not talking about "to other people," he's saying she's not trustworthy.
  • A lot of the book is based around Executive Order 6012, ordered by President Roosevelt to prevent the hoarding of gold during the Depression. It was illegal to own any gold coins, bullion, or certificates. So Miss Hattie's stash is illegal. Elsie is considered a likely thief, because she's thought to be too ignorant to know that she couldn't use the gold. In the end, the true thief of the gold is a gypsy, as gypsies only traded in gold and silver.
  • Edie talks a lot about clothes. Mary Louise and Jane give Elsie some of their clothes, including a green print silk dress, a wooly white coat, and a pink lawn dress, along with several items of lingerie. Elsie's old clothes are a dated purple calico, and she's envious of Mary Louise and Jane's bob hairstyles.
  • The most shockingly illegal events of the book? ML&J stash away in Miss Hattie's nephew Harry's roadster (shades of Nancy Drew and Beverly Gray), and, when he stops, take his locked leather satchel. ML then cuts it open with a pen knife--completely destroying the bag. Luckily for her, some of the stolen money is inside it. It wouldn't be that bad, but at this point ML has no reason to suspect Harry more than any of the other relatives, and Jane is extremely upset at the proceedings. ML tells her that they'll replace it--if he's innocent.
  • They talk about being near Harrisburg. Pennsylvania, maybe?
  • ML's "boy-friend" is Max, Jane's is Norman.
  • At one point, ML is bound and thrown into Miss Hattie's closet, which was pretty scary, I have to say. Very Nancy Drew of her, too.
  • ML's mom is way too trusting of her, clearly for no reason. I just think it's bizarre to have such a clearly Nancy Drew/Penny's Parker & Nichols character with a mother.
So, not bad, but not the greatest. In 3-book series, though, I almost always prefer either the first two (Arden Blake) or the last two (Adventure Girls), so hopefully this is a case of the latter. Next up, the second book, The Mystery of the Fires.

C&L Mystery Stories for Girls #7, The Dormitory Mystery

Cupples and Leon published 10 mystery stories for girls in the 1930s and 40s, as a companion series to their mystery and adventure series for boys. They're probably best known for the titles by Mildred Wirt, The Twin Ring Mystery and Mystery of the Laughing Mask. While those titles are rather expensive, the rest of the series can usually be had for less than $20 apiece, even in dj. The order of the books isn't entirely clear--they're unrelated, so it doesn't really matter, but The Dormitory Mystery is seventh in order of publication dates, although my copy lists itself as the third of six titles on the front dj flap.

Honestly, I sought this particular title out because I liked the cover art, and the blurb made it sound like it was going to be a "college girl" type book, which I love. I was kind of wrong on both counts in the end. First off, the main characters are juniors in high school. They're all interested in drama and theater, and the dorm aspect comes in when the main character, Martha, is selected to participate in a summer drama program at Central University. She beats out her classmate, Angela Lee, who is a total Madonna-faux-British-accent pill. Somehow or another, Angela manages to get a special appointment to the program, and off they both go.

Once there, Martha meets the crazy "Dean" Jones (as far as I can tell, she's just the dorm mom). It's obvious that she's looking for something valuable on the property. Martha loves her roommate, Chubs, who collects pitchers. The mystery really gets underway when Martha buys Chubs a pitcher at a pawn shop, that exactly matches the design on their fireplace. They find clues through it, it gets stolen, they find a matching one, etc. By talking to the original owner, they find out that jewels have been hidden in the dorm, which used to be a fancy mansion.

The entire time, Angela and Dean Jones have been battling them to get all the clues and find the jewels--and not very subtly either. At one point, Dean Jones seriously locks Martha and Chubs up in their room, for not loaning the pitcher to Angela, supposedly as a prop for a play. I mean, really, that's kidnapping, no? In the end, the jewels are found underneath a stone frog in the garden, and Dean Jones is revealed as Angela's aunt. I have no clue how either knew about the jewels.
  • At first, it reminded me of the Girls of Central High series, with Angela Lee being very similar to the Hessie Grimes character.
  • This book has lots of light-hearted, funny moments. I'd read another Alice Anson book for this feature alone.
  • Chubs' real name is Roberta. Safe to say, "Chubs" wouldn't cut it in a modern book. That said, Chubs is probably the most likable character in the book, is still considered to be pretty, and is admired by both boys and girls. She's very funny, loves to eat, and has a temperamental little roadster. Besides, she's a collector--what's not to love?
  • Pen(elope) Price is another fun character. She's a good comic actress who has a lab set up in her room. They use her Bunsen burner and microscope to read the clues in the pitchers.
  • Martha's "boy-friend" is named Jock. *snicker*
  • Dean Jones is a BITCH. Like I said, she locks them in their room, confiscates the pitcher at one point, and randomly enforces strict rules.
  • At one point, Angela trips Martha going down the stairs, and Martha sprains her ankle. They're in competition over a part, and Angela is trying to take her out. I mean, for real, that's totally the inspiration for Showgirls right there.
  • There's a MUCH too long section in the beginning about the events leading up to Martha's summer program, involving different characters and a different setting (her high school). It barely relates to the rest of the book, and I was getting very impatient to get to the "real" part.
  • The book takes part somewhere in the Midwest, within about 50 miles of Chicago.
  • At one point, Martha's friend Lucia's sister invites them to the May Festival at Mount VERNON college. This book was published after the first Beverly Gray books--possible reference or coincidence?
  • The cover art ticks me off, because it shows the final hiding place for the jewels, which isn't discovered until the almost the very end of the book. I spent most of the book thinking wtf, frog? I'd have rather seen the silver pitcher on the cover.
  • There are several references to the Depression in the first chapters. Supposedly Angela's father has lost most of his money due to it. There's also references to then-contemporary actresses and some other pop culture items.
In case you couldn't tell, I quite enjoyed this book. The good guys were likable, even if Martha was sort of boring, and I seriously hated the bad guys (Angela and the Dean). Next up? The Mary Louise Gay series.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Judy Bolton #35, The Hidden Clue

I have to say, I liked this one more than the past few Judy's I've reviewed. And then I realize that it's because it's basically revisiting the Roberta books. I'm not the rabid Roberta fan that a lot of Phantom Friends are, but the Roberta books are seriously an improvement on these final volumes in the series.

The premise is that Judy and Peter are still taking care of a Sister, and her Younger Brother (seriously, that's what they're called) from the orphanage that burnt down, until the matron gets back from her honeymoon. The girl refuses to give any details about her or her brother's past, including their names. Of course, Judy immediately assumes that the children have been kidnapped. And I have to say, it was oddly satisfying to have her proved wrong--the children ran away from their foster parents, but their biological parents were definitely dead. Of course, once on the run, the kids accidentally choose to share a getaway vehicle with criminals and a bunch of loot, so Peter is able to get in on the action. Once Judy's obviously in the wrong, the children get adopted by the librarian (who Sister has bizarrely accused of being her mom all along) and her husband.

I think what I liked most about this book is that it considered a lot of moral and ethical implications of blissful ignorance and the rights of adopted children to know about their origins. Judy's opinion is that she always wants to KNOW, and that it's always better to have the truth. Pretty much everyone else, including Horace, Dr. Bolton, and the officials at a foundling home believes the opposite: that as long as the present situation is good, you're better off not knowing what happened before. Judy's biased, though, by her conviction that the kids' parents, or at least their mom, is alive and virtuous. Apparently, Judy's as caught by the parallels to Roberta as I am. Only, again, she's wrong.
  • Holly again features as sidekick, although she annoys me less than usual. Again, I would have preferred more Horace and Honey in her place.
  • I seriously dislike the Sister character. She's obnoxious and lies, which is played off as a mixture of trauma and imagination. I don't care, she's horrid. The best part? To an extent, Judy agrees with me. I also like that Judy isn't able to win her over; Sister instead prefers the woman who adopts her in the end.
  • Good continuity: Horace quotes rather serious moral texts at her. In the earliest books, he's said to have considered the ministry, which gets revisited in a couple of the prior books.
  • They're in Chicago, and they mention that they visit Roberta after the criminals are caught. However, nothing of this reunion is shown, which puzzles me. I think a nice chapter about the visit, emphasizing the parallels--and, ultimately, the differences-- of the situations would have been very much in place. Maybe this is another example of G&D brushing the whole Roberta storyline under the rug?
  • Blackberry gets sent to the pound! I was seriously pissed on his and Judy's behalf. He's shipped off when their neighbor in Chicago complains about him to the super. Seriously. Pissed. The guy just does it after one word from the unpleasant tenant.
  • I've always thought that the cover art looked more like a pulp novel cover than a Judy Bolton. The doll looks like it's about to go on a killing spree. I don't love the paperback format (the cover is . . . pixelly. and it doesn't blend with my other Judys on the shelf), but I'm not willing to shell out $50+ for a PC.
I WAS able to win a copy of The Search for the Glowing Hand, which means the only JB volume I lack is The Pledge of the Twin Knights. Which, by the way, is referred to as The Pledge of the Black Knights at the end of this book. I love it when the end of a text refers to a ghost text for the next title, or there's an obvious title or plot change from what was expected when the book was published, and the next volume was (or was not) released. That said, I'm thinking the next books up may be either a Shirley Flight or The Dormitory Mystery, by Alice Anson.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Judy Bolton #34 The Puzzle in the Pond

Let's start with the cover on this one. It probably helps that I have a truly gorgeous copy, but I love the level of detail in the artwork--it doesn't just fade away in the background. And as a fellow redhead discovering that yes, there are in fact shades of orange that one can safely wear, to the point of a mad love affair, I totally approve of Judy's outfit. Love the ballet flats and the delicate watch (bracelet?). The rest of the scene is true to the book, down to the boy (Danny), the beavers and their dam, Judy's camera, and the table leg. To be honest, though, I have to say I consistently like the cover art in Judy Bolton more than about any other series (exception: the bizarrely puppet-like cover of The Forbidden Chest).

Unfortunately, the book itself is only okay. The book is set at home in Dry Book Hollow, which is my preference for Judy books, and Peter is trying to round up the rest of the Mott gang from the last book. The scheme she stumbles into here is the refurbishing and selling of furniture looted during the great Roulsville flood, which, naturally, she discovers while attempting to take pictures of beavers near the Jewell sisters' house. She also meets Danny there, who lives at a nearby orphanage, although his original home lies abandoned near the dam. Eventually, by staking out the house, they find the real crook (Earle), clear Danny's dad, and reunite Danny's dad and the matron of the orphanage. Everyone lives happily ever after.
  • Holly the neighbor (introduced in The Black Cat's Clue) has decided she has a crush on Horace. However, consistent with the events of the previous book, Honey and Horace are "practically engaged." Holly ends up meeting Roger, who's her age, and moving on.
  • Honestly? Holly has always annoyed me. She could have been replaced by Honey, and I'd have been much happier.
  • It's mentioned that it's been 6 years since the flood, which I believe would put Judy at 21. I've been wondering about that, since her age hasn't really been mentioned since The Rainbow Riddle, where (I think) she's 18.
  • All the fashion fun is on the cover. *sigh*
  • Blackberry ex machina: he gets into the abandoned house, pushes the orphanage matron's wedding ring where it can be found, and then escapes to the Jewells' house.
  • I like the symmetry of returning to the flood. The Vanishing Shadow is seriously one of the best-written, most genuinely terrifying girls' series books ever. I love, love, LOVE it. The villain scares me to death, and the dance after the spelling match is just perfect. Also, great fashion.
I know I said I didn't have any until #38, but I forgot I had picked up one of the new paperback copies of #35. I also have hopes of getting a copy of #37 in the next week, but we'll see.

Monday, February 16, 2009

More eBay success

I have to say, one of the few good things about less traffic on eBay is that there's not NEARLY the competition that there used to be. Case in point: I paid close around $15-20 for the second and third books in the Mary Louise Gay series, and lost a few auctions that went for more. I've searched for over a year for a decent copy of the first book (and lost an auction or two that went higher than I wanted). A copy finally turned up this week, and I won it for only $7.99. I love the dust jacket art for this series, so I hope that the stories are equally good. Especially after all this time and effort.

So expect to be hearing about the adventures of Mary Lou in the coming weeks.

Vicki Barr #10, The Search for the Missing Twin

Vicki Barr doesn't really deserve her lackluster rep--the early books are great, and Behind the White Veil is one of the best girls' series books ever. However, it's unusual for a collector to only collect Vicki Barr, and her sister series, Cherry Ames, is much more popular.

That said, this title isn't the greatest. It takes place after the shift from stewardess to pilot, which fits the changing times it was written in, but is much less interesting. I LIKE to read about Vicki knowing every passenger's name and counting the silver and everyone smoking. The secrets of landing in snow are also interesting, but they're not at all charming.

In this book, Vicki is commissioned to look for (surprise!) a missing twin sister (Jennifer) of a family friend (Mary Verga), who disappeared in a shipwreck 15 years before. After tracing the dress Jennifer was wearing to a nurse to name and occupation (Jean Lane, adopted daughter of H. A. Lane the oil man), Vicki is eventually able to reunite the family. Seriously, the plot is that simple. There are NO subplots. You see now why I thought this book was rather boring, no?
  • Fashion is minimal again. "White sports clothes" and "pretty pink dress."
  • The twins are 17. The plot would be much more plausible if they were of age, and custody weren't an issue. Vicki convinces the Lanes that the Vergas won't interfere, because they're "very understanding" and "not wealthy." Very understanding, indeed.
  • Romance is surprisingly minimal. Cherry and Vicki both have a central romantic figure in the first volumes, then typically have one romantic interest per book thereafter (often never to be seen again). Good old Dean and Bill are the only menfolk featured, and not at all in a romantic context.
  • This book is rather unusual in that it takes place over several months. It begins in December and ends the following August or so (the end of summer), often skipping a few months in a sentence or so.
  • Mrs. Verga and Mary spend a total of a year and a half in hospitals after the wreck, strictly for emotional distress and some broken bones. Can you imagine that happening now? Naturally, Mrs. Verga has amnesia for a couple of months after the accident.
Not the greatest, but could be worse. I think it would have been better with a subplot, preferably with some romance involved. I am really pleased with the physical book, I have to say. I got it for $7.99 with free shipping on eBay, and it is IMMACULATE. At first I thought the dj was a repro, but it's just that nice.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Recent Purchases

My bookspending addiction has been in decline for about a year now, due to a combo of home-buying, having most easy-to-get books in my series of choice, and the downfall of eBay.

Lately though, I've been working on building a set of Trixie Beldens for my mom, which has thrown me back into my old haunts, plus I've finally gotten results from some of my saved eBay searches. I've been able to get two Shirley Flight books for less than $20 with shipping apiece, and I also got three more Christopher Cool Teen Agent books, which means I currently only need Ace of Shadows. That series really needs its own post someday. It's AMAZING.

Rounding out the list are Saboteurs on the River (Penny Parker), Courageous Wings (a single title by Nancy Drew ghostwriter, Mildred Wirt Benson), The Search for the Missing Twin (Vicki Barr), and The Ghost Wore White (Connie Blair, which I already owned, just not in dj). So some of these titles should become reviews soon, along with The Puzzle in the Pond. Of course, I probably have a dozen plus Dana Girls titles in my TBR pile, but frankly, I dislike almost all DG books.

Judy Bolton #33, The Secret Quest

Confession: I'm not really into the later Judy Bolton books, even though it's probably my favorite series ever. Unfortunate, considering you have to donate a kidney to get some of these higher numbers. Or in my case, about six months and $50 for a copy with a frankly crappy dust jacket.

Peter and Judy are still living at the hotel in D.C., just having wrapped up The Whispered Watchword. Sister Honey has just come in for a week of sight-seeing, but series plot stereotype #422 Unintentional Exchange of Suitcases (perhaps most memorably deployed in The Mystery of the Brass Bound Trunk) occurs. Naturally, the suitcase belongs to the two anachronistic old aunties Jewell, who have their nephew's top secret scientific papers stuffed in an antique coffee grinder. Could it be anything else?

Of course, they're unable to get in touch with these ladies, although they meet the nephew, whom Honey falls for immediately. Honey also wants to get back to Farringdon because some suspicious character is now working at the design place and interfering with her job. So, J+H bail on D.C. after a couple of days, head back, Horace is horribly jealous of nephew and has been beaten up by unnamed other suspcioius character (UOSC), and Judy and Honey head out to the isolated farm of the two sisters Jewell.

Once there, the pace escalates dramatically. UOSC (spoiler!) is posing as the nephew and playing poltergeist. Of course, Judy immediately recognizes him as being an escaped prisoner on the FBI's most wanted list. They organize a daring escape to telephone for help, but are chased by UOSC , who breaks his leg and nearly drowns in the process. He also has a name at this point, but frankly I don't recall it. Dr. Bolton and Horace arrive in the nick of time, and everything is put to rights. Speaking of which, as much as I love this series, it does annoy me a bit that Judy is forever having to get rescued, although it's usually by Peter.

The book ends with Horace and Honey reunited (I hate that they never get married, but Margaret Sutton was also upset by this when the series was axed abruptly), and Judy and Peter moving back to Dry Brook Hollow, so that Peter can round up the rest of the gang.

  • Fashion is minimal in this book, which is pretty typical of Sutton (I think we'll call her Margie, that seems pleasantly familiar). The two sisters wear "quaint" gingham dresses and sunbonnets. Honey is pissed about the suitcase exchange, because she has semi-matching suits and pillbox hats for her and Judy, with fabric she's designed. Speaking of pillbox hats, there's a subtle shout-out to Jackie O: when they see the President in a chauffered limo, they're taken aback by the beauty of the First Lady.

  • Blackberry the cat does feature in this book: he finishes his tenure as a rat-catcher for the Capitol, he almost gets stuck in a cannon, and he goes for help at the end.

  • I do like the Honey/Horace in this book. They're two of my favorite secondary series characters.

  • They go to church in Washington, and one of the readings is Akhenaten's hymn to the sun. I'd like to go to THAT church.

With the awkward pacing (seriously, the events in the 4th paragraph take place over a few hours at most) and flat characters, not my favorite Judy book. What is? Probably The Vanishing Shadow, The Haunted Attic, or Seven Strange Clues. I'm a 30s girl at heart. I'm not optimistic for #34, but at least I have it. After that, I've got nada until #38.

Getting ready to embark . . .

For about two years now, I've been seriously collecting vintage girls series' books and obsessively reading and posting on many, many blogs. So, I finally decided to start my own. The plan is to focus on reviewing the books, but we'll see.

My favorite series are Judy Bolton, Beverly Gray, Nancy Drew, Trixie Belden, and several more obscure ones (Adventure Girls, Peggy Lane, etc.). Basically, if it was written for girls, in series format, by Burt or Grossett & Dunlap, between 1920 and 1979, I own at least one volume of the series. I love references to vintage fashion and fun cover art. I also have a few boys' series books, in particular the Christopher Cool series, which is serious campy fun.

Unless someone has a firm objection, I probably won't be reviewing books in any particular order, since I've already read most of these. The exception to this will probably be the final Judy Bolton books, since I've been reading them in order for the past couple of years (stalling out in the thirties, not surprisingly). I'm finally back in business after several months, now that I've gotten my hands on a copy of The Secret Quest.

So, let's set off on our maiden voyage.
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