Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Lilian Garis Books for Girls, Nancy Brandon

I got interested in the Lilian Garis books for girls recently, for several reasons. They all have original, different cover art (Thelma Gooch!), with glossy frontispieces and internal illustrations. They're also more affordable/easier to find than some other series books from that period(20s-30s), which happens to be my favorite era of series books. I've also been in the mood for books along the lines of the Patty Fairfield series (I love, adore, and WORSHIP Patty Fairfield, btw), with a focus more on fun and frivolity.

That said, I've never knowingly read a title by Lillian Garis, although she wrote under so many pseudonyms, it's hard to say. I mean, the woman wrote hundreds of juvenile fiction titles, but I've somehow successfully avoided them all. Do I own the entire Melody Lane series? Yes. Have I read a one of them? Nope. Do I own/have read the entire, utterly obscure Arden Blake series, by Cleo, her daughter? Yes. So I have no excuse for this lapse, besides the fact that her writing has the reputation of not aging well/being pretty bad. All of the books in this series consist of pairs of books about a protagonist (i.e., 1st book=Female Name, sequel=Female Name's Noun)

So my first foray with Lil is with Nancy Brandon. Nancy's mother is a businesswoman, and Nancy--who despises all activities domestic--wants to follow in her footsteps. Her first venture is in running a "whatnot shop" on her summer break from what I assume is high school. While doing so, she learns that (a.) business is harder than she thought and (b.) one must attend to at least SOME domestic responsibilities. She makes new friends because she's so great and popular, and there's a vague mystery involving a local professor who disappears at will. It's completely obvious that he's going underground somehow, but all these simple townfolk are evidently too, well, simple for that conclusion. In their defense, though, it's never clear to me why it has to be a secret, anyway.
  • Nancy's mother is young and pretty and mistaken for her younger sister. That part is all very Nan/Patty Fairfield.
  • This book is unusual in that Nancy is fatherless (no explanation, just that her mother is a widow), rather than motherless. I also liked the angle of Nancy's mother working and being successful in the 1920s and Nancy hating housework.
  • In case you couldn't figure it out from the summary, nothing really happens. Which can be okay--almost nothing ever happens in Patty Fairfield--but with Lil at the helm instead of Carolyn Wells, it's just boring.
  • Lil has that annoying tendency to tell rather than show. Which is particularly annoying when she's TELLING us how great Nancy is while SHOWING us that she's rather obnoxious.
  • Isn't it weird to be reading about a Nancy that isn't Drew?
  • The one aspect that I thought was well-written was Nancy's relationship with her younger brother Ted. They alternately fight, then have friendly moments that are rather understatedly tender.
  • Other props? Lil describes characters' looks and fashion constantly. Yellow is Nancy's color, btw. She's tall and willowy, with shiny black curls and dimples. Attire worn through the book includes "a simple blue ratine," a sport costume, with "a very fancy jacket and a light wool and silk plaid skirt," "all the known signs of college life . . . a worsted tam o'shanter (in summer), . . . a sweater to match, with a tan golf skirt and --heavy stockings, ending in good, strong, walking Oxfords," "brand new, quite modish heliotrope dress," "her oldest gingham and her most battered big straw hat," " a frame of grey veils, set over a small summer hat," "yellow and white tissue dress," "black satin bathing suit," "geranium georgette," "silver silk dress and black-satin-trimmed-with-silver grapes hat," and, my personal favorite, a "howling yellow gingham."
  • This book is a romance-free zone. *sigh*
This book was okay, I suppose, if not exactly what I was looking for. I think I'll get the sequel, Nancy Brandon's Mystery, but probably not the other (gulp) sixteen books in the series. Upcoming? I just got Pemberton Ginther's The Jade Necklace, which is very tempting. I also got five of the Josephine Lawrence Books for Girls, by Cupples and Leon, for much the same reasons that I got Nancy Brandon. I know five sounds excessive just to try out, but a seller on ABE had them in dj for $4 each, with nice combined shipping.

I got a first-time home buyer tax credit this year, and some of it went to new porch furniture. So the reading for the last couple of posts (and probably the next several) has taken place with Jules the dachshund on these:

Brad Forrest Adventure Series, #5, 6, & 8

I purchased this set of books on a whim--the description sounded like good potential for the ridiculous, a la Christopher Cool. And while they're nowhere near Chris Cool levels of amazing, they're pretty campy. They're also extremely short--I can put one away in about 35 minutes. It was written as a Canadian series (a bit unusual) with eight volumes published in 1965, along with what are believed to be eight ghost volumes. Each title is in the format of Brad Forrest's Location Adventure. New York Adventure deals with heroin smuggling/the UN (yes, really), Yucatan Adventure is about Latin American revolutionaries, and London Adventure is a classic Cold War/defected/kidnapped scientist plot.

The front of each book has what sounds bizarrely like a brief bio for a company newsletter, which I believe I must reproduce in full.

"Bradley Raymond Forrest was born in Ottawa but he grew up in Toronto where his father's newspaper empire has its headquarters. Mr. Forrest owns a farm in Quebec and a Montreal house, so during the holidays, Brad learned to speak French fluently.

He is taking political science at the University of Toronto, and he plays hockey, golf, and football; he is keen on skiing and small-car [as opposed to large-car?] racing and, as a flier, he has his multi-engine ticket. Hunting and skeet shooting have made him a fair shot, and mountain climbing, skin diving and riding have kept him very fit. Although Mr. Forrest is very wealthy, he believes that his son should earn his holidays, so Brad has done all sorts of jobs in the newspaper business when not engaged in disentangling himself from his many fascinating and sometimes [no, always, trust me] dangerous adventures."

I mean, really. The awkward changes in tense, the random punctuation, the never-ending sentences . . .
  • Brad has NOT done all sorts of jobs in the newspaper business. He has been sent to multiple locations to do such things, but inevitably ends up involved in international intrigue. Furthermore, his dad's job activities are described more as a diplomat than a news tycoon.
  • There's never any explanation of the non-existence of Brad's mother. I assume she's dead, but it's not stated in any of these three volumes.
  • Why is it almost never a dead FATHER? I guess it ruins the whole "must be rich enough to go on constant expensive adventures" thing.
  • The wealthy blond athlete is in a frat. I know you're shocked. There's just as many mentions of him doing school work as there are of him doing newspaper work. AKA none.
  • Girls are not mentioned AT ALL in these books. A little weird, considering he's supposed to be 18, good-looking, great guy, tons of money. While they're short (younger audience?), there's plenty of violence (older audience?), so I'm not sure why.
  • He also doesn't have a chum. Instead, he has a different secondary helper character in every book. So another oddity. Brad Forrest has issues with close relationships?
  • I swear, this boy kids kidnapped/held captive more than Nancy Drew. We're talking multiple times per book.
I really wish the ghost titles had been published, particularly the adventures in Toronto, Nassau, and Anchorage. Of the existing titles, I wouldn't mind getting my hands on Madagascar, Calgary, and Hallifax. Speaking of fatherless main characters, my next review will be one of the Lilian Garis Books for Girls, Nancy Brandon.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Judy Bolton #9, The Mysterious Half Cat

This might have to be my favorite Judy Bolton book of the moment.

The book opens with Judy dreaming a strange dream in the hammock--Blackberry splits in half, with the tail end following Peter and the head end following Arthur. Judy buys a dream book from a beggar, trying to figure it out, while the boys are just concerned with which half of the cat contained the heart. *eye roll*

The Boltons are getting ready to welcome Dora "Scottie" Scott and her little sister Carol for a visit. She was friends with Judy in Roulsville and is now coming back from Alaska to look for relatives. Judy's excited to have her back at first, but Scottie is now moody and honestly pretty unpleasant most of the time. Carol has a bizarre brain malformation that makes her "language deaf" and needs expensive experimental surgery to fix it. Where, oh, where, can their old miserly grandfather be?

Judy tries to distract Scottie with a mystery. Wing Lee, the Chinese laundry man (almost as good as a Chinese cook!), has been hearing strange ghostly noises in his cellar every week. Judy lies in wait and hears them talking about splitting the cat in half. They decide that the beggar has something to do with the mystery and follow him to his house on upper Grove Street. Scottie's been excessively interested in the guy--I'm sure you can guess who he is. He gets beaten up by boys looking for his hidden riches. Judy's figured it all out by now, but the grandfather says he can't claim his family now that he's not got any money--he's not claimed them all along, because he's afraid they'll take his money, and now that he trusts them, he needs it back, to give them a show of faith. Yeah, weird/not much sense.

Of course, Judy scares the boys into giving the money back, she puts it in a bank, so that he won't be tempted back into his miserly ways, and Carol successfully has the surgery. The Scotts move into a house across the line on upper Grove Street, which furthers the Judy Bolton Gentrification Project, and everyone lives happily ever after.
  • I don't see how Lorraine ever agrees to marry Arthur a few books down the line. I mean, she's supposed to be so jealous, and Arthur only decides to marry her after Judy turns him down. He seems so clearly to prefer Judy in these early books.
  • Blackberry ex machina: he stays in the house with the beggar when he's injured. Judy et al. only discover the now seriously ill beggar in searching for Blackberry.
  • Peter doesn't show the night they sneak into the miser's basement.. Judy's so upset about him not coming (and possibly scaring them with his flashlight) that she CRIES. When they straighten things out, she apologizes and wants to know how she can make it up to him. He responds by kissing her in the middle of the road. *sigh*
  • When Judy asks Honey about where Peter was, she says, "You know yourself, Honey, that any kind of an adventure is lots more exciting to share with Peter than with Arthur." Was there ever any doubt about who she ends up with?
  • Everyone in these old books stays out as late as I ever did--parties end at two and three in the morning, they go breaking into houses at midnight. People in the thirties didn't have the eight o'clock curfews, only go with chaperones, etc. that you might expect.
  • It's a little odd to me that Horace, Peter, and Arthur, who are grown men with jobs/in law school, gallivant around with these high school girls. However, this happens all the time in pretty much any pre-1960 book, so I guess I should take it as gospel.
It's odd that I like this book so much when I think the main mystery (beggar/grandfather) is so stupid and the guest secondary characters (Scottie/Carol) are SO annoying. But to me, this is the last classic Judy mystery--she graduates from high school at the end of the book, and the next volume ushers in the whole engagement scenarios, and the next has her working for Peter, which starts off the whole pre-Roberta arc. This the last one with them all running around in a group, before a new crowd of secondary characters are ushered in. And, honestly, the kiss. It's almost as good as when Peter kisses her after she's nearly strangled to death in The Yellow Phantom. I love that she totally almost died, and all she can think about is how she can't wait to tell Pauline that Peter kissed her.

What can I say? I'm a sucker for romance. Nancy Drew would NOT approve. Anyway, next up, randomly enough, is a few volumes from a Canadian series, the Brad Forrest Adventure Series.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Judy Bolton #4, Seven Strange Clues

Seven Strange Clues is the first Judy Bolton book with all the key players and struggles in place. Honey made her first appearance in the previous book, the Arthur/Peter thing is nicely set up, and Judy realizes definitely that Honey likes Horace--and that he likes both Honey and Irene.

A poster contest is being set up by the local department store for the schoolchildren, with health as the theme. I picture WPA-type posters from the same time period. Judy is persuaded to enter by Honey, so that Honey's won't be the worst. Way to be a kind friend, Honey. Judy has the two young men renting part of the family's garage make a work bench in the cellar and invites Honey and Irene to share the space and her paints. Kay Vincent, an unpleasant classmate, unexpectedly shifts from insulting Irene to befriending her, but Judy is unable to discover her motives.

Soon, mysterious things start happening in the cellar. Judy hears whistling, she and Horace hear glass breaking, and Honey hears voices. Blackberry makes the cellar his new haunt and sometimes turns up there unexpectedly. An apple from Judy's still life gets eaten, and she accuses Horace of stealing it. Judy goes to the Dobbs' house early one morning to talk with Honey about the events, and meets up with her as Honey returns from a walk. As they head towards school, they, along with all their classmates, realize that the building has gone up in flames. Kay awkwardly yells the school fight song--fiddling while Rome burns, no? Once the fire is out, Judy joins a committee of the boys to investigate. It's found that a window was forced before the fire was started. Uh-oh.

The girls' posters were almost all in the school building when it burned--everyone but Irene and Kay's. A little suspect? Judy is shocked when she is announced as the winner, since her poster was (a.) pretty terrible and (b.) destroyed in the fire. They discover that somehow Honey's poster, which she never turned in, was submitted as Judy's. So now both Honey and Irene are upset with Judy, Honey because she thinks Judy did it and Irene because she wanted to win the wristwatch and thinks Judy lied about her poster.

Judy invites Honey and Peter over to ponder the (seven strange) clues with her and Horace. Everyone but Judy thinks they're meaningless. Irene joins them and says that Kay has ended their friendship abruptly. However, she's able to provide Kay an alibi for both the fire and the night Honey's poster disappeared. They explore the cellar again and find a secret tunnel, with the remnants of whiskey bottles, leading to the garage. Oops. Guess those nice boarders/garage renters weren't so nice.

Judy's suspicions are aroused and then confirmed when she questions Dickie, Kay's brother. Kay copied the poster from a magazine ad, and she sent Dickie to get the magazine from her desk that morning, so she wouldn't get caught. He accidentally dropped a match in the desk and then dropped the poster in his panic--burning the edge that's missing and causing him to step on it, leaving the footprint. One of the boarders is the son of a man who worked with Kay and Dickie's father in running a speakeasy, and they returned to town to recover the whiskey, of which Mr. Vincent then cheated them.

So Mr. Vincent can no longer run for Mayor, Irene wins a prize, and Honey is acknowledged as the first place winner. Dr. Bolton hires Irene to work in his office, so she can quit at the silk mill. Irene and Honey reconcile with Judy, and the closing of the school sets up the events for the next book, The Ghost Parade. I'm honestly not that fond of that book, because everyone kind of hates Judy in it.
  • I appreciate that Judy is allowed to be a bad artist. You know that Nancy Drew would have modestly painted the best poster ever. It's so bad that Horace thinks the bananas are strange leaves and says, "It takes all tastes to make up a world," when she wins. It's so bad that when Irene thinks Judy won, she says, "Perhaps you can understand how that awful poster of yours won first prize. I can't."
  • This is the book that establishes Honey as an artist, which she later makes her career. It characterizes her to the very end of the series.
  • When Irene tells Judy that Kay lent her paints, Judy exclaims, "Irene, the sky is falling! We must go and tell the king."
  • Kay's picture is copied from a Cream of Wheat ad, showing two Dutch children bowing thier heads over their breakfast. Lorraine's immediate opinion? "'Imagine Kay drawing a picture of children saying grace,' . . . She voiced the very thing that Judy was thinking." Love it.
  • This is totally golden age Judy Bolton: she still "bet[s] something precious that . . ."
  • Peter is the only one of the group that is able to identify the smell of whiskey in the cellar. Interesting.
  • Judy realizes that Honey likes Horace when she hides that her poster was lost. Honey thinks Horace burned it accidentally and will feel bad about it.
So, one of my favorite Judy's. I had forgotten that Dickie was technically the culprit, so I actually got a bit of a surprise at the end. I have to say, going back and getting the first ten with all the internal illustrations was one of the best things I've done as a collector. I love them to death, and I've never paid more than $30 for one (note: my copy of The Riddle of the Double Ring has a dust jacket from a later printing). Next up: The Mysterious Half-Cat.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Mildred A. Wirt Mystery Stories #1, The Clue at Crooked Lane

Mildred Wirt Benson is best known as a ghostwriter for the Nancy Drew series. However, she was extremely prolific and wrote for many other series, such as Ruth Fielding, Dana Girls, and Kay Tracey, as well as several titles in her own name. One of these series is the Mildred A. Wirt Mystery Stories, published by Cupples and Leon in the 1930s, of which The Clue at Crooked Lane is the first.
There's no illustrator listed, but the expression on Peggy's face reminds me of the early Tandy artwork for Nancy Drew. Something about the profile and the tucked chin, looking up.

The Clue at Crooked Lane fulfills pretty much every series book stereotype ever: amnesia, missing person, missing will, a secret drawer, gypsies, a miser, motherless girl with motherly housekeeper. It's all very Mildred Wirt. The motherless girl in question is Margaret "Peggy" Palmer, the daughter of Major Palmer. Her best friend Rebecca convinces her to come with the other girls to a gypsy camp to get their fortunes told. While there, the police raid the camp, and the old gypsy gives a bracelet to Peggy. Naturally, it's the stolen property of an actress, and the police immediately accuse Peggy of stealing it. When the actress, Marilyn Marlowe (yes, really), is asked to identify Peggy as the thief, she does so, even though it's clear Marilyn has no clue who took it. Peggy is only released when her friends track down the old gypsy and get her to confess. She now has an enemy in Miss Marlowe, who was shamed before the police.

Peggy's Uncle Jack sells antiques, and she sometimes helps him unpack shipments. While doing so later that night, she discovers a secret drawer in a desk, which contains a locked onyx box. Her uncle says it needs to be returned to the original owner--it was purchased at an estate auction at Sleepy Hollow, some 100 miles north. She and Rebecca drive up the next day and meet Linda, the only person living on the estate. Her uncle Elias disappeared three years ago with a ton of money belonging to a charity and has now been declared dead. He left all of his money in an old will to a distant cousin, in spite of the fact that he had been caring for Linda for several years since her parents' death. Peggy is convinced that the onyx box must hold a newer will, and Linda promises to come down to visit Peggy and see the box.

The next day, Peggy discovers that a clerk has inadvertently sold the box to Marilyn Marlowe, who denies it when questioned. Uncle Jack sends her and Rebecca to pick up an old clock in the mountains, but they get a flat along the way. When they go for help, they stumble across an old miserly recluse living on Crooked Lane. He's kind, but clearly confused and not remembering his past. I'm sure you can guess who he is, but we've still got more than 100 pages to go. Peggy goes back to visit him weekly, because she's concerned that he's not eating, and she senses a mystery about him.

Linda comes in and is disappointed about the box. While with Peggy, they interrupt a hold-up at a jewelry store and get the police--the thief sees Peggy and promises revenge as he's captured. Peggy attempts again to get Miss Marlowe to give up the box, but she throws Peggy out. Peggy's solution? Breaking in to the house. Sweet. She has no luck with the box, but overhears two maids talking about it. Afterward, the gardener tells her that Miss Marlowe is at her mountain summer home. Conveniently, Rebecca's parents invite her and their friends to a house party up a their own mountain lodge. Peggy goes over for attempt #2. Again, Miss Marlowe tosses her out, and again Peggy breaks in. Just, wow. To throw in one more stereotype, she's forced to hide in a closet and is discovered. She escapes with the box, blows the fuses--which kills the lights, and absconds on a high speed automobile chase. For real. It's pretty amazing.

She turns in at Crooked Lane and discovers a robbery in process--the thief from earlier has escaped and is hitting the miser over the head. She leaves the box in the car and runs. The thief captures the miser and Peggy, but they gain control of his gun in struggle. She locks him in a wardrobe (see the frontis), but the miser has been injured. At this point, her friends are searching for her. Once found, they send for an ambulance and the police. Of course, the knock to the head causes the man's memory to return, and when Peggy asks if he's Uncle Elias, he says yes. The thief robbed him three years earlier and hit him over the head. He's had amnesia and the delusion that he must make enough money to make up the loss, which is why he's a miser. He and Linda are reunited, and Marilyn Marlowe, who is the distant cousin and has destroyed the will by now, gets absolutely nothing.
  • The book blatantly says, "Rebecca liked whatever Peggy liked. However, she found it difficult to keep up with her more energetic friend." This is almost always the definition of a secondary series book character, but I've never seen it so blatantly stated.
  • The book is very Nancy Drew in that, once the police find out who Peggy's father is, they immediately back off and are worried.
  • Uncle Jack has a Chinese cook named, I kid you not, Squint. Ouch. I have to admit a secret fondness for Chinese cook characters, though. The Adventure Girls at K Bar O, for example.
While there's no romance or fashion, The Clue at Crooked Lane makes up for it in adventure. The mystery is pretty lame--it's obvious to anyone who reads these kind of books who the miser is--but it's better written than most. I'm still on a hunt for good sleuthing chums, though! Next up, I did decide to go with an old favorite: Judy Bolton and Seven Strange Clues, to be followed by The Mysterious Half-Cat.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

My Favorite Things

I've been considering re-reading some of my favorites and posting reviews, rather than sticking to new-to-me books. Which, naturally, got me thinking about just what books for a series are the best. For me, the ones I enjoy/re-read the most don't always match up to the ones that I think are the best written. For example, I think The Vanishing Shadow is probably the best written Judy Bolton book. However, there are several others that I reread more because they showcase her romance with Peter--to me, that's more enjoyable/easy to read about than her kidnapping in Vanishing Shadow. Of course, sometimes best/favorite coincides, as in The Adventure Girls in the Air. It can also get complicated with a series like Beverly Gray, where my favorite story arc is (surprise!) the travels on board the Susabella, but my favorite stand alone titles are Beverly Gray, Sophomore and Beverly Gray's Romance. I like those particular books on their own more than any of the individual titles within the Susabella arc.


Nancy's Mysterious Letter, 1932 edition.
The Vanishing Shadow
Beverly Gray, Sophomore
The Adventure Girls in the Air
Behind the White Veil
(Vicki Barr)
The Ghost Wore White (Connie Blair)
The Missing Formula (Madge Sterling)
Kristie at College/Quarry Ghost (not series, but excellent)
Peggy Plays Off-Broadway (Peggy Lane)

I tried to narrow down a Trixie Belden, but I think of that series differently than others. They were the first series I ever read, my mother's old deluxe editions (1-15), and I've never attempted to replace them or expand on my collection. I reread all of them at least once a year. The most memorable scenes for me are Trixie finding the white dress with the Peter Pan collar and the flared skirt--and getting her first orchid from Jim; when Brian finds out that she's been acting like a mooning nincompoop over Honey's ridiculous cousin so that she can use her diamond ring to save Brian's car; and two scenes in The Happy Valley Mystery: Jim reassuring her after the dance and giving her an id bracelet on the plane back to New York.

Storing Books

I'm always curious how serious collectors store all those books--Jenn Fisher's collection is about the only person's I've seen pictured. You can see my own library above, although I've added since then (I know you're shocked), and the shelves are all pretty full. If you want a tour, the far left bookcase is all Nancy Drew and Dana Girls. After that, I have them organized alphabetically by series name. I group formats together because I think it looks better (white spine Nancys, OS Nancys w/o dj, wrap dj Nancys, etc.), arranged by number within the format. To get even more anal, the formats are done in the order they were introduced (purple Dana Girls, turquoise DG, wrap DG, etc.), which gets complicated with Nancy Drew, since there are overlapping formats (i.e. cameo editions), and I also have some British and French editions. The few single titles I have are alphabetical by author.

My issue right now is that while all my series books are on the shelf, my regular books are still boxed from my move last summer. Clearly, I don't have the shelf space for them. I've bought another tall shelf and a different desk with a finished back. The current plan is to move the desk away from the wall, then use that space for two more shelves. I've also tentatively started selling off series I don't like in my Bonanzle booth--Kay Tracey is my test of this at the moment. I should also disclose that my favorite series, Judy Bolton and Beverly Gray, are housed on the built-in by my fireplace in the living room.

P.S. Please ignore my beginning attempts at stripping the fireplace. Thanks.

And in a final random note, there's no less than 3 Cherry Ames board games up for sale on eBay right now, and two others have sold in the past couple of weeks. A little odd, but it seems like there's a rush on certain things every now and then. The first one sold for almost $90, which may have encouraged some other people to list.

C&L Mystery Stories for Girls #9, Escape by Night

Honestly, I had trouble believing that this book was by the same author as The Dormitory Mystery. It was published in 1941 and falls in patriotic war propaganda territory, to the detriment of any character/plot development.

Wendy, an orphan, lives with her crippled* Uncle Ed and yet another harsh-but-secretly-loving housekeeper, Sarah, in what used to be the Edgewater Inn, formerly operated by her parents. She's received a letter from a Mr. Schmidt requesting that he and his family be able to stay at the inn all summer--and he'll pay well for the privilege. Wendy talks her uncle into taking out a loan so that they can fix up the inn and take guests again. She wants the money that the profits would bring, so that she can go to college for hotel management.

She gets the inn ready with the help of her buddies, Duke and Eva. Neither is as charming as Chubs. Miss Abbott, a nurse/nutritionist/former inn patron, also hires on. The Schmidts come, along with several other guests, who all just happen to want the south wing. In her rush at the sudden influx of guests, Wendy brilliantly hires a maid and her sister without checking their references. Some normal guests also come, but they get driven away by strange events (snake in the bed of a child, salt in the soup, theft of Mrs. Schmidt's pearl necklace).

Wendy has several suspicious encounters with the guests, and she basically ignores them all. For example, she overhears Mrs. Schmidt and the maid speaking in a foreign language, which, when caught, they claim is Czech. Mr. Schmidt also asks that a "high line" (something electric/radio related?) be installed in his young son's room, supposedly for the son's experiments. Miss Abbott, who nursed oversees in the first World War, also recognizes one of the guests, but can't place him. When a hometown boy in the military brings comrades to stay in the hotel, the guests are pretty clearly attempting to spy on the group. At this point, Wendy's finally figured out that SOMETHING is wrong, but her suspicions don't solidify until the regretful/fearful wife of one of the men confesses that they are Nazis. Well, that and when escaped German POWs are found on an island in the lake. That Wendy, she likes to be sure before she takes action.

Wendy decides to poke around in the room with the high line, which is full of radios. She accidentally does something to one of the radios. When the men unexpectedly come in, she has to hide in the closet (series stereotype #549). She overhears their plans for a mass synchronized bombing of the US. And a bunch of "Heil, Hitler!"s. Of course, she gets caught when someone on the radio asks the men about the signal, and they seach the room. She gets bound and gagged, and they seriously toss her over a cliff into the lake. She saves herself by praying that she hits water(not the jagged bottom of the cliff) and arching herself into a dive. They somehow don't notice this, and she makes it to shore and gets rescued by a woman and her daughter. They take her to a doctor, he takes her story seriously, and they alert an FBI agent staying at the woman's hotel. The gang gets rounded up, Wendy is a hero to her country, and the publicity ensures that the Inn will stay full of guests.
  • The front flap synopsis tells you the entire story, spoilers and all, including the ending. Not that there's much doubt about the ending, but it's still annoying.
  • It was never clear to me if Mr. Schmidt wrote to Wendy about staying at the Inn completely out of the blue, or if she had advertised for guests. My impression was the former, which is kind of weird.
  • Duke isn't a romantic interest; the book really doesn't have one. I got some vibes from the Steve the Hometown Hero military boy, but nothing ever came of it. Duke and Eva are also not together. Not a drop of romance in the whole book.
  • They give a dance at the Inn for guests and locals. Wendy wears "a pale blue crisp pique," Eva a "white organdie, full-skirted and ruffled." A real guest worries that her short summer frock isn't appropriate, and Wendy reassures her that any natives in long dresses are her fellow graduated seniors, who are just "delighted at a chance to wear our class-party clothes again!"
  • When the POWs are caught, it's not known that they're escaped prisoners--just some people found on the island who don't seem to speak English. Miss Abbott attempts to interrogate them and find out their identities. She tries a couple of languages, then says, "Heil, Hitler!"They click their heels and return the phrase. Um, wouldn't escaped POWs be a LITTLE more cautious?
  • I don't want to know what sort of people are going to Google up here now that "Hitler" has been named on this blog.
  • Only after the guests are arrested does Miss Abbot remember where she's seen the guy before--he was her patient in Paris, a captured German naval officer.
  • I'm a nurse specializing in spinal cord injury rehab, so I hate to use the word crippled. However, the book doesn't elaborate on Uncle Ed's condition, other than to say he uses a wheelchair.
  • The orphan living with housekeeper is very typical. However, her uncle is completely uninvolved in the mystery, unlike other parentless heroines. He sits and carves in his workshop, while his teenage niece runs the hotel.
In case you couldn't tell, I didn't enjoy this book. I'm not quite sure what I'll review next--my huge TBR pile includes the final two Sara Gay books, a few Sally Baxter, and some Mildred Wirt Cupples and Leon titles. I'm still on the lookout for The Pledge of the Twin Knights.
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