Monday, June 22, 2009

C &L Mystery Stories for Girls #2: The 13th Spoon

Sorry for the long break--I've been out of town for several weekends and got out of the habit of posting. I got a lot of reading done, though, so expect more frequent posting this week. And, finally: The 13th Spoon.

Carol Breck is a college girl working as a secretary to Alan Hoyt. His two most prized possessions are a Watteau fan from his great-grandmother and a set of 12 apostle spoons that he has amassed over the years, starting with the "master spoon," featuring Christ. He receives the 13th and final spoon, St. Simon, as a birthday present from his friend Major Walton. Soon after, Carol wakes up to a robbery in progress. Mr. Hoyt has been injured, and the spoons and fan are all gone.

Carol is taking the place of Claire, the previous secretary. Claire is a beautiful, rather shallow girl, who is supposedly going to Charleston to care for an invalid aunt. In actuality, she plans to elope with a rather questionable young man. He stands her up, and Claire is left in the position of being jobless and having spent all her money on a trousseau. She accuses Carol of committing the theft, but she is not believed. In the end, Claire becomes the trophy wife of a wealthy South American, Señor Manuelo.

There are some strange chapters from the point of view of an amnestic man, who is pretty clearly being manipulated by some criminals. As the book progresses, some of these chapters are from the perspective of the criminals themselves--primarily the former fiance of Claire. The man slowly regains his memory and figures out that he is Frederick Parsons, a former protege of Mr. Hoyt. Parsons returns six of the spoons to Mr. Hoyt as his dying act. Carol makes an appearance, and tracks down three of the thieves. Six more of the spoons are found in their lodgings, and Carol also tracks down the fan. Carter, the former fiance, slowly takes over these chapters. In the final chapters, at a party celebrating Carol's successes in finding the thieves, he arrives, bearing the master spoon.
  • The 13th spoon really refers to two different spoons: the 13th one that Mr. Hoyt obtains (St. Simon), which he says he treasures the most for being from Major Walton, and the master spoon (Christ), which is the most valuable and separate from the 12 apostle spoons.
  • This book has excellent fashion. Clair has a "rose -colored wrap, . . . beaded Juliet cap, and . . . gold embroidered mules," for pjs, as well as a "filmy primrose dance frock." For the party in the final chapters, Major Walton buys Carol a "lovely grapey chiffon embroidered in the same soft color," with a hat with a "transparent droopy brim," and a "pale fluffy summer fur scarf." The housekeeper, Mrs. Biggs, wears a "darling rose chiffon."
  • Carol has a really fun college chum named Alice. They plot to open a store to sell "character jewelry" and flabellum to their classmates. Carol gets her idea for the flabellum from a visit to Major Walton's fan collection.
  • Another fun college chum, Beatrice, is nicknamed "Beefy." Eek.
  • At one point, Hoyt tells Carol to send some delphiniums over to Burpee, to prove that their color, a particular bright blue, exists. Fordhook Farm, the family home and experimental farm for the Burpee seed company, is located in Doylestown, Pennsylvania. This story takes place in Warrington, Pennsylvania.
  • Pem again psychs me out by hinting (I thought) at romance with at least three characters: Mr. Hoyt himself, Major Walton (even though they're both significantly older than Carol), and Mr. Hoyt's hot young nephew. Nada happens.
  • Alice "was in the throes of modernity and spared herself all capital letters" in her letters to Carol. Here's one example in full:
    dear sherlocka we are set to arrive on the exact second pray thank that thoughtful and astute employer of female labor the hoyt for asking us en masse as it were beefyof course is a free woman but the undersigned has arranged a sub for the week i begin my vacation that much sooner because of this event please wire at bs expense what color your garments will be don't want to duplicate harmony above all is our motto until then--and perhaps afterwardtoo i remain respectfully alice whelen p s luckily b is rotten with riches i shall do my utmost for the dear girl
I. Loved. This. Book. It is fabulously twenties and fun. It's also very interestingly written, with all the different viewpoints, and much more complex than even this long summary/review indicated. It also has a very different feel from The Jade Necklace, which shows off Pem's versatility as an author. I just bought The Secret Stair on Amazon, and I'm impatiently awaiting its arrival. In the meantime, next up will be Betsy Hale, my first true series book from Pem, and Vicki Barr's Peril Over the Airport.
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