Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Trixie Belden & the Gatehouse Mystery: Review

Trixie Belden is one of the many young detectives who adventures I followed when I was young. My first taste of "girl detectives" was Nancy Drew and I read as many of those I could get my hands. When a new Nancy Drew mystery wasn't available, I cast about for others.Trixie, whose first book was published in 1948, was in many ways a more realistic character for a middle-class girl to relate to. I might have wanted to be Nancy with her roadster and the ability to travel just about anywhere at the drop of a hat, but it was far easier to see myself as Trixie--the tomboyish girl with a quick temper. Nancy is well-to-do and has a wealthy father to support her in all the travels she does--from ski lodges to Hawaii to Scotland to the jungles of Africa. Trixie has to work hard at her chores to earn spending money and is often struggling with her schoolwork and spends most of her time in her fictional hometown of Sleepyside-on-Hudson. Her trips are usually to visit her own family or friends or those of members of the Bobwhites (a club consisting of her brothers and friends). She seems to face more of the ups and downs of teenage life than Nancy does--everything from squabbles with her brothers to dealing with her own insecurities. But the one thing she does share with Nancy is her knack for solving mysteries. 

In our many trips to Route 66, my husband & like to stop and the various flea markets and antique malls along the way. In just such a one last spring, I found the pictured 1951 edition of Trixie Belden & the Gatehouse Mystery by Julie Campbell and decided I needed to revisit the series. When I needed a book involving a building for a couple of my reading challenges, I decided I needed to read it this year.

The Gatehouse Mystery is the third in the Trixie Belden series. She has made friends with Honey Wheeler and she and her new friend have helped Jim Frayne solve a few mysteries regarding his heritage and inheritance and Honey acquired a new brother when her parents adopt Jim. It is now the end of summer vacation and while waiting for Trixie's brothers, Brian and Mart, to come home from their summer of serving as counselors at camp she and Honey decide to investigate the run-down gatehouse hidden on a corner of the Wheelers' property. They've barely entered the building before Trixie's six-year-old brother Bobby trips and skins his knee on something in the hard dirt floor. Upon closer inspection, what she thinks is just a pebble turns out to be a diamond. How did a shiny diamond wind up in the cobwebby abandoned building? 

Trixie begins to imagine jewel thieves fighting over their loot--with a diamond being lost in the shuffle. Is it possible that jewel thieves have chosen the small New York town as the perfect hiding place from authorities? There are clues to be found in the gatehouse including two sets of footprints--rubber soles and leather toes--as well as the question of a certain man's letter of recommendation. When a prowler sneaks into Honey's bedroom while she and Trixie are having a sleepover, Trixie is sure it's the jewel thief looking for the diamond which is now hidden a secret compartment of Honey's jewel box. When the boys come home from camp, they, along with Jim, help Trixie and Honey solve the mystery of the diamond in the gatehouse.

This was just as much fun to read as when I was young. It's really a pretty sophisticated mystery for young people--there's real danger for both Trixie and Jim and, although Trixie does jump to a few conclusions here and there, on the whole she makes deductions based on her observations and the clues at hand. A quite enjoyable walk down memory lane.

 [Finished on 3/16/17--still catching up on reviews.]
This fulfills the "Blonde" category on the Golden Vintage Scavenger Hunt card.


Brona said...

Isn't Trixie just the best!

I reread the first 3 Trixie's about a year ago & was pleasantly surprised how well they held up after all this time.

Tarissa said...

How fun! I read at least a few of the Trixie books when I was young too. I borrowed them off my aunt's bookshelf (she simply adores vintage books these). Someday I might have to reread some Trixie Belden books.

Sue said...

I loved Trixie as a girl. My Grandma gave me two or three every gift-giving opportunity in the year so I grew quite the collection of those novels. I donated them all to my local library a few years ago, so hopefully a new generation of girls found them!

Bev Hankins said...

Trixie and Nancy were my go-to books growing up. I had newer editions of both. Now that I collect vintage mysteries (mostly adult stories), I've started collecting Nancy and Trixie in vintage editions too.

Susan D said...

Trixie was (and still is, in many ways) my ultimate role model. I devoured the Trixie books as a kid (Julie Campbell's six books; after they were syndicated under the fictitious "Kathryn Kenny" I felt the quality fell off drastically). Like a great fool, when I was 16 I did a big purge of my kid books. :^0

Like you, Bev, I reclaimed the first Trixie on a road trip. I was travelling across Canada with 2 friends and I found The Gatehouse Mystery in a wonderful used book store in Winnipeg. That night in our motel room I devoured it, indulging in an orgy of nostalgia. One of my fellow travellers was also a Trixiphile (she still owns her set of paper dolls) and we spent all the next day at breakfast chattering about Trixie and the BWGs and the yummy Reagan. Our other friend rolled her eyes and said, "You do realize these people don't exist?" We paused for a moment to gaze at her balefully and then continued our memory laden discussion.

Hmm, this feels like a blog post in itself. I think I'll go do that.

Read long and prosper.