Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Last Reviews of 2019: Trixie Belden Triple Threat

As 2019 drew to a close, I decided to spend my end-of-year reading with Trixie Belden and the Bob Whites. In the last several years I have started collecting vintage editions of both Trixie and Nancy Drew--the two girl detective series that were most important to me when growing up. It had been a long time since I had read the first two books of the series where Trixie meets the new friends who will become her very best friends. Trixie Belden & The Secret of the Mansion (1948) was most likely the very first cliff-hanger series book that I read and had me on the edge of my seat wondering what would happen to Trixie and Honey Wheeler when they set out to track down Jim. But--I get ahead of myself.

In The Secret of the Mansion, we meet Trixie who is bored stiff at her home in the country. Her two older brothers, Brian and Mart have been away from home working at a boys' camp in upstate New York and there isn't a thing to do. She also just knows she'll die if she doesn't get a horse. So, her mother comes up with an idea to help Trixie fill her summer and start saving up money towards a new four-footed friend--extra chores including weeding the garden and watching her six-year-old brother, Bobby. Trixie has barely started on her new duties when she notices cars going up the Manor House on the hill. The Wheelers, a wealthy family from the city, have bought the empty show place and are moving in. Word also comes that the "crazy miser" who lives in the old, broken-down mansion on the other side of the Beldens has been struck with pneumonia. Mr. Belden found him and took him to the hospital--but Mr. Frayne isn't expected to live.

The impulsive Trixie, who has always wanted to explore Frayne's place and search for the fortune that's rumored to be hidden there, sweeps up her brand-new friend Honey and convinces the timid city girl to go exploring. Before they know it, they're in the middle of a mystery involving Mr. Frayne's missing heir--his nephew Jim, a search for a will, and Jim's nasty step-father, Jonesy. Jim has run away from his mean step-father (think a male version of the Cinderella story) and Trixie & Honey help him try to find proof of his inheritance. Along the way, Trixie has her horse-riding dreams come true through the Wheelers' stables and has the adventure of a life-time. But it's not over when the book ends--because Mr. Frayne dies, Jonesy shows up, the mansion is set on fire, and Jim runs away before learning that he really is the heir. So, Honey and Trixie must convince their families to let them head for the boys' camps in the north where Jim had mentioned he'd try for a job if he had to run away again.... ★★★★

Of course, the families agree and Miss Trask--Honey's governess--takes the girls and the Wheelers' camper on their next adventure in The Red Trailer Mystery. While the main objective is to find Jim, tell him about his inheritance, reassure him that the Frayne's family lawyer and executor of his uncle's will won't let Jonesy take him back, and then convince Honey's parents to adopt him, the girls also get caught up two more mysteries. The mystery of the down-trodden family traveling in a red camper and the outbreak of camper thefts that has Miss Trask worried about how long they can stay and look for Jim. The kind-hearted girls just can't help wondering why the family in the red trailer seem so sad and when the oldest girl runs away they can't help but search for her while they look for Jim. Trixie is convinced that if they solve the mystery of the camper thieves then they will find both Jim and Joeanne. It winds up that she's right as usual...though not quite in the way she expects. A happy ending is in store for everyone... ★★★★

The next installment of the Trixie adventures was The Gatehouse Mystery. But I just read that two years ago (review at the link), so I decided to jump ahead to the fourth book: The Mysterious Visitor. This book brings in another member of the Bob Whites, Diana Lynch. Diana is the original poor little rich girl. Since her father became suddenly rich with some shrewd business deals, she has withdrawn from all her friends. She thinks nobody likes her because her life has changed so much and they can't have fun at her fancy new home which is over-run with servants. Trixie, Honey, and the Bob Whites decide to be extra nice to Diana and make her one of their secret club.

Trixie immediately senses a mystery when it becomes evident that Diana is very afraid of her Uncle Monty. Mrs. Lynch's long-lost brother has shown up and is throwing his weight around--influencing the family's choices in all sorts of things that affect Di. He becomes especially annoying when he takes over the planning for Diana's Halloween party. Trixie becomes convinced that the man is an impostor, but lacks proof. And even if Di is afraid of him, she doesn't take too kindly to Trixie investigating her family. Will Trixie lose her newest friend over her sleuthing habits? Or will she be able to curb her curiosity so she won't offend Di? Or...will she find out the truth about Uncle Monty and save the day again? [Anyone who reads (or ever read) these series books on the regular knows the answer...] ★★

I loved the first two books. I have always enjoyed the stories that introduce us to Trixie and her core group of friends. I loved meeting Jim and Honey and the adventures they all got up to around the mansion. These were definitely two of my favorites of the series while growing up and I was able to enjoy them now as an adult. On the other hand, The Mysterious Visitor has always been one of my least favorite Trixie books. I never liked Uncle Monty and I didn't care much for the way Diana defended him even when she obviously didn't like him and was afraid of him. It would be one thing if he were an uncle she had grown up with and adored and Trixie thought he was suspicious. But Diana is the one who starts Trixie's curiosity going by telling them that she's afraid of Monty. Then she gets upset when Trixie thinks there's a mystery to solve. But I do appreciate the fact that it is another book that helps establish the group of friends and Trixie does do some good detective work tracking down the clues around Uncle Monty. Overall, a fun reading trip down memory lane.


shelleyrae @ book'd out said...

I’m still annoyed that my mother got rid of all my Tricia Belden books when we moved, I have such fond memories of them, thanks for sharing yours

Sean said...

I LOVED the Trixie Belden series as a kid growing up! I know many fans think the earlier books are better, but they seemed dated to me compared to the newer ones (I was reading them in the 1980s). I do like how Jim is introduced, and as a young kid (don't judge me for this), I thought Honey was pretty. There is one illustration from the first book I especially liked with her and Trixie looking in the window of the mansion, and she is turned away from the viewer, but looking back over her shoulder, biting her knuckle in apprehension! I thought she was GORGEOUS there! (I know, I know. I was probably around 7 or 8 though) Beyond that, Dan was one of my favourite characters (and it is odd that he is not a creation of the original author who only wrote the first half dozen books). I always thought it was insane how he was usually not in the adventures with the Bob Whites (I used to pretend that all the characters in the books were actors and he wanted too much money so they wouldn't let him be in many books!)

I am really enjoying reading your reviews. We don't have many choices of books in common, but the ones we do, make it a pleasure!

Bev Hankins said...

Well...Honey *is* very pretty. And a great friend. So, what's not to love? :-) Dan is a good character. It would have been nice if he could have taken part in more of the stories. I'm so glad you're enjoying the reviews.

Sean said...

I AM! I just wish I knew how to navigate your site better

mommermom said...

Loved these books. Viewing some of my favorite books as a kid and came across your post. Thank you!