Friday, October 8, 2021

A Mystery for Ninepence

 A Mystery for Ninepence (1964) by Phyllis Gegan

Robin is a boy after my own heart. When he has a bit of time to himself (away from his brother and sisters), he naturally stops by a used bookstore to browse and comes home with a small stack of books for ninepence (equal to about one dollar today). That's quite a deal for six books or so--especially when one of them hides a secret that will lead Robin and company on an adventure.

As soon as he discovers that Moral Reflections from the Poets is really a hollowed-out "book safe" with an old key in it, he calls a meeting of the Quartet, a club comprised of Robin, his sisters Anne & Fiona, and their neighbor and friend Hugh. They examine the key--which has a design of letters on it--as well as a family crest in the book. It is Fiona who notices a phrase hidden in the crest's artwork:

Over fire, through, water. Press on, for right will prevail.

They're just sure that the key will lead them to some secret treasure if they can only discover what the phrase means. 

Using the crest as a guide, the realize the book belonged to the Mourton family, who own Farnleigh Manor, an old family estate in the area. They long to investigate, but the house has been shut up and the current Sir Robert Mourton lives abroad. He has left his caretakers, Mr. and Mrs. Petherbridge in charge. When the Quartet learns that Mr. Petherbridge has been unwell and unable to tend the garden and the grounds as he should, they offer to do the work in the hopes that they will earn entrance to the ancient mansion. The Petherbridges are glad of the help and soon the children are working away--both on the grounds work and on the mystery. After a few false starts they, of course, finally unlock the secret of Farnleigh Manor and clear up a mystery that stretches far into the Mourton family history. They also win several new friends along the way.

This is a very pleasant children's mystery--very light and very little danger to our intrepid Quartet. The only small danger is the news of an escaped convict. The children believe they have captured him on the grounds of Farnleigh Marnor, but...well...I wouldn't want to spoil the surprise involved in that little episode. A fun adventure for anyone who wants a look at 1960s England and life for children during the period. ★★

First line: It all started the day Robin cycled into Falconbury.

Last line: The a warm glow of happiness spread over them, when they saw the quiet contentment on Sir Robert's face as he glanced down at his family ring.

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