Findouters Challenge: Book 1. Among Enid Blyton’s mystery series, the Five Findouters have always been my favourite (though I read and loved the others too), one reason being the very imaginative solutions to so many of their cases. This time around I’ve decided to read all 15 of the books chronologically for the first time.
The Mystery of the Burnt Cottage is the first of the series and opens with siblings Laurence “Larry” and Margaret “Daisy” Daykin waking up to the smell of a fire. They and their friends Philip “Pip” and Elizabeth “Bets” Hilton step out to investigate and find that a wooden cottage which serves as workshop for one of their neighbours Mr Hick is on fire and valuable documents have been destroyed. Mr Hick himself was on his way back from London at the time, but most of the people he employed, and his “rival” of sorts in the study of documents pretty much dislike him, and justifiably so. At the scene of the fire, Larry, Daisy, Pip and Bets meet a fat boy who’s been staying at the local inn with his parents, and who they (the first three) don’t much take to, and his little Scottie they all love. Soon they find themselves forming a “detective” club of sorts (thus becoming the Five Findouters and Dog) in which they reluctantly include Fatty (who they name after his initials F.A.T. and appearance) and little Bets, starting on their investigations and trying to stay a step ahead of their village constable Mr Goon, who pretty much appears on the scene with his trademark Clear Orfs. Towards the end they also make the acquaintance of Inspector Jenks who turns into a good friend to the children, as the series progresses.
This was a fun first book in the series but for me lacked the full flavour of the later books. I enjoyed the mystery element though it wasn’t among the best of the lot (the kind that one has come across in other books too and can guess at). Fatty is of course a bit of a boaster and one can see why the other children find him annoying but I thought they treated poor Bets rather shamefully, considering as in the other books in the series, it is she that finds the most important clues. Bets in this one is eight years old but EB seems to have made her a little too young for her age. And while there is some food and eating in the book, it is nowhere as much as the later books where there were many many trips to the tea shop and plenty of eating in Fatty’s shed. Still this was a good beginning to the series, and a nice enough mystery which I enjoyed revisiting. Three and a half stars.