The Mystery of the Hidden House by Enid Blyton
Findouters Challenge: Book 6. This is where Ern Goon makes his first appearance in the series. Bets and Pip and Larry and Daisy head off to the station to receive Fatty (who’s spent Christmas away from Peterswood) and find who they think is Fatty in one of his disguises. But “Fatty” reacts quite funnily when they call to him, and heads off to Mr Goon’s house to their surprise. Soon they realise that “Fatty” wasn’t Fatty at all but Mr Goon’s nephew Ern (Ernest) and Mr Goon has been to each of their parents to make sure that they don’t lead Ern into any mystery-solving, resulting in Pip and Bets and Larry and Daisy being “banned” from solving any mysteries those holidays. Ern they soon find wants to be their friend and is a great admirer of Fatty and his talents. They decide to create a mystery for Ern to solve which they hope will be passed on Goon, leading him on another wild goose chase. But when Ern makes a mistake in finding Christmas Hill (where the Findouters sent him and had further tricks planned) and ends up taking another path, he stumbles onto an actual mystery, with suspicious goings on at midnight. The Findouters now have to keep Ern from finding out about the real mystery while solving it before Goon gets any hint of it.
This was probably my least favourite of the books so far. The mystery element was fun enough, some disguising involved, but not one of the “creative” ones in the sense of its solution. I did of course also enjoy Ern’s “portry” and trademark way of talking with his “swatisaids” and “lovaducks”. I’d forgotten that he was plump like Fatty and that nearly all his “pomes” began with “pore”. What made me not like it so much was the Findouters themselves and their treatment of Ern. While creating a mystery for him to solve and perhaps even trying to trick Goon may be all in good fun and by which they meant no harm, they think nothing of doing things that will get Ern into trouble with Mr Goon including Fatty writing a nasty “pome” about Goon in Ern’s handwriting (using a skill he has acquired in the previous book) in Ern’s notebook where Goon is sure to find it, which results in poor Ern getting a caning (a practice deplored but not considered impermissible in those days). They are penitent when they find out but I didn’t think sufficiently so. They are also a little too arrogant about their own “brains” and contemptuous of Ern’s, being ever-ready to take advantage of his gullibility. Ern is no doubt terrified of Goon’s cane, and reveals all as a result, but I found Pip insisting on calling him a “coward” because of this quite harsh considering how he and Bets are themselves terrified of their very strict parents. They are happy to correct his behaviour, but what about their own? Even on the foodmeter, this ranked fairly low (not that this would have improved the other aspects for me). So yes, just an ok-ish read for me.
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The Mystery of the Missing Necklace by Enid Blyton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Findouters Challenge: Book 5. This is certainly among the most interesting of the Findouters’ cases. The story opens with Pip and Bets getting bored in their summer holidays, with the others at the seaside with their parents (they themselves have also been but have been back home for a few weeks now) and no mystery to solve. The children return soon and find Mr Goon busy at work with clearly a new case to solve which they have no clue about. Inspector Jenks doesn’t want them involved either but is happy to have them keep an eye open for a gang that’s been operating in and around the area and in Peterswood as well. But nothing short of solving the case will satisfy our findouters who put all of their detective skills into play, interviewing witnesses and employing disguises. Fatty this time around has grown much taller and his voice has begun to change really opening up the possibilities for disguises, and he uses this to his advantage. Mr Goon also manages to show that the children shouldn’t really underestimate him as they often do, almost neck-and-neck with them at every stage, though he does do something that was perhaps childish, considering his profession. Fatty also gets a taste of what Mr Goon always feels when the children are perpetually getting in his way. Still at the end, the findouters come out on top of course.
This was a proper “meaty” mystery with plenty going on, clues and suspects, secret messages, a gang of thieves, and a stolen necklace, with poor Goon managing to do a good job, with part of the case at least. The solution, definitely creative which once again little Bets works out. In fact, even if she doesn’t know as much as the other children, she manages to see through Fatty’s disguises, catch on to the important clues, and her intuition is always spot-on but the others, particularly Pip don’t seem to see that continuing to treat her shabbily and laughing at her for being a “baby”, with only Fatty to stand up for her. In this one though, the others do contribute in solving the mystery, coming up with some pretty good ideas, Pip, especially. Fatty of course is clever again with his “grown-up” disguises but in this one I felt he did act a little oversmart, getting involved in things much too dangerous just to show himself cleverer than Goon. Plenty of lemonade and ices in this one, in fact much of their detective work is based out of the lemonade shop 🙂 I also enjoyed the summer atmosphere, tourists, fairs, lots of cold drinks and icecream. This I think (if I haven’t missed anything in the earlier books) was the first one in which Goon uses what becomes a favourite expression―“that toad of a boy!” Very enjoyable.
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The Mystery of the Spiteful Letters by Enid Blyton
Findouters Challenge: Book 4. Quite a few detectives have had to deal with poison pens, Miss Marple in The Moving Finger included, and in this one our Findouters are faced with one out to create havoc in Peterswood. The Hiltons’ young maid nineteen-year-old Gladys is one of the first targets and being fond of her the children are eager to help. But Mrs Hilton thinks this is not a case for children to be concerned with and tries to keep them from even getting any hint of it, calling Mr Goon to the house after they have been sent away on a picnic. But Mr Goon drops a glove in the house and beginning with that clue they manage to piece together what the problem is. But this is a fairly baffling case for our findouters for, while they do manage to take a look at the letters and put together a list of suspects, there is (for much of the story) not a single clue and they seem to have to rule out most of those they have on their list. Luck favours them and with their skills they are able to beat poor Mr Goon out yet again, surprising even Mrs Hilton who is forced to admit they did a great job again.
This was in some ways different from the earlier books in the sense of the children having no clues to follow for the most part but they do employ their detective skills going about interviewing various people involved and thinking of ways to start up conversations with them without seeming too rude or nosy. They have their share of fun along the way as well, a picnic, a day at the market, fun at the stream, and of course tricking Mr Goon. Fatty once again uses his disguising skills (a-la Sherlock Holmes whom he admires) both to have fun with Mr Goon and solve the case as well, and also his knowledge of getting out of locked rooms. He has also learnt by now to imitate others’ handwriting. The solution again was not what I’d classify as the more creative ones and the motive seemed a touch weaker than the earlier books as well. I also liked that this one had characters from previous books, Lady Candling (the Hiltons’ neighbour)’s companion Miss Trimble resurfaces as a fairly important character (Little Bets still counting the number of times her pince nez fall off) pa and we also meet the Siamese cats, and their carer, Miss Harmer (all from the Mystery of the Disappearing Cat. On the foodmeter, this gets better than the previous ones but they’re still not eating as much as I remember. Another enjoyable instalment.
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The Mystery of the Secret Room by Enid Blyton
Findouters Challenge: Book 3. It’s the Christmas holiday and the children are back home again making cards and packing presents, including for their friend, Inspector Jenks. Fatty is now 13 and Bets 9, and Fatty has learnt some new and exciting detective skills (including writing in invisible ink and escaping from a locked room) in the school term, and has plenty of tricks up his sleeve. Taking over leadership of the Findouters from Larry, he is all set to practice these new skills, teach them to the others, and pull one over poor Mr Goon. (The invisible ink was great fun, and I was surprised to learn when I did a MOOC on royal food etc., that someone actually used the exact same trick to escape the Tower of London.) While “practicing” these newly learnt skills, Pip runs into an empty house to escape Mr Goon and stumbles upon a “secret” room the only one in an otherwise empty house to be well furnished and that looks lived in, and knows at once that there is a new “mystery” for the Findouters to look into. But they must also try to keep Goon from finding what they’re up to since this isn’t (as the first two books) a case that the constable is working on. They manage to outsmart the crooks yet again, and unknowingly put poor Mr Goon in an awkward position as well.
This one doesn’t quite fall into the “creative” category as far as solutions go but is the first of the books where Fatty (and the others) begin to use disguises and accents―mostly to play tricks on poor Mr Goon but which help them out in the mystery proper as well. Fatty is boastful as usual, clever for the most part, but does some rather silly, falling into the villains’ clutches as well, something one wouldn’t expect from him. Bets though nine is still child-like for her age but also the one that spots the all-important clue saving them from a pretty dangerous situation. The rating on the foodmeter is some (but only a few) notches higher than book 2, as the children tea is described and they do a little more eating. We also meet Mrs Trotteville in this one for the first time but still not Fatty’s father, but his “den” is introduced. Mr Goon is in general pretty nasty, especially with poor Buster (not so much in this one though he does kick him when he gets at his ankles), but one can’t help but feel sorry for him sometimes. This was an exciting one, far more dangerous for the children than their earlier cases, and a fun instalment in the series.
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The Mystery of the Disappearing Cat by Enid Blyton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Findouters Challenge: Book 2. This second book is set some months after the first and is the first of the two “cat” titled findouters books. Bets is excited at Pip, Larry and Daisy coming home after three months away at school. In the meantime, Pip has received a letter from Fatty saying that his parents like Peterswood so much that they’ve bought a house there, so the Findouters will be together again. Pip and the others return to find that the Hiltons have a new neighbour, Lady Candling who happens to have a set of prize-winning Siamese cats, among them Dark Queen who has some distinctive white hairs in her tail, and has won £100 recently. Interested in seeing them, the children make friends with the gardener’s boy, fifteen-year-old Luke, who is slow at some things but deft with his hands, tending the garden and carving whistles and model cats for the children, particularly little Bets. His “boss” Mr Tuppings the gardener, however, is a nasty piece of goods, ill-tempered and always out to make poor Luke miserable. When Dark Queen goes missing, Luke who has been working around the cat cages at the time, is the prime suspect, circumstances pointing to him, and it is only the children who believe he is innocent. They set out to solve the mystery and along the way, end up playing some tricks on poor Mr Goon whose ankles are once again Buster’s target.
This was one of the more creative of the findouters mysteries where the “how” was great fun, much more interesting than book 1 (which wasn’t all that straightforward either). I remembered part of the plot but not all of it, and also not the twists along the way. Once again it is young Bets who catches on to the important clues and while the others are slower to see their significance, Fatty ultimately works it out. Inspector Jenks is also quite happy to come to their aid when they aren’t sure what course to adopt. On the “food meter”, this one still ranks low, the kids eating a little but still not making any trips to the tea shop or eating ices with Inspector Jenks. My impression of all that food must come from the later books. I’m enjoying reading these in order and seeing how the stories developed overall. The food element for one seems to have come in much later. Also, we haven’t yet “met” all the children’s families, only the Hiltons so far and the Findouters haven’t begun using Fatty’s shed. Now on to the next one to see how things go. What fun this is!
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