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.