The Mystery of the Strange Bundle by Enid Blyton
Findouters Challenge: Book 10. Christmas Holidays again but the Findouters are all down with the flu passed on by Bets (much to Mr Goon’s delight). Bets upset about being the cause of the others’ woes spends her time and money cheering them up. When she spends the day at Fatty’s house, he shows off his newest skill―ventriloquism. As soon as the children are well enough to get outdoors again, a robbery occurs in a house near Larry’s, and the owner Mr Fellowes is seen escaping in his dressing gown and pyjamas with only a bundle in his hand. Mr Fellowes soon returns and insists he had gone of his own volition only to visit a friend, and nothing has been stolen. But before Mr Fellowes’ return, the children (and Mr Goon) have already begun investigating and the only clues they’ve found are some footprints and a very small red glove. And while the children may not have started off tricking Mr Goon in this one, Fatty soon enough uses his ventriloquism and disguises to lead poor Goon on a bit of a wild goose chase, with the result that poor Goon thinks the real clues he finds are only a trick the children played. So it is upto the findouters again to put two and two together and solve the mystery of the strange bundle.
As far as food and eating is concerned, this one was pretty much overflowing with it. Fatty and in fact all the others having recovered from the flu seem famished all the time and are happy to eat helping after helping of their dinners and suppers besides scrumptious teas and hot chocolate and endless macaroons at the dairy, and then some ore when they come back home. It makes one positively hungry 🙂 Mr Goon I again felt rather sorry for in this one―his reaction to the tricks played on him was certainly a little extreme (him being an adult and a policeman) but the children do tend to take their tricks a little too far. The mystery I thought was also one their more interesting ones, with the children really applying their minds to Mr Fellowes’ strange behaviour and equally strange clues that this mystery has thrown up attempting to work out what they could all mean―in the process applying all their skills (Fatty’s marvellous disguises included). The solution too was quite interesting though overall the end doesn’t leave one feeling entirely satisfied. This time it turns out to be Buster who plays a key part. A somewhat unusual mystery but still good fun. Three and a half stars.
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The Mystery of the Vanished Prince by Enid Blyton
Findouters Challenge: Book 9. Pip and Bets have been without their friends in Peterswood for most of the summer vacation but with two weeks of holiday left, Larry and Daisy and Fatty return. Finding no “mystery” waiting to be solved by them, they decide to try their hand at disguises again this time using costumes Fatty picked up in Morocco. But when Ern surprises them by coming along, they take him in with their disguises, Bets pretending to be Princess Bongawee, the “sister” of Prince Bongawah who is staying at a school camp in Peterswood. They go into town in disguise also taking in poor Mr Goon yet again. But when the real Prince goes missing, suspected to be kidnapped, the Findouters realise their tricks have got them into trouble again. Inspector Jenks, now Chief Inspector is also displeased. They decide to solve the mystery and pass the information on to Mr Goon to make up for what they’ve done. But of course, Goon is unwilling (justifiably) to believe them. But whether or not Goon believes them, nothing can deter the Findouters from solving “a nice juicy mystery” and that’s what they go on to do in this one.
This findouters mystery wasn’t very PC, particularly the sections on their disguises and some of the children’s observations on the Prince. Another negative for me was the children’s attitude towards Ern and his brothers (Sid and Perce, making their first appearance in the series) simply dismissing them as unintelligent, though it is Sid who ultimately supplies them with a valuable clue. Bets’ role was also not as important as in previous mysteries in the series where it is she that finds the key to the puzzle (here Pip does, just like the previous book), and she also doesn’t manage to quite see through Fatty’s disguise at the beginning something she did in earlier books, both through intuition and logic. But that said, the mystery itself in this book was a real corker. In fact, while I had read this book before, I had forgotten that the solution was not very straightforward―even once they’ve solved part of it, there is another surprise reveal. This one certainly does fall within the more “creative” mysteries in the series. Once again Fatty uses not only his disguises but his skills in escaping a locked room in finally resolving it all. On the foodmeter too, this one does pretty well―plenty of icecream, lemonade, sandwiches and pies. We also sample more of Ern’s por’try (the one I remember best, “the Pore Old Gardener” was in this one), and see Sid’s love of stickjaw toffee, which very nearly prevents him from revealing what he knows. So a fun read except for some little things.
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Undelivered Letters by J. Alchem
I received a copy of this book in exchange for a review.
The story or should I say, these interwoven stories open with the story of Aron, a former postman who’s been married to Sara (who he met on one of his rounds) for over twenty years. The two are moving house and reminiscing on times past, how they met and were married, and Sara’s longing for her father, a musician who travelled a lot and who Sara could never reach. When packing their things, they come upon Aron’s old bag, in which they find some letters he’d forgotten to deliver on the day he got a promotion and came straight home to tell his wife. They decide that he must make up for this error and deliver these letters now. From this point we are told three stories of people who have experienced different trials in life, who have loved (in different ways) and lost, who have (and are suffering in some way) and who obviously have a connection with these letters but we don’t quite know how. The third part provides this connect as Aron goes to each of these addresses delivering the letters he had missed.
I liked the whole premise of the book, the idea of what these undelivered letters could hold within them―would they bring closure, relief, answers? The stories themselves were also fairly interesting, and in some way or other are tied to the theme of love and loss. But the end was a little odd, and it seemed as though this short volume was just a “draft” of sorts for something longer that the author is in the process of working on. When the stories of the various characters begin, one gets the impression that this was it- three letters that Aron had with him, but later we are told in a few lines that there were nine and he had different experiences with each (besides the three we are “shown”), and the paperback version we are told will be longer with more letters. So was the end really an end? But more than this, I found the writing and language were not up to par―besides proofing errors, it tends to get too colloquial in places, and in others it just doesn’t read very well. There were a few other issues as well, such as a prison (the setting is obviously not India) in 2013 only recently having got computers (that I don’t think would be the case), “plaintiffs” in a criminal trial (?), and some of the characters’ rather odd actions.
So overall, I guess I liked the idea but not so much the execution.
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The Mystery of the Invisible Thief by Enid Blyton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Findouters Challenge: Book 8. Now this was the real thing―a “proper” complicated mystery, plenty of food, disguises galore, and a battle of wits with Mr Goon but no unnecessary baiting or tricks. The findouters are at home for the summer holidays again but with over half the holiday over and no mystery to solve, they are bored to say the least. Mr Goon is away from the village as well and this time it is PC Tonks on duty, not Pippin like last time, so no chance to play any tricks either. When Inspector Jenks comes to Peterswood one day to watch his goddaughter, Hilary, ride in the gymkhana, with him comes a baffling mystery. While he and the children who decide to take a picnic and join him are watching Hilary ride, Hilary’s home Norton House has been burgled and the only clues they have are huge footprints and glove prints to match. When another robbery takes place at Larry and Daisy’s neighbours’, with the same clues the case only gets more complicated. Meanwhile Goon comes back and gets on the case. He has just completed a refresher course and is all set to try his hand at disguises. So begins a battle of wits against the findouters and a battle of disguises against Fatty, both Goon and Fatty using disguises to follow up on clues and solve the mystery. But yet again, it is the findouters who come out victorious at the end but not before the wily burglar gets the better of them even managing to rob Fatty himself.
This was a really enjoyable instalment in the series. The mystery itself was great fun―one I would class in the “creative” category as far as the solution goes. I enjoyed Fatty and Mr Goon’s disguises (the children for the most part see through Goon’s disguises―again because of Bets’ observation) and how they used them to follow up on pretty much the same leads. The children have their fun in this one, pulling Mr Goon’s leg a little, certainly but there was none of the pointless tricks or “nastiness” that came across on the children’s part in the previous two books. On the foodmeter this one rates fairly high as well with lots of cakes, meringues, eclairs, and sandwiches among other things on the menu, besides plenty of icecream and lemonade as well. Surprisingly in this one it is Pip rather than Bets who stumbles onto the answer at the end, which Fatty interprets to solve the case. This is certainly among my favourites so far!
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The Mystery of the Pantomime Cat by Enid Blyton
Findouters Challenge: Book 7. The second of the Findouters books with a “cat” in the title and theme. In this one, Goon is going away on holiday and is being replaced by a much-friendlier PC Pippin who is in every way Goon’s opposite. However, when it starts off Pippin is quite eager to please Mr Goon though he doesn’t quite believe what he has to say about the children. But Goon’s behaviour towards the children, and particularly Buster soon changes his mind. The children in the meantime have decided to make up a mystery, yet again for Pippin to “solve”―clearly not having learnt very much from their past experiences. Their “mystery” as is usual leads Pippin to stumble onto a real one, a robbery at the village pantomime. Someone has broken into the safe and stolen all that was in it. Goon’s (who is back by then) chief suspect is the pantomime cat Boysie Summers, and his friend, one of the actors Zoe (who plays Dick Whittington). And it doesn’t at all help that Boysie is somewhat slow and can be browbeaten into a confession, while the clues the children “planted” included a handkerchief with the initial “Z” as well as the cigarette ends of the brand she used, making Goon’s case stronger. So of course, it falls on the children to solve the mystery and clear their names. So starts off a new adventure where the children interview suspects and witnesses, check alibis, and of course, beat Goon to it. But this time around, only just.
This one had quite a few of the trademarks of the Findouters books with Fatty using his disguises (mostly to fool poor Goon), Bets stumbling upon the right answer in the nick of time, and quite a bit of food. In fact, on the “foodmeter”, this one rates the highest so far (plenty of sandwiches and snacks, biscuits and buns). The solution to the mystery had some obvious elements but also some creative ones so it was good fun overall. The children still come across as rather arrogant about their own skills and intelligence, believing themselves “free” to trick just about anyone, despite obvious disapproval from their parents, and Inspector Jenks. [But without their tricks of course there would be no mystery.] Still, despite this, in this one their behaviour was far better than the previous book with Ern where I felt they simply gave no thought to their actions. I enjoyed their investigation though―approaching the actors and other witnesses, checking alibis, and all in a way that children could do (and Goon certainly couldn’t), but alongside also having fun with a trip to the pantomime and a picnic as well. Overall, this was a fun instalment with an interesting mystery element.
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