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.