Friday, March 15, 2013

Book Review: The Gatehouse Mystery by Julie Campbell (Trixie Belden #3)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Characters and setting brought to life
Cons: Plot a little obvious
The Bottom Line:
Plot a little weak
But the great characters make
This book so much fun

Easily My Favorite Trixie Belden Book

Summer is winding down, but that doesn't mean there isn't time for one last adventure. That's why thirteen-year-old Trixie Belden and her new best friend Honey Wheeler set out to explore the old abandoned gatehouse on the Wheeler's property. They have hardly started when they find a diamond pressed into the dirt. How did it get there? Are there jewelry thieves around? Or did someone bury treasure there long ago? Trixie doesn't know for sure, but she is determined to find out.

It's no secret to anyone who knows me that I love this series. And this, the third entry in the series, is hands down my favorite book in it. Having said that, I must admit the plot is rather weak here. Trixie latches onto the solution fairly early. The only real suspense is seeing how she will prove it. Still, the plot keeps the outcome in just enough mystery to keep the reader engaged.

Instead, what I love about this book are the characters. Trixie and her friends seem so real here. This is the book where we finally meet her older brothers Brian and Mart (they've been away at camp for the first two books.) They immediately jump off the page. Trixie, Honey, and Honey's adopted brother Jim are also still very real. The transformation of Trixie and Honey started in book one is complete, and they are now the enjoyable characters we'll love for the remaining books. Even their families are fully developed characters. Honey's family is extremely wealthy, and the servants play an important part of the story and the character's lives.

The five teens form instant friendships, which is another huge draw. As a kid, I always wanted friends like these. They form the semi-secret "Bob-Whites of the Glen" club here. As a result, I consider this the last of the foundational books, even though there are two main characters we still haven't met.

Not only are the characters great, but the book perfectly captures the lazy days of summer. You can almost feel the heat and humidity. The teens spend plenty of time horseback riding and swimming. It takes me back to another time.

This book was originally published in 1951. Considering it is over 50 years old, it holds up very well. Occasionally a term will come up that today's kids may not recognize, but they should be able to figure it out from the context. The writing style is a step above some kid's chapter books but is still easily read by the target age of late elementary students.

I've gone back to The Gatehouse Mystery and reread it so many times I practically have parts memorized. I'm so thrilled to see Random House reprinting the series so that a whole new generation can share the adventures of Trixie and her friends.

Looking for more adventures?  Here are the Trixie Belden Mysteries in order.

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