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.

1 comment:

  1. Totally agree with you on the "lazy days of summer" feel to this book. There are some people at the Trixie Belden discussion board "The Clubhouse" who read the books according to season; this one would be ideal for that treatment.

    This is the first Trixie Belden book I remember reading -- bought it at a garage sale on my own block one summer -- and I still think it a great introduction to the series. I like how Gatehouse and Mansion both open with Trixie whining to her mom. The first two books feel like a unit that gets everything going, but this is the book where everything falls into place and perfectly gels. Mart is just the best in this book -- snarky and funny, but he uses his humor to draw people together -- for instance, by teasing Jim and then promptly doing what he's accusing Jim of, he's saying without words, "You're part of the family now."

    Ditto Reagan -- "This I must hear,” Regan said. “You can watch the wrestling matches almost any evening, but you don’t often a get a chance to find out what you kids have been up to.” (then, after he hears the story) “How do your parents stand you kids, anyway? What next?”

    Julie Campbell was a genius when it comes to the kind of insult humor between friends that builds trust and deflates tension, I think. And even though Trixie is the "star" of the series, it's Mart that most has that quality. I think that's one reason I prefer the Trixie Belden books to Nancy Drew or the Hardy Boys -- all the main characters have strengths and weaknesses, and they compliment each other.