Friday, March 22, 2013

Book Review: The Mysterious Visitor by Julie Campbell (Trixie Belden #4)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Characters and plot still entertain
Cons: Diana can be annoying emotional
The Bottom Line:
Fourth in the series
Still introducing Bob-Whites
Classic mystery

Meet the Newest Bob-White

I consider the first three books of the Trixie Belden kids mystery series to be the foundational books. In them, we meet 13 year old Trixie and her family, watch her become friends with Honey Wheeler, also 13, and see the two of them find 15 year old Jim Frayne and attempt to help him. In book three, Trixie, Jim, Honey, and Trixie's two older brothers Mart and Brian form the semi-secret club the Bob Whites of the Glen.

Yet The Mysterious Visitor introduces us to a new main character who quickly joins the Bob Whites. Why I don't consider this one a foundational book is beyond me. Especially since it is just as good as the others.

Diana Lynch and Trixie Belden used to be friends. Ironically, they stopped spending much time together once Diana's family because rich and moved out of town closer to Trixie's family. But Honey notices that Diana is lonely, so she starts to makes friends with the girl. Soon, Diana is coming back out of her shell and all ready to join the Bob Whites. Everything is going well, except for one thing.

Diana's long lost uncle has recently shown up from Arizona. He insists on making her life as miserable as possible, even embarrassing her in front of her friends. Trixie and the gang want to help out, but Trixie thinks there's something sinister going on here. What is it? And can Trixie prove it?

Proving Trixie's suspicions is about the only real mystery here. Things were obvious to me the first time I read it, but watching Trixie try to prove it was entertaining enough to keep me turning pages. Everything comes together in a thrilling climax that is mentioned often in many of the later books. Additionally, there's a nice sub-plot involving the Bob White's new clubhouse that adds to the fun.

The Lynches were mentioned in the second book of the series, but this is the first time we really get to meet any of them. They get plenty of page time, which makes sense since it is the book that introduces Diana. In fact, this is probably the book where she gets the most attention.

What makes that a shame is that she is so over emotional. I don't blame her in the least considering the transition from poor to rich hasn't been easy on her or her family. But at times I want to slap her. Some of the later ghost authors picked up on this tendency; something I don't think was supposed to be a regular part of her character, especially considering how she has changed by the end of the story.

The boys don't get as much attention in this book, which makes sense since the focus is on Diana. Still, all the characters are strong and likable. There are so many of them that it can be hard to keep everyone straight if you start here, but careful readers should be able to do that.

Since this book was originally written in the 1950's, it does have a bit of a dated feel to it. Today's kids might not get all the references or laugh at how cheap stuff is. These will only be a problem for the most reluctant readers as the plot and characters are strong enough to hook anyone.

Every time I reread this book, I remember that it is stronger than I give it credit for being. The Mysterious Visitor will entertain fans of the series and could hook new readers as well.

And once you're hooked, you'll want to read the rest of the Trixie Belden Mysteries in order.


  1. I agree about how annoying Diana is. While she does not have as much "screen time" as the rest of the Bob-Whites in the series in general (with the exception of Dan), this never bothered me because I didn't like her very much. Dan on the other hand I liked a lot. As a kid, a friend told me that Dan and Diana didn't have as much page time in the books, because their characters wanted too much money to be in them! (Like they were real actors!) As silly as that sounds, I believed it, which shows how young I was when I was first reading these (in the early 80s)

    1. LOL on that explanation. I'm sure the real reason has to do with juggling so many characters at one time. More than 5 or so in a scene is hard, so it is much easier to write some of them out of the book.

      Diana can be done well, and there are times I like her. And there are times she is very annoying. It just depends on how she is written.

  2. Another vote for "Diana is annoying" here, although I also agree that this wasn't meant to be a permanent quality. I think Campbell meant to portray Diana as being at the end of her rope, emotionally speaking, and that she didn't intend for many of the negative aspects shown here to last. IMHO, Diana was insecure because of all the changes in her life, and because she felt lost and without friends. This isn't the case through much of the rest of the series.

    That said, this was one of my favorites despite Diana. First off, I loved the "thrilling climax," but I also like that Trixie and Mart ended up in it because they independently came up with different-but-equally-risky-and-crazy schemes. Few authors make such good use of this aspect of their "almost twinness." I think some Kathryn Kennys didn't understand that Mart's refusal to play the supportive "Honey" role doesn't mean he isn't interested in Trixie's mysteries, and also don't realize that he can be just as reckless as Trixie in pursuit of the truth.

    I suppose that the depth of characterization that Julie Campbell established is a lot tougher to imitate or understand than the shallower characters of the Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew.