Saturday, March 9, 2013

Book Review; The Secret of the Mansion by Julie Campbell (Trixie Belden #1)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Introduces great characters in book packed with action
Cons: Trixie and Honey a bit annoying at the beginning (which does change as the book progresses)
The Bottom Line:
Come make life long friends
As this great mystery series
Has its first chapter

Where It All Began

Thirteen year old Trixie Belden is convinced that this summer will be long and boring. With her older brothers at camp, she'll only have her parents and much younger brother for companionship.

But then a family with a girl her age moves into the house next door. Even better, Honey's family has horses. Out for a ride, they go over to explore the mansion of another neighbor, Old Man Frayne. Trying to close up the place for him, they discover his great nephew Jim. Jim has just run away from a cruel stepfather. With Mr. Frayne sick in the hospital, they start looking for the treasure rumored to be hidden in the old house somewhere. Can they find it? Will Jim's stepfather catch up with him?

This is the first book in the Trixie Belden series. I discovered the series when I was in jr. high, and, almost 20 years later, I still love it. The characters are real, with strengths and weaknesses. Heck, Trixie even gets mad at her friends and family upon occasion. I was drawn to these books because of the friendships displayed, and I used to dream about being part of the group.

This book introduces only three of the series main characters. Trixie and Honey are not themselves at first, but by the end of the book, they are already acting more like themselves. Their characters show the best of what can happen when you pick up on a friend's strengths. Trixie goes from selfish and whiney to thinking about others and being grateful for what she has. Being around tomboyish Trixie helps Honey get over her fears and start to do more things she's always wanted to do but been too afraid to try. While I find the characters a little annoying at first, they are very true to their ages and the changes are believable yet happen quickly enough not to turn off readers.

The storyline in this book never lets up either, with lots of stuff going on to keep anyone entertained. When I read this book the first time, I knew (or thought I knew) the outcome, but there was so much going on I was entertained the entire way through. The best part is the cliffhanger ending. You'll definitely want to have the second book ready to go. Along the way, there's a rapid dog, airplane crash, horseback rides, fire, copperhead snake bite, and treasure hunt.

Originally written in 1948, this new edition retains the original text and inside illustrations. While some of the references show their age, I didn't pick up on them as a kid (in the 80's), and I'm sure today's kids will be so entranced by the story that they won't notice some of the out dated words. While the story does deal with some serious themes like child abuse, Trixie has a very normal, 50's home life. The time period certainly shows up there.

This series is filled with wonderfully real characters and fun stories. Don't miss The Secret of the Mansion and this chance to make a new lifelong friend.

And here are the rest of the Trixie Belden Mysteries in order.


  1. I am currently rereading my Trixie Belden books (I have the whole series with the exception of number 39-my copy got lost somewhere and replacing it will be EXPENSIVE) I loved the Trixie series. That and the Three Investigators were MY series as a kid (much more interesting than the famous but repetitive Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew!) Also, I blush to say this, but I kind of had a crush on Honey (I still remember her looking back in her riding breeches-an illustration which I am pretty sure is in this book (I have the Deluxe version and the regular hardcover version, and the two have different illustrations)

    That aside, I personally think the series began to really take off after the original author placed it in the hands of others. (The first 6 books are good, but some of the later ones are better I think) The only thing I thought was dated as a kid (also in the 80s) was how so many people could fit in a station wagon! And that wasn't too dated since 70s wagons were still big. But with the coming of such wagons as the Ford Taurus and Honda Accord, 5 was really the limit. Now though with internet and cell phones, some of the plots would be much different. I do think that discerning kids will still enjoy the storylines

    1. Of all the ones to go missing. Yikes! So sorry to hear that. And I must confess I had a crush on Honey as well. No illustrations in the books I read, but I just loved her character.

      I never had an issue with how many people could fit in a station wagon, although station wagons themselves are pretty much history these days, replaced by minivans. I just can't picture the Bob Whites in a minivan. Moms owning one, yes. But as the club car? Not really.

      My favorite in the series in Gatehouse, one of Julie Campbell's books, although I do like plenty of the KK books as well.

  2. I don't remember noticing much about the Trixie Belden books that I thought dated, but I first read most of them in the late 1960s/early 1970s. My eldest read the series in the 1990s; I thought they'd seem as out of date for her as the old Mercer Boys books I'd gotten from my dad seemed to me, but apparently they're more timeless than I realized, because she was never bothered by that sort of thing.

    Or she's less attuned to the latest thing, I dunno. We have friends who live in an area similar to the neighborhood Trixie grew up in, who live a lifestyle surprisingly similar to the Belden's, so that may be one reason daughter didn't question it much.