Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Book Review: Trixie Belden Starter Set

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Three great adventures
Cons: None
The Bottom Line:
Setting up series
Foundational three volumes
That are also fun

Three Great Books Introduce New Friends

I've been a Trixie Belden fan since I was 13. I fell in love with these characters. I still regularly reread favorites in this kids' mystery series. I was thrilled when it was re-released after being out of print for 15 years to captivate a whole new generation. And yes, I'm enough of a collector I've been buying the new versions. Anyway, this slip case set contains the first three books in the series. They are the fundamental entries in the series since they set up the characters and situations we'll follow for the rest of the 39 book series.

Up first is The Secret of the Mansion. In it, 13-year-old Trixie meets her new neighbor Honey Wheeler, also 13. But the adventure really gets started when they meet 15-year-old Jim who has just run away from his abusive step-father. Jim is trying to meet up with his great uncle, who has just been rushed to the hospital for poor health. Will her survive? Can they keep Jim's presence a secret and find the fortune rumored to me hidden in the mansion?

Next comes The Red Trailer Mystery, which picks up minutes after the first book ends. Trixie, Honey, and Honey's governess Miss Trask are off to track down runaway heir Jim who left town before he could learn about his fortune. So they set off in the Wheeler's trailer to find him. But the run into complications in the form of trailer thieves and a mysterious family in another trailer. Can Trixie solve all the mysteries? Trust me; you'll want to have this one handy as soon as you've finished the first book.

The last in this set is my favorite in the series, The Gatehouse Mystery. When Trixie and Honey find a diamond in Honey's gatehouse, they decide to keep it and figure out how it got there. But things get complicated when Trixie thinks it was stolen and the thief is still in the area. Is she right? This book introduces us to Trixie's older brothers Mart and Brian who were only mentioned in the first two books.

I found these books about the time I was getting tired of the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew series. This one has the same audience as those better known books, but it is so much better.

So what is it I love about these books? Everything! Okay, I'll be more specific. The characters are real. Trixie is an impulsive tomboy and Honey is easily frightened but she really cares about others. The two are actually annoying in book one, but not for very long. They quickly bring out the best in each other. While they continue to have character flaws, they aren't so overbearing. The other characters are just as well developed with real personalities. They seem like friends.

And these characters are supported by a great setting. Trixie lives outside a small, fictional town on the Hudson River in New York. It may not be a real place, but the detail presented here certainly makes it seem like it is.

Of course, those two things would be nothing if the stories were bad. They aren't. Every time I read the first one, I am amazed all over again at how much is packed into that book. Book two gets a little too busy with the various plots, but it is still entertaining. And book three is a little straight forward but still highly entertaining.

The series started in 1948. As a result, there might be the occasional reference that today's kids won't get. I read them in the 80's and it never bothered me, however.

By the time you are done with this set, you'll be very familiar with Trixie, her friends, and her world. And you'll be so hooked you'll want to get the rest. Get this set today and make some great new friends.

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