Pros: Great characters and interesting plot
Cons: The "travelogue" chapter
The Bottom Line:
Mysteries of people
Still crime is missing, slow start
Fun despite itself
Is Christmas in Arizona a Dream or a Nightmare?
When I first started reading the Trixie Belden series, I read the books in whatever order I could find them. As a result, I read The Mystery in Arizona, the sixth volume, second. While it is best to read the first 10 books in order, it didn't hamper my enjoyment too much.
It did help that the book offered a crash course in the characters. For those who don't know them, Trixie is a 13-year-old with two older brothers, Mart and Brian, the oldest. The three of them have formed a club with some friends in the neighborhood. They call themselves the Bob Whites. The other three members are Diana Lynch and Honey Wheeler, who are both 13 as well, and Honey's older adopted brother Jim Frayne. The six friends live outside
New York City in the little town of Sleepyside on the Hudson.
Trixie isn't dreaming of a white Christmas this year. Diana Lynch's uncle has invited all the Bob Whites to spend Christmas at his Dude Ranch in
Trixie only gets to go on one condition - she has to study hard to bring up her
grades. So with promises from Brian and Jim that they will tutor her the entire
time, the six friends set off.
They no sooner land in
Arizona, however, before Uncle Monte tells
them about the tight spot he's in at the ranch. The majority of his staff is
made up of members of the Orlando
family, and they just up and left with no warning. Under staffed, there is now
way he can entertain a group of non-paying guests.
When Trixie volunteers the Bob Whites to help, the other reluctantly agree. Now Trixie has to do chores in the morning and study in the afternoon. Will she ever get to have fun like the others? And what about the
Orlandos? Why did they
vanish? And what secrets might the rest of the staff be hiding?
As a kid, I devoured this book and eagerly searched out more in the series. Why? Because the characters are so wonderful. Trixie and the rest of the gang are real people with strengths and weaknesses, not the one dimensional characters I was used to with the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew. And while they aren't as rich here as they are in other books in the series, there is still enough richness there to attract kids.
The plot to this one is interesting. It isn't a mystery in the traditional sense. Instead, it focuses on people and why they behave the way they do. Yes, as a kid I noticed the difference between this and the other mysteries I had devoured. Yet there was so much going on most of the time that I didn't care. There are several sub-plots with unhappy guests and planning a big Christmas party for everyone at the guest ranch. All of this came together to make the book even more believable for me. After all, not too many kids really catch that many criminals.
There is one serious flaw, however. Near the beginning, we get an extended tour guide and history lesson on
Arizona. There is little attempt to disguise
it, either. It is pretty much an information dump recited by various characters
while on a plane ride. And yes, it is that boring. The information never really
comes up in the rest of the book, either, so it's not like we needed to know
it. It's enough to knock a star off the book, but it's not a horrid flaw.
This is the last book that series creator Julie Campbell wrote. She was tired of the characters and sold the rights to them to her publisher, who went on to have many ghost authors write entries over the next few decades.