Saturday, April 13, 2013

Book Review: The Mystery on the Mississippi by Kathryn Kenny (Trixie Belden #15)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Fast paced story sure to draw readers of any age into the action.
Cons: The plot makes the characters do some pretty stupid things.
The Bottom Line:
My introduction
I see the weakness now
But then I loved it

Harrowing Case

The Mystery on the Mississippi is the 15th in the Trixie Belden mystery series. The series is one of many targeted to later elementary school readers, but still one of my favorites.

Mr. Wheeler is taking a business trip to St. Louis, and he's invited the Bob-Whites to come along. Naturally, they are all thrilled at the chance to take a trip. Even Dan gets to come this time around, while poor Diana is left out of the fun.

They've just arrived at their hotel when the trouble starts, however. The previous occupant of Trixie and Honey's room, Pierre Lontard, left behind a briefcase and some papers. When he returns, he snatches up the briefcase but leaves behind the papers in the trashcan. Trixie is convinced they are important, so sticks them in her purse.

The Bob-Whites have a full itinerary planned for their few days in the area. They want to take a cruise on the Mississippi and can't miss visiting Mark Twain country just up the road in Hannibal. But wherever they go, danger seems to follow. There's a suspicious new cook on the boat with them. They get stranded in Cairo, Missouri. And Trixie faces danger in a pool. Is Lontard following them? What do the mysterious symbols on the papers really mean?

I must admit to having mixed reactions to this book. Part of me still considers it a favorite. It was my introduction to Trixie and her friends, a series I am still reading and rereading almost 20 years later. The friendships are strong and the characters great fun to be around. And the constant danger appealed to the 13 year old who first read this book. I couldn't put it down, devouring it in a day or two thanks to the easy to read writing style. Even now, knowing the full story, it grips me.

But when I set nostalgia aside, I can recognize the flaws. Mr. Wheeler acts completely irresponsible. I don't know any adult who would continue to let these kids be in constant danger like this. The characters are not well rounded like they are in other books in the series. Here, they sometimes come off as whiney brats, which is probably a more accurate portrayal of teens then the others first characters they usually are. Finally, while the fast paced plot appealed to a teenage boy, it could easily frighten the intended audience of pre-teen girls. While ultimately there is a happy ending, this is easily one of the darker and more harrowing books in the series.

Originally written in 1965, this book does show its age. The famous St. Louis Arch hadn't been built yet, so naturally the Bob-Whites don't visit it. Space exploration was a huge topic, so that and airplane development are mentioned several times in the book. While I did notice the absence of the Arch as a kid, I didn't think anything was out of the ordinary with the other stuff. Ultimately, it should hold up just fine today.

Even with the long list of faults, I can't help but like this book. While not the strongest in the series, The Mystery on the Mississippi is entertaining. I don't recommend starting here like I did, but instead reading the Trixie Belden Mysteries in order.


  1. Trixie & Honey's capture were scary. I just didn't like how trusting Honey was. Overall though, a good book

    1. As I said, as a 7th grader, I loved that capture. And this did introduce me to the series. But I can certainly see the reasons others don't like it as much now.