Sunday, June 30, 2013

Book Review: The Secret of the Unseen Treasure by Kathryn Kenny (Trixie Belden #19)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Lazy summer feel in an engaging mystery
Cons: Very little Di; Dan acting weird
The Bottom Line
Summer mystery
Combines fun with the suspense
For a pleasant read




Who is Harassing Mrs. Elliot?

Even though I’ve been out of school for too many years to name, I still get a thrill when summer starts.  There’s something that makes it seem like it has a slower, more relaxed pace.  And that feeling is captured in The Secret of the Unseen Treasure, the nineteenth in the Trixie Belden mystery series.

For those who aren’t familiar with this series, it’s a mystery series for kids along the lines of the Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew.  I just happen to like them better because, at least in the better books, Trixie and her family and friends seem like real people with strengths and weaknesses.  Yes, the plots are a little simple, especially in the back half of the series, but I just love spending time with them.  The early books were written in the 1950’s, but much of the second half was published in 1977, and that creeps into the books at times.

It’s the first day of summer, and Trixie is looking forward to fun and maybe a mystery or two.  But the mystery starts earlier than expected when she and her friends head to a neighbor’s house to make a delivery.  They show up in time to keep a stranger from burning down Mrs. Elliot’s shed.  Over the next few weeks, Social Security checks are stolen and a water pump stops working.  Who is behind these attacks?  And why?

The first 10 books in the series take place in about 10 consecutive months.  The next 7 are all set in summer, and book 18 takes place in early fall.  But the tainted timeline is officially underway in this book because it opens on the first day of summer vacation while none of the characters have aged a day.  I was so used to characters not aging and I read the books all out of order, so to me this is worth noting only in passing.

The plot is fairly decent although certainly a product of the 70’s.  I’m not going to say more so I don’t give anything else away.  As a kid, I didn’t make the connections much before Trixie did, and there was one reveal I never would have guessed.  I remember enough of the plot these days that it holds very few surprises, although I don’t find it frustrating waiting for Trixie to reach the right conclusions, which is always a good thing.  A nitpick I have with the plot is that Trixie’s dad a couple times shares privileged information relevant to the plot with his family.

The characters, for the most part, are their better selves.  Trixie bickers with her older brother Mart, but there is lots of love behind it.  Trixie is determined and persistent while making honest mistakes, but she tries hard to avoid being rude.  One of Trixie’s friends shows up in some group scenes but doesn’t really have much of a part.  The biggest out of character issues I have are with Dan.  Another of Trixie’s friends, he has a background with a gang in New York City.  Some of that comes into play in the plot, but even then he feels too far out of character to me.  Then there’s his infamous outburst late in the book that is funnier than it’s supposed to be.

Speaking of funny, early editions of this book feature a cameo by a dog who hasn’t been around since book two.  Both copies of the book I’ve had over the years have featured the correct dog, but it’s the kind of error you get when you are dealing with lots of ghost writers and books published in a very short amount of time.

I mentioned earlier that the book features some lazy summer days.  Yes, Trixie has chores to do, but she still has time for horseback riding and swimming.  In that kind of stuff that also helped draw me to the series, so I love that.

I also like the fact that, unlike most books in the series, this one takes place over half the summer.  For some reason, that always struck me as a nice, realistic touch.  The book itself clocks it at just under 200 pages of text, so it’s a fast read for anyone from the target age of upper elementary school up.

The second half of the series can be hit or miss, but The Secret of the Unseen Treasure is definitely a hit.  It may not be quite up to the earlier entries in the series, but it’s still a good mystery with lots of fun thrown in.

You'll find more fun when you read the Trixie Belden Mysteries in order.

2 comments:

  1. You were a bit vague, but I imagine that Dan's outburst is the marijuana thing? I actually never found that as humourous. Why does it seem that way to you? (Not to put you on the defensive, I'm just curious about your opinion)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, that is the scene I'm talking about. I always found it funny because Dan's reaction seems so over the top. Plus, would anyone who knows the Bob-Whites think they were smoking anything at all? Different folks and different reactions, I guess.

      Delete