Monday, July 1, 2013

Book Review: The Mystery Off Old Telegraph Road by Kathryn Kenny (Trixie Belden #20)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Mostly enjoyable characters; good story...
Cons: ...but mystery is almost an after thought
The Bottom Line
The weak mystery
Detracts from an overall
Enjoyable book

Bikeathons and Counterfeiters

The Trixie Belden mystery series undergoes some strange changes once the ghost writer “Kathryn Kenny” takes over at book seven.  The timeline begins to get screwy.  The characters act out of character.  And some books have a very weak mystery.  Of course, original author Julie Campbell fell into that trap herself.  An example of an oddball book is The Mystery Off Old Telegraph Road.  The mystery is weak, but it is still enjoyable.

The series follows the adventures of fourteen-year-old Trixie Belden, a budding junior detective.  She, along with her two older brothers and their friends, has formed a club called the Bob-Whites of the Glen.  Trixie’s best friend and partner in detective work is Honey Wheeler.  Actually, the cast of characters is fairly large for a series book like this.  Those who read the series in order will find all this old hat by now since this is book 20 in the series.

When Trixie and Honey attend the school’s art festival, they learn that the art department is extremely low on funds.  While brainstorming ways to help out, they decide to host a bikeathon through the Wheeler game preserve.  Soon, all the Bob-Whites are working toward the goal.

But their plans are hit by opposition.  Honey’s cousin Ben and his group of friends mock them.  Nick Roberts, an artist at the school, keeps telling them he thinks it’s a bad idea.  And that doesn’t include the threatening phone calls others are getting.  Who is behind it?  Might it have anything to do with the counterfeit German deutschmark that Trixie found?

I’ve often wondered if this book was supposed to be number nineteen originally.  It makes several references to the plot and events of book eighteen.  Plus it takes place in spring while that one took place in fall.  Since number nineteen starts in summer, it could have been a perfect follow up timeline wise.  But by this point, no one is truly paying attention to the timeline of the series, so it doesn’t matter.

What has always drawn me to this series is the characters.  The Bob-Whites, when written well, are humans with strengths and weaknesses.  I’ve always wanted to be one of them.  Here, they are mostly well done.  The most interesting aspect is a fight between Trixie and Honey that actually does feel natural, and the resolution to that is actually both funny and touching.  The most interesting character here is Honey’s cousin Ben, who we haven’t seen since book 5.  This is his third and final appearance in the series, and I really don’t like him here.  It’s colored my view of the character overall.

My problem with this book is the plot.  It focuses on the bikeathon and Ben and Nick’s behavior almost exclusively.  Yes, there is a crime involved in the story, but it’s shoehorned in as an afterthought.  Now I do enjoy what is happening, but it always bugs me when the mystery gets left out of a mystery book.

The story was published in the late 1970’s, and that really dates things.  Not only are there no longer deutschmarks, but they are specifically identified as West German.  But as long as you know the publication date going into the book, it’s not an issue at all.

The weak mystery keeps this one from being at the top of the series for me, but I do still enjoy The Mystery Off Old Telegraph Road.  If you are a Trixie Belden fan, I think you will, too.

Looking for more mystery?  Check out the Trixie Belden Mysteries in order.

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