Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Good characters, fast moving plot
Cons: Plot a bit of a stretch in the end, some ignored characters
The Bottom Line:
Drama with teacher
Why is she acting strangely?
Weaker Trixie book
There are some fans of the Trixie Belden series who have little good to say about the second half of the series. While I absolutely acknowledge that the earlier books were the strongest, I still find I enjoy many of these later books. Then there’s The Mystery of the Velvet Gown. It’s not that the book is bad, but it’s got some serious flaws.
Many people seem to have missed the Trixie Belden series, but I was lucky enough to find it about the time I was tiring of the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew. It’s the same idea, a detective series aimed at middle graders, but the characters were much more real to me. Plus, Trixie had a great family and group of friends, the Bob-Whites that rounded out the cast, and she had to get out of chores to do her sleuthing. I could definitely relate to all of that.
Every year, the freshman class at Sleepyside Junior-Senior High School comes together to put on a play. This year’s play, under the direction of Miss Darcy, is Romeo and Juliette, and Trixie’s friend Diana Lynch has landed the part of Juliette. Everyone is thrilled for her – well almost everyone. There’s Jane Morgan, who wanted the part and seems to have a grudge against the Bob-Whites in general.
However, Trixie’s focus is on Miss Darcy. Just as rehearsals are getting under way, Miss Darcy learns that her father, a diplomat, has been kidnapped in London. Naturally, she’s upset, however, her actions still seem a bit odd. Even odder is her fiancée, Peter Ashbury. Can Trixie figure out what is really happening?
Sometimes, in a book, the plot makes perfect sense while you are reading it, but once you set the book down, you scratch your head at what the characters did. That’s absolutely the case here. While reading this book, things seem logical, and I bought it as a kid. But now, it seems like the villain went to great lengths to get what he wanted, and it really doesn’t make any sense. Still, the clues are there, and the story progresses at a good clip. The sub-plot with Jane is interesting; it’s nice to see a fellow student who doesn’t love Trixie and her friends. However, a sub-plot involving Reddy does help provide a couple of plot points but pretty much seems useless to me.
The characters are mostly in character here. There are a couple of things that seem inconstant with previous books, but they are minor. However, I have to object to Dan being written out of this book. Not only do I miss the character, but his absence is explained in a way I’ve never bought. While Diana is part of the book, she is sidelined for much of it by preparing for the play. It seems like this would have been a chance for her to shine instead of being ignored.
The result is a mostly forgettable entry in the series. It’s not a terrible book, but the flaws are enough to keep The Mystery of the Velvet Gown from being a favorite entry. Only read this once you’ve met Trixie and fallen in love with the series.
Need to read others in the series? Here's my list of the Trixie Belden Mysteries in order.