Sunday, January 24, 2016

Book Review: The Mystery of the Vanishing Victim by Kathryn Kenny (Trixie Belden #33)



Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Creative mystery, decent characters
Cons: Mystery is really a sub-plot
The Bottom Line:
Hit and run victim
A creative mystery
That is not focused




The Plot, Like the Victim, Vanishes for Much of the Book

While I am a confirmed read in order person today, I wasn’t always that way.  As a kid, I would read books in whatever order I could find them.  When I found Trixie Belden, I read many books in the first half of the series, and then wound up jumping straight to book 33, The Mystery of the Vanishing Victim.  It was a bit of a jarring experience, but even as an adult I find this book has flaws.

Trixie Belden and the rest of her friends are working on putting together a rummage sale to benefit the town’s hospital.  When they get a donation of an antique car, they are shocked and thrilled, until it breaks down on the way home.  A stranger stops to help them only to be the victim of a hit and run as soon as he leaves them.  While he recovers from his injuries in the hospital, Trixie can’t help but wonder if he was hit on purpose.  Who was he?  And what is he doing in Sleepyside?

Whenever I describe this series to people unfamiliar with it, I explain that Trixie Belden is similar to the Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew, only with better characters.  One of those difference is that Trixie actually gets a birthday in book 10.  When I jumped to book 33, I expected to find that another year or two had gone by, so imagine my surprise when I discovered that Trixie was still fourteen and the oldest of her friends hadn’t gone off to college yet.  Of course, now I know that she was lucky to become fourteen at all since they froze the character’s ages in the rest of the series.

Leaving that all aside, I still don’t find myself drawn into this book.  It’s a shame because there is a very creative mystery happening behind the scenes.  However, much of the book focuses on the rummage sale and the efforts to bring in lots of donations.  Furthermore, the title gives away a key plot point that doesn’t happen until the second half of the book, and we get a rush of exposition at the end.  Everything makes sense at the end, and I love what the author tried to do, but the execution left much to be desired.

While the characters don’t have quite the personality they do early in the series, I do find that they are fairly faithful to their personalities in this book.  There are no pod characters or moments that make you think the author doesn’t really know them.

The books in the series have often referenced previous books in the series in an attempt to get you to buy them, but this one gives away a bigger chunk than normal of one of the books.  Believe me, I wish I’d read The Mystery of the Ghostly Galleon before I read this one.  I also think there is a reference to the next book in the series as a mystery that has been already solved, too.  I know they worked on multiple books in the series at a time this late in the series, but this is the first time I remember seeing that happen.

Because of how slow this book is, I can’t recommend The Mystery of the Vanishing Victim to anyone but die hard Trixie Belden fans.  It’s not a bad entry, but it’s not all that great, either.

Looking for more of Trixie's cases?  Here are the Trixie Belden Mysteries in order.

6 comments:

  1. Gotta give you props for giving it a go. I have not re-read these as a grown-up, but I sure loved them as a kid. Ditto with Nancy Drew, although I have been making my way thru the Phyllis Whitney young adult mysteries when I can find them.

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    1. Most of the are still really good as an adult. The later books weren't as strong, and this is one of them. But it is still fun to revisit Trixie and the rest of the Bob-Whites, even in their lesser books.

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  2. I read a ton of Trixie Belden books as a kid but had no idea there was sooooo many. Gosh. I could go back to these any day. I love the young sleuthing in the stories, it was always fun to pass the time and read.

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    1. Even the less than stellar books are still plenty of fun. The characters are just so wonderful!

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  3. I like what I did earlier of making my own comment before reading yours, and then making another later after I read yours, so here goes:

    Trixie Belden #33-The Mystery of the Vanishing Victim (my thoughts):

    It has either been FAR too many years since I've read this one, or I never have, because I remember none of it! That's not to say I didn't like it-I really did!

    **SPOILERS AHEAD**

    Ok. I was completely fooled into thinking the man who was rude at the door was the "miser", and was even decrying the book for being so obvious, but I was totally wrong! (I even commented on this in the group, so please disregard my babblings!)

    I don't want to give a total summery of it, but this is an exciting story that is very plausible. The gang are doing another fund drive, they receive an antique car to sell as a donation, (along with others that will be showcased to draw a big crowd to the rummage sale/fundraiser drive), and they decide to canvass from door to door for more donations to sell. Also, a strange man helps them get the antique car started when it breaks down on the way home (and conveniently, Jim is driving the station wagon along with the Bob-Whiters who are barely in the books (I mean Dan and Di). This stranger is...well strange and kind of rude, but he does help them, only to get promptly run over! (But not killed) The story just continues from there, and I was completely surprised at who the crook was (and wasn't).

    If I have any criticism of the book it is that the villain kind of comes out of left field, but the mystery isn't sullied by that (at least in my opinion)

    Please feel free to share your thoughts on my reviews. You guys have been really good about commenting on my random thoughts and questions, but no one so far has had anything to say on my reviews! Please do so-even if you disagree with me! Thanks all!

    Sean J Hagins

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  4. Ok, I read your review. So here are my thoughts:

    I agree with the ageing thing. I know I mentioned this series to you before (and you really should read them I think, even though they are geared to a slightly younger audience), but in the McGurk Organisation series, the gang does age, but in a vastly slower speed than real life. When the series began in 1973, the kids were between 9 and 10, while by the end in 1996 they were between 13 and 14 (I say between because they are slightly different ages)

    The rest, I have to respectfully not agree with (but everyone has differing opinions) I actually like the later half as much as the earlier. Like classic doctor who (I know this sounds like a stretch to compare that to Trixie, but bare with me), so many people today just see the whole series as OLD, but it really ran from 1963 to 1989. A lot changed in those 26 years, and so the atmosphere of the episodes from the 60s differ VASTLY from the '80s. Trixie's earlier books would never have such things as marijuana, and other themes. Yes, the writers are different too, as well as the style, but I have favourites throughout the run, and in my opinion there were as many stinkers in the earlier ones as the latter (not many in either, but still I never saw the latter half being worse overall)

    As far as the reveals, yes, I can see that would be an issue if you read them out of order. One thing you may not know though is that they didn't come out steadily like the bi-monthly Bobbsey Twins books, or the monthly Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew series. There were a SLEW that came out around 1979/1980, and before that, I believe it was on hiatus for 7 or 8 years (a long time for a kid). So, I think it was only practical to whet the appetites of youngsters in 1980 for "old" books from "way back" in 1965, and even for other books from 1980 as they were released en masse over a short time as opposed to the 7 year break. Does that make sense?

    Anyway, my opinions are just mine, and are no more "right" than yours. Thanks for letting me air them though!

    Sean

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