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.