Sunday, March 13, 2016

Book Review: The Mystery of the Missing Millionaire by Kathryn Kenny (Trixie Belden #34)



Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Wonderful plot; a few laughs
Cons: Characters not quite true to themselves
The Bottom Line:
Weaker characters
Overshadowed by great plot
Still a fun entry




I Can’t Help It, I Like This One

Some books in the Trixie Belden series have almost universal love or hate.  One of those is The Mystery of the Missing Millionaire.  I say almost because I’m one of the exceptions.  While I certainly can see the issues people have with the book, I actually like this one.

If you aren’t familiar with this series, Trixie is a fourteen-year-old detective.  Really, this is a similar series to the Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew, only with better drawn characters.  Those characters do tend to slip a little late in the series, which is one of the issues with this book.

The book opens on a hot August day as Trixie and her best friend Honey Wheeler are out exercising the horses that the Wheelers own.  They find a wallet on the side of the road and quickly take it to Mr. Lytell who owns the shop nearby so he can get in touch with the owner.

However, the response Mr. Lytell gets surprises all of them.  Laura Ramsey shows up to claim her father’s wallet, hoping it will hold some clue to where he is.  He’s disappeared and she is frantic with worry.  Trixie is thrilled when a PI is brought in to help find the missing millionaire.  But will she actually be able to help solve the case?

As I said, the complaints with this book are well founded.  The characters are slightly off, providing some additional conflict in Trixie’s group of friends.  Personally, I’d argue that most of it actually comes from Trixie’s feelings of jealously and how she’s looking at interactions.  Since we get this book from her point of view (albeit limited third person), that explains the lens that causes this problem.  I’d argue that Trixie is really the only pod character here, something she comes to terms with by the end of the book, and it’s a change I can actually see happening in real life.  There are times in my life I get hurt by things that I know are more about me overreacting to things than they are to any bad behavior on the part of the other person involved, and that’s how I view much of the book.  Then again, maybe that’s my lense.

There is a large cast of characters in the series, and they aren’t all used in this book.  Two of Trixie’s friends have a one scene cameo.  Heck, Trixie’s oldest brother hardly gets that much page time.  That’s a disappointment as well.

However, I love the plot.  It’s creative and completely surprised me when I first read it in high school.  Now as an adult, I still love how skillfully it is put together.  While I do love great characters, in this case the plot overshadows any weaknesses in the characters.

Plus there are some great laughs in this book.  A few of the scenes still make me laugh, and they stand out in my mind as a result.

I will say that rereading this book now, I find a few elements dated.  The book came out in 1980, but the way the plot unfolds wouldn’t happen today thanks to the internet.  There are some references to money as well that have not kept up with inflation.  Then again, to a kid reading this book for the first time, odds are the money would still seem like a big amount to them today.

I admit that as I’ve been rereading the Trixie Belden books, a few haven’t stood up to my memories of them.  I’m actually glad to find that The Mystery of the Missing Millionaire does.  I might see the issues with the characters a bit more, but overall, I still find this book fun.

Once you meet Trixie, you'll want to read the rest of the Trixie Belden Mysteries.

This book is part of this week's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday.

10 comments:

  1. Sounds like a good mystery! Thanks!
    - Vi

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  2. This series always seems to get a good work out on the library bookshelves. I've never actually read any but your review might entice me to do so.

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    1. I'm so glad to hear that these books fly off the library bookshelves. Love to hear that a new generation is finding the series.

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  3. Trixie Belden! Wow. I didn't know they were still around. Good to know kids are still reading these. Thanks for the post.

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    1. I hope kids enjoy these books for years to come.

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  4. I'm almost afraid to re-read them now. What if it has changed for me as well?! My memories are quite fond at the moment.

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    1. I've found that the ones I really loved as a kid hold up well as an adult. A few of the middle of the road books are worse than I remember, but most of them hold up as well as I'd expect them to.

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  5. I found out why my comment wasn't being accepted-it was too long. So here is Part One:

    Here is another VERY well constructed mystery! I have to eat my words again-I had NO idea whom the villians were!

    But first things first: the store owner Mr Lytell used to be a nosy gossip, but in this book, he is a VERY unlikeable, ornery character! Arrggghh!

    Out riding one day, Trixie and Honey find a wallet with a hundred dollar bill in it, and a few credit cards, but no photo ID. They turn it over to Mr Lytell who is very rude to the pair.

    Soon after, the daughter of the person who lost the wallet shows up and is quite upset and says that her father, a millionare who owns several grocery stores, has gone missing! The chief suspect is a crooked business partner. She needs to hire a private detective to find him (it was here that I thought Trix and Honey would offer their services, but I guess they aren't that presumptious). Mr Lytell loans the young lady named Laura Ramsey $2k, and holds her brand new sports car as collateral You can tell the car is a stunner because it costs a whole $12k brand new! Haha! (Just for a point of reference, this was written in 1980. I don't know how much new cars are now, but in 1997 I bought my only new car-it costs $17k CAD (So let's say $13.5k USD) and it was a Honda Civic-not a sleek sports model!

    Anyway, a big-shot detective visits and seems to snub Trixie and Honey (Gasp! He must be a fake-he doesn't take two teenage girls seriously! The horror! Hehe!). He does warn them of a possible detective that may have been hired by the disreputable business partner however. That reminds me, Trixie has noticed a green car watching them several times (which of course everyone scoffs at! Now, I was kidding about the detective taking her seriously, but come on, the rest of the Bob-Whites REALLY should know better by now!) Between her being teased, and Jim giving his attention to this bright, young, 20-year old college coed who sits at their pond sunbathing a putting on suntan oil, (and, no-I'm not joking), Trix is a bit jealous and miffed. So much so that she decides to not take the case at all. Besides which, she wants to investigate Mart's odd behaviour (which involves him falling for a get-rich scheme and losing $10, but that's kind of peripheral to the main story)

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  6. Now here is Part Two:

    Ok, so what's the denouement? This is what really surprised me (even though I know I read this before, it was back in 2006, and I barely remember it)-you see, Trix disliked Laura Ramsey (the rich daughter), but I thought it was just because she was a pretty college coed and Jim seemed to be smitten (which I can understand-Trix is 14, Jim is 17 and this girl is 20. When I was 17, I liked a girl who went to my congregation and my school. But there was also a 14 year old girl in my congregation, and a 20 year old who went to a nearby congregation. I can tell you that if it wasn't for the 17 year old that I liked, I would have had my head turned a lot quicker by the 20 year old than the 14 year old! But on the other side of the coin, it is pretty much established at this point that Jim is smitten with Trixie and vice versa. Trixie should have just asked Jim about his interest in the girl instead of sulking and fretting, but I know that when I was that age, I would have behaved like Trix did instead of sensibly confronting Jim and asking where she stood) Ok, I digress-the denouement is that the girl WAS a crook and so was the so-called PI! They were in it together to con Mr Lytell out of money!

    Another thing-I thought that Jim would have said later that he too suspected her and that was why he was around her so much, but no! He said, he was just trying to be nice. Uhh....yeah. (I guess he was, but that DOES seem kind of lame)

    So overall, this was a VERY nice story that I really got into. I don't know what is wrong with my brain-I didn't recall who was the crook at all! In fact, the only thing I remember was that the last time I read the book was in 2006. I know this because I just saw "She's the Man" in the movies, and the actress Laura Ramsey was in it. I thought she was pretty and I liked the coincidence of the girl in the book being called Laura Ramsey! (And she was also supposed to be a hot girl) It's been sad that I recall THAT and not the storyline itself!

    Thanks--Sean

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