Sunday, September 11, 2016

Book Review: The Pet Show Mystery by Kathryn Kenny (Trixie Belden #37)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Good characters in a mostly fun book
Cons: For some, the 80’s elements; part of mystery feels forced into book
The Bottom Line:
Pet show to feed birds
Comes under some sabotage
Mostly fun entry

What Danger Could You Find at a Pet Show?

I’ve been one of the few Trixie Belden fans who didn’t think the final 5 books were that awful.  True, I never thought they were the best in the series, but I didn’t think they were the worst either.  As I’ve been rereading them, I am finding that they are more average than I remember them being, but The Pet Show Mystery is just a tad better than the previous two.

If you’re just stumbling on the series, or my reviews of them, this was a teen sleuth series much like the Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew.  The series started in 1948, and this book, the 37th in the series, was published in the 1980’s.  It featured Trixie Belden, a fourteen-year-old detective, and her family and friends.  There’s quite a large group of characters, which is one thing that appealed to fans.

This book opens in the middle of an especially harsh winter.  It’s only January, and Trixie is ready for a spring thaw.  While traveling to the house of her best friend and next door neighbor, Honey Wheeler, Trixie stumbles upon her classmate Norma Nelson.  She is out feeding the birds, who are having trouble getting food because of how cold it has been.

Trixie immediately decides that the plight of the game birds is a perfect project for the Bob-Whites, her group of friends.  Not only will it help a worthy cause, but it will keep them busy during the cold days ahead.  The group decides that a pet show will be a great way to raise the money to buy food.  But not everyone agrees.  Soon the group has faced a hostile confrontation and a rumors that could shut down the show.  Can Trixie figure out what is going on?

Remember I said this book was published in the mid-80’s?  The ghost writer and publisher tried to update the series to modern times.  As a result, Trixie’s older brother Mart spends much of the book wrestling with a computer program and the Bob-Whites sign up people for the pet show outside the pet store at the mall.  Yes, that’s right, small little Sleepyside-on-the Hudson gets a mall.  When I read this book as a kid in the late 80’s, neither of these things bothered me.  As an adult, the computer sub-plot still doesn’t bother me (although it is horribly dated today), although I wonder at a town as small as Sleepyside is supposed to be having a mall.

My real issue with this book, however, is the plot.  While Trixie’s investigation into who is sabotaging the pet show and why is well done, it feels too light for a book in the series.  The publisher must have agreed because Trixie manages to find herself in a larger mystery over the course of the book, but it feels a bit forced into the story.  Yes, the author tries to set it up earlier into the book, but it still feels forced.  I never minded as a kid or when I reread it before, so obviously I’m getting pickier as an adult.

I have always loved this series for the characters, and that much still holds true here.  They aren’t as deep as in the earlier books in the series, but they also aren’t out of character.  I also appreciated some of what the Bob-Whites had to face here, since it seems to actually lead to some character growth for Trixie.

Despite the forced plot, I’m still fond of this book.  While not the best book in the Trixie Belden series, there is still much to recommend The Pet Show Mystery.

If you are looking to start the series, I do recommend you start with an earlier book.  Here are the Trixie Belden Mysteries in order.

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


  1. I never made it to the later books. Wonder where I put those . . . .
    Thanks for your thoughts.

    1. They're a decidedly mixed bag, but for fans they are worth at least one look if you can get them cheaply.

  2. Loved your honest review about the differences between earlier and later books in the series. Thanks for introducing me to a series I'm not familiar with. I have a grandchild that would enjoy a good pet mystery.

    1. There are horses in almost all the books in the series, so that's a good draw.

  3. I probably read this when I was young, but with so many of them it's hard to say.