Sunday, February 24, 2013

Introducing the Trixie Belden Mystery Series

When I was entering Jr. High, I was looking for a new mystery series. I had already read many of the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew books and was beginning to tire of them. I happened to stumble on the Trixie Belden series, and I was hooked. Before long, I decided to collect all 39 books. Unfortunately, the books had just gone out of print, so I had to haunt used book stores. (Yes, this was in the days before the internet.) It took me a few years, but I found them all. And I still read them. They are some of my favorite books.

And before anyone objects that a guy is reading a book series about a girl, I'll just point out that of the seven main characters, four were boys.

Now I will admit that, while I was Trixie's age when I found them, I was a bit old for the target middle grade audience.  It really does have the same audience as the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew.  But I've never let the fact that I was too old for something stop me - a trait I continue to this day.

There were several things that drew me to these books. The first is the friendship the main characters shared. I was lonely off and on during my teen years, and I loved escaping into a world were the main character had a group of friends who would support her no matter what.

The second is that they are much more realistic than the Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew series. Trixie had chores she had to finish before she could go solve the mystery. Her little brother annoyed her. She fought with her older brothers. She would even fight with her friends. Of course, everyone makes up by the end of the book, but I found these relationships so much more real then in other series I was reading at the time.

Speaking of making up by the end, every book has a happy ending.  The only person who isn't happy at the end is the villain.  I love a world where you know everything will work out alright.  It's safe, comfortable, and familiar.

Finally, the characters had strengths and weaknesses. Trixie is determined to find the answers. But sometimes that turns into stubbornness that puts her in danger. Trixie's friend Honey is very tactful but can be afraid of things. Trixie jumps to conclusions, sometimes leading her down the wrong path before she finds the real solution.

Trixie has a very traditional home life. This only makes sense since the series started in 1948. Julie Campbell wrote the first six, and then tired of the characters. Her publisher bought the rights to the characters and continued the series under the pen name Kathryn Kenny. There have been many Kathryn Kennys over the years, some better then others.  Book 39 was released in 1986.  There were actually more books in the works when the series ended, so the last one isn't a final book but just another chapter in the life.

And the last five books are very rare since they were in print the shortest, just a year or two at most.  That means they demand the highest prices.  (Have I mentioned I completed my set in the days before the internet and sky high prices?)  Many fans hate these later books since they do insert a few "modern" things into Trixie's world.  They also have characters that act out of character.  As an early teen reading the books, I never really noticed.  It helped that I read them in whatever order I could get my hands on them, so I was mixing in the better books with the ones that weren't as good.

The books were out of print for almost twenty years until Random House started republishing them in 2003. After 2006, the first 15 were back in print.  Sadly, they've stopped there and even these reprints are back out of print.

Trixie and her friends formed the club the Bob-Whites of the Glen, which started to help those in need with various service projects starting in book seven.  Of course, Trixie often found mysteries to work on at the same time.

And yes, I fully admit that some of the books are pretty bad.  Even the early ones that are generally the best have some losers in them.  But there are many wonderful books here, too.  When things are working right, the characters are so rich and well drawn, they feel like friends.  I often wished I could meet them.

Yes, I still pull these books out and reread them occasionally.  Yes, they are still as much fun even when I know the ending.  I really wish the entire series were still in print because these are great books that kids today should be able to read.

And if you want to read the novels, here's a list of the Trixie Belden Mysteries in order.

This is my entry for this week in Marvelous Middle Grade Monday.  Be sure to check out the other entries.


  1. I loved this series as a kid (Nancy Drew, too)! Thanks for reminding me of it.

  2. These were my FAVORITE reads as a kid!

  3. I had forgotten all about Trixie Belden. Wow, that really takes me back!

  4. I was a big fan of Nancy Drew and I read a few of the Trixie Belden books, too. I will have to reread a couple of them! Thanks for the reminder. :)

  5. It's always awesome to find other Trixie Belden fans. I did enjoy the Hardy's and Nancy when I read them. And I will occasionally reread them and enjoy them again. But no where near how I feel about Trixie.

  6. This is a beautiful write up that summarizes much of what I love about this series, thank you for taking the time to write it.

    I didn't notice the change in quality as much as a kid, although I do remember thinking that the Julie Campbell books were more consistently good than the Kathryn Kennys. I wish they'd gone the "Three Investigator" route of giving the various writers their own names, so you have a better idea of what you're getting (the fact that I liked some Three Investigator authors better than others never stopped me from buying every volume, but it did help me to adjust my expectations down now and then!).

    As an adult I'm really struggling with the fall off of quality after JC dropped out! I did deliberately take a break after realizing this, which seems to have helped, have to see how it goes.

  7. I agree with Shalom. In fact, Mark, I've been trying to get you to read the Three Investigators! While I do like M V Carey's books, she is the only author who portrays Inspector Reynolds as being annoyed with the 3 and barely civil to them all the time. I didn't really like that

    Thanks Mark for this intro into Trixie Belden! As you know, I too love the series and just finished the Headless Horseman (remember, I will start a series in my library, stop, start another, stop and then pick up where I left off in the first series later. I have all the Trixie Belden books but the very last one. I will get to it at some point I guess, but it sells for about $100CAD!

    I do have all the Three Investigator books though. They have the same problem of being out of print, and the last few are very rare. One thing T3i have that Trixie doesn't is that there was a brief revival in the late 80s/early 90s, with the Crimebusters series. This takes place a little later (the Investigators were about Trixie's age in the main series, and are about Brian's age in the Crimebusters series, so they can drive, and do other things) It's a shame we didn't have the chance to revisit Trixie when she was a high school senior!