Saturday, June 29, 2013

Book Review: The Mystery of the Phantom Grasshopper by Kathryn Kenny (Trixie Belden #18)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Decent characters, fun story
Cons: Fairly straight forward mystery
The Bottom Line:
Mystery is simple
But it makes a good excuse
To see characters

Say Hello to Hoppy Before He Vanishes

When I first started reading the Trixie Belden mystery series, I scanned the list of titles out of curiosity, and book 18 caught my eye – The Mystery of the Phantom Grasshopper.  Expecting a ghost type mystery, I was curious just exactly how a grasshopper ghost could be scary and why a villain would use that.  Turns out I guessed the plot wrong based on the title, and it is a decent entry in the series.

This book falls in the second half of the 39 book mystery series and is one of the first published in the rush of new titles in the late 70’s.  The series centers around fourteen-year-old Trixie Belden who lives in the small town ofSleepyside-on-the-Hudson,New York.  Along with her family and friends, she finds herself in plenty of mysteries.  What’s most interesting about this book is that it is finally autumn and school has started again, ending the endless summer of books 11-17.  (Of course, we’re back to summer in the next book.  Let the tainted timeline begin.)

The town of Sleepyside has an antique grasshopper weather vane on top of city hall nicknamed Hoppy.  Trixie believes it is good luck to say hi to it as you pass by.  But in the middle of a bad storm, he vanishes without a trace.

Meanwhile, Trixie and her friends are trying to befriend the new teacher’s aide they all have at school.  She seems sad until someone from her past shows up.  At first, she’s happy, and then she starts acting strangely.  Why did she change so much?  And can Trixie find Hoppy?

I’ve got to admit the plot of this one is a bit straightforward.  I caught most of the clues right away, although Trixie was fairly smart and picked up on them as well.  The story starts a little slowly introducing the returning and new characters, but it soon picks up and once it does it maintains a steady pace until the end.  Sadly, one plot element from early in the book is dropped and never revisited when the need arises again.

Depending on the ghost writer, the characters in the book can seem real or feel very much like caricatures.  The author of this book does a decent job of keeping the characters real with strengths and flaws.  This is especially true of Trixie’s youngest brother Bobby who is at his most mature here.  There are also some fun scenes of Trixie having fun with her family and friends, something that always drew me to these books and helped make the characters more real for me.

While the book was written in the late 70’s, there is little here that serious dates the book.  The writing won’t be any problem for kids today.

While the plot of The Mystery of the Phantom Grasshopper wasn’t quite what I initially envisioned, it’s still a decent entry in one of my favorite series.

And if you want more fun mysteries, check out the rest of the Trixie Belden Mysteries in order.


  1. I really liked this one. I actually did not know the friend of Cis was the villain! Maybe I'm slow!

    1. We didn't have that many suspects, so it seemed obvious to me. Plus I think this was one of the later books in the series I read, so I was more in tune with the formulas by then. Not that I usually guess the villain, so when I do get it, I'm proud of myself.


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