Thursday, June 27, 2013

Book Review: The Mystery of the Uninvited Guest by Kathryn Kenny (Trixie Belden #17)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Great mystery, large cast of characters well used and in character
Cons: One sub-plot feels forced
The Bottom Line
A strong mystery
Characters in character
Make for a fun book

Weddings, Wheelchairs, and the Two Cousins

There are two kinds of kids series books, those that follow each other closely and those where each book stands pretty much by itself.  After the first few books, the Trixie Belden series falls into the second category, with one noteable exception.  The Mystery of the Uninvited Guest picks up right after the last book in the series ends.  What's even stranger is they were written seven years apart.  Whatever the reason for this two book mini-series, I am happy because this is a strong book.

It is also the seventeenth book in a series that features lots of characters.  Trixie Belden is the center of the stories.  She's a fourteen year old detective who solves mysteries with her best friend Honey Wheeler.  The two friends, along with their siblings and some other friends, have formed a club, The Bob-Whites of the Glen.  Rounding out the cast are other family members, servants (Honey's family is very rich), and neighbors.  And we haven't even gotten to those brought in for this mystery.  You can jump in with any book, although it's best to read the first four at least in order to really get a grasp on who all the characters are.

If you haven't read book sixteen in the series, stop now.  This book absolutely spoils that mystery.  No, I'm not kidding.  I read them out of order and still regret it 20 plus years later.

In the last book, we discovered that Honey's adopted brother Jim had a previous unknown living relative, a cousin Julianna.  Now, Juliana is planning to be married in just a few weeks with Trixie and the rest of the Bob-Whites in the wedding.  It should be a great time, but Trixie's own cousin, Hallie, is coming for a visit.  The two girls have never gotten along in the past, and Trixie is not looking forward to having to put up with her for several weeks.

But then a mystery pops up.  Trixie's youngest brother insists he saw someone pushing a wheelchair down their road.  Trixie's friend Diana is robbed and their friend Dan is acting strangely.  Then someone calls up and insists on being invited to Juliana's wedding.  Is there a connection?  Will Trixie figure it out in time?

I had not read this book in years, but I remembered most of the plot points and liking the book.  Even though I knew how it all ended, I was so caught up in the book that I had a hard time putting it down and actually rushed home from work to finish it.  I can quibble with bits and pieces of the plot, like the long exposition in the last chapter or the false start that is chapter one, but really, that's being nitpicky.  It moves quickly with lots things happening.  While now I spot the clues easily, I missed most of them the first time I read it, although they are present throughout the book.

But the real draw for me with this series has always been the characters, and this is a great book for them.  All the characters get their moment or more to shine and are very true to themselves, which is really saying something for this size cast.  Keep in mind that this book was also written by a ghost writer and not the original author, so the character development is even more amazing.

Of course, the focus is always on Trixie, and this author does two things to attempt to develop her.  The first is her relationship with her cousin Hallie, which I always felt developed realistically.  While that sub-plot works, the sub-plot of Trixie's self-doubts feels forced and underdeveloped.  It could have been good, but it's the only true weakness of the book.

At 212 pages, it will keep the intended pre-teen audience entertained.  I find it a very fast read these days, but I still enjoy spending times with these characters.

The Mystery of the Uninvited Guest kicked off the second half of the series, with the rest being published over the next 9 years.  While they are certainly hit or miss from this point out, this is a strong entry in what remains one of my favorite series.

Looking for more?  Here are the Trixie Belden Mysteries in order.

1 comment:

  1. This book is one of my favourites as well. I didn't realise there was a 7 year hiatus between this book and the last one! Maybe they made the story a continuation to hook a new generation of readers into Trixie Belden by selling the old books too (remember, 7 years actually would constitute a generation since it's 10-12 year old intended audience would be 17-19, so the publishers would undoubtedly be trying to hook in the "current" 10-12 year olds who would have been 3-5 years old when the last book was printed. If this is the reason, I'd say it was a grand, ingenious idea!)

    I think the character of Hallie really made me dislike Trixie. Unlike, someone like Ben Riker, Hallie was not a naughty girl at all, so Trixie's jealous dislike made her look shallow, immature and small.

    Also, her description made my pre-teen self have a bit of a crush on her-she reminds me of my best friend growing up (who happens to be female)

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts!



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