Friday, July 12, 2013

Book Review: The Mystery of the Castaway Children by Kathryn Kenny (Trixie Belden #21)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Great character development, well done story
Cons: Story might be a bit out there, but it works
The Bottom Line
Baby in doghouse
And despicable villains
With great characters

Can Trixie Find the Castaway Children?

The Mystery of the Castaway Children is number 21 in the Trixie Belden mystery series, placing it just over half way in the order.  By this point, the books can be a bit hit or miss with weak plots or characters acting out of character.  Not so, here.  And rereading this one reminds me why it remains a favorite of the second half books.

For those not familiar with the series, it is a kid’s mystery series along the lines of the Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew.  Trixie Belden is a fourteen-year-old teen living in the small town of Sleepyside-on-the-Hudson,New York.  Her life’s ambition is to become a detective, and she gets lots of good practice in these books.  Helping her out are her older brothers, Mart and Brian, her best friend and fellow detective Honey Wheeler, and Honey’s adopted brother Jim Frayne.  Rounding out the teen main characters are Diana Lynch and Dan Mangan.  Together, these seven friends formed a club called the Bob-Whites of the Glen.

This book opens on a hot August evening, and the Belden family is relaxing on their porch when they hear a strange noise coming from Reddy’s doghouse.  Investigating, they find a baby that’s only a few months old.  Where did he come from?  And if Trixie finds his parents, what might they be keeping a secret?

One thing I love about this series is the characters.  They are very real with strengths and weaknesses, and they are at their best here.  Trixie is as determined as ever to solve the case, including a few times where she has a bad attitude about things like being beaten to clues, but she knows it and works to fix it.  She also makes some very good deductions over the course of the story.  In the good books, I always want to go for a visit and forget to come home because I love the characters so much, and that’s true here.

Now I’ll admit that at first glance, the overall plot of the book doesn’t seem that logical.  However, everything is explained in the book, and I find myself buying it as I close the last page.  The clues certainly point Trixie to the logical ending of the book, so there are no plot holes.  Honestly, I can see this sort of thing happening in real life, which is just plain sad and says something depressing about our society.  But since this is a Trixie book, we get a happy ending.  In fact, this ending brings me to tears no matter how many times I read it.

Another reason I like this one is Sergeant Molinson.  This character is usually little more than a caricature who shows up once to dismiss everything Trixie has found and then again to rescue her from danger and lecture her about leaving the police work to the professionals.  Here, he gets much more page time, and the author does a good job of showing he is a kind, caring man.  He even asks for Trixie and Honey’s help in locating the baby’s family and respects some theories they give along the way.  It’s a nice change and I wish he were shown this way more often.

Really, there are no negatives in The Mystery of the Castaway Children.  Kids will love the characters and get caught up in the story.  And that’s what reading is supposed to be all about.

For more fun adventures, check out the rest of the Trixie Belden Mysteries in order.

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