Saturday, October 25, 2014

Book Review: The Mystery of the Headless Horseman by Kathryn Kenny (Trixie Belden #26)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Good mystery, mostly good characters
Cons: Why Headless Horseman never explained; Di at times, but explained
The Bottom Line:
Vanishing butler
And a missing antique vase
Make strong late entry

Legend Come to Life

It’s an idea I’m surprised hadn’t surfaced in the Trixie Belden series before.  Since fictional Sleepyside-on-the-Hudson, New York, the setting for the series, is near the area used for The Legend of Sleepy Hallow, why not create The Mystery of the Headless Horseman.  Someone finally hit upon that idea, and the result is one of the stronger entries in the second half of the series.
For those who have missed this series, Trixie Belden is a detective series along the lines of the Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew, only the characters are better developed.  Trixie is a fourteen-year-old who plans to open a detective agency when she grows up, and she’s getting lots of practice as a kid since this is the twenty-sixth book in the series.  Along with her two older brothers and some friends, they’ve formed the club The Bob-Whites of the Glen which they use to put on fund raisers and generally help those around them.  This book finds them planning the use to estate of their member Diana Lynch, Di for short, to put on a bazaar to raise money for UNICEF, one of their favorite causes.

However, the day before the fundraiser, Di’s butler, Harrison, vanishes.  This is especially bad because with Mr. and Mrs. Lynch out of town, Di’s parents were only comfortable with the bazaar being on their property if Harrison was there to supervise.

When the friends go out and hunt for him, they find him trapped in the basement of a neighboring house.  Only his explanation for how he got there doesn’t make sense.  Looking into it further leads Trixie to the trail of a stolen Ming vase and crosses her path with the Headless Horseman.  What in the world is happening?

The Headless Horseman only appears in two scenes, but they are adequately spooky.  Die hard thrill seekers will be bored by them, but they got my heart pumping when I read them years ago and still find them suitably atmospheric.  He is adequately explained by the end of the book (one part almost right away), however the one thing that is never explained is why the villain is dressing up as the Headless Horseman.  Minor detail, right?  Actually, we can make an educated guess, and it’s an idea I had as a kid, but it would be nice if that were explained.

Other than that, the plot holds up very well as an adult.  There are some good clues and twists to the story that will keep the pages turning.  I did know one of the twists early on, even as a kid, but that never bothered me, and the ending explains everything.  Well, everything except why the Headless Horseman.

As this series progressed, the various ghost writers did a mixed job with the various character’s personalities.  Here, it is easy to say that Di is out of character, and I’m sure some things are exaggerated for her.  However, her personality shift is actually part of the plot and explained to my satisfaction.  I actually like the characters here and how they are portrayed.  Di does bother me at times, but she’s supposed to, and it is all resolved by the end.

At 200 pages, this is a fast read, even faster as an adult than it was as a kid.  However, the story never feels short, which I appreciate.

I have to mention one of my favorite sub-plots in the series.  In this book, Trixie’s older brother Mart decides to train the family’s Irish Setter Reddy to obey.  The results provide some fun moments throughout the course of the book.

Even with my one complaint, this is still a great read.  The author comes close to getting everything right for The Mystery of the Headless Horseman.  This is one series fans will enjoy reading and rereading.

And if you enjoy this book, you'll want to read the rest of the Trixie Belden Mysteries.

This is the first of a two part Halloween edition of Marvelous Middle Grade Monday on my blog.  Come back tomorrow to see my review of the next in the Trixie Belden series and then Monday check out Shannon Messenger's blog for other Marvelous Middle Grade Monday links.


  1. I'd forgotten about Trixie Belden! My daughter used to love those books but we never could find enough of them. This one looks like a fun middle grade.

    1. They have been out of print for way too long. It's a shame because this really is such a good series.