Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Wonderful plot; a few laughs
Cons: Characters not quite true to themselves
The Bottom Line:
Overshadowed by great plot
Still a fun entry
I Can’t Help It, I Like This One
Some books in the Trixie Belden series have almost universal love or hate. One of those is The Mystery of the Missing Millionaire. I say almost because I’m one of the exceptions. While I certainly can see the issues people have with the book, I actually like this one.
If you aren’t familiar with this series, Trixie is a fourteen-year-old detective. Really, this is a similar series to the Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew, only with better drawn characters. Those characters do tend to slip a little late in the series, which is one of the issues with this book.
The book opens on a hot August day as Trixie and her best friend Honey Wheeler are out exercising the horses that the Wheelers own. They find a wallet on the side of the road and quickly take it to Mr. Lytell who owns the shop nearby so he can get in touch with the owner.
However, the response Mr. Lytell gets surprises all of them. Laura Ramsey shows up to claim her father’s wallet, hoping it will hold some clue to where he is. He’s disappeared and she is frantic with worry. Trixie is thrilled when a PI is brought in to help find the missing millionaire. But will she actually be able to help solve the case?
As I said, the complaints with this book are well founded. The characters are slightly off, providing some additional conflict in Trixie’s group of friends. Personally, I’d argue that most of it actually comes from Trixie’s feelings of jealously and how she’s looking at interactions. Since we get this book from her point of view (albeit limited third person), that explains the lens that causes this problem. I’d argue that Trixie is really the only pod character here, something she comes to terms with by the end of the book, and it’s a change I can actually see happening in real life. There are times in my life I get hurt by things that I know are more about me overreacting to things than they are to any bad behavior on the part of the other person involved, and that’s how I view much of the book. Then again, maybe that’s my lense.
There is a large cast of characters in the series, and they aren’t all used in this book. Two of Trixie’s friends have a one scene cameo. Heck, Trixie’s oldest brother hardly gets that much page time. That’s a disappointment as well.
However, I love the plot. It’s creative and completely surprised me when I first read it in high school. Now as an adult, I still love how skillfully it is put together. While I do love great characters, in this case the plot overshadows any weaknesses in the characters.
Plus there are some great laughs in this book. A few of the scenes still make me laugh, and they stand out in my mind as a result.
I will say that rereading this book now, I find a few elements dated. The book came out in 1980, but the way the plot unfolds wouldn’t happen today thanks to the internet. There are some references to money as well that have not kept up with inflation. Then again, to a kid reading this book for the first time, odds are the money would still seem like a big amount to them today.
I admit that as I’ve been rereading the Trixie Belden books, a few haven’t stood up to my memories of them. I’m actually glad to find that The Mystery of the Missing Millionaire does. I might see the issues with the characters a bit more, but overall, I still find this book fun.
Once you meet Trixie, you'll want to read the rest of the Trixie Belden Mysteries.
This book is part of this week's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday.