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The Mystery of the Missing NecklaceReview by Keith Robinson (January 14, 2005)
The fifth book, for me, is the best in the series so far. It's paced well, chock full of descriptions for a change, and very engrossing. The mystery itself starts around chapter six as usual, after a bit of fun with Fatty's disguises, but the necklace of the title isn't announced as missing until the end of chapter seventeen, leaving a mere four chapters to find it. This isn't a problem as the preceding events are far more interesting than finding the necklace, but maybe The Mystery of the Jewel Thieves would have been a more appropriate title since they're really what this mystery is about (as opposed to just one of their many burglaries). In any case, this one is an absorbing read, with Fatty surpassing the expectations of his friends with his disguises as first a balloon lady and then an old deaf man sitting on a park bench. And the amount of detail Blyton goes into with these characters makes the whole affair that much more believable.
Mr Goon is a busy man. He rushes about "looking all important," much to the Find-Outers' dismay. Can the policeman have a mystery to solve that they don't know about? It's most depressing, and the kids amuse themselves by visiting the sideshows down by the river, which are drawing crowds of people into Peterswood. Fatty arranges to meet his friends there—but in disguise. He's confident they won't recognise him. Now that Fatty's voice has broken, his range of possible guises is no longer limited to boys, so he dresses up as a balloon lady and completely fools his friends and Mr Goon. Only Bets recognises him (when she buys a balloon), because he forgot to dirty his fingernails.
Then Fatty disguises himself as the old man who sits on the same bench every afternoon. He sits himself down one morning, and is surprised when a man comes over and says in a low voice, "What you out for, in the morning? Anything up?" It transpires that Mr Goon has been watching the old man, believing him to be a messenger for the gang of jewel thieves. So the Find-Outers have stumbled upon their next mystery, and they set to work planning their next move...
There's a scene I remember clearly from over twenty-five years ago: where Fatty disguises himself as a waxwork Napoleon and stands stock-still among the other figures one night while the jewel thieves meet around a table and discuss their next job. There's a lot of build-up to this scene, and the tension mounts. Fatty spends a lot of time practising and sizing up the Napoleon figure, and all this adds credibility. In earlier books Blyton might have glossed over it all, but here she strives for realism. So Fatty stands there waiting for the gang arrive...and in walks Mr Goon, who has exactly the same idea! For him it's easy; he just removes the policeman waxwork figure and stands in its place. But while the gang are talking, the buffoon policeman spoils everything by sneezing—and Fatty gets caught!
Some of Mr Goon's actions in this book are a little odd for an officer of the law. I wonder if village bobbies in 1947 had a more relaxed set of rules about what they can and can't do to citizens. Mr Goon thinks nothing of grabbing Larry and marching him down to the old deaf man's house, "as a witness, see," and bursting in to confront the man about something that happened earlier in the day. Also, when he locks up that same old deaf man for a day or two, he seems to do it in anger and frustration rather than actually charging him with breaking the law. Maybe it's just Mr Goon's way, but I have a feeling Blyton either doesn't know about standard police procedure or doesn't care. Or maybe village bobbies just worked differently back then?
A small observation: it's funny to me how the word "mystery" gets bandied about so much. Mr Goon himself says, "This is my mystery, so keep your noses out!" (or words to that effect). It's sort of a cutesy way to refer to burglaries and criminal activities going on in the area. Imagine real policemen saying that: "Yay, we have a mystery to solve! A gang of rednecks is going around vandalizing mailboxes..."
Anyway, this book is, for me, the best so far—and a vast improvement over Spiteful Letters, which was possibly the worst so far. With Hidden House coming up next (as I recall, possibly my favorite in the series), and then Pantomime Cat and Invisible Thief, I think we're into the series' high point.
The Mystery of the Missing NecklaceReview by Heather from Australia (February 9, 2005)
This mystery is a quite involved one, with so many different clues that point to the culprit. The old man on the bench, the bicycle hooter, the secret messages in invisible ink and the sand. The man with odd eyes is the most interesting clue (or technically, suspect) of all. Blyton's "bad guys" almost always have some kind of sinister physical characteristic—a crooked finger, a scar on the face, etc. I personally have never seen a person with two different coloured eyes, so I'll have to take Blyton's word that they exist.
Besides its intricacy, this book has one other great asset—all of the Find-Outers play a little more of a part than usual. Even Daisy gets an occasional look-in, and Pip, Larry and Bets all play integral roles. Bets again shines, showing her excellent powers of observation—she even eclipses Fatty at times! She is the one who spots Fatty as the Balloon woman, and also very cleverly deducts the location of the missing pearls.
I thought Larry acted a little strangely, coming out with some rather inconsistent statements. It seems like he is divided between admiration of Fatty and trying to stop his boasting. In chapter 2, Fatty says "You may be quite good Find-Outers—but I'm a bit cleverer than any of you!" to which Larry replies "You're certainly best at boasting!"
Then in chapter 10 Larry came out with "I know you've got to do all the important work, Fatty, because you really are a born detective—but we do want something as well.">
Pip continued the theme in chapter 19 when he said to Fatty "I'm sure you'll be much better at shadowing than I am."
These statements were very different to what Larry and Pip generally say, and sounded more suited to Bets with her hero-worshipping
Mr Goon shows a little more actual detective work this time around, staying just a step behind the Find-Outers most of the time. Besides his terrible behaviour in leaving Fatty locked in the cupboard and his sneeze that gave everything away, he really did find some brains to use! However even after all this hard work, as always he let the culprit get away and looked bad in the eyes of the inspector.
It was the Inspector who again gave the Find-Outers complete licence to meddle in a dangerous mystery. He always does seem a little irresponsible when it comes to allowing the children to go into possible danger and pats them on the back when they do. He does redeem himself, however, when he cuts Goon short in his story so that he can enquire into Fatty's whereabouts. It was a little inconsistent that the Inspector was going to make immediate enquiries, but still had not called Fatty's house when (presumably much later as Goon had to cycle back to Peterswood) Fatty paraded himself in front of Goon. Then the inspector immediately called Fatty, who was miraculously back home again—the timing does seem a little dubious.
Other than the small problems mentioned above, I thought the mystery was quite solid and well thought-out—even to Bets spotting the man with odd eyes on the river for seemingly no reason, but eventually showing that the man must live in Peterswood. The Find-Outers as usual put two and two together, and made it come out to five (quoting the Five themselves in a later book), and as Fatty would say, Bets for the second time shows herself to be "the best Find-Outer of the lot".
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