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Fun for the Secret SevenReview by Julie Heginbotham (July 6, 2008)
This is the last book in the series, number fifteen, and I wonder if Enid had any letters from her readers begging her to write many more, as she did with the Famous Five.
This story is set in the late summer holidays, just a week before the autumn term begins, and Peter receives a note from Jack:
Dear Peter, will you call a meeting? ...
This is a lovely way to start off the story. How intriguing; why does Jack want Peter to call a meeting? Usually it's Peter who requests the Secret Seven meet. Peter obliges, and writes out notes for the other members to say that a meeting is arranged for that afternoon at 2.30pm. He and Janet then proceed to race around the village to deliver their notes.
Here Enid writes the village as Peterswood. Readers familiar with Enid's Mystery Series will know that Peterswood is the village where the Five Find-Outers and Dog live. So one can only assume that since this book was written in 1963, the early stages of Enid's illness was once again rearing its ugly head. Another example of this is at the meeting that afternoon. In the book the time is stated as 2.30pm, yet is interrupted by Peter's mother, who says that the meeting must stop soon as it's getting rather late. So Peter finishes off the meeting by telling everyone they had to think hard that evening. No evening time is actually mentioned when the meeting is closed, and even though Peter's mother says it's rather late, does she mean it's almost tea-time? Or does she mean it's almost supper-time? Something to confuse the reader here, I think.
Back to the meeting: This is called because Jack's friend, Bob Smith, requires their help. He tells them of Old Man Tolly who lives in a tumbledown house on the top of the hill, and whose horse's back legs were injured. The farmer he used to work for, Mr Dinneford, wants to shoot Brownie the horse, as the poor animal is clearly incapable of doing his work. Tolly wants to keep Brownie, and also has a very large vet bill to pay. There is no mystery to this book, or adventure. Nothing really for the Secret Seven to solve. But it does show compassion for an injured horse and kindness to old Tolly who loves his horse – all the values that Enid liked to put forward in her books, to teach children how to become decent law abiding human beings.
The Seven rally round and show generosity of spirit, when they put forward all their pocket money to help pay for the vet's bill, that old Tolly cannot afford. Peter's father also agrees to stable Brownie on his own farm, and asks Tolly to work for him. Here again the book shows signs of confusion. We learn at the beginning that Old Man Tolly used to work for Mr Dinneford, and now does odd jobs here and there and only has his pension. Then, further along in the book, we read that Peter's father asks Tolly if he's given his notice yet to Mr. Dinneford, so that he can begin to work for him. Tolly then informs Peter's father that he's given notice and finished. This is yet another incident of Enid's early stages of illness where she has clearly forgotten what has already been written.
Further into the book is yet another scene which I felt was rather contradicting, and didn't really serve any purpose for being there. Mr Dinneford comes along to Peter's farm, and the children are sent indoors whilst Peter's father speaks to an angry Mr Dinneford, who accuses Tolly of stealing his horse. Tolly replies by saying, "As you were going to shoot the horse, he was as good as dead anyway, and with his useless hind legs couldn't work." Clearly Dinneford doesn't want Brownie, and doesn't want to feed a horse who cannot work for his keep – so why all the fuss about Tolly stealing his horse?
Dinneford then demands to know how they can be certain the horse is useless! Peter's father explains about the police vet, who had checked over Brownie, and said he wouldn't be able to work for quite a while. Mr Dinneford then rages on about the horse's useless legs and in the end Peter's father offers to pay him for Brownie. Mr Dinneford calls him a nincompoop for wanting to buy a horse that is useless! So why on earth, the children wonder, would Dinneford come for the horse in the first place? All rather mysterious and confusing! Eventually Mr Dinneford takes the money, saying, "Good riddance to a nuisance of a horse, I say..."
So now Peter's father gives Tolly the horse he has bought, and Tolly says he will pay him back each week with his wages. So Tolly is happy working on the farm for Peter's father. The Seven are given a lovely surprise when they go along to pay the vet for the treatment that Brownie has already received. The vet wavers the bill, and says that he also loves the horse, and would like to have a share in him, as the Seven already have a share in Brownie also.
Parts of this book are a little repetitive, and somewhat unlikely, but then it is fiction for the younger reader and a nice little story. Enid injects some horse thieves at the end, to try and liven the book up a little, but of course are foiled from taking Brownie. This is not one of Enid's better stories, but a nice simple story to round off the Secret Seven series.
Secrt Seven meeting!
Bob Smith explains about Old Man Tolly.
Old Man Tolly brings his horse, Brownie, to Peter's Farm.
The vet checks the horse's injury.
Dinneford the farmer is NOT amused, and wants Brownie back.
Colin wins a prize – and uses the money to help pay for Brownie!
Making plans and counting money.
Tolly is amazed at how much money has been raised.
All happy – Brownie has a home and Tolly has a job.
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