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Go Ahead Secret SevenReview by Heather from Australia (July 5, 2005)
The Seven are forced into having a meeting after Susie teases Peter about the Society not having had a meeting for ages. Unsure what to do with themselves after the cocoa, sandwiches, buns, doughnuts, chocolate cake and jam sponge have been devoured, they decide to practice their detective work. The girls are sent to the bus stop to practice their observation skills on travellers, while Peter and Jack hide near a highway to observe their surroundings. Meanwhile Colin and George are sent to shadow some unsuspecting members of the public.
Unfortunately George blacks his face and, carrying a rubber truncheon, shadows the wrong person. He is unceremoniously dragged home to his parents, who force him to resign from the Secret Seven. Dejected, he gives the others his news and a new temporary member is elected until they can get poor George back—Scamper finally becomes a 'real' member of the Society! During the next meeting, without George, the Seven report on their 'observations'. Janet sees a strange man getting off a bus to Pilberry—he has a crooked hand, which immediately points to another of Blyton's scarred 'bad guys'. Peter and Jack see a man treating a poodle badly, and Pam and Barbara's observations at the train station are dismissed by Peter—"They sound as if you'd had one of your stupid giggling fits."
It's Colin's shadowing that night that leads to the real adventure. The man he follows drags his dog on a walk, and goes down a dead-end laneway, but returns without the valuable bull-terrier. This piques the interest of the Seven, and the next day they hurry to the laneway to investigate. That is, after they go to Starling's Hotel to plead with the man who George was shadowing to reconsider and speak to his parents. The ungracious man refuses, and poor George stays out of the Society...but Peter keeps George in the loop and tells him everything the Seven are up to.
A thorough search of the dead-end lane where the dog disappeared comes up with only a coal hole, but when Colin puts his head down into the hole and whistles, barks come up from the dark chamber. They boys have to get home—homework is beckoning—but on the way back they come across the man Janet saw with the crooked hand coming out of the building that belongs to the mysterious coal hole. They also see the man from Starling's carrying a dog lead but with no dog! Curiouser and curiouser, as Alice In Wonderland would say.
The Seven decide a dog-stealing ring must be involved, and do a little investigating. Both the grey poodle and the bull-terrier are advertised as missing, and Peter, Colin and Jack decide to explore that coal hole. Then the mystery really heats up, and George reappears just in the nick of time to rescue the other boys from a mean old man and his cages. The bad guys are duly apprehended, George is readmitted to the Society, and the Inspector again has high praise for the Seven: "I wish there were more children like you—you're a grand lot to have in our town!"
Go Ahead Secret SevenReview by Keith Robinson (September 6, 2006)
Susie's a riot. When Jack writes himself a note, "Remember the password—Jack Spratt," and slips it into his drawer for safe-keeping, he reckons without Susie snooping about. She finds his note, giggles, and adds a few words of her own so that when a Secret Seven meeting is finally arranged after a long hiatus, and Jack fetches out his note, he's horrified to read, "Remember the password—Jack Spratt. No, Jack Horner. No, Jack the Giant-Killer. No—it's Jack and Jill!"
I can't help thinking that Susie would make a really interesting and useful member of the Secret Seven, and I wish Enid Blyton had explored this possibility when George resigns. Imagine if Susie had joined their meetings and solved mysteries with them, just for one book! But of course, to return to the status quo at the end of the book, Susie would have do something pretty awful during her membership—perhaps steal the limelight or something. Well, as it happens, Scamper the dog is deemed more worthy than Susie, so an opportunity is sadly missed.
The idea of setting tasks for the Secret Seven, such as spying on people, or shadowing them, is a good one. After all, the members must stay sharp if they are to solve crimes! While George is out one night, searching for a likely candidate, he spots a man getting off a bus, a man described as tall and stooping, wearing a bowler hat and carrying a bag. As he trails this man, keeping to the shadows and looking very suspicious indeed, George is pounced on from behind by a passing do-gooder and hauled off home, where he's ordered by a stern father to resign from the Secret Seven.
Not long after this dramatic turn of events, Janet sets off on her own task—to choose three people and describe them as best she can. Her third subject is a "very stoopy man, who walked a bit lame, had an old soft hat pulled well down over his face, a long overcoat with the shoulders very square, small feet for his size, a funny hand..." This funny hand turns out to be deformed and crooked in some way, with two fingers missing. Later on in the book, on the trail of dognappers, Peter, Colin and Jack come across the same man, described with a hat pulled well down over his face, and walking with a limp, and two fingers missing. Clearly this is the same man, but I wonder about the first fellow that George had shadowed. Had it been the same man again? There was no mention of a limp (even though George shadowed him for some time), and he wore a bowler hat, not a soft hat pulled well down over his face. But he was described as stooping, and that struck me as odd. Two stooping fellows in one book? It was so noticeable to me that I was convinced it was the same man each time.
As if two stooping fellows, missing fingers and a crooked hand isn't enough, Janet later takes a trip to the police station and looks for notices about missing dogs. While there she spots another notice, about a man wanted by the police:
John Wilfred Pace, aged 71. Small and bent. Bald, with shaggy eyebrows and beard. Very hoarse voice. Shuffles badly while walking. Scar across the right cheek.
What, another stooping fellow? This book is overrun by them! This particular one sports the villainous evil scar as well as shuffling when he walks. In a scene towards the end, the tall stooping fellow arrives and exchanges a few words with John Pace, and it's quite comical to imagine both of them stooping and shuffling about, one with a crooked hand and the other with a scar across his cheek... What a frightful pair!
This book has its moments, and of course has the "George resigning" scene (although he is reinstated later when the police set things right). But overall it limps a little (pun intended), and is not my favorite so far. Somehow the dognapping scheme seems a little lame (yes, pun intended), and the villainous characters—as I've mentioned above—are a little too similar and stereotyped for my liking.
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