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Good Old Secret SevenReview by Julie Heginbotham (July 6, 2008)
"I'm calling a Secret Seven meeting for tomorrow morning," were Peter's words. "Jack's uncle has given him a super present and he wants all the Seven to share it."
The present turns out to be a telescope, which Jack allows Peter to keep in the shed where the Seven hold their meetings. The only drawback is that Susie, Jack's tiresome sister, has to share it also, and in this book she wants her friend Binkie to share in the telescope too.
We learn early on that it is November, and so is a continuation from Secret Seven Fireworks, also set in November. Whether Enid planned it this way we'll never know.
Janet is keen to watch the jackdaws that circle and live around the ruined castle of Torling that stands on a hill, and so with the help of Peter, takes the telescope up to the box room at the top of the house, and trains the telescope onto the castle. Whilst watching the jackdaws, they suddenly become scared and fly off and Janet is suddenly aware of what she thinks is a man's head at a window, before it disappears.
"Look at that," she says aloud. "Someone's hiding in that old tower." Her brother, Peter, also takes a look, and he spots someone passing quickly across a doorway on the ground floor.
This part of the book reminded me very much of Five Have a Wonderful Time, written by Enid in 1952, a scene she obviously wanted to replicate for this book eight years later. In the Famous Five book, Faynights Castle can be clearly seen through field glasses, whilst in this book a powerful telescope is used. But as in both books, this is the start of the adventure.
The other Secret Seven members are informed and Saturday morning is chosen for a bike ride up to Torling castle. Peter in his usual what can only be described as chauvinistic way, says the girls can't come as the hill is too steep for them to cycle up. But Janet fights back. "Too steep indeed!" As if she was going to allow her brother to leave out the girls!
Once at Torling Castle, they begin to hunt around and on close inspection they come across what seems to have been a fire made from sticks – and still relatively warm. A clue that someone could still be in the vicinity! They also discover the entrance to the dungeons with a sign that says: THE DUNGEONS. UNSAFE. DESCENT FORBIDDEN.
Unexpected noises and loud bangs come from the dungeons, which send the Seven racing back home and calling another meeting in Peter's shed. During this meeting the same sounds are heard once again and they turn out to be none other than Susie and her friend Binky, up to their usual tricks played on the Secret Seven. After speaking to Susie and her friend Binky, it's discovered that before the Seven arrived at the castle, they'd both been speaking to an artist who was sat at an easel painting the castle. Much to Peter's annoyance, he also learns that Susie had given away all their plans to the woman, who seemed to be particularly interested in the fact that the castle could clearly be seen through the telescope from Peter's farm.
Not long after this, the telescope is stolen from the shed! This leads the Secret Seven into cleverly guessing that the thief must be the person hiding in the castle – with the theft of telescope thus preventing that person from being spotted anymore. The adventure more or less takes off from here, as the boys visit the castle one night to find out the mystery of who's hiding there. and the whole mystery then becomes quite clear.
I did think at first that this book would be similar to Five Have a Wonderful Time, but funnily enough, apart from Janet and Peter spotting a figure through the telescope, this is where the similarity ends.
Like all good Blyton books the ending is a happy one and the Seven will benefit from a fine reward, some of which they intend to use to buy Jack a brand new telescope. Enid then writes that it will be a 'lovely Christmas for everyone'. Which I did puzzle over at the time, for the book was set in November! Maybe Enid was looking forward to Christmas, and thought she'd make a mention of this. It was her book, after all!
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