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Secret Seven AdventureReview by Heather from Australia (July 5, 2005)
In this second mystery in the series, the Seven are now having regular weekly meetings. Again there are biscuits on the table, and apparently Mummy remembered the lemons for the lemonade this time.
After the obligatory introductions—"Here come the others... Yes—Colin—George—Barbara—Pam and Jack. And you and I make the Seven"—the meeting is again about nothing. Rather than snowmen this time (the season has obviously changed), the children decide to play Red Indians in Little Thicket. Susie makes her first appearance, crashing the meeting with Jack's badge and shouting out their secret password.
Their innocent game of Red Indians turns into a mystery—amazing how that happens!—when Colin and Jack spy a strange man jumping over the wall from Milton Manor. Neither of them can identify him, and their only clue is a bald spot on the top of his head and that he's clean shaven with dark hair, nothing much to remember him by. They then read in the paper of a burglary at the Manor—a valuable string of pearls has been stolen! After a visit to the Inspector to tell him what they had seen, of course they begin to investigate with the help of the kindly gardener at Milton Manor. They find some other clues there, round holes in the ground near the wall "as if someone had been pounding about with a large-sized broom handle", and also a coloured piece of wool on the wall and a dirty old tweed cap high in a tree.
Janet has the bright idea that "only an acrobat could have scaled that high wall", and just as she says this they most coincidentally come upon a poster advertising a circus—with acrobats! Of course this necessitates a quick trip to the circus the next day, where they wander around the circus field after the show, examining the circus-folk they meet. Nothing comes of it, but four of them return the next day just in case they missed something. Pam (of all people!) is the one who spots the next clue—a pair of socks hanging on a line, made of the same wool they found on the wall.
At their next meeting, another bright idea comes out—George, Jack and Barbara have found some holes made in the ground that are similar to those at Milton Manor. These are made by One-Leg William, a man with a wooden leg. They quickly dismiss him as a suspect after realizing he couldn't possibly scale a wall with this disability—and dismiss him as an accomplice as well after measuring the holes and finding them nearly an inch smaller.
Now the Seven are thoroughly confused—a one-legged man, who is an accomplice to somebody who must have two legs because he wore a pair of socks. Another trip to the circus spent squinting at peoples' ankles to spot the sock wearer yields a coat to match the cap they found in the tree. However, the man wearing the coat cannot possibly be the thief, as he has no bald patch! Further investigation involving much squinting and peeping find some more of the strange marks in the ground—this time the right size! A little tracking and they are led to a caravan, but a nasty young man—stilt-walking, lion-keeping Luis—spots them and forces them off the field.
Peter and Colin investigate the caravan further, and are trapped inside when somebody hitches it to a horse and rides away! After hearing a little of the whispering between the bad guys, the boys finally escape and see the light! The holes were made by...well, that would be telling! :-D
The whole story comes out then, and the only thing left to do is find the pearls. The Seven go to see the gardener again, and run into the Inspector, who arrests the culprit and finds the missing goods. Once more all is wrapped up neatly with a minimum of fuss. The Inspector urges the Seven to help him again in the future—rather irresponsibly when you think about it. Seven young children running around, being locked in caravans and in imminent danger from two hardened criminals...But then, that is Blyton, and it wouldn't be the same if the adults acted like adults!
Secret Seven AdventureReview by Keith Robinson (July 29, 2006)
The plot of this second story is more involved than the first, or at least there are a lot more clues to follow. Without repeating the plot summary again (see Heather's review above for that), I'll just mention a couple of things that spring to mind.
When Susie makes her first appearance as the annoying sister hinted at in the first book, she has, by Peter's own established rules, every right to join the meeting! Jack has "lost" his badge, and is rather embarassed about it, feeling sure his annoying sister has stolen it. Be that as it may, when Susie arrives at the shed minutes later and shouts out the correct password, and stands there wearing an "SS" badge, she has to all intents and purposes proved herself eligible to attend the secret meeting, despite not being an actual member. After all, what's the point in having a password and badge otherwise? It makes a mockery of the rules, especially as Jack is allowed in without a badge, and all members throughout the series are allowed in whether they know the password or not (despite Peter's disapproving glare). If I were Peter I would enforce the rules more rigidly and insist that no one is allowed in without announcing the correct password, and no one is allowed in without a badge. And to safeguard against outsiders somehow obtaining the password and badge, there should also be retinal scans and thumb prints.
Luckily, Susie doesn't bother to plead her rights and instead flees, giggling. Annoyed, the others disband and plan to meet up later in Little Thicket for their game of Red Indians.
After Colin spots the intruder sitting on the wall surrounding Milton Manor, and the children inform the police, it's interesting to note that the police, although pleased with the information, fail to do anything more. The Seven return to the Manor, and this time gain access to the grounds through Peter's farmyard connections with the gardener. They scout about and find clues left by the intruder... and remove evidence from the scene, evidence that the police would have spotted had they returned to the scene as a follow-up to the Secret Seven's information. Pah! And they call themselves policemen?
I loved the mix-up with the clues. The Seven say over and over, "We keep on thinking we're solving things, and we aren't." It certainly keeps the reader guessing, as first one idea is scotched, and then another, and then another. Of course, I knew along what was causing the indentations in the dirt. Still, it's quite neat the way Enid Blyton gives plenty of hints but never makes it really obvious. I can see how a seven-year-old would be fooled all the way to the end, and that makes this a very nice little mystery. I could almost imagine the Five Find-Outers tackling this. At the end, young Bets would make that immortal innocent comment that helps Fatty see the whole picture with sudden clarity.
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