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Three Cheers Secret SevenReview by Julie Heginbotham (June 10, 2008)
This book starts out in a fairly typical fashion, with no mystery a-looming and nothing much going on:
"I don't see much sense in calling a Secret Seven meeting," said Janet to Peter. "There's really nothing to discuss..."
So the Seven decide to take their picnic food and eat it in the big field behind Jack's house. The reason for this is that Susie has a lovely plane to fly, sent to her by an American cousin, whilst poor Jack has a cowboy's suit. All the boys are envious of Susie's aeroplane, which Enid says gleams silver bright in the sun – but on the front cover of this book the aeroplane is red!
After they've feasted on biscuits, gingerbread, an enormous bar of nut chocolate, jam tarts and two bottles of lemonade – oh, and a bag of toffees – Jack takes the aeroplane, intending to show Susie how to fly it.
Unfortunately the aeroplane soars over a high wall at the other end of the field, and disappears. On the other side of this wall is an empty house called Bartlett Lodge, and its owners, the Halls, are abroad. Jack tells everyone that there's a gardener there, and he's not very nice.
They decide to make their way to the other side of the field anyway, and there George and Peter help Jack onto the wall. The gardener comes over and orders Jack to go away, saying that it's private property, and if he did find the aeroplane he'd put it on the bonfire. Susie is upset, wanting her plane, so Jack and Peter decide to go to the front gates of the Lodge and watch for the gardener to go for his lunch. Once the coast is clear they race back and go over the wall into the garden.
They search around the garden and finally spot the aeroplane balancing on a little balcony on the second floor of the house. Peter climbs a tree that reaches the balcony, whilst Jack keeps a look-out for the gardener's return. After he's passed the aeroplane down to Jack, he turns to climb down the tree and notices, through the curtains that don't quite meet, that a gas fire is on and glowing red. But the house is supposed to be empty!
This incident in the book reminded me of the Find-Outers' The Mystery of the Secret Room, where Pip, hiding from Goon up a tree in the grounds of an empty house, looks into the window opposite and sees a furnished room.
Puzzled by what is evidently an occupied room in a supposedly empty house, Peter calls a meeting of the Secret Seven and they set out to investigate Bartlett Lodge. They learn that not only is the house locked up, but all the electricity and gas is turned off. So if this is the case, how could a gas fire be in use? Curious, Peter and Jack go to Bartlett Lodge early one evening to explore, but they bump into the gardener, who turns out to be George Grim and another gentleman named Mr Frampton, who is from the bank and holds the key to the property. The boys explain about the gas fire and so, with Mr. Frampton and the gardener, they go inside and explore the room that Peter had looked into – but it's clear that no gas or electricity is on.
Once outside and away from the house, Peter excitedly explains to Jack that the clock on the mantelpiece had been ticking away, and that a pot plant had been well watered. Someone had definitely been in that room! And the Seven still had a mystery to solve!
I don't want to give away the ending to this story, but the title is appropriate to its contents. Enid cleverly draws the reader into thinking that one of the characters is up to no good... when in fact this is not the case at all. Enid's message of helping others is much in evidence towards the end of this lovely book.
This is one of my favourites, and well worth a read.
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