26 July, 2011

"We didn't go looking for anybody's gold, because we know there can't possibly be any!"

Trixie Belden #10
The Marshland Mystery

The detectives:
- most you will remember from their last case
- the Bob-Whites of the Glen do have a couple of new additions, though - Diana "Di" Lynch, and Dan Mangan, both kids Trixie and co. helped in previous mysteries.
- Di is another beautiful rich girl, because you can only have one tomboy per group
- Dan is the nephew of the Wheelers' groom, Regan, an ex-New York gang member (or something. There's passing references to his menacing leather jacket.)

The Case:
The story begins with Trixie, Honey, and Di on their way home from school, making plans to go to a nearby swamp and collect plants for their biology teacher. There plans fall over straight away, when Mart informs them that none of the boys will be available to drive them, and the swamp has been paved over to make a new highway. I feel that in a more contemporary book, this would be an important Lesson about Disturbing the Ecosystem, but in this book, the girls just decide to bike to a different marsh instead.

Trixie hurries home, intent on asking Brian about what plants she'll be able to gather, but her and Mart are both distracted when they arrive by a little scene playing out among the Beldens' blooming crabapple trees - a slight, young blonde girl having her picture taken and an interview done. The young girl is Gaye, a famous violinist, staying with the Wheelers next door, but before any proper introductions can be made Trixie's dog, Reddy, starts chasing Gaye's pet poodle, who is hilariously named Mr Poo.

Trixie races after the two animals, and finally succeeds in calling Reddy to heel just in time to stop him from attacking a deadly copperhead snake. She triumphantly returns Mr Poo to his owner, who turns out to be a bit of a spoilt brat, and orders Trixie out of her sight. For some reason, no one tells her off. Her brothers sympathise with Trixie, although she notices that Brian seems to be a little sorry for Gaye, too, and she can't work out why. It's because in juvenile fiction spoilt brats are to be pitied and their parents condemned, Trixie. Just roll with it.

The expedition to the marsh gets off to a shaky start when Di can't make the trip, but she insists that Trixie and Honey go without her. Mr Belden tells Trixie the marsh's legend - that a pirate captain (of course) buried his treasure there, which naturally piques Trixie's interest. meanwhile, her mother guilt trips Trixie when she calls Gaye a "spoilt brat". At the Wheeler's, Trixie shows Jim the very helpful map Brian has drawn up for her and Honey, and Gaye appears, wanting to go with them. To Trixie's dismay, Honey says she can, if she gets permission, but as Gaye goes off she reassures Trixie, saying that Gaye is supposed to practice all morning. Being somewhat of a children's books aficianado, I can say with some certainty that Gaye is going to follow them uninvited. Then Honey and Trixie leave - only to realise they've left the map behind.

They press on regardless, and manage to find their way to the marsh anyway. They find the remains of the burned down mansion - and a mystery. The mansion's old rose garden appears to have been weeded recently - by a woman, no less, judging by the footprints. Further down the road, they find a little old cottage which appears to be in use, so they stop to ask for some water. They're greeted at the window by a ghostly hand which seems to be warning them off, and the two girls suddenly freak out and go running.

They quickly calm down and set to work picking herbs and flowers until the sky clouds over. They eat a picnic lunch and head home again, noticing a small boy's bike left in a ditch near the cottage as they pass it. The boys drive past and pick them up, and they head back to the Wheelers, only to find the police there - Gaye has gone missing! Totally called it. Poor Gaye - she fits both the "spoilt kid" trope and the "over-worked child genius" trope, she never had a chance.

Gaye's aunt, Miss Crandall, is worried at the thought of Gaye doing something that might hurt her hands and ruin her musical ability, but apparently not about the fact her niece is roaming the countryside all alone. In contrast, none of the BWGs are particularly worried about Gaye's disappearance, thinking that she'd probably reappear as soon as she was hungry. But when Trixie goes to retrieve Brian's map from their clubhouse, she finds it's missing. She thinks that Gaye might have taken it, but is sure that the young girl could never have walked that far. However, when she returns home, she finds that Bobby's bike is missing - he left it at the Wheeler house when his brakes started acting up. Trixie dashes to the Wheelers' and finds Bobby's bike missing, as she expected. Determined that the bike she saw earlier was Bobby's, and that Gaye stole it, she takes one of the horses and heads back out towards the cottage. She remembers seeing that the barn door was slightly ajar, and thinks that Gaye might have hidden inside.

Trixie borrows Lady, one of the Wheelers' horses, and heads back to the marsh. She rescues the abandoned bike, and heads into the barn after she's sure she hears Mr Poo (which is still hilarious) barking. Gaye doesn't appear, and the previous ghostly figure appears again, although this time it is less ghostly and more doddering old lady, who runs Trixie off her property. Trixie's still convinced that Gaye is there, even moreso when she finds one of the rhinestones from Mr Poo's (still hilarious) collar. She thinks that gaye must be hiding inside the old woman's house, and decides to ride back home to tell someone with a bit more authority than herself.

Naturally as soon as she gets home she runs into Jim and Brian, the two most sensible BWGs. They convince Trixie she doesn't have enough evidence to go to Miss Crandell - who is likely to panic, anyway - but agree to help her investigate a little more. Brian, who wants to be a doctor, tries out his "bedside manner" on the cottage's owner, and the resident - Miss Rachel Martin - becomes quite agreeable. She denies having seen Gaye or Mr Poo, and becomes quite agitated when Jim suggests that Gaye may have wandered into the marsh.

The cops suddenly show up with Miss Crandall, having been given a tip-off from an eaesdropping journalist that Gaye may be there. The sergeant doesn't believe Miss Rachel could possibly have kidnapped Gaye, because she's respectable, ie her family used to own a shit-ton of land, and we all know the old rich never commit any crimes. He talks to Miss Rachel all the same, and this time she gets hung up on Gaye's golden curls, making cryptic remarks about "Emily".

Then Gaye comes out of the shed, where she's been hiding the whole time. She accuses Miss Rachel of locking her in, but Trixie, who dislikes Gaye more than she finds Miss Rachel creepy, angrily accuses her of lying. The slimey journalist accuses the BWGs of making up the whole thing just to get tickets, although the sergeant tries to convince the kids to just shrug off the insult. They do - but the journalist doesn't. He publishes an article all but actually making his accusations in print. He also says that Miss Rachel thought that Gaye was the ghost of her dead sister, Emily. It turns out that Emily drowned in the - wait for it - marsh, the same night that Miss Rachel's family mansion burned down, hence her reaction to Gaye's looks and her fear of the marsh.

Trixie starts getting over her bad feelings towards Gaye when the two of them bond over Mr Poo (still funny). She goes further towards befriending her when she suggests that she, Honey and Di give up their horse-ride to visit Miss Rachel with Gaye, in her chauffeur-driven car. Gaye opens up a little to the other girls, until Di is silly enough to bring up Gaye's music, at which point she brats out again. However, the girls enjoy their visit, especially when Miss Rachel shows them her bejewelled brass box, an antique she inhereted which originally came from China.

However, back at home, there's bad news. The council has had plans to drain the marsh for some time, and put in a new road - straight through Miss Rachel's cottage. Thanks to the newspaper article, people are now saying that Miss Rachel is obviously going senile, and should be put into a Home (which, again, is apparently *particularly* terrible because her family were once 'respectable', ie rich.) At first it seems like she's not going to have to move for some time - but the journalist, and I use that word lightly, publishes another article about the legendary lost Martin treasure, and two men descend on Miss Rachel's property, digging up her land. She fires a couple of warning shots at them, and when the council hears of it - that's it, her time is up.

The BWGs can only think of one way to help Miss Rachel - find a way to make her some money, so that she can rent her own place and sell quilts and rugs, as she did when she was younger. Trixie hits upon the idea of Miss Rachel selling off all her extraneous furniture, and the BWGs hustle to get everything ready for a sale. Miss Rachel loves the idea, and is extremely grateful - she even gives Trixie the brass box as a birthday present.

Gaye wants to tag along - but isn't allowed to at first. She accuses the BWGs of trying to find the treasure, and says that if she found it she'd give it to her aunt, so she'd never have to play violin again. Still, she apparently talks her aunt into letting her go, and falls asleep on Miss Rachel's couch while the others are helping to pack and label Miss Rachel's herbs. As it starts raining, Trixie goes in to check on her - and she's gone. She has, of course, gone in search of the treasure.

Trixie runs off in search of her at once, worried that she might be trapped in the marsh. And Mr Poo finally turns out to be good for something other than having a hilarious name - he leads Trixie to the old, ruined mansion, and down to the cellar. Gaye has tripped and smacked her head, and is lying in rising water. Thanks to Mr Poo (still giggling) Trixie rescues her before she drowns. When her aunt hears about what has happened, she promises that she'll take Gaye on a long holiday, so that they can learn to be a real family. How sweet.

The weather means the sale is the flop, and Miss Rachel resigns herself to moving into a Home. But this is a children's book and that's not going to happen. What does happen is that Trixie polishes her brass box, finds it's actually made of gold, and it's worth enough money that Miss Rachel can buy a shop and a small house. Trixie turns fourteen, and everyone lives happily after until the next book.

Case Notes:
- This... isn't really a mystery, is it? I mean, if there had actually been a treasure and Trixie had found it, it kind of would have been. But this is just a story about an old woman getting turfed out of her home, and a young girl who is unhappy, and Trixie just happens to be able to help them both.
- There's a bit of romantic tension between Trixie and Jim, and it's cute. He bought an "inexpensive" bracelet for her, and Honey and Di tease Trixie about it, making her blush.
- Again, Trixie and her brothers' relationship feels very real to me. Trixie and Mart, especially, spend a lot of time sniping at each other without their being any real dislike there.
- Poor Di and Dan, they keep getting conveniently left out of the plot. I guess seven is an awful lot of people to include in a fairly simple mystery, but it could be Trixie's brothers or Jim who are left out occasionally.
- A new word! For her first marsh visit, Trixie wears brogans. Not to be confused with bogans.
- Gaye is basically never called on acting like a brat - at the same time, she's never allowed to have any fun, and doesn't seem to enjoy her music at all. In real life she would grow up to be a bitter and unpleasant woman, but this being a children's book everyone realises she's just lonely and tries to befriend her.
- When Miss Rachel first mentioned that Gaye looked like Emily, I had a moment where I thought she'd kidnapped her because she thought she actually was her sister. But Trixie Belden mysteries are generally at least a little more believable than that.
- The slimy journalist, Paul Trent, does everything he can to make trouble for Trixie and Miss Rachel, just because one of Trixie's brother's annoys him. I know it's usual in these books for adults to be some kind of enemy for the teen protagonist, but it comes across kind of creepily - a guy with power trying to get even with a kid and an old lady.
- Trixie's cloyingly sweet younger brother, Bobby, decides he's in love with Gaye and talks about her non-stop. Trixie feels jealous, but I'm not sure why. If he were my younger brother I'd quite happily lose him in a marsh.

06 February, 2011


I've put off reading the new Nancy Drew: Girl Detective series for the longest time. I freely admit that part of the reason was that I don't really want to read about Nancy in a world with cellphones and web 2.0; I was also less than impressed when I read synopses of some of the plots. Oh, and the first person narrative is excruciating.

However, when I found that as well as new Nancy Drew books and new Hardy Boys books, there were also going to be new Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys crossovers books, I... may have wavered a little. Only enough to buy a second-hand copy of their third super mystery, Club Dread, mind you, and I'll write it up properly in my next post. Meanwhile, here are some musings on the more noticeable changes in the series.

  • Frank and Joe aren't just detectives - they work for a nation-wide teen detective agency, founded by their father.
  • Their mother doesn't know that they're detectives any more, which just seems terrible to me. It basically sets up the household as the men having a major secret from the women.
  • Aunt Gertrude now has the more modern moniker, Aunt Trudy. It was difficult to tell if she is still the waspish maiden aunt, though, since she only had one appearance in this book.
  • Frank and Joe's personalities have basically been built on from their 1980's Casefiles series. Joe is the more fun-loving, flirtatious guy; Frank is more serious, even dorky, and really shy around girls.
  • Interestingly, while in the original crossover books had Nancy crushing on Frank and constantly torn between him and Ned, here Frank is the one with the crush. It's nice to have the romantic tension on the boy's side, and it also means Nancy doesn't seem like she's entertaining thoughts of two-timing her boyfriend.
  • ...although Ned didn't seem to get any mention at all in this book. He does appear in the first Super Mystery, Terror on Tour, though, so I guess he's around somewhere.
  • Bess is no longer the chubby comic relief! It would be nice to say that now she's a overweight character who is meant to be taken seriously, but instead she has super-model good looks and is an expert mechanic. She's still very interested in boys and fashion, but I resent that she's had to lose weight to stay in the series.
  • George is still a tomboy, of course, and now she's bascially an expert hacker.
  • Finally, Nancy is clearly meant to be a more rounded character than her previous incarnations, which seems to have been done by making her ocassionally forgetful and unable to run in high heels. OK! She is, however, still very intelligent, and very capable. If it wasn't for the very irritating first person narrative I'd almost be convinced to read her series.

26 December, 2010

"There's no reason why women detectives shouldn't be even better than men."

Trixie Belden #3
The Gatehouse Mystery

The detectives:
- Trixie Belden is the only daughter of the Beldens, and having two older brothers has made her into quite the tomboy. Although she's often teased for having her imagination run away with her, she can usually spot a mystery before anyone else can.
- Honey Wheeler is Trixie's best friend, a poor little rich girl. Unlike other "girly" girl characters in mystery series, Honey is just as happy as Trixie to plunge into adventure.
- Jim Frayne is Honey's adopted brother, and resident Alpha Male - although that doesn't mean he's always right. Trixie and Honey rescued him from a cruel step-father in a previous book.
- Brian and Mart Belden, Trixie's older brothers, introduced for the first time in this book. They're fairly interchangeable at this point.

The Case:
The book opens with Trixie writing a letter to her brothers at camp, which serves as a recap to the two previous books. This is handy, as I haven't read the two previous books. Basically, first the Wheelers moved next door, and then Trixie and Honey found Jim. Trixie waxes lyrical about how wonderful Jim is, but she also waxes lyrical about how wonderful Honey is. Those teen years can be confusing.

Trixie and Honey decide they're going to explore an old cottage they found on the Wheeler's property. Trixie has to take her little brother, Bobby, with her - he's too young to be left alone, and her mother is busy bottling fruit. Bobby races off into the cottage before either of the girls can stop him, trip over and cuts his knee. They take him to the Wheeler's groom, Regan, to get his cut seen to, and then go back to the cottage to make sure it wasn't an old nail that he hurt himself with.

It wasn't a nail. It was a diamond.

The girls realise that the diamond must have been dropped fairly recently, and Trixie immediately hits on the idea of jewel thieves. She demands that Honey doesn't tell anyone, but just hide the diamond for now, so that they can "solve the mystery of how it got into the cottage" themselves. She also thinks they should dig for more buried treasure, despite Honey pointing out that there was unlikely to be any more. They both dig, though - and while they're digging, Trixie thinks she hears someone in the thicket nearby, listening in on them. The thicket's full of poison ivy, though, so she doesn't want to investigate. The girls find a footprint in the cottage that has obviously been recently made, and Honey starts to believe Trixie's theory about jewel thieves. Then they *both* hear a twig snapping outside, and Trixie darts outside to try and find whoever was listening - running right through the poison ivy herself.

The Wheelers live quite far from town, and have been having problems with transport, so they decide to hire a chauffeur. At the same time, their gardener quits, so they need a new one. The day after fidning the diamond, they have a new chauffeur, Dick Nolastname. Dick seems really friendly at first, and even gives Bobby two quarters. But when Regan goes to lift his bag for him he freaks out, and when Miss Trask, the housekeeper, tells him his room will be above the garage, not in the house, he gets angry again. They've also hired a new gardener, Nailor, who showed up without any references. Trixie and Honey are still more interested in their mystery than in staffing problems, so they go back to the cottage to look for clues. They find footprints in the cottage and realise there must have been two men in the hut, not just one. Outside there are more footprints, and tiremarks, and Trixie "deduces" that while there were two men originally, only one - who must have rubber heels and a bad case of poison ivy - was listening to them in the thicket.

Bobby has spent the day with Dick and absolutely adores him. He accidentally tells Trixie a whole bunch of things that Dick said were meant to be "see-cruds" (secrets) - that he bought the Wheelers' two dogs bones, and that he had Bobby show him right around the property, including Honey's windows. Creepy. He also tells Trixie that Dick's afraid of horses, although Trixie finds that a little hard to believe. After dinner that evening he carries a glass jar of frogs to show off to his new best friend, but trips over and breaks it. Dick makes Trixie clear the glass up, telling her its her fault that the glass broke because she wasn't looking after her brother, and that she's too busy palling around with a rich girl to do any work. Then he stands there and watches her. Even creepier. It's pretty clear that Dick has latched on to Bobby as a way of getting easy information about the Wheelers and the Beldens. He makes me feel like I need to go scrub my skin off in order to feel clean again.

Trixie, not being an idiot, suspects Dick. Still, she feels like she doesn't have enough proof and can't tell anyone about her suspcions. So she comes up with a plan - as she is staying the night with Honey, she'll stay up late in case Dick tries to creep into Honey's room. Trixie drinks hot coffee and has a cold shower to try and stay awake, but she falls asleep anyway. She wakes up to hear someone opening Honey's bedroom door. She gives a yell and chases a dark figure, waking up everyone else in the house in the process, but the figure escapes. Trixie tells the others that she just had a nightmare, but Jim doesn't believe her for a second. She reluctantly tells him about the diamond, and her suspicions, but Jim tells her it can't be Dick - he had a letter of recommendation from a friend of Mr Wheeler.

Trixie's two older brothers, Mart and Brian, return home from camp. Unlike the responsible Jim, they would rather solve the mystery than turn the diamond over to the police, and Jim capitulates. He even suggests that he and Honey change rooms, so that the prowler won't find her. They scoff at the idea of Trixie and Honey becoming real detectives though. Mart and Brian also meet Dick, who is now sporting a black eye. Dick claims he was kicked by a horse when he tried to help Regan out with grooming - despite the fact that Regan is having his day off, and the horse didn't need grooming. Trixie wonders whether Dick got into a fight - but Mart suggests he could even have been smacked by the Wheeler's screen door while fleeing the house the night before.

Then, shock, horror! Honey realises the she's lost the diamond! She took it out to show it to the boys in the morning, and now it's missing. The likelihood of these kids actually putting the diamond down somewhere and forgetting about it seems pretty slim, but I guess they had to add tension to the plot somehow. The kids panic for a while, and then Bobby mentions that he found a big, pretty stone in the grass that morning. Good news! Except that he's put it somewhere and forgotten about it. Bad news! The gang try and find out everywhere Bobby's been since finding it, and rush around to see if they can find it. Finally, Trixie remembers that Bobby loves boxes (?). Honey checks her jewelry box and... there it is. Those two chapters were the biggest waste of my life.

So the kids decide that the diamond needs another hiding place. Mart goes to hide it in Brian's old riding boots, but they've been packed away. So instead he finds an sewing kit that a misguided aunt gave Trixie - she's never touched the thing - and hides the diamond inside the pin cushion. Then, worried that Bobby will take it upon himself to destroy the pin cushion, they switch it for one of Mrs Belden's, one that looks exactly the same.

The Wheelers have hired some horses so that the gang can all go riding together. While out for an evening ride, they meet Mr Lytell, the local shopkeeper and local gossip. He tells them he saw a car parked by the Wheeler's cottage the night before Trixie and Honey found the diamond. He also heard raised voices, which works with Trixie's theory that a couple of crooks fought, one leaving in the car and one getting left behind.

Dick is late back from his day off, not arriving until the next morning. Coincidentally, the planned trap for the diamond thief - the room switch - doesn't work. Jim maintains that Dick is an unlikely candidate for their criminal, because of the letter of recommendation, although Trixie suddenly wonders what time the mail was collected that day. When Dick does turn back up, his black eye has receded somewhat - but he's covered in a poison ivy rash. Regan is pissed off that he's been doing Dick's share of the driving, and Dick seems to be in an all-round bad mood - except to Jim and Honey, who he is ever-so-nice to. He seems to be genuinely contrite that he missed out on giving Jim a driving lesson, but Trixie isn't convinced. I hope for her sake that she's right about him being the bad guy, or she is going to get into some serious trouble over her attitude. Anyway, Dick's absolutely determined he's going to give Jim a driving lesson that afternoon.

Trixie explains to Honey that she thinks that Dick stole a letter to Mr Wheeler from his friend and simply forged his signature. She shows her how easy it's done with a piece of carbon paper. As an aside: carbon paper is *totally cool*, and I am sad that it doesn't really exist any more. Then they notice something: the jewelry box, which was left in Honey's old room to try and catch the thief, is gone. ...Because Miss Trask found it, and moved it. Sigh!

They all take the night off from sleuthing to go to the movies in town. Jim has his driving lesson and is meant to meet them there - but he doesn't. Dick turns up and says that Jim's going to have a haircut and grab a hotdog for dinner, even though, as Trixie points out, Jim hates the local hotdog stand. She's also surprised he didn't call to let Miss Trask know the change of plans.

When Jim doesn't turn up at the movies, Trixie gets really worried. She tries calling the manor, but there's no reply. In the intermission, she runs out to get a taxi back to the Wheeler's. She finds Dick, hunting for the missing diamond. He's already knocked out Jim during their driving lesson and left him in the forest. He's about had enough of Trixie too. But! Luckily! Jim bursts in with Regan (who has a gun) and that's it for dirty Dick.

So Dick and his friend had done a bit of burgling, but when they stopped at the Wheeler's cottage for the night they fell out while dividing the loot. Dick knocked out the other guy and drove away; only afterwards did he realise that there was a diamond missing. Hiding in the thicket, he heard Trixie and Honey talking, and forged a letter to get the chauffeur job to try and get it back. So Trixie was right about almost everything. More importantly, there's reward money for the diamond. Hoorah!

Case Notes:
- Bobby is pretty excruciatingly annoying, in that way that young child characters always are. He always mishears words - like "blimpse" for "glimpse" - which I guess is meant to show his age. It just makes me think he needs a hearing test.
- How do the girls know it was a diamond Bobby cut himself on? Honey's father has taught her how to spot fake diamonds, and this one's definitely real. OK.
- The characters in this book are way more rounded than most of the teen detective books I've been reading. Jim is the only one who really fits into a "type", being the responsible male, but he's not even the eldest, and he's actually wrong some of the time.
- ...Having said that, I found Brian and Mart pretty interchangeable - or at least, not distinct enough to remember which was which. They have a nice relationships with Trixie though, alternately teasing her and being affectionate.
- This is the book in which the Beldens and the Wheelers form their club - the Bob-whites of the Glen. The Bob-Whites appear in most of (all?) of the Trixie Belden books from now on, and slowly grows in numbers.
- The gang speak such fantastic slang. "Gleep!" "Honey is waiting to tell you the latest dope."
- Seriously, Bobby is sooooo annoying. Urgh.
- There's a running gag that Trixie hates it when her brothers use big words. From an adult's perspective it's pretty eye-rolling, considering that I wouldn't consider most of the words particularly difficult. But then, I am 24, not 8.
- The Bob-Whites all agree that they have to earn money for the club kitty - Honey and Jim, too. Honey is super excited at the thought of earning a wage. Honey, from one working girl to another: it's not the great.

31 October, 2010

Spooky Halloween Special!!! Part Three.

Thrilling conclusion to our three part mini-series! Hold onto your hats!!!

Frank and Joe drop Nancy off at the hotel, then conveniently forget they agreed that they were all working together so that they can return to the castle. Then! A bat appears! Spooooky! As they walk around in the castle's caverns, a certain pale-handed bachelor begins to follow them around. Then, just as he's about to reach out and grab Joe, Joe... walks away. This dude has to be the world's least committed vampire.

The next morning, Frank, Nancy, Joe and Bess go for a stroll around town to find that people are hanging up wreaths of garlic all over the place. Worst. Christmas decoration. Ever. The four of them decide that Allison Troy is still the best clue they have to the missing paintings, so while he's singing Joe searches the trunk of his car, and Nancy and Frank search his room. Joe finds nothing, but Nancy finds a briefcase stuffed with what I assume is some kind of thieving equipment.

Allison's thieving gear: screwdrivers, wire, syringe.
My make-up bag has the exact same contents.

The Nancy and Frank flirt a little.

Frank: Do you always get like this when you're excited?
Nancy: Oh, you'll know when I'm excited.
Frank: I look forward to that.
The conversation is so deadpan that you can almost feel the UST, if by UST you mean "boredom".

The townspeople form a mob roughly reminiscent of the one their forefathers would have formed to kill the original Dracula, right down to what I assume is traditional Transylvanian dress (which looks suspiciously Bavarian.) Of course, they think they are after the original Dracula, so I suppose they have some excuse. Apparenly Dracs is angry because of the rock concert going on in his castle. One of the mob actually suggests they burn the castle. This is not only hilarious, but also impractical, as the castle is made out of stone, but I guess the point of mobs is that they're angry, violent, and stupid. Spooky!

Stavlin addresses the crowd and points out that there haven't actually been any killings. He's also apparently the community inspector, which - isn't he Romanian? Is Transylvania in Romania? Why does everyone there speak with a German accent, then? These are the questions that keep me awake at night.

A mist starts to rise. I guess a country that has daily thunderstorms can handle a little mist in the evening. The Mayor invites Frank, Nancy, and Stavlin back to his apartments so that they can talk. Turns out he lives in part of an old prison, and the mayoral chambers are built like a fortress! Stavlin says that whoever attacked Fenton and the hotel-owner couldn't possibly attack the Mayor there. When Frank asks why he thinks the Mayor might be attacked, he says it's because it was the Mayor and town council who plotted Dracula's downfall originally. Fenton was just an unfortunate accident, according to Stavlin.

The conversation turns, and Nancy says she thought the burglary tools in Allison Troy's room were a little too conveniently placed. Stavlin thanks them for the information and leaves, after which the Mayor reluctantly agrees that he will stay in his fortressed-up mayoral office for the night, to avoid attack. He locks all the doors and bars the windows and I bet anything there's a secret passage. Back at the hotel, Nancy goes to bed while Frank waits up for Joe. Spooky!

Joe and Bess return from Joe's last gig. I would like to assure my readers that
what you can see is mist from the sky, not dope smoke from the van.

Then, Nancy is attacked by a bat.

She seems to be terrified, which I assume is a ploy because Nancy Goddamn Drew is not scared of any freaking bat. She actually throws a lamp at it. Frank and Joe bust down her door and rescue her, though. Frank points out that her window was barred from the inside, so that someone must have put the bat into her room. The only other explanation being that it was actually a vampire. The other other explanation is that the bat actually tunnelled its way into her room, up through the floor, but for some reason no one mentions that.

Stavlin shows up and tells them that Dracula isn't a myth, he's real! Stavlin is really starting to get on my nerves. Then the mayor's maid rushes in and says that something has happened to him. Spooky! They break into the mayor's apartments and find him slumped onto his desk, two puncture marks on his neck. The phantom bicycle repairer strikes again! Oooh! Or, you know, the vampire. The mayor is still alive, though! And the next day Stavlin arrests of Allison Troy, for the trail of art thefts across Europe.

Turns out that as well as the burglary kit, they found floor plans of the Louvre in Allison Troy's car! Seems like a done deal, right? Wrong! Because when Joe searched Allison's car the night before, there was nothing there. And Bess kept her eyes on Allison and his manager all night, and none of them were acting suspiciously. So someone planted the plans in the car, and the tool kit in his room. Spooky! But why? And more importantly, who?

The Mayor, of course! If no one could possibly have got into his room, then he must have done it to himself! That actually makes sense, but given that this is Stavlin's idea, and not Nancy's or the Hardy Boys', I'm guessing the Mayor's innocent. Well, that and the fact that he couldn't possibly have attacked the hotel owner because it would have meant being in two places at once. And that probably people would have noticed if he kept popping out of the country and returning with priceless artworks.

Anyway, with the mayor now under arrest, the townspeople ask Stavlin if he will be mayor. Spooky!
Stavlin: I? No, I have no political ambitions. [deprecating chuckle]
That is totally something that someone who was all along plotting to become mayor would say! Otherwise he would LOL no them properly, rather than allow himself to be quickly convinced in an entirely rehearsed manner.

Nancy doesn't believe Stavlin either, you can tell.
And, as an aside, Frank is wearing more blusher than Nancy.

Mystery apparently solved, the detectives say their goodbyes. This involves Joe and Bess necking while Frank and Nancy stare at each other saying, "Well. Uh, it's been nice meeting you and all..."

Frank and Joe drive back up to the castle, because Frank feels like there's still some loose ends. He heads down to the caverns, where Dracula's tomb is sealed behind a door with Dracula's crest on it. Except that it's not really sealed, because there's a hidden lever on the crest that opens it! Spooky! And inside the tomb? The stolen art! And also a coffin. Frank opens it to see what's inside. In case you're wondering, a skeleton. Ooooh!

Then! Stavlin turns up! And the boys have worked out that the connection between the attacks and the thefts is Stavlin himself. He was being forced to retire, so he was stealing the paintings in order to retire with a little money. He used the castle as his own private retreat, until Allison Troy rented the venue and Fenton Hardy turned up. The attack on the mayor was staged - Stavlin drugged him and then, when he'd rushed to his rescue, drew the puncture marks on his neck while the Hardys were distracted.

Stavlin traps the Hardys and threatens to push them down a gaping hole that just sort of appears in the floor. I guess the hows and whys of that aren't really important. But Nancy, Bess and a recovered Fenton rush to their rescue, and it is Stavlin who falls down the hole! But the Hardys rescue him. Man, I totally took all the dramatic tension out of that scene.

Stavlin is arrested, and it seems like everything's been wrapped up! Except for that UST between Frank and Nancy.

And... except for the fact that Stavlin doesn't have a reflection...


I hope you have enjoyed this ~Spooky Special~. Expect some Trixie Belden goodness in the near future. And Happy Halloween!

30 October, 2010

Spooky Halloween Special!!! Part Two.

Our spooky Halloween Special continues! Are you ready? Then I'll begin.

Nancy takes a look at Fenton's notebook and ascertains that he has a series of dates in it - that correspond to the dates of concerts performed by rock star Allison Troy. I always thought Alison was a girl's name, but I expect if I said that to Alice Cooper he'd beat the crap out of me with his guitar. Apparently, each of the art thefts took place during the concerts.

Frank tells Nancy that she's meddling in their father's case and she LOLs at him. Then Joe suggests that him and Frank go to Transylvania and liaise with her in Munich, but she tells him she's going to Transylvania. Right now, in fact.

Frank, Joe and the band arrive in Transylvania and have a look at the castle. There's another thunderstorm. That crazy Transylvanian atmospheric pressure. While they're outside, there's someone moving about... inside. We don't get to see his face, but he's very pale. Not to scare anyone, but I think he might be a vampire!!!

Vampires drink blood, are allergic to sunlight, and love their bling.

When they get to their hotel, they find Stavlin there, chilling with the locals and complaining about kids these days, etc. Spooky! The mayor of the town suggests that Stavlin isn't really angry about the rockfest so much as he scared of someone... or something. Stavlin makes the Hardys promise that he'll come to them if they find any news of their father. When they register at the hotel, they see that their father had signed in the hotel, sometime earlier. The boys decide to talk to Allison Troy himself.

The rock concert is about the lamest concert I've ever seen. You know the way old men dance at weddings? Yeah, that's how hardcore this concert is. Spooky! Allison's lyrics are pretty great though: "Good for nothing, bad in bed / Nobody likes you and you're better off dead / Goodbye, goodbye."
Rock musicians: super hardcore.

Allison warns them that nobody - but nobody! - is allowed down to the caverns below the castle. So the Mayor decides to go down to the caverns. Then Fenton's bearded companion warns him that it's super dangerous. Oh, those superstitious bearded companions! Stavlin also warns against it. Spooky! Turns out Joe can actually sing, so he takes to the stage while Frank investigates. Nancy and Bess arrive; Bess thinks Joe is totally hot. They take off into the caverns, too.

The mayor's party is the first to take a wrong turn. They end up by a door marked with Dracula's crest. The bearded companion panics, and the others laugh at him, but they follow him away from it anyway. The mayor notices that, as the leave, the stone roof starts to crumble. Then the door starts to open... The party goes through a torture chamber and one of them - the hotel owner - starts to lag behind. A ringed hand reaches for him...

Frank stumbles across the hotel owner's body. He's in one of the cells, unconscous but alive. Unfortunately, while he's in the cell, someone with a pale ringed hand decides to lock him in. Then Bess and Nancy arrive on the scene - just in time to see that the hotel owner has two small puncture wounds on the base of his neck! Some kind of bicycle wheel repaire gone horribly wrong, perhaps? Bess runs for a doctor while Nancy picks the lock with a hairpin. With this knew, spooky angle to the mystery, Nancy and Frank agree to start working together.

Not pictured: Nancy holding Frank's testicles in a vice-like grip. Who's the Alpha Male now, huh?

Joe's unimpressed that Nancy has joined them, until she reveals that she thinks she's found their father. He was found by some monks, and the reason Interpol hadn't found him was that he only had ID with his alias on it with him. Obviously! Luckily, Nancy is smarter than Interpol. Frank and Joe visit Fenton, and Frank tries really hard to emote. He's been unconscious for at least four days. Turns out he's got the same puncture wound. Spooky! Then Frank, Joe and Nancy all pretend not to believe in vampires, and drive off into the night.


But first, a small mystery! Allison's audience are all dressed in spooky costume for the occasion. That's all well and fine, but what the hell is this guy dressed as?