Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Mystery in Old Quebec and Ghost Rock Mystery by Mary C. Jane

Mary C. Jane wrote a number of children's books from 1955 through 1970.  While some of Jane's books are common, others are difficult to find.  Wildside Press has begun reprinting Mary C. Jane's books, but not all books are available.  The books tend to run around 120 pages.  All stories involve at least two children solving a mystery together.

Mystery in Old Quebec, 1955
The Ghost Rock Mystery, 1956
Mystery at Pemaquid Point, 957
Mystery at Shadow Pond, 1958
Mystery on Echo Ridge, 1959
Mystery Back of the Mountain, 1960
Mystery at Dead End Farm, 1961
Mystery Behind Dark Windows, 1962
Mystery by Moonlight, 1963
Mystery in Longfellow Square, 1964
Indian Island Mystery, 1965
The Dark Tower Mystery, 1966
Mystery on Nine-Mile Marsh, 1967
Mystery of the Red Carnations, 1968
Mystery in Hidden Hollow, 1970

In Mystery in Old Quebec, Kerry, Mark, and their father spend their vacation in Quebec. The family stays in an old boarding house. During the first night, Kerry hears someone crying in the room next door.  Meanwhile, Kerry's jacket disappears and reappears the next day.  Kerry discovers a paper in one of the pockets.  The paper has a series of drawings that tell a story.  Kerry and Mark figure out that a boy is being held captive in the house and follow a series of clues in order to help him.

The story starts out quickly and has no boring expository information.  I like it when a book is interesting from the very first page.

This is an excellent, fast-paced book.

In The Ghost Rock Mystery, Janice and Tommy visit Aunt Annabelle's guest house in Maine.  The guest house is in a deserted location.  The children become fearful when they learn about a ghost story involving the house.

When a man stays at the guest house, the children discover him sneaking around upstairs in the middle of the night.  Even stranger, the children hear hoofbeats coming from a rock in the middle of an empty field. What can it all mean?

This is a very good book.

In Mystery at Pemaquid Point, Elisabeth's father has taken a job remodeling the Sea Winds Hotel at Pemaquid Point, Maine. Elisabeth is very lonely, and the only child who lives nearby is Henry Freeman.  Henry is from a very poor family, and many people think that Henry and his brothers are thieves.

Elisabeth has the chance to become acquainted with Henry, and she feels confident that Henry and his brothers are innocent.  Unfortunately, additional thefts occur, keeping the Freemans under suspicion.  Elisabeth helps Henry find the real culprit.

This is also a very good book.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Sallie's Test of Skill and Charlotte Cross and Aunt Deb

In Sallie's Test of Skill, Sallie, Frederica, and their friends are at summer camp.  One girl, Peg, goes out of her way to be mean and nasty to everyone else.  A new girl named Laura joins the camp, and a boy who Peg likes immediately becomes interested in Laura.  Peg plays lots of nasty tricks on Laura.  Meanwhile, a mysterious wealthy lady, Mrs. Grimshaw, lives in a home near the lake.  Mrs. Grimshaw is reclusive, but she seems drawn to Laura.

This book is lacking.  The title refers to a boat race, but I never cared about that.  It also is unclear who the main character of the story is.  It seems that the entire group is of equal importance, but that makes the story less compelling.  Laura should have been the main character, but we get very little of her viewpoint.  Laura was the only character that I really liked, but I didn't get enough of her.

This book is just okay.

In Charlotte Cross and Aunt Deb, Charlotte is invited to go on a trip to Italy with Aunt Deb to look for the family treasure.  Soon after Charlotte's arrival at Aunt Deb's home, Aunt Deb is knocked unconscious when her head hits an attic rafter.  Aunt Deb wakes up paranoid, convinced that everyone knows about the treasure and is trying to take it away from them.  During the trip, Aunt Deb behaves outrageously and rudely, embarrassing Charlotte greatly.

Charlotte meets a nice young man during the trip, but Aunt Deb orders her to stay away from him, since she is certain that the man is after the treasure.  Charlotte feels like her life has been taken over by her aunt, and she wishes she could just leave and go home.

The beginning of the book is quite boring. The book opens with Charlotte and her roommate, and their entire conversation is uninteresting and pointless.

The story gets slightly better when Charlotte arrives at Aunt Deb's house, but the story does not become truly interesting until the two depart on the trip to Italy.  Once the trip begins, the book is excellent.

The story is wrapped up too easily, as I expected.  Aunt Deb goes crazy when she gets hit on the head shortly after the book begins.  I was not surprised that Aunt Deb gets hit on the head again near the end, and of course this cures her.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Diana Winthrop #5 Legacy of Lucian Van Zandt and #6 Threat of the Pirate Ship

In Diana Winthrop #5, The Legacy of Lucian Van Zandt, Megan has a splendid idea for Founder's Day at Van Zandt High School.  She wants Diana to research Lucian Van Zandt and the mystery of his heirs, then Leslie will write a play based on Lucian's life.

Diana and Leslie demur at first, but then they get into the spirit of the project.  Both girls will receive credit in their English course for their efforts. Meanwhile, protesters appear in front of the school.  Word has gotten out that the school might be sold, and the residents who live in the buildings owned by the school will lose their rent-controlled apartments.  The principal and the board of trustees have received threats.  Something sinister is afoot, and Diana's research becomes the key to solving the mystery.

On page 36, Diana snaps pictures of a live television broadcast to get pictures of the protesters.  It's amazing that Diana has time to get her camera passed to her and somehow manages to shoot the pictures before the story is over.

Nothing is mentioned about a VCR, which would have made the situation easier on Diana, because she could have snapped pictures later of the recording.  This is in 1984, and my family already had a VCR.  Perhaps they weren't yet common, but the Winthrop family is extremely wealthy.  They would have had a VCR, even if many people did not yet have them.

This is an excellent book and is my favorite title in the series.

In Diana Winthrop #6, The Threat of the Pirate Ship, Gran Culhaine is in Tampa, Florida, and has broken her leg.  Gran sends an urgent message to Diana, requesting her presence in Florida.  When Diana arrives, Gran can hardly speak, but she manages to convey that Diana must take possession of her belongings and inspect them. Gran also tells Diana that the accident occurred during the night at CHS, the company for which Gran is on the board of directors.  Even more important, somebody pushed Gran, causing the accident.  Diana also learns from others that someone is threatening the Gasparilla Day events. Diana shrewdly concludes that the threats and Gran's accident are connected.

This book has a few too many characters, but I was mostly able to keep them straight. Fortunately, they were not introduced all at once, which helped.

This is a very good book.

Overall the Diana Winthrop series is a very strong mystery series.  The plots are fairly complex, so the stories are for older children or young adults.  These books are more sophisticated than the average series book aimed at children.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Girl in the Top Flat and Search for Peggy Ann

In The Girl in the Top Flat, Allie's father is an artist.  Allie and Mr. Dunham rely on the sale of his paintings to make ends meet, but the paintings are not selling.  The Dunhams would have enough money if Mr. Dunham had not made an unwise investment in a shady oil company.  Mr. Dunham has an old friend in Boston who might help him get into magazines, so he and Allie get themselves settled in Boston.

Mr. Dunham still isn't making any money, so Allie takes a position working for a magazine. Allie's prospects look good until the assistant editor, Mr. Ronaldson, asks Allie on a date. Allie does not like him and declines. Ronaldson continues his advances, finally threatening Allie with losing her job if she doesn't change her mind.

This story is quite compelling, especially with Allie facing harassment at her workplace.  This is an excellent story.

In The Search for Peggy Ann, Jean goes to the store while the river rises, and when she returns, her grandmother's cottage is flooding! Jean's younger sister, Peggy Ann, has disappeared, and Granny refuses to leave the cottage.  Jean goes to look for Peggy Ann but cannot find her.  Jean gets caught in the flood and is rescued later.  When Jean returns home, she learns that Granny drowned, and Peggy Ann is still missing.  Jean begins a search for Peggy Ann that will ultimately last for six years.

Jean is just 10 years old at the beginning of the story, and she is depicted as very young and naive.  I did not enjoy the first few chapters very much because of how young Jean is.  As time begins to pass, Jean gradually matures, and I began to enjoy the book greatly.

The story reads like a saga with much happening to Jean.  This is an excellent story.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Diana Winthrop #3 Dog-Lover's Legacy and #4 Beacon Hill

In Diana Winthrop #3, The Case of the Dog-Lover's Legacy, Diana spots a dog swimming in the river.  She jumps in and rescues it.  Diana and the animal shelter try to locate the owner with no luck.  One week later, Diana adopts the dog and gives it to her cousin Jacintha, as it becomes apparent that the dog, now named Duchess, adores Jacintha and has obviously been trained as a guide dog.

The adoption of Duchess creates quite a stir with prowlers showing up near the Winthrop home at all hours of the day.  Soon, Diana learns that Duchess is the key to an inheritance and that the relatives will do anything to assure that they receive the fortune.

In this book we meet Diana's best friends, Megan and Leslie.  Also, Diana is now a senior in high school.

On page 25 Diana thinks it is odd that "a dog should suddenly just—show up in the East River, apparently with no one knowing whose he is or how he got there."  I guess Diana isn't aware of how many people, sadly, abandon their animals for no reason other than that they are tired of them.  Why would it be odd for a dog to show up in a river with no one eager to claim him?  Of course in this particular situation, the dog's appearance in the river is the key to a strange mystery.

This is an excellent book, one of the two best books in the series.

In Diana Winthrop #4, The Secrets on Beacon Hill, Diana is spending the Christmas holidays with her Grandmother Winthrop.  The festivities begin with a birthday party for Diana's cousin Amanda.  As Amanda is presented with a valuable strand of pearls, the lights go out and Amanda claims that somebody pulled at the strand, which breaks with the pearls rolling across the floor.  The pearls are retrieved and taken to the jeweler, who informs Grandmother Winthrop that the pearls are fake. Somehow the real pearls were switched with the fake ones, and Diana must find the culprit.

This book opens with way too many characters at the beginning.  It is necessary, to an extent, to have a large number of characters due to the nature of the story.  The characters are introduced too fast, and as I read the book, I kept having to flip back to remember who was who.  This reduced my enjoyment of the story.

This is an excellent story which could have been outstanding if I could have kept the characters straight.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Girls of Lighthouse Island and Kate Martin's Problem

In The Girls of Lighthouse Island,  Tess and Carol plan to stay on Lighthouse Island in a boarding house.  Their plans are threatened when they arrive to find the house closed. Too late, they learn that the owner had to go into the city to nurse her sick sister.  Fortunately, Tess and Carol meet Mary, a very poor girl who lives with her crippled sister, Alice.  The girls strike an agreement for Tess and Carol to pay for their board during their stay on the island.

Mary and Alice are in danger of losing their land.  Mean Ira Champour constantly threatens them, determined to get their property.  The girls learn that Ira mistreats his ward, Nora.  Tess and Carol decide to do everything they can to help Mary, Alice, and Nora.

Tess and Carol live in Bayport, the hometown of the Hardy Boys, and Lighthouse Island is a nearby island.  Of course the Hardy Boys are never mentioned, but I kept imagining them nearby solving a mystery while these girls have their adventure.

This is an excellent book.

In Kate Martin's Problem, Kate's parents are killed in an automobile accident.  Kate lives with her neighbors for a time, but finally, Kate is invited to live with her Uncle Jasper and Aunt Agnes.  Kate's aunt and uncle are very wealthy, but Kate is bitterly unhappy with them.  Uncle Jasper is mean and controlling. Finally, Kate cannot stand it any longer, so she strikes out on her own, looking for work.

On page 94, Kate sees that a woman is reading a book called The Haunted Book Room.  Sounds interesting!

This is also an excellent book.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Diana Winthrop #1 Singing Strings and #2 Old Fort

The Diana Winthrop series consists of six books written under the pseudonym of Kate Chambers.

1.  The Secret of the Singing Strings, 1983
2.  Danger in the Old Fort, 1983
3.  The Case of the Dog-Lover's Legacy, 1983
4.  The Secrets on Beacon Hill, 1984
5.  The Legacy of Lucian Van Zandt, 1984
6.  The Threat of the Pirate Ship, 1984

Diana and her father, Diana's blind cousin Jacintha, and Diana's maternal grandmother, Gran Culhaine, live on different levels of Gran Culhaine's house in New York City.

In Diana Winthrop #1, The Secret of the Singing Strings, Diana receives an urgent call from her cousin, Jacintha.  Jacintha works at the Mannerheim Museum of Music.  The museum has just received a miniature violin made by Stradivarius.  Jacintha's call is about the violin, but she gives no details.  Diana agrees to meet Jacintha immediately.  The meeting never occurs, because Jacintha is hospitalized, nearly killed by a hit-and-run driver.

Diana later deduces that Jacintha had the violin with her, and that it has been stolen!  Jacintha is the prime suspect, but the museum curator refuses to tell the police.  Diana is certain that someone connected with the museum is responsible for the theft.

This is an excellent story.

In Diana Winthrop #2, Danger in the Old Fort, Diana's father is working on location in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on a miniseries.  The production is being sabotaged, and Mr. Winthrop requests that Diana and her friend, Brad Ferriers, take jobs in the production so that they can work undercover. The accidents continue to occur, and Diana quickly realizes that her life may be in danger.

I really enjoyed the early part of the book, but I became partially bored as I continued to read the story.  I have developed a strong aversion to "sabotage on a movie set" plots due to some very bad titles in the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys series.  I can no longer enjoy "sabotage on a movie set" books.

Admittedly, this book is above average for this kind of plot, but it still has a few too many characters.  I kept confusing two couples, a brother and sister and a boyfriend and girlfriend.  Removing one of those couples would have made the book more enjoyable.

This book introduces Lydian Sinclair, an investigative reporter who helps Diana on some of her future cases.  By the end of the final book, it is apparent that Lydian is a love interest for Diana's father.

While I greatly enjoyed some parts of the book, I consider it just good overall.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Nancy Drew Collecting, Buying, and Selling Information

In the Facebook series book groups, quite a few members have mentioned their confusion while trying to collect vintage Nancy Drew books.  Others tell them to purchase Farah's Guide to the Nancy Drew series.  While Farah's Guide is a great resource, the best approach for beginning collectors is to utilize websites that have been created by Nancy Drew collectors.  An incredible amount of information is readily available online.  Later, Farah's Guide can be still purchased if one decides to be obsessive about collecting Nancy Drew.

Years ago, I created a website upon which I spent hundreds of hours designing pages to help those who do not own Farah's Guide and are confused about collecting.  Below you will find direct links to the most pertinent pages on the site.  Each page was designed to put the information all in front of you at the same time so that you could easily absorb it.  I am a high school teacher, and I used the same approach I use in the classroom when creating these pages.  Information needs to be easy to find and understand.

Nancy Drew Formats - This page shows you what all Nancy Drew books published by Grosset and Dunlap look like from 1930 to the present.  You can take any Nancy Drew book and quickly glance down through the page to get a good idea of how old the book is.  The outside of the book, the interior lists if present, and the endpapers will reveal the age of the book.  You can identify nearly all Nancy Drew books to within just a few years of the exact age by using this method, even when the dust jacket is not present.

Nancy Drew Original and Revised Text Books - This page explains how you can often quickly determine whether a Nancy Drew book contains the original or revised text from just the outside appearance of the book.  That knowledge makes searching online for original text books much easier, since you do not have to click on every single listing to make that determination.

Nancy Drew Values and Collecting Tips - Some of the information on this page is outdated since it was written in 2008.  However, much information is still quite useful and may help collectors who are just getting started.

Nancy Drew Picture Cover Editions - This page is one of my very favorite creations, and I fear that most people are unaware of its usefulness.  At first glance, the page appears to be a cover art gallery of Nancy Drew #1-56 in the picture cover editions. However, it is much more.  The page identifies whether every cover art contains the original text or the revised text.  That information is stated under each photo.  Most cover art variants contain only the original text or only the revised text.  By knowing which ones contain which version, you can quickly scroll online listings and know the text contained within each book without having to click on the listing or ask a seller a question.

I also have a blog, and you are reading a post in that blog right now.  I have a series of posts called "Buyer Confusion on Nancy Drew" in which I mention common buyer questions about Nancy Drew listings.  The following links will take you to pages containing those posts.

Buyer Confusion on Nancy Drew #1-2
Buyer Confusion on Nancy Drew #3-22
Buyer Confusion on Nancy Drew #23-40

The posts are listed in reverse order on the resulting pages from the above links, which is just how blogs are always displayed.  Scroll to the bottom of each page to read the posts in order from bottom to top.  These posts contain actual photos from online listings and show how you can determine age and value often by simply viewing the photos in the listings.

This blog also contains reviews of all Nancy Drew books from #1-175 plus reviews of many other vintage series books.  Scroll down the screen while viewing the right sidebar to see tags that will link to all of those posts.

In case you are not aware, my name is Jennifer White.  All of the above links are my sites.  Another Nancy Drew collector, Jennifer Fisher, is quite often confused with me. We each have Nancy Drew sites, but we are two completely different people.  

Jennifer Fisher also has a wealth of information available about Nancy Drew on her site.

Nancy Drew Sleuth - This link goes to the main page of Jennifer Fisher's Nancy Drew site.

Nancy Drew Formats - This link goes to Jennifer Fisher's formats page.

Another frequent question that comes up on Facebook is how to find old Nancy Drew books.  Some collectors seem to be reluctant to purchase from sites such as eBay. Instead, they would rather purchase from local bookstores or from other collectors.

We do have two series book selling groups on Facebook.  Most of the members of these groups are people who have collections of vintage series books such as Nancy Drew.  If you want to purchase directly from other collectors, joining these groups is an excellent idea.

Sleuthing for Vintage Children's Series Books 
Series Book Swap & Sell

I find that the main people who have joined the above groups are the advanced collectors.  I offered some inexpensive original text picture cover editions in the first group linked above, and no one was interested.  Yet, in that same time period, members of a Nancy Drew group were commenting about their troubles with finding the original text books.  Why not join the selling groups so that you have access to those books when offered by members?

Hazel Hood's Strange Discovery and Two Girls and a Mystery

In Hazel Hood's Strange Discovery, the Hood family has fallen on desperate times since Hazel's father died.  Hazel's father was killed in an accident at the mill company, and the family should have received compensation. The Hoods never received any money, and Mrs. Hood no longer gets orders to make dresses.  All the women now go to the new dress shop in town.  Hazel must try to find work.

This is a pretty good book.

In Two Girls and a Mystery, Barbara lives with her grandparents.  She overhears a conversation where they discuss money. Barbara is shocked to learn that the family may have to give up its home.

Unexpectedly, Barbara receives a letter from a lawyer.  She has inherited a house and $500.  The will has a codicil which mentions a hidden treasure in the house.  Barbara's heart leaps, and she hopes fervently that she can find the treasure and that the treasure will be worth enough to provide for her grandparents.

Barbara has several friends, Gerry, Gordon, and Charlie.  Gordon and Charlie have a reckless automobile race at the beginning of the story.  The scene is atypical of what one expects in the Barton Books for Girls.  It's more like a scene out of a boys' book.  I was bored.

Barbara and her friends go to stay at the house that Barbara has inherited.  I found the friends distracting and annoying.  They served no purpose.  The story would have been better if Barbara had gone alone or perhaps had gone only with Gerry.

This is my least favorite book in the set.  I did overall enjoy the story, but it is lacking as compared to the rest of the books in the set.  It could have been written much better.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Connie Carl at Rainbow Ranch

Connie Carl at Rainbow Ranch was written by Mildred Wirt Benson under the pseudonym of Joan Clark.

In Connie Carl at Rainbow Ranch, Connie has recently graduated from an Eastern finishing school.  She returns to Rainbow Ranch to make her home.  When Connie arrives, she finds that the ranch has changed.  The foreman, Forest Blakeman, is surly and secretive.  Connie learns that her money is gone and that the ranch must be sold.  Connie is determined to find a way to save the ranch, but Blakeman thwarts her at every turn.

Connie wins $750 in a rodeo.  She is warned to put the money in the bank before she returns home. Connie refuses, planning to take it home with her.  Predictably, Connie is robbed and has no idea who took the money.  I hate this kind of stupidity.  All Connie had to do was get the money in the bank.  Ugh!

This book is a bit simplistic.  The descriptions are sparse, and the text is not detailed.  I would have liked for the book to have been fleshed out more.  That said, the book is still an enjoyable book by Mildred Wirt Benson.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Plain Jane and Pretty Betty and Little Miss Sunshine

In Plain Jane and Pretty Betty, Jane is happy when her family moves away from Coal Run. For years, the other children have taunted her by bullying her and calling her "Plain Jane." The family gets settled in Greenville and has a bright future until Jane's guardian loses his job.  Jane must help provide for the family.  As Jane seeks work, she meets "Pretty Betty," a rich girl who looks down on Jane.  While Jane works to help her guardians, Betty encounters unexpected misfortune.  The two very different girls soon find that their future destinies are inexorably intertwined.

The ending of the story has a very unrealistic coincidence.  That sort of thing can be expected in the average series book, but the coincidence is rather extreme in this case.

This is an excellent book.

In Little Miss Sunshine, Margery's father has died.  Margery is forced to give up her beloved dog, Tinker, and must go away to live with her father's old friend, Major Welby.  The Major has no idea how to care for a girl, so he hires Mrs. Sloper to be her caregiver.  The Major is unaware that Mrs. Sloper's references are fake, and Mrs. Sloper promptly begins abusing Margery.

The beginning of this book quite depressed me, since every horrible thing that could possibly happen to Margery does happen.  It was almost more than I could take.  Mrs. Sloper is awful!

This is an excellent book

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Don't Hurt Laurie! by Willo Davis Roberts

Don't Hurt Laurie! is a book that I remember vividly from childhood.  It was written by Willo Davis Roberts and was published in 1977.  I probably read it around 1980 to 1982, and I read it four or more times.  I recall checking it out from the library at least four times, maybe more.  I was obsessed with the book and couldn't get enough of it.

Don't Hurt Laurie! is about a girl who is physically and emotionally abused by her mother, Annabelle.  Laurie has been taken to the hospital many times for burns, broken bones, and cuts.  As soon as anyone begins to notice that Laurie gets hurt a bit too often, Annabelle forces the family to move.  Laurie has a stepbrother and stepsister, and Annabelle never hurts them.  Laurie's stepfather and his mother also have no idea what is happening.  Laurie is afraid to tell anybody, because she is certain that no one will believe her.  If no one believes her, then Annabelle's abuse will worsen.

I have always remembered this book vividly, even though I hadn't read it since childhood.  I remembered Laurie and a friend playing in a ravine behind the property.  I remembered the abuse.  And I remembered that for some reason, this book spoke to me, which is why I read it so many times.  I was not abused as a child, but for some reason, I strongly identified with Laurie.  After so many years, I didn't know exactly why I loved the book so much, but I decided to read the book again to see what I could figure out.  I knew why practically as soon as I began reading the book.

Laurie's personality is a 100% match for my own.  I have never read any other book that matches my personality and how I was as a child as closely as this book does.  Laurie is shy and doesn't make friends easily.  Laurie reflects on how others ignore her and don't even notice her.  She loves to read.  She can't think up the right words in conversations.

This book still speaks to me.  I still love it.

On page 59, Laurie has "no refuge anywhere, except within herself."  She has to "withdraw into a world of make-believe in her books."  As did I, since I never fit in with the other children.

On page 83, Laurie's new teacher raps her across the knuckles with a stick for not paying attention, hurting her.  Even the teacher abuses the poor girl!  I'm not sure if Davis meant that specifically when she wrote the story, since that sort of thing was more acceptable back then.  Perhaps she did.  I doubt I thought anything of that when I read the book as a child.  But it really stands out now as more physical abuse.

This book also spoke to other children.  I read reviews on Goodreads, and multiple reviewers stated how they read this book over and over again.  One person who was not a victim of abuse stated that she wondered if the librarian might have thought she was a victim.  Another person who loved the book was a victim of abuse, and it gave her courage.  And yet another reviewer wrote that she got help for an abused friend after reading the book.

For those of us who fit a certain personality type or have had certain experiences, this is an extremely compelling and outstanding book.  It will always be special to me.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Nell Grayson's Ranching Days and Four Little Women of Roxby

In Nell Grayson's Ranching Days, Nell hasn't seen her best friend, Cora, ever since Cora moved out west years ago.  Cora comes to visit Nell in Boston.  Cora has changed and is now a brash, outspoken western girl little fit for the high life in Boston.  Cora is miserable in Boston, and finally, she invites Nell to visit her at the ranch.

The girls do not arrive at the ranch until page 95, which is nearly halfway through the book. The story is odd with almost half of it taking place in Boston, considering that the title is Nell Grayson's Ranching Days.

The half of the book set in Boston is based upon the schtick of the western girl Cora not fitting in because she continually says and does outrageous things.  I was not amused and found the first half of the book to be quite uninteresting.  Cora's western dialect is also obnoxious.

The last part of the story is pretty good, however.  This book is overall good.  It could have been very good or excellent if the Boston part of the story had been dropped and if the portion at the ranch had been expanded.

In Four Little Women of Roxby, Alice, Jean, Corny, and Bab are orphaned and living on their own in the small town of Roxby.  The girls' parents died years before, and they had been cared for by their aunt until a year before when she died.  Now the girls are all alone in the world, struggling to earn a living.

Bab has been stricken by fever and lies in bed, at times close to death.  The other sisters help nurse her as they struggle to earn money.

Elizabeth Duffield Ward wrote at her best when she wrote books like this one.  This book has a strong Blythe Girls vibe and is an excellent story.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Patsy Carroll #3 Golden West and #4 Old New England

In Patsy Carroll #3, Patsy Carroll in the Golden West, Mr. Carroll has some kind of case involving a film star.  He won't say what, and the girls are left to speculation.  However, Mr. Carroll takes the girls with him as he goes to the Golden West to take care of this mysterious business.

On page 6, Patsy is described as "Titian-tressed."  This might be the first time that I have seen a character's hair described as "titian" aside from Nancy Drew.

This book is completely boring and incoherent until page 135.  It's totally pointless.  Up to that point, the book consists of one silly conversation after another with inane comments or pointless speculation about the film star.

On page 139, the premise is finally explained, which should have been done no later than page 10.  I began enjoying the book on page 139.  I recommend that readers skip the first 130 to 135 pages of the story and begin reading there.

In Patsy Carroll #4, Patsy Carroll in New England, the Wayfarers travel to New England on a vacation.  And it's not worth my time to try to write anything else.

This book is so boring!  It consists of conversation after conversation about a bunch of nothing.  Ugh.  I probably read around half of the first half of the book and then gave up completely.

The writing style is horribly confusing.  All four books were written in an old-fashioned style that is difficult at times, but this book is worse. I was strongly reminded of Lilian Garis and Harriet Pyne Grove during the parts of this book that I did read.

Here is an example of the Harriet Pyne Grove-esque writing from pages 80 and 81.
But that evening at the hotel no incident occurred to justify Patsy's hope in some actual, interesting coincidence.  No one appeared in the dining room, in whom the Wayfarers might have professed personal interest, and later in the exchange, in the lounge and in the big old-fashioned parlors, the combination of passe toilette and antiquated musical talent, that did things to the poor, helpless piano, all combined to convince the girls that a summer stay in Boston was entirely a period of stern necessity.
Really?  Let me run the other way.

On page 174, we learn that the group will rent a vacation house for $150 for one month.  $150 in 1921 money is approximately $2000 now.  The Carroll family has serious money to spend on vacations.

And it was at about page 174 that I gave up.

Three of the four Patsy Carroll books are way too long with generous use of silly conversations included in order to lengthen the lame plots.  The second book was the only one that did not excessively drag for me.  Even parts of it dragged, but it read quite well.  The second book is the main one I would consider reading again.  I could also see reading the first book again, since it wasn't that bad.  This series should have ended with two books.  If it had, I would have a much higher opinion of the set.

I have one book with dust jacket, and $1.50 is printed on the spine.  The average series book of the time cost no more than $0.50, so $1.50 is terribly expensive in comparison.  Using an inflation calculator, $1.50 is $31.40 in 2017.  Even more expensive children's books, such as the Harry Potter books in hardcover, sell for no more than $20.00 on Amazon.  Even those books can be found for considerably less in the secondhand market.  So $31.40 would be pretty expensive for a modern children's book.

I have this theory that the books were written and published for rich girls.  Setting the cost at $1.50 precluded girls of modest means from purchasing the books.  Patsy and her friends have a supercilious view of many of the other characters, most apparent in the second volume in their treatment of the "darkies."

At the beginning of each book, Patsy behaves in a childish fashion, determined to get her way about whichever vacation she is planning.  She is quite unlikable in those scenes.  Patsy and her friends have converse endlessly about the most inane things, and they behave much like rich girls who have little sense.

At the same time, Patsy is portrayed as quite capable, but she does behave in a very silly fashion during many scenes.  While I do like Patsy and her friends during parts of the books, I cannot stand them at other times.

Even though the series is highly flawed and difficult to read, the early blue books are very nice and worth having for those who like early series books.  They are handsome volumes that are nice to look at and enjoy.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Girl from the Country and Three Girl Chums at Laurel Hall

The Barton Books for Girls series was written by two authors under the pseudonym of May Hollis Barton.  The series was a Stratemeyer Syndicate series and was published by Cupples and Leon.

 1.  The Girl from the Country, 1926
 2.  Three Girl Chums at Laurel Hall, 1926
 3.  Nell Grayson’s Ranching Days, 1926
 4.  Four Little Women of Roxby, 1926
 5.  Plain Jane and Pretty Betty, 1926
 6.  Little Miss Sunshine, 1928
 7.  Hazel Hood’s Strange Discovery, 1928
 8.  Two Girls and a Mystery, 1928
 9.  The Girls of Lighthouse Island, 1929
10.  Kate Martin’s Problem, 1929
11.  The Girl in the Top Flat, 1930
12.  The Search for Peggy Ann, 1930
13.  Sallie’s Test of Skill, 1931
14.  Charlotte Cross and Aunt Deb, 1931
15.  Virginia’s Venture, 1932

The books were written by Elizabeth Duffield Ward, except for Kate Martin's Problem and The Girl in the Top Flat.  Elizabeth Duffield Ward also wrote the Blythe Girls series, and this series is very similar to that series in tone and type of story.  These books almost certainly will appeal to those who like the Blythe Girls.

In The Girl from the Country, Laura's father, Daddy Tom, falls from a ladder and will be unable to work for quite some time.  Daddy Tom's old friend, Mr. Whipple, comes to call and invites Laura to stay in the city with him sometime.

Laura decides to seek work to help her family and asks all over town.  No one will hire her.  Finally, Laura takes Mr. Whipple up on his offer.  She plans to stay with him while she seeks a job in New York City.  Unfortunately, Mr. Whipple is away when Laura arrives, thus starting a chain of unfortunate events where Laura struggles to survive in the big city.

This is an excellent book.

In Three Girl Chums at Laurel Hall, Nan, Jo, and Sadie plan to attend Laurel Hall together. Their plan is threatened when Jo's father loses his money due to theft by an employee. Meanwhile, Jo rescues Nan's Aunt Emma from a fire, and Aunt Emma becomes Jo's benefactor.  The three girls leave for their new school.  Upon their arrival, the three girl chums unwittingly make an instant enemy who does all she can to get the friends expelled from school.

On page 110, one teacher, Miss Radley, does not know the names of her students.  She calls on a student who is looking at her by pointing at the girl and calling out, "You tell me!"  Therefore, all girls who are not prepared for the lesson avoid eye contact, thereby avoiding trouble.  That's kind of funny.

This is a very good book.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Patsy Carroll #1 Wilderness Lodge and #2 Southern Skies

The Patsy Carroll series consists of four books written under the pseudonym of Grace Gordon.

1.  Patsy Carroll at Wilderness Lodge, 1917
2.  Patsy Carroll under Southern Skies, 1918
3.  Patsy Carroll in the Golden West, 1920
4.  Patsy Carroll in Old New England, 1921

The books were published by Cupples and Leon, initially in very expensive editions and later in much cheaper editions.  The early editions must have sold in small numbers due to the high price, so they are very hard to find these days.

The early editions are very thick light blue books with a glossy frontispiece, three glossy internals, and a white dust jacket with the same image as the book's cover.  The later editions are red books with just the glossy frontispiece.  The books pictured here are the early books.

Each story is around 340 pages long. Unfortunately, the stories are not complex enough to be 340 pages, and each book should have been around 150 pages shorter. These books contain lots of silly conversations used to fill up pages and pages of text.

In Patsy Carroll #1, Patsy Carroll at Wilderness Lodge, Patsy and her friends, Bee, Mabel, and Eleanor, decide to call themselves the Wayfarers.  The Wayfarers plan a trip to the Adirondacks with Patsy's Aunt Martha along as chaperone.  During the trip, the Wayfarers help find a lost will.

On page 66, Aunt Martha cautions against the girls trying to solve the mystery, since by doing so, they will "be turned into a band of sleuths."  I don't see anything wrong with that.

The last 60 to 80 pages of the book drag because the plot had already been resolved for the most part.

In Patsy Carroll #2, Patsy Carroll Under Southern Skies, the Wayfarers journey to Florida with Aunt Martha and Patsy's father. Mr. Carroll has recently purchased an old Spanish mansion, so the group will stay there during the Wayfarers' vacation.  Upon their arrival, the girls discover a strange girl running in the woods, a hostile servant, and a mean old woman who lives nearby.  Patsy senses a mystery and decides to solve it.

On page 22, the girls' dormitory is on fire. The girls gather downstairs, inside the burning building, where the girls line up and the matron takes roll.  After the matron takes roll, the matron selects the girls for the bucket brigade.  The bucket brigade is put together, then the other girls wait to leave the building until after the bucket brigade goes upstairs.  What the heck?  The fire is raging across the back of the building the entire time this is happening!  It's lucky everyone isn't killed in the fire!

This story has an excessive amount of negative racial stereotyping.  Mr. Carroll hires some workers, and he calls them his "black boys" all through the story.  They are also called "darkies," "negroes," and even the n-word.  It sounds so derogatory the way he refers to them.  Old books frequently have this sort of thing, but it's rather excessive in this story, with the references appearing every few pages all through the book.  The reader is never given a chance to forget that there are "black boys" nearby.

The author also gets in a few negative statements about Indians and Latinos for good measure.

On page 55, Mr. Carroll is called "Massa Carroll" by the "mammy."

On page 68, the girls are walking around the property, and Eleanor cries out, "There's a darkie over yonder, clipping away that thicket!"  The exclamation is uttered like seeing the man is somehow a bit of a curiosity, as if the girls are viewing a freak show at the circus.  Patsy then calls to the gardener, "Hey, there, Uncle!" to get his attention.  How very rude.  Of course, "Uncle" obsequiously runs over to the girls, eager to do whatever he can for them.

I enjoyed this book the most of the four books.  It has less filler than the other three stories.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Kathy Young and Latchkey Mystery by Margaret Goff Clark

In Who Stole Kathy Young?, Meg is walking down the road when she sees her best friend, Kathy, abducted right in front of her!  Meg is horrified and runs to Kathy's house to tell her father.

Meg is worried about Kathy, who is deaf.  The van used for the abduction is recovered, and Meg finds the power pack for Kathy's hearing aid inside the van.  Kathy can hear nothing, rendering her helpless.  With few clues, Meg and her friend, Julian, ask a private investigator to help them find Kathy.

It was fun trying to guess the culprit as I read this book.

The story is very good to excellent.

In The Latchkey Mystery, burglars are breaking into houses in Minda's neighborhood.  Minda forms a neighborhood watch group with her school friends who live in the same neighborhood.  They call themselves the Ferrets.

The Ferrets devise various methods to keep an eye on the neighborhood.  Each Ferret keeps a list of suspects and writes down anything suspicious that they see.

This is a very good book.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Bearstone and Far North by Will Hobbs

In Bearstone, Cloyd is a troubled teenager.  He has been sent by his tribe to a group home. Cloyd is then sent to live with Walter, an old man who lives on the mountain by himself.  Cloyd likes Walter, but when a group of hunters visits Walter, Cloyd decides that the hunters are Walter's real friends and that all of the men are laughing at him.

Cloyd strikes out to hurt Walter in the worst way possible, and when it is too late, Cloyd learns that Walter is his real friend.

This is not the kind of book that I typically enjoy.  I have trouble relating to a protagonist who is so full of anger and takes revenge upon someone who does not deserve it by doing the most appalling act possible.  Aside from that, the story is good and teaches a lesson.

In Far North, Gabe starts boarding school in the Northwest Territories of Canada.  His roommate is Raymond, an Indian from Nahanni Butte. Gabe gets an opportunity to ride on a bush plane one weekend, and to his shock, Raymond will be flying on the plane to return home.  He is dropping out of school.  Also taking the flight is Johnny, Raymond's great-uncle.

The pilot, Clint, takes the boys to an unscheduled stop on the Nahanni River to see the waterfall.  The plane's radio quits working, but Clint is unconcerned, even though no one knows where the plane is.  Upon landing on the river, the engine fails, stranding the passengers. Thus begins a terrifying struggle for survival that lasts for most of the harsh, northern Canadian winter.

This is an outstanding book.  The author does not get bogged down on extreme detail, and the story flows well in a very interesting fashion.  The story is quite moving, and as I read the final chapter, tears came to my eyes.  That doesn't happen often.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Sebastian Island and Flooded Museum by Margaret Goff Clark

In Mystery of Sebastian Island, Dena Foster is on her way home from boarding school to Sebastian Island.  During the trip, Dena meets Guy, who is also on his way to the island. Guy's bag looks just like another man's bag, and Dena sees the other man take Guy's bag. Guy refuses to believe Dena, even though Dena knows that the wrong bag was taken. Dena little suspects that the bag mix-up is a clue to a dangerous mystery.

This book is a good mystery.  I kept wondering about certain characters and whether they were in with the villains or not.

The story becomes very suspenseful towards end.  This is a very good book.

A quote from page 80 is amusing.  Dena looks over the books in her room to see if she can find one for Mrs. Kaufman, who doesn't have enough reading material.  Dena reflects, "It was a sure thing that Mrs. Kaufman would be long past Nancy Drew."  I don't know about that.  It seems that many of us are still stuck on Nancy Drew.

In Mystery in the Flooded Museum, Susan begins volunteering for the summer at Fort Pitt Museum.  A valuable wampum that has just been placed on exhibit is stolen.  Susan is shocked to discover that she is a suspect, since one of her belongings was found near the exhibit.  Susan hunts for clues while the employees remove all of the exhibits due to a flood warning.

I did not like this book.  Nothing about it interested me.  This is my least favorite book by Margaret Goff Clark.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

The Dan Perry Series by Kent Sagendorph

The Dan Perry Series consists of three books written by Kent Sagendorph and published by Cupples and Leon.

1.  Radium Island, 1938
2.  Beyond the Amazon, 1938
3.  Sin-Kiang Castle, 1938

In Radium Island, Dan Perry's father is abducted by a Russian, Varkofsky.  Dan and his friend, Shorty, follow Varkofsky in their plane and manage to rescue Anson Perry. The boys learn that Varkofsky has jumped Mr. Perry's claim on the pitchblende mine on Radium Island in Great Bear Lake, Canada. Dan and Shorty fly to the lake to capture Varkofsky, but instead, the boys are captured! They are forced to labor in the mine for months.  Can they ever escape?

Anson Perry becomes paralyzed at the beginning of the first book.  Unlike in most series books, Mr. Perry does not recover.  He is still paralyzed at the end of the third book. Since Mr. Perry is paralyzed, Dan takes over running Mr. Perry's affairs for him.

In Beyond the Amazon, another of Anson Perry's claims has been jumped, this time in Brazil in the middle of the rain forest.  The claim is a diamond mine, and Dan and his companions fight to get it back.

This book is poorly edited.  For instance, on page 56, the sun is shining, and on page 60, it is said to be pitch black outside.  I was rather confused, especially since little time had passed.

The entire book is full of lots of fighting, which often doesn't make sense.  In one scene, I couldn't figure out which direction some of the natives were going.

I had to skim a lot of the book.

In Sin-Kiang Castle, Shorty's father is missing in China.  Dan and Shorty travel to China to search for him.

This book is also confusing at times, especially when the information presented is obviously false.  We learn that in China it is noon of the day before.  No, China is ahead of United States time, not behind.

I did not care much for this book and skimmed a lot of it.

The first book is the strongest of the three. The second and third books would have been better if they had been edited better.  In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if the second and third books were not edited at all.  They read like rough drafts.

For a more detailed review, read "Dan Perry: An Unusual Series."

Friday, August 11, 2017

Mystery Horse and Death at Their Heels by Margaret Goff Clark

In Mystery Horse, Jennie Longboat lives on the Tuscarora Reservation.  Miranda Young is staying with Jennie, and Miranda frequently disappears.  Tonight, Miranda has disappeared again, and Jennie heads up the road looking for her.  After a time, Miranda appears, her face flushed and hair tangled. Miranda claims to have been asleep on the porch.  Jennie knows something is up, but Miranda isn't talking.

The girls hear a horse that night, and Miranda claims that the horse is a ghost horse.  Jennie is certain that the horse was real, but Miranda insists that she saw a ghost horse in the sky. Miranda's story causes problems, because the women of the tribe decide that Miranda's vision is a bad omen and that they will have to appoint another man as chief.  Jennie tries to get proof that the horse was real.

This book opens at night, which creates a suspenseful atmosphere.  I was surprised at the reveal of the culprit.

I read this book very quickly.  It is excellent and very engaging.

In Death at Their Heels, Rick receives a phone call that sets him on edge.  He asks his stepbrother, Denny, to go with him on a camping trip.  Rick insists that they leave that night and that they tell nobody.  Unknown to Rick, Denny leaves a note in the kitchen telling Aunt Wilma their destination.

Once the boys arrive in Algonquin Park in Canada, Denny learns that Rick is running from a young man who is trying to kill him. Rick learns about the note and is furious. Soon, it becomes apparent that Rick's enemy has learned the boys' destination, putting them on the run once again.

Rick makes extremely stupid decisions.  He is stricken by fear, so this is why, but I still had a problem with it.  After Rick realizes that his enemy knows they are in the park, he should have left the park with Denny.  But no!  The boys stay in the park so that they can be found.  Of course, there wouldn't have been a story if Rick had behaved logically.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Vicki Loring #1 A Career for Vicky and #2 Golden Buttons

The Vicky Loring series was published by Golden Press and consists of just two books.

1.  A Career for Vicky, 1962
2.  Golden Buttons, 1963

In A Career for Vicky, teenager Vicky Loring wants to follow in her father's footsteps. Kenneth Loring is a famous television anchor, and Vicky has recently gotten an entry-level job at his network.  Vicky is soon plunged into mystery when her friend, Julia Clevenger, disappears at her debutante debut.  Meanwhile, Mr. Loring works with Julia's father, Senator Clevenger, on a dam project that has run into a problem.  The ownership of the land that Senator Clevenger needs for the dam is in question.

The two separate plots converge towards the end of the book, which can always be expected in this kind of book.

This is a fast-paced, excellent story.

In Golden Buttons, Vicky is now her father's assistant at the network.  Mr. Loring and Vicky arrive in Zourab in the Middle East. Mr. Loring is being secretive about a message he has received, which puts Vicky on edge. Vicky finds an ornate golden button on the ground in a local market, and soon after, Vicky notices that someone is following her. In time, Vicky realizes that the golden button holds the secret to something and that she is in grave danger so long as she has the button in her possession.

I overall enjoyed the first two-thirds of the book.  The last one-third of the book bored me.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Adirondack Mountain Mystery and Missing Stamps by Margaret Goff Clark

In Adirondack Mountain Mystery, Andy visits his cousins in the Adirondacks.  Andy's vacation is at risk of being spoiled due to a recent bank robbery.  The robbers were last seen in the Adirondacks, so Andy's cousin Midge orders the children to stay at the house and not explore the nearby countryside.  Andy spots evidence of someone prowling around in the immediate area, so he hopes to help get the robbers captured so that he can enjoy the rest of his vacation.

This book is good, but it is also one of Margaret Goff Clark's books that I do not like as much as the rest of her books.  I do not find it that compelling.

In Mystery of the Missing Stamps, Mark Baxter, his mother, and his stepfather have just moved to the resort that his stepfather manages.  Mark is having trouble adjusting to his new life, but he has made one friend, Ben. A tourist's valuable stamps are stolen, and Ben becomes the primary suspect.  All clues point to Ben, and it is not until much later that Mark realizes that someone is framing Ben for the theft.

On pages 10 and 11, the 1856 British Guiana one-cent stamp is mentioned and said to be worth $100,000.  I always like to check on the current value of valuable items so see how much the value has increased.  That stamp is now worth $9.5 million.

This is an excellent book.  It's a great mystery that keeps the reader guessing about the identity of the culprit.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Pirate Oak, Apple Orchard, and Lost Letter by Helen Fuller Orton

I tried three books written by Helen Fuller Orton.


Mystery in the Apple Orchard is too young for me.  It reads like a book for very young children. It's cute and would be fun to read to a child.  It's not so good when read by an adult.

Mystery in the Pirate Oak is better.  The story is still pretty simple, but the book is interesting.

The Mystery of the Lost Letter is the best of these three books.  The story includes a search through a library full of books and a secret passage that leads to a nearby hillside.  The story is quite interesting.

This book was published in 1946, right after World War II.  Miss Wayne has the library full of books.  Everyone considers Miss Wayne selfish for not loaning out her books.  I can see that viewpoint, especially for the time period in which the book is set. However, no matter what a person possesses, it is their decision whether to loan out the items. They shouldn't be considered selfish for keeping their belongings for their own use.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Marble Zoo and Star Lake by Margaret Goff Clark

In Mystery of the Marble Zoo, Jill and her sister, Carol, arrive at the Chapman place at night to spend the weekend sorting through Uncle Leon's belongings in preparation for selling them.  Jill wishes that the family could keep Uncle Leon's house, but they can't afford it.  Just before Uncle Leon died, he told Jill that he has a treasure, but he was unable to give her any details.  As Jill begins her search for clues, she notices that the contents of a drawer disappear.  Someone is prowling in the house, and Jill realizes that someone else is searching for the treasure.

My copy of this book was signed by Margaret Goff Clark.  It appears that she commonly signed books so it is not too unusual to find inscribed books.  Even so, having one is quite special.


This is such an excellent book.  By opening the book at night with a prowler on the Chapman property, Clark sets the stage for a highly suspenseful story.  I was enthralled from start to finish.

In Mystery at Star Lake, Jeff joins his brother, Hal, at the family's cabin in the Canadian woods.  Hal plans to build an addition to the cabin, and Jeff plans to help.  Hal initially changes his mind about Jeff staying at the cabin after a stone is thrown into the cabin with a warning note attached.  The note reads, "Get out!"

Jeff convinces Hal to let him stay.  The brothers receive another warning, and someone tries to blow up the cabin!  Can Jeff find the culprit before someone gets hurt?

For whatever reason, this book did not grab me.  I enjoyed it, but it is in the group of books by Margaret Goff Clark that I enjoyed less than her other books.

Friday, August 4, 2017

More Books and Bulk Lots Listed on eBay and Etsy

I have listed many books on both eBay and Etsy in the last few weeks.  I have listed some bulk lots on eBay, some tonight and others within the last few weeks.  Some lots have already sold, but others are still available.

Jennifer's Series Books on eBay

On eBay, a 10% discount will apply to orders with at least two items in it.  In order to receive the discount, you must add the items to your shopping cart before paying.  Once all items are in your cart, then you may complete checkout and pay through PayPal.

You will not receive a discount when items are purchased and paid for individually.

Jennifer's Series Books on Etsy

On Etsy, an active coupon code can be found on the main page of my shop.  Enter the coupon code into your shopping cart to receive 10% off of any order of $10 or more.


Serpent of Pirate Cove and Trouble at Turtle Bay

The Serpent of Pirate Cove was written by Bill Knott and was published by Steck-Vaughn in 1971.

In The Serpent of Pirate Cove, Jeff and Bob see a large serpent in the water in Pirate Cove.  Soon, others see the serpent, and hundreds of people flock to the area in hopes of seeing the mysterious creature.  Jeff and Bob suspect a hoax, and they set out to find out what is happening.

This is like the typical series book where someone pulls off a hoax by having some kind of monster appear in a lake.  This type of story is almost always good.

This is a very good book.

Trouble at Turtle Bay was written by Marie Holmstrand and was published in 1957 by Dodd, Mead & Company.

In Trouble at Turtle Bay, Bud and his father fish from Lake Superior. The taconite mining industry is bringing change to their town, and the family is caught between the old ways and the new ones. Bud wants to embrace the new life, but his father clings to tradition. The company tries to force the family to sell their land, but Bud's father refuses.

This is a coming-of-age story and not a mystery.  The story is absorbing, and I kept wondering how the plot would resolve.  The solution does not become apparent until pretty close to the end of the book.

This is an excellent story.