Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Way Back Wednesday - The Secret of the Mansion

When I was a little girl, Trixie Belden was my hero. I loved reading these books over and over again. My babysitter's daughter was the one who got me hooked on Trixie Belden and I could lose myself for hours in the adventures of Trixie and the Bob-Whites (a club formed by Trixie, her brothers, and her friends). I owned the original 16 books, the Whitman 1970s hardcover editions, and these were my pride and joy as a youngster.

After I married, my collection of Trixie books was given to a neighbor girl. I had reservations about giving them away, but my neighbor was so excited to read them. When I had girls of my own, I really missed those books, so I started to buy the new paperback versions of the books.

As a surprise to me, my wonderful hubby found me the first 16 books, in the original hardback covers I had as a child. I was so exited to have these books in my possession again. Now, I can't wait to read them to my grandchildren.

Because of my love for Trixie, I've decided to start a new segment here on Bobbi's Book Nook and I'm calling it Way Back Wednesday. I'm going to do reviews of the Trixie Belden books from my past. Today I'm starting with the very first book in the series, The Secret of the Mansion.

The Secret of the Mansion - 1948
by Julie Campbell

The book opens with thirteen-year-old Trixie begging her mother for a horse. Her two older brothers - Brian and Mart - are away at camp for the summer and Trixie is stuck on the family farm with her younger brother Bobby. The Belden family - who live on Crabapple Farm - can't afford a horse, so Trixie is trying to save all her money. I could relate to Trixie because I wanted a horse so badly when I was younger, but never had the opportunity to go riding.

Trixie is excited when people start moving into the mansion on the hill - and a horse trailer is seen unloading horses! The Wheelers, a wealthy family from New York City, are moving into the mansion with their teenaged daughter, Honey.

At first, tomboy Trixie thinks Honey is a stuckup sissy, but they soon become fast friends. Trixie realizes that Honey really is a "poor little rich girl." Honey's parents are never home, and she has grown up in boarding schools, camps and with governesses. Trixie helps her new friend overcome these things.

Later in the book, we learn another of Trixie's neighbors has been taken to the hospital. Trixie uses this chance to explore the old man's rundown old mansion. Trixie and Honey climb inside an unlocked window to look around. They are shocked to find a tall, redheaded boy asleep on a mattress!

The boy turns out to be Jim Frayne, the old man's grand-nephew, and he is running away from his abusive stepfather. The three become friends, and the girls start smuggling food up to the mansion for Jim. Local rumors say the old man hid his money somewhere in the house. Honey and Jim are doubtful, but Trixie is sure the money is there somewhere, if only they could find it before Jim's evil stepfather comes looking for him. I can remember having strong feelings of dislike for this evil stepfather. Up until this point, I had only read about wicked step-mothers.

Eventually, the stepfather does come looking for Jim after a newspaper article appeared, telling of a jet crashing near Sleepyside-on-Hudson (Trixie's home town); the newspaper also features the legend of the old man's fortune.

The very night the article appears in the newspaper, Jim's stepfather shows up. Mysteriously, the mansion catches fire and burns to the ground. When Trixie and Honey go to the old house the next morning to visit Jim, they find him gone.

Jim has run away again ... this time with a half million dollars! The money had been hidden in the mattress Jim had been sleeping on all the time! Trixie and Honey are confronted by the stepfather's lawyer who asks them to track Jim down for him. This story is continued in The Red Trailer Mystery.

Full of thrills, chills and mystery, The Secret of the Mansion is the book that started my fascination with the world of Trixie Belden.


Mama Kelly said...

I adored the Trixie Belden books as a kid (in the late 70s) only 2 of my own softcovers survived to sit on my own girls' bookshelves

Marg said...

Jim Frayne was my first literary crush!