At this year’s Malice Domestic conference I met Mark Baker, the creator of the wonderful Carstairs Considers blog. It was fun to talk to someone who knows so much about mysteries, and who, like myself, is a fan of the Mrs. Pollifax mystery series.
As we compared notes about mystery novels, he discovered my deep dark secret.
“You’ve never read Trixie Belden?” Mark was too polite to gasp, but he dropped his dinner roll.
I’m a huge Nancy Drew fan and I never meant to snub Trixie, but Nancy filled all my teenage sleuthing needs. But I feel strongly about reading the classics, so I added one book to my post-Malice TBR pile: The Secret of the Mansion by Julie Campbell, er, Kathryn Kenny, er, Julie Campbell Tathum.
Actually, Julie Campbell Tathum, a literary agent, was the originator of the Trixie Belden series and wrote the first six books between 1948 and 1956. Tathum also wrote for the Ginny Gordon, Vicki Barr, and Cherry Ames series. The publisher, Whitman, assigned the nom de plume Kathryn Kenny to the Trixie Belden series. There is some evidence that Tathum wanted to write for the Stratemeyer Syndicate, but was not offered a position with The House That Built Nancy.
I feel like a louse, but, Nancy, I have to confess. I couldn’t stop turning the pages of The Secret of the Mansion.
In this first book of the Trixie Belden series, 13 year old Trixie is bemoaning the boring summer stretching out before her when Honey Wheeler, a millionaire’s daughter, moves in next door. Then a runaway kid hides out in a nearby mansion and rumors fly that the mansion has a fortune hidden inside. Suddenly Trixie’s summer is packed with excitement, fun, and danger. Lots of danger.
Trixie’s uninhibited, impulsive nature is contrasted by the quiet personality of her new friend, Honey. Honey is a poor little rich girl who worries that her mother doesn’t love her. She’s been sheltered so much that her family moves to the country so she can get some sunshine and put on some weight. Trixie and Honey form an instant friendship. Trixie helps Honey come out of her shell and Honey’s quiet nature reins in Trixie’s impulsive personality. A bit.
Trixie is not only unsupervised in a way that would make a modern parent call in Child Protective Services, she is often left in charge of her young brother, Bobby, who manages to get bitten by a copperhead while under Trixie’s less than stellar supervision. Trixie does know first aid and it’s a good thing too, because in the span of just a few days characters also get thrown by a horse, fall off ladders, crash bicycles, narrowly miss getting hit by a truck, and dive headfirst into a rock. There’s also a fire and a mad dog attack. Oh, and a plane crash, I almost forgot the plane crash. Trixie is always fanning Honey when she gets faint at the sight of blood or is overcome by stress, but with a friend like Trixie, that happens to Honey all the time.
One can hardly compare 13-year-old Trixie with 18 year-old Nancy. It’s a comparison of Bobby sox to penny loafers, bicycles to roadsters, but both had freedom that modern teens, with all their expensive technology, can only dream of.
Action packed, with a likeable main character who always chooses the most exciting path, Trixie Belden and The Secret of the Mansion gets an enthusiastic thumbs up from this lifelong Nancy Drew fan.
Have you read the Trixie Belden books? Team Nancy or Team Trixie?