The Mystery of the Burnt Cottage, by Enid Blyton

December 10, 2011 at 15:07 (Adventure, Book Reviews, Children's Books, Fiction, Mediocre Books, Mystery) (, , , , , )


The Five Find-Outers mystery series was published and written over the course of some twenty years of Enid Blyton’s career, and so it makes a great deal of sense that they would differ so greatly from each other. The Mystery of the Burnt Cottage faces many of the problems of a debut book in a lengthy series, and it is unsurprising that some of the characters in this first installment are so different as to be unrecognisable from their later incarnations. And so it is that we find a pompous and generally idiotic Fatty, a cruel and abrasive Larry and a much more aggressive Goon than he later became.

The mystery itself is generally simple in its principle, if not in its details. Any reader (including young children) will correctly determine that the criminal is the meanest and most evil character introduced: every clue to the contrary must be a red herring, and the most sweet and selfless characters will surely be the most vigorously accused and also the most plainly innocent.

“‘Oh, a find-outer,’ said Bets. ‘I’d love to be that. I’m sure I would make a very good find-outer.’
‘No, you’re too little,’ said Pip. Bets looked ready to cry.”

-The Mystery of the Burnt Cottage

There are clues given throughout the book that a careful observer might notice, but although the culprit might be obvious his actual scheme is rather complex and difficult, and so the suspense of denouement is at least preserved in part. Oddly enough this chronologically first book is neither representative of the rest of the series, nor should it be recommended as a starting point. Although this is one of Blyton’s more satisfying and cleverer mysteries, the characters are still half-baked, and some of them are either a little duller or a little more unpleasant than they would eventually become.

The verdict is this: of the fifteen books in the series, about a third of them are outstanding, about a third are dully repetitive and unimaginative, and about a third are fun mysteries with apparent flaws. This book is a perfect representative of the last set, and therefore a fun read, but one to be ventured into once the reader is confident that the series is worth the effort.

Related reviews:
The Mystery of the Spiteful Letters
The Mystery of Holly Lane

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The Mystery of Holly Lane, by Enid Blyton

July 14, 2011 at 17:21 (Adventure, Book Reviews, Children's Books, Fiction, Highly Rated Books) (, , , , , , )


One of the stand-out Five Find-Outers books, and chiefly for the way in which Enid Blyton chooses to incorporate her secondary and tertiary characters. This book is one of the reasons why the series is not called Fatty and Goon. Furthermore, even her better novels seldom include more than one or two supporting characters in major roles, while this book features impressive roles from both Larry and Pip, as well as a delicious caricature of a pidgin-speaking, head-wagging excitable Frenchman, carried through the entire story heroically.

“In France policemen did not behave like that. They were interested and excited when a complaint was made to them…but this policeman had said “Gah” and gone cycling away. Extraordinary!”

-The Mystery of Holly Lane

Considering the effort Blyton went into with these fleshed-out portraits, it is perhaps unsurprising that this is not the most ambitious of mysteries the children have to solve: but her careful creation of Wilfrid and Marian, not to mention the clearest look we get at Larry outside of the first book in the series, is achieved at the expense of prosaic visits to the bakery, or arguing with parents about dinnertime punctuality, and there is still an adventure to be had. Coupled with the Five’s most entertaining set-piece at the mystery’s conclusion, this is surely one of the highest points in a very entertaining series.

Related reviews:
The Mystery of the Burnt Cottage
The Mystery of the Spiteful Letters

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