Monday, October 28, 2013

“Someday, I am going to give Cary Retlin a taste of his own medicine.” BSC Mystery #23: Abby and the Secret Society (1996)

This is my first time reading this book. I figured Halloween was a good time for “spooky” “mysteries” and so here you go.
A never-before mentioned business exists in Stoneybrook. I bet you’re shocked by that! The Dark Woods Country Club closed down years before, and now the daughter of a former member, Nikki Stanton-Cha, is reopening it as Greenbrook, a less exclusive club. The BSC volunteers to help and runs into Sgt. Johnson, their police officer friend. His friend David Follman, a reporter, was killed thirty years ago while investigating the awful things that were happening in the club. The BSC follows a bunch of clues that lead them to the former mayor of Stoneybrook. He gets arrested and the club opens successfully. Yawn.
Meanwhile, the kids open their own kids club and won’t let Claire or Jenny (who are being pests) or Stephen Stanton-Cha join. So the three of them open their own club with much better equipment and eventually the two clubs join forces.
Interesting Tidbits
WTH?? Yet another Abby book that starts with Abby talking about how much she hates February. Why do almost all of her books take place in the same month? Is it lazy writing? (In a BSC book? Never!)
Actually, the book starts with Abby having a love scene…with her sports equipment (which she can’t use, because it’s…February.)
How come, if Abby wears her glasses about 50% of the time, you never see her wearing them in the artwork?
Abby totally freaks Anna out by greeting her with a giant hug when she comes home. Anna’s response: “Do I owe you money or something?” (The more Abby books I read, the more I love Anna. She’s a pretty decent straight man.)
Why does SMS have a “job board?” Who wants to hire middle school kids?
Heh heh. Abby’s first impressions of the BSC?
Kristy: bossy
Mary Anne: incredibly quiet and shy
Claudia: wacky (because of her clothes), flaky
Stacey: pretty but not much else
Dawn: mellow, together, health conscious
Jessi: one-track mind (for ballet! Don’t be a pervert!)
Mallory: serious
Shannon: studious
Logan: wow! (This is funny considering that Abby doesn’t “do” boys)
Stephen has a tail in his hair, which cracks me up. I remember lots of boys having them when I was about 9 or so—circa 1990—but that was so far out of fashion by the time this book came out.
I’ve figured out why I have a soft spot for Alan Gray. It’s because I’ve met the real-life Alan. He’s my friend’s brother-in-law; we went to school together and later worked together. He’s also the basis for the character of Nate in my as-yet unfinished The Bandroom Gang’s Guide to Life (he of the 365 Reasons to Hate Nate Calendar). There’s a scene where Alan annoys Kristy and then hides behind Cary and says “Protect me!” that is so BRGGtL’s Nate that I almost feel like I should sue. (Of course, considering I created Nate in 1995 but didn’t really start putting him down on paper until 2000, it would be really hard to sue over that.)
This book takes place after the book where Mary Anne and Logan keep getting notes in each other’s handwriting. I had thought that was one of the super mysteries. I haven’t read the first one, and that’s the only one listed in the back of the book. Wasn’t that the Christmas one? Hmm. I’ll get back to you on that.
I still can’t place where Cary Retlin first shows up in these books.
I’m a sucker for the scenes in books where they make chains out of things or stage word plays, as long as they’re not puns. One of my favorite scenes in the history of the BSC is in SS #8. It’s a MA chapter, but she’s watching her friends. One of the sentences talks about how this person was following this person, who was following this group of people who were following this person. The whole scene that follows just cracks me up. I say that as a prerequisite to my love of the following sentence:
“I glared at Cokie, who was glaring at Kristy, who was glaring at Alan, who was still hiding behind Cary.”
Alan suggests that Cokie’s not old enough to be a hostess. Why not? Logan’s old enough to be a bus boy. They obviously have more lax working requirements in Stoneybrook.
I have a hard time keeping straight all the teachers at SMS. Were we aware that Mr. Fiske has “vile taste in ties”? The Complete Guide says that this comes up in one of the other mysteries….
We haven’t even gotten to the mystery yet, but I already know the BSC will be suspecting the groundskeeper, Mr. Kawaja, because he never talks or smiles and Abby finds him creepy.
I wish there were more scenes with Abby and Mary Anne paired up together. Abby manages to get MA singing…out loud…in public…where other people could hear! In fact, Sgt. Johnson joins them in the middle of “Stop! In the Name of Love.”
I knew I’d get back to you on the Logan/Mary Anne note thing! It’s SM#2, which is not the Christmas one, but rather the one where some of the girls are getting stalked at Shadow Lake. (That makes two Shadow Lake references in one post.)
Sgt. Johnson is apparently an idiot. Not only does he investigate closed cases—which I’m sure does not go over well in most police departments—but he goes around telling his 13 year old buddies all about it.
Granny and Pop-Pop are gossips. Enough said.
Margo and Claire play a game where Simba hangs out with Ariel and Pocahontas. I’m surprised Disney hasn’t done this combo.
The whole Stephen thing is kind of annoying. I know it’s supposed to be a PSA—Stephen is biracial and complains that he doesn’t fit in anywhere because of it—but it’s just not realistic. He’s shy and uses the biracial thing to reject the other kids before they reject him. I’m sure that really does happen in real life, but it doesn’t sound like a seven year old behavior to me.
Claudia spelling: Coorton (Cureton), werked (I almost typed twerked…ugh!), becomming, fasinated, intresting. She also gave up on architecture.
Claudia considers becoming an architect until she learns how much schooling is involved. You’d think interior design would be more Claudia’s thing, but it’s Cokie who is working with the interior designer.
So we’re working with clues here. The one Sgt. Johnson was given was “Watch your step.” This leads to “1954 DF” which is written on the floor under a carpet. Then Stacey finds a piece of paper literally sticking out of the wall (how did no one notice that in the time between when Follman was murdered and when the club closed down?) It says, “The secret society exists. I have found it. The proof is near. The risk is great. Think—penguins.”
I know Stacey’s supposed to be a city girl, but she actually checks the fountain for penguins because it has swans on it, and “You know, swans, penguins. They’re all birds, right?” Really?
The cover demonstrates Jessi, Abby and Stephen looking for penguin suits in the old photos...despite the fact that Jessi was looking in the freezer. That should have been Stacey.
I totally fell for it. The penguin note is not written by Follman, but by Retlin. He says “Complications make life more interesting.” (One of my co-workers gets lines from books tattooed all over her. I can picture that one joining her collection.) By the way, I think I am now in love with Cary Retlin.
Stacey takes Stephen to the “Slate Street Kids Club” (aka the Pike yard) and kids are playing every kind of game imaginable. Two things struck me. First is that they have a mini-golf course running the back yard…despite the fact that, earlier in the story, they were making the mini-golf in the Arnolds’ backyard. Second, the triplets are playing basketball with Jordan providing commentary by last name: Pike passes to Pike, Pike does this, Pike does that…
Finally, after playing around, they discover that the note about 1954 was written in grape juice or wine, so they inspect the wine cellar and find a bottle of 1954 wine with a new note in it: a golf tee reading “Open WWII (DF).”
How does a town the size of Stoneybrook have three WWII memorials in it? I mean, there are plenty of Civil War monuments around where I live, but those are actually battle markers.
The BSC finds a trophy from the 1942 Dark Woods Open that has a false bottom containing a key and a note reading “Shelter favorite food (DF).”
How, in good conscious, can Sgt. Johnson and Nikki approve of a plan to trap Mayor Armstrong in his lies that involves Abby forging a note and sending it to him? Especially because it means that Armstrong briefly takes Stephen hostage.
The center of the maze, where no one had (conveniently) been allowed to go, contains a bomb shelter. In the container of Ovaltine is David Fullman’s reporter’s notebook.
Two final thoughts. This mystery wasn’t as bad as, say, the ghost cat one, or as fun as the haunted masquerade one will be. But why didn’t Fullman just give Sgt. Johnson his notes instead of hiding clues everywhere? Seems like anyone could have followed those. Of course, then there would be no story.
Second, I’m truly disappointed that, other than vague references to “blackmail and extortion,” you really never get to learn anything about the secret society at all.
Claudia: checkered golf outfit she’d found at the club (isn’t that stealing?)
Stacey: white tennis dress
Cokie: maroon and gray dress that matched the room (Abby calls it upholstery)
New Characters
Stephen Stanton-Cha, 7 (24)
Next month: I have NO idea what I’m doing, now that the birthdays are over. December is fully planned for Christmas books. (Heh.) I may go through and blog exclusively books I’ve never read before, or I may give you all a special treat. There are a few books I want to include a video with. I need to demonstrate the “only proper way” to say Stacey’s Emergency, for example, and I need to film part of my blog for Claudia and Crazy Peaches. I probably won’t decide until next weekend when I actually pick out a book.


  1. With next month being November, maybe Claudia and the First Thanksgiving? Mary Anne and the Little Princess also has Thanksgiving.

    My birthday's in November, you could do some of my favorites: #2, 4, 9, 17, 19, #42, SS#11. Just kidding! Mostly...

    I really like the calendar. Dec 31 was my favorite.

    1. LOL! I've done most of those. I have a few books picked out that I may or may not cover. I basically took which sitters have Christmas books (Mary Anne, Jessi and Mallory) and plopped everyone else in (except Abby). I don't have either 91 or 102 in my collection, though they are still a possibility.

    2. Any book you do, I know I'll enjoy the post! :)