Monday, December 7, 2015

“Where do radiators come from? Well, first a mommy radiator and a daddy radiator have to meet…” BSC Mystery #25: Kristy and the Middle School Vandal (1996)

This one is a big ball of awesome sauce. Why? I’ll tell you why! Two words: Cary Retlin.

Okay, so the cover’s a little premature here, but there ya go. This is Cary’s first appearance on the cover. He’s got the same haircut as this boy I had a giant crush on, starting in fifth grade and ending sometime around high school graduation. He and Kristy are not only dressed alike, they’re also wearing Twin Hideous Expressions.
Kristy tells Cary to stop pranking, and in return, he challenges the BSC to a mystery contest. He gives them a series of clues that lead to another clue…if the BSC solves the mystery in a time frame, Cary will stop pulling pranks.
Meanwhile, the Mischief Knights (presumed but never proven to be Cary and possibly some friends) have ramped up their pranks, but something’s off. The new pranks are less mischievous and more criminal. Plus, instead of using red ink, a MK signature, these new pranks use green ink. Eventually it comes out that someone colorblind is using the MK name to commit these crimes. Cary has the BSC’s mystery contest lead to the identity of the fake knight.
In the B plot, the BSC sets up a ridiculous scavenger hunt for the kids.
Interesting Tidbits
Huh. Kristy’s the only short person in her family. She figures she’ll grow eventually, like a late bloomer. That’s an interesting perspective, considering there’s a lot of theory on Kristy being a sexual late bloomer as well. Or, you know, a lesbian. But in either case, the late bloomer idea would also be another explanation for her not needing a bra.
Hint #1: Abby, Kristy and Shannon are all sharing a hammock, just relaxing and having fun. Abby flashes back to #96, and the boy selling the study guides. Shannon: “Who’s Brad Simon? Is he smart? Is he cute?” Abby’s disgusted at Shannon’s naïve taste in men. Both he and another boy, Troy Parker, both got two week suspensions recently.
INNNNNNN-teresting: Apparently, the dangling plot-point of SM#2—the notes to Mary Anne and Logan—were actually written by the Mischief Knights. Would have been nice if they’d said that at the time.
Abby makes a Mischief Knight pun…and then a pun pun. “What you need to do, Kristy, is catch Cary red-handed. Get it?” “Are you calling me a punhead?”
I love how dismissive Cary is about the BSC and their mysteries. “Do you make citizens’ arrests, too?” He also calls them the babysitter detective squad and BSCPD, too.
Cary takes Kristy’s watch, and says if he wins the contest, he gets to keep it. Kristy’s upset about this, because it’s a ‘fun’ watch—digital, with a bunch of accessories on it. I’m thinking of one of my favorite books:
            Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the
            western spiral arm of the galaxy lies a small, unregarded yellow sun.
            Orbiting this at a distance of roughly ninety-two million miles is an
            utterly insignificant little blue green planet whose ape-descended
            life forms are so amazingly primitive that they still think digital watches
            are a pretty neat idea.
Do you think Claudia even knows who Jerry Garcia is? Dawn, definitely. Abby (who said her mom used to love the Grateful Dead), sure. But Claud? She’s probably more familiar with Cherry Garcia.
I love how, every now and then, they throw out the fact that Mal likes to carry a briefcase. It’s weird, sure, but it’s also quirky.
In this book, Abby is described as ‘medium height’, while she was very tall in book #89.
I think this sums up the Abby-Kristy relationship right here: “Abby just won’t back down, even when I know I’m right.” You know Abby would basically say the same thing about her, too.
Claudia is talking with her mouth full and her speaking is described as ‘gummily.’ A) I love that term and B) spell check says it’s a real word!
Okay, BSC quiz time. Only those with a 100 percent score will be allowed to keep reading. Ready? Here we go.
            Who suggested which theme for the scavenger hunt?
1.    Jessi                     a. School
2.    Mallory                 b. Summer
3.    Abby                     c. Art
4.    Claudia                d. Sports
5.    Abby                     e. Famous Writers
6.    Mallory                 f. Dance
Clue # 1: Get your mother (understands). It leads to the gym, under the stands.
Fake MK incident # 1: A car that looks exactly like the vice principal’s bar the color is graffitied with green marker
Hint # 2: Troy Parker, the boy who got suspended with Brad, is in the gym. Claudia remarks on his bad color sense.
Clue # 2: First, it says ‘a clue’ on the envelope. Kristy says that makes Cary sarcastic, which I don’t quite get. But, here’s the clue: A drop of golden sun; just short of failing, a skater’s figure; not him, you see, but… (where does it all come from?) If you’re following that…it’s Re (Julie Andrews, y’all), D (not an F), 8 (figure eight as double four…), Her (not him): Radiator.
While they’re working that out, though, the club tries all sorts of ideas. They try to go The Sound of Music from the first bit, getting the first letter of each music note: drmfsltd. Unfortunately, it has no meaning…not even in ‘Claudia’s dictionary.’
The title quote is Abby’s take on the last piece of the clue. (Stacey determines they actually have to go to the boiler room.)
There’s this whole subplot relating to everything else about how the teachers will strike if an agreement can’t be reached soon. A member of the school board brings up the problems with the Mischief Knights as an example of why the teachers don’t deserve more money. It’s really just an excuse to set him (Mr. Oates, though Abby calls him Mr. Votes after they learn he wants to use the school board as a stepping stone to run for mayor) and a weird school custodian as suspects in the crimes.
Kristy decides that “The Clue in the Boiler Room” sounds like a Nancy Drew book. I snicker a little bit each time someone suggests their mystery is like a Nancy Drew or Claudia wonders what Nancy would do.
Clue # 3 is labeled le clue and reads “Toasted gloves or barbecued bats, anyone?”                                                      It’s a pretty obvious reference to the building that burned to the ground back in #74.
Fake MK incident # 2: the fire alarm gets pulled twice in one day.
Hint # 3: Troy is once again near the BSC while they’re outside in the aftermath of the fire alarm. Claudia and Stacey critique his outfit (‘Grunge is so over’) and Abby suggests he got it at a fire sale. This is both a really bad pun and an excuse for Troy to show up wearing hideous clothes again. Although, the custodian and Mr. Oates are both at the school at the time as well.
Kristy dismisses Cary as a suspect in the criminal MK acts, stating: “Cary was too sold in his own cleverness.” Basically, these acts were not Cary’s style. In my words, they didn’t have his sense of flair. (Later, he mentions that the acts lack subtlety, which is also true. Cary’s stuff is usually things that are more subtle and pretty harmless, like how he erases the answers on Kristy’s math homework.)
Here’s something for Mal to put on her resume: Experienced with charging herds of kids. It might be useful in some odd set of circumstances…maybe….
Mal and Stacey actually synchronize their watches before setting off on the first scavenger hunt.
Clue # 4: cafeteria hamburger + A Theory of Man and Woman - SMS on street = a fly on the wall of… It takes the BSC a while to work this one out. Stacey dominates this one, determining it’s numerical. Hamburger: $1.69. Theory’s card catalog number: 305. SMS: 358 Elm Street. That works out to classroom 116, where they find a giant photo of a fly.
Ha! The local newspaper runs an editorial about the vandalism in the school, followed by a bunch of letters to the editor. One of them is written by the same crotchety old man who complained during the whole Mischief Night Masquerade thingee.
Fake MK Incident # 3: A bathroom gets flooded
Mary Anne’s concerned that the green used by the fake Mischief Knights doesn’t fit their aura. Admittedly, she says it’s what Dawn would say, but it still sounds kind of funny. It does lead her to consider that it’s a frame up, someone trying to put the blame on the real Mischief Knights.
Clue # 5: “Nothing personal, Claudia, but check your spelling.” Claudia figures out it means the computer she used to use to write her personals column in #71. It makes her spell a bunch of words, including peculiar. “I think you should be able to spell peculiar any way you want to. It goes with the definition.” It leads them straight to…
Clue # 6: “B2 or not B2…that is the question. (Are you sitting down?)” This one takes the BSC a while, and threw me off entirely…because I’d read it Shakespearean out of force of habit (to be, not B2). It’s a clearly a reference to the aforementioned seat in the auditorium.
Funniest part of Kristy and Claudia in the newspaper office: The computer is giving the spelling test out loud. Kristy keeps waiting for Emily (the paper editor…remember?) to comment, but she waits until everything is over. Then she says she knows Cary is behind it because he came in and asked a bunch of questions about Claudia. This is presumably where he learns how bad Claudia’s spelling is, but Emily jumps to the assumption that Cary has a thing for Claud.
Ooh, remember how Abby referred to Jessi as Jessica in #96? In a joint notebook entry, Abby makes a really bad pun about dancing. In return, Jessi calls her Abigail.
The second scavenger hunt is sports themed, and one of the items asks for something that might be dirty on the court. Jessi’s team (the girls) decide on socks, so they go to that well-known local athlete…Mrs. Porter/Morbidda Destiny. Riiiiiight. Good plan.
Mary Anne says Dawn will be there for the summer, which sets up the last two Dawn books.
Clue # 7: Envelope reads ‘Clue—in case you hadn’t noticed.’ See why I love Cary? What a goof ball. Anyway, the inside says, “Hey Abby. IPA2tFotUSoAand2tR. (look up)” There’s also a drawing of four Harry-Pottery wizards. They don’t figure this one out right away.
Fake MK Incident # 4: The sets for the school play are trashed, right in front of Mr. Oates and the custodian, making them seem more suspicious
Ooh, I like this. The reporter for the Stoneybrook News is Ms. Bernstein. The editor for the SMS paper is Emily Bernstein. Think they’re related?
Kristy turns Cary into the principal after the BSC is caught at the scene of the crime in the auditorium. He shows up at Claudia’s during a BSC meeting to talk to Kristy. A) It’s funny that he knows when the BSC meets, but not entirely out of character. B) He gives her all his alibis for the Fake MK incidents, which is hilarious. First he states that he’s not able to telekinetically turn on faucets in the bathroom, then he offers to get a sworn affidavit from the sixth grader he was tutoring during the auditorium incident.
Is anyone surprised that Mallory spent an inordinate amount of time putting all the clues in the mystery notebook the night before? No? Me neither.
The first scavenger hunt featured Stacey and Mal; the second, Abby and Jessi. The third? MA and Claud. Which means…spelling! (It should be noted that earlier, during her spelling test, we only see Claudia’s spelling on one word: poetatoe.) Awsome, scavinger, realy, reserch, totaly, luved. She also spells Mary Anne wrong as well.
Here’s the problem with the scavenger hunt. There are points for how many items you can find, as well as how quickly you get back (the teams have an hour; lateness costs points) and also creativity. But the three different scavenger hunts have three different themes, so how can you compare stinky gym socks to a square of astro turf from a different list of clues? They do end up declaring a winner, but it’s silly and so subjective.
Back to the last clue: Once they start solving it—Abby takes this clue very personally, since it has her name in it—it should be pretty obvious. And it is. She figures out that USoA is United States of America (duh) and then both Kristy and Abby determine that the rest of the random letters/numbers are the Pledge of Allegiance. The four Harry Potters? Four Witches Stand…or, for which it stands. The clue is found on the flag in the homeroom Abby and Cary share.
Oh, and when Abby finds it, she reads, “Bring me the head of the false Mischief Knight!” But when I first read it, I thought she’d shouted it out loud, instead of that being the last clue. Can you imagine what kind of response that would bring from anyone else who happened to be nearby and had no idea what was going on? Not that Abby’s the type to shy away from that. I could even picture her cackling evilly afterward….
So I just spoiled the last clue for you, obviously. Kristy wonders whether Cary knows the identity of the false Mischief Knight, and if he does, would he turn the person in if the BSC doesn’t figure it out. “Or did he think going to school in the middle of summer was another one of those complications that make life more interesting?” I love it when they reference my favorite BSC line of all time.
It’s around this time that the BSC Mary Anne realizes that the fake Mischief Knight is colorblind, unable to tell the difference between green and red. It explains why the fake MK always writes in green instead of red, as Cary does, as well as mistaking a teacher’s green car for the vice principal’s red car of the same model. Claudia then makes the connection that it must be Troy, whose clothes never match.
Someone calls Mary Anne ‘Sherlock Spier’…and no, it’s not Abby. That’s more surprising than the nickname itself.
I like this: Even though they suspect Troy is the faux Mischief Knight, Kristy halts the group from going to the principal again…because she already turned in the wrong person once. Good to know Kristy has a conscience.
So, to get more proof, the BSC decides to…break into Troy’s locker. Because I know if I were the principal, I’d be swayed with some illegally gathered evidence. Now, kids do not have a right to privacy in their school lockers, but as a general rule, you can’t open just one person’s locker without some proof. Random locker checks—every locker in this hallway, for example—are acceptable, but you can’t target one person without proof.
Cary says the BSC needs him, because he keeps them from being complacent and boring. I looooooove (luv, maybe?) it. And to prove it, he papers Kristy’s locker with magazine perfume ads…the type that have a sample of the perfume.
Nannie: overalls covered in dirt and grass, giant hat, gardening gloves (hee hee!)
Watson: ancient dirty khakis, giant hat, gardening gloves and pitchfork (but apparently, no shirt. Go Watson!)
Emily Michelle: Oshkosh overalls, sunbonnet.
Claudia: baggy white overalls, yellow, pink and green tie dye t-shirt, white socks with pink hearts, pink jellies, a ring on every finger, peace sign earrings, and a button with ‘Jerry Garcia lives’ on it
Stacey: black leggings, silver t-shirt dress, heart earrings, black and silver headband
Mrs. Prezzioso: ‘blinding’ tennis whites
Jenny: perfectly creased overalls, scallop-edged white shirt, red bandana around her neck, red lace-trimmed socks and white sneakers

Next: one of my favorites. It’s got my five favorite sitting charges, four of them in large doses. And, I’m pretty sure it’s the only BSC book to ever use the word FART! You have to love that, right?


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  3. I think every boy in my middle school had that haircut. Ah, the 90s: what a time be alive.