Saturday, April 9, 2016

“This is a stupid way to die.” BSC Mystery #30: Kristy and the Mystery Train (1997)

This is the second Kristy mystery centered around a Derek Masters plotline. Were there any justice in the BSC-universe, those both should have been Jessi plots.
Derek’s back in town, and he’s taking a train trip as publicity for his new mystery movie. Kristy, Abby and Stacey go along for the ride, along with Nicky, David Michael, Linny, James and Buddy. Weird things go on during the ride, odd notes show up everywhere, and then Stacey and Kristy see a man pushed overboard (over rail?) Turns out that the screenwriter stole the script from a student of his, who wanted credit. He’d faked his own death and then tried to kidnap the screenwriter’s son before the BSC and a couple of adults subdue him.
The pool at the country club from mystery #23 opens for the summer, and Stephen Stanton-Cha is acting oddly. Eventually, the sitters find out he doesn’t know how to swim. Jessi helps him feel more comfortable in the water and he has a good time after that.
Interesting Tidbits
The cover is completely hideous. I think the mystery of the train is how horrible Kristy and Abby look here…

Kristy introduces Karen as her stepfather’s daughter, which is kind of an odd way of putting it. I mean, it’s technically true, but sort of roundabout. It’s almost as if I identified my mother as my father’s ex-wife.
The Masterses drive a Mercedes station wagon.
Stacey points out that Mal would like to see Louisa May Alcott’s house, but given that that is Mary Anne’s favorite book, wouldn’t see be just as interested?
Elizabeth and Watson are way too nice. After the Masterses agree to take a total of nine kids* on the train trip, the Brewers take the five Stoneybrook kids and the three sitters up to Boston for the night. The kids are all ramped up, so they have to get them a seafood dinner**, three hotel rooms, and all the expenses related to a day-long walking tour of the building.
*Derek, Todd, DM, Buddy, James, Linny, Nicky, Derek’s friend Greg and Todd’s friend Daniel
**I thought Abby was allergic to seafood? I’m going to need to review her allergies here sometime soon.
I can’t explain why, but every time I try to write Buddy Barrett’s name, I type Butty. And then, because I’m so juvenile, I giggle a little bit.
“I woke up early the next morning to…Abby breath.” This also made me giggle.
Oh, here Stacey goes again. She calls Boston a ‘little’ town because it’s smaller than NYC. If Logan’s superpower is superdickery, Stacey’s is supersnobbery.
People we meet on the train (aka suspects): Rock Harding (love that Hollywood name), the director; Ronald Pierce, screenwriter (and Daniel’s father); Anne Arbour, publicist (named after a city, hee hee); Jane Atlantic, reporter (Kristy keeps pointing out how much she looks like Stacey, so you know that’s going to be important); Benjamin Athens (People’s sexiest man on the planet) and Elle San Carlos, leads in the movie; Charlie, Elle’s husband/ex-husband
I loooove the idea that Benjamin and Elle are having an affair for publicity, yet we’re given the impression that Elle and her hubby aren’t quite divorced yet. It’s all insinuation so far, but it’s a lot more adult than you see in most of these books.
Nicky actually asks if everyone who lives in California is a vegetarian, and Greg (who is Californian and vegetarian, hence the question) says no. But the BSC books tend to give the opposite conclusion.
I like this: Kristy decides to keep an eye on Nicky and Greg, because they’re Derek’s two best friends, meeting for the first time. She equates it to when she got to know Dawn. I also related it to SS#8, when Linny and Nicky—DM’s two best friends—fought all the time. Obviously, they got over it, as they’re both on this trip and getting along.
You have to wonder who’s in charge of this train trip and whether they should be fired. I mean, a bunch of tomfoolery occurs and slips of paper saying ‘The truth will come out’ are everywhere, yet no one seems to be doing too much to stop it. Derek suggests that a rubber severed hand served as a lunch entrĂ©e was a publicity stunt. Kristy disagrees because Anne, the publicist, seems horrified by it all. Cynical adult me wonders whether Anne’s worried for the movies stars or whether she’s worried about losing her job…
The BSC members who aren’t on the mystery train show up for the first day of the country club to help man it. Mary Anne shows up looking like she stole her dad’s old clothes, which kind of makes me laugh. And Jessi’s wearing ‘reef runners.’ I had to Google that to see what they were.

Oh, and Claudia is teasing Mallory about her hat and cover-up and high powered SPF sunscreen. Mal does seem like the kind of person who would burn very easily in the sun—reddish hair, fair skin—but we all know it’s usually Mary Anne who has to cover up like that. (Mal says she’s worried about getting more freckles, though.)
Leave it to Karen to make sure everyone is following the pool rules. I have to admit, I was that kind of kid too, but I was never outspoken enough to boss my friends around.
The title quote is Kristy’s thoughts when their train car fills with smoke and they can’t get the door open. (It’s just a smoke bomb, but everyone’s majorly tense afterward…until Linny’s grateful it wasn’t a stink bomb and all the boys start laughing.)
I think the only reason Stacey is in on this mystery is because she’s up on Hollywood gossip in a way most of the BSC wouldn’t be.
Grr. Daniel, Todd’s little friend, is described as being stocky in passing when he first appears in the story. The first time Daniel actually gets to talk, he’s mad at his father because Mr. Pierce said Daniel couldn’t have any more ice cream. It’s more subtle than the BSC always mentioning how fat Norman is, but I still don’t like it. Later, when Daniel is upset after he witnesses someone allegedly going over the side of the train, his dad buys him by…getting him more ice cream.
“Next time you decide to witness a murder, could you wait until I’m around?” –Guess who
This is kind of weird. As I mentioned earlier, Mal, Jessi, Claudia and Mary Anne are supervising the kids at the opening of the country club pool. One of the kids hanging around the pool, waiting for it to reopen after lunch, is Ben Hobart. He keeps making jokes about barfing and teasing the kids. I’m wondering if the ghostwriter got the Hobart boys confused. James, the same age as many of the kids who were at the pool—Karen and friends, Charlotte, Becca, Jackie, Luke, etc—was with Derek on the train. Maybe they’ve confused Mathew, who would also fit into this age range, with Ben? Otherwise, there’s a good reason that Mal and Ben never got their pseudo-relationship off the ground.
Okay, I have a favorite scene in this book, for a very odd reason. Mal is putting on more sunscreen—SPF 60 this time, and waterproof. Karen becomes concerned that if the sunscreen is really waterproof, it will never come off and Mallory would be stuck with sunscreen on her forever! Normally, this would turn into Karen going off on a tangent and being obnoxious. When she starts, Mal shuts her down by pointing off that it will wash off with soap, so Karen’s story is moot. She then won’t let her keep talking about it. I now love Mallory.
Abby tells Kristy there’s an ocean of mystery about Jane Atlantic, and even Kristy thinks it’s her worst pun yet. Oh, and Abby thinks that Anne Arbour’s name is a horrible pun as well.
Why in the hell would the babysitters tell the kids—mostly eight year olds—about the alleged murder they witnessed? That’s horribly irresponsible.
You know someone’s got a lot of clothing on the train when even Stacey says that it’s too much clothing.
Why does everyone on this train leave their compartment unlocked? The babysitters take the seven older boys to do some illegal searches, and every sleeper compartment they go into is open, and no one is inside them.
Claudia spelling. Praty (party…she spells it right 4 out of 5 times), anemals.
At the pool party, there is a silly bathing cap contest, and earlier, Mallory notes that Jenny is wearing one. The only time I ever wore a swim cap when I was growing up was when I went to Girl Scout camp and had to wear one. I would have never worn one when swimming for fun.
Kristy thinks she’d like to be a movie director someday…because it would give her a lot of people to boss around.
I only have five more mysteries left to read: two Mary Annes, a Stacey, an Abby and a Kristy. As flat-out awful as some of these books have been, I’m sort of sad about that. (If I keep up this pace, I’ll be done with this blog by the end of the year. Expect a lot more awwwwww! Ultra-mega-sad-face moments out of me…)
Stacey: ‘butter-colored’ linen shirt, chino shorts, cork-sole sandals
Claudia: red shorts, purple crop top, red and white muscle shirt, purple socks, red high tops, apple earrings; tie-dyed t-shirt knotted at the waist, flower sandals and barrette
Jessi: pink leotard, jeans; blue bike shorts and sports bra, red t-shirt, reef runners
Mallory: long sleeved shirt, shorts, sneakers, hat
Mary Anne: green Izod shirt, baseball cap with ‘Ted’s Tools’ on it

Next: #110

“I was born to be a victim.” BSC #109: Mary Anne to the Rescue (1997)

Before I begin this book, I have a ‘joyous’ announcement to make. As of this Friday, my BSC collection is almost officially complete. I now own a copy of every book in the original series, all the mysteries, super specials, super mysteries and Friends Forever books. All I’m missing is a copy of the Claudia graphic novel (I’m waiting on that because I want to get all four of them in color…sweetness) and the Secret Santa book. (Considering I’ve never actually seen a copy of that or even a picture of the cover, I don’t think it really exists. I’m convinced it’s a conspiracy against me.)
Mary Anne becomes convinced she’d be terrible in an emergency, so she and the BSC take a first aid class. The class makes her queasy and she doesn’t think it’s helping. But then, while she and Dawn are babysitting at the Korman house, Timmy Hsu is drowning the pool. Mary Anne is the first to respond, pulling him out and performing CPR until he starts breathing again. It gives her the guts to deal with her other problem: Logan’s dad has decided to send him to boot camp for the summer and then boarding school after that. Logan’s too afraid to confront his father, until Mary Anne supports him. Of course, he gets to stay in Stoneybrook.
Interesting Tidbits
Cover! Mary Anne’s trying to be all sweet, but Logan’s showing his superpower, superdickery. (If you’ve never seen the superdickery website, you need to go check it out…after you finish this blog post, of course.)

The whole basis of the plotline of this book is that Sharon saves a guy who is choking by performing the Heimlich on him. Mary Anne worries that she’s bad in an emergency because she just sat there, open mouthed, and watched. She’s afraid that if Sharon weren’t there, the guy would have died. It’s like she’s forgotten that she’s actually quite good in an emergency. (Dawn reminds her of that in chapter 11, and tells her that if she ever needed someone to ‘maneuver [her] Heimlich’ MA would be the first person she would call.)
Ahh, Peter Lerangis. Claudia goes out and buys special food for Dawn, and Abby calls it…boogers and boulders.
Ooh, remember when, at the beginning of the series, the BSC books just kind of flowed together? Like how the vacations in #8 were established in #7. Well, in this one, Mary Anne mentions how Abby is going to be on a Special Olympics soccer team soon….which happens in the next book.
There’s this really goofy joke at the beginning of the first aid class where the teacher’s last name is Golden, and the first two kids in the class are Pete Black and Alan Gray. Their friend Irv introduces himself as Little Boy Blue, which I guess is supposed to be funny. It’s so lame a joke that even Abby wouldn’t make it.
“You’re allowed to sneak off with your boyfriend. These things are important.” The California Diaries have started by this point, so this is a little more adult than most of the BSC usually sound. I like it.
Logan says he and Mary Anne can email each other if he goes off to boarding school. I find it odd to see the word email in a BSC book. Even when they talk about cell phones, they call them cellular phones, so it doesn’t seem modern or anything.
“I had to perform emergency hair support.” There’s only one person in the entire book series who could have said that…and only one person she could have said it about.
Oh, Dawn. She suggests that Mary Anne’s ‘just grossed out’ by the idea of going to the ER as part of their first aid class…and then says that it’s the same way she feels about a pork chop. ‘Cause bleeding, injured humans is totally the same thing as a hunk of meat.
Sharon-itis: tennis shoes in the kitchen with the pots and pans
Nooo, Kristy. She teaches the Pike kids to use ‘stop, drop and roll’ if they encounter a fire in their house. She says it helps you stay under the smoke. I remember second grade really well (not to mention the fact that I taught for a couple of years) and ‘stop, drop and roll’ is for when your clothes catch on fire. This bugs me more than the usual mistake in these books.
Logan shops like I do. His mom gives him a list and a credit card, but it takes him hours to complete the list…because he looks at everything in Bellair’s except what’s on the list.
The title quote is one of many things Dawn says about the first aid class’s role in the Safety Weekend. She also says that Carol has a friend whose entire professional life is screaming for horror and disaster movies. Logan: Do you have to go for college for that?
I’m amused by who likes the idea of being in the disaster drill and who doesn’t. Claudia finds the whole idea sick (but will do it anyway), Stacey doesn’t want to lie in the sun and the germs and ruin her clothes, and Mal’s not an actress. Dawn’s all about it, and Jessi likes the idea as well. Logan says he’ll be in it…as long as he doesn’t have to be beheaded. And one person doesn’t even come at all…because the disaster is a car accident. I cringed when I read that, because I wasn’t even thinking about Abby’s dad as they were setting up the accident.
Dawn’s a little bitchy in this story. It’s as if being away from Mary Anne for a school year has made her completely forget her stepsister’s personality. Dawn volunteers to be the broken leg victim in the car crash, because it lets her scream. After Logan decides to be the head-wound, Dawn volunteers Mary Anne to lie in the street with a heavily-bleeding leg wound. MA feels violated afterwards, and she blames Dawn for it.
After the two of them fight, MA finds Dawn ‘trying to meditate’ even though she doesn’t know how. I’m kind of surprised that someone—Mrs. Winslow, Carol, Sharon, one of Maggie’s Buddhist friends—hasn’t taught her how to meditate somewhere along the way. “See? Meditating does help. Even if you don’t know how to do it.”
Claudia spelling: Firefitters, becuase, rellative, thot, shoud. She also uses hurry for hurray and fare for fair.
Dawn’s being more preachy than normal. She scolds various BSC members for eating ‘processed animal entrails and spun pancreas poison’: hot dogs and cotton candy.
When Jamie freaks out at the mock-fire, Mrs. Pike offers to drive him, Claudia and Lucy home. Instead of thinking about how nice that was, I worried about Lucy not having a car seat. (Also, I’m wondering about Claudia’s judgment in having Jamie watch that…after he was afraid MA was dead after the mock-car crash.)
I’m still confused about the idea the Delaneys used to have that their kids could use the pool while being babysat if the next door neighbor is home. The Kormans have a similar rule, but poor goodhearted Mr. Sinclair has to be in his own yard, watching. (The Delaney/Kormans live in a massive house with a giant yard, including tennis courts and more. How convenient is it that he is able to put a chair within sight of the Korman pool from his own yard.)
I love when we learn more about the parents of the clients. Mrs. Hsu is head chef at Renwick’s.
Logan and Mary Anne sit down with the Brunos to discuss Logan’s future. Mr. Bruno’s first thought? He asks if they’re getting married. They’re thirteen; that’s not legal in any state that I know of. But I could understand if he thought MA was pregnant. (Heyyyy, if this weren’t a BSC book, someone would have suggested that MA get pregnant to prevent Logan from getting sent up river to boarding school.)
Claudia: felt hat, oversized white button-down shirt, hand-painted wide tie, cuffed khaki shorts, white knee highs and brown and white bucks
Shelley Golden, the first aid teacher: chambray shirt, shorts, running shoes

Next: Mystery #30

“Saved by the Mal!” BSC #108: Don’t Give Up, Mallory (1997)

This isn’t the last Mallory book, but it is the last one I’ve never read.
Mallory’s latest Short Takes class is Children’s Literature, which should be a breeze for her. Instead, the class is torturous because the teacher lets the boys dominate the class by shouting out answers, something Mal isn’t comfortable with. Despite not being comfortable speaking out in class, Mal has no problem speaking up to the principal after discovering that money had been set aside for a student lounge was used for building repairs instead. She leads the class to raise enough money to get their lounge, despite the fact that several of her classmates discovering the idea of playing dumb to get boys. She eventually talks to her teacher, who realizes he’s not being fair and starts giving the girls willing to talk equal time.
In the sitting-related subplot, Buddy Barrett claims to be in a marching band so that he can march in a parade. Rather than make him tell the truth and face the consequences, the BSC scramble to amass a band full of random kids with ridiculous homemade instruments that don’t make noises.
Interesting Tidbits
The cover: By this point, the kids—at least, just the sixth graders—have started to look age-appropriate. Also, you kind of get why the teacher is calling on the boys instead of the girls in this set up. Mal is the only girl who is raising her hand, and she looks really reluctant. The boys seem more enthusiastic.

You would think that straight As were really unusual in a middle school, given the way everyone keeps acting at SMS. Mal has straight As on her midterm report—not even a regular report card—and she gets called brainiac and know it all. I had straight As every quarter in middle school…and so did seven other people in my class. And it was a really small school. Anyway, I know for a fact that Kristy had straight As the last quarter of seventh grade, as reported in #6.
I like this: Mal says that Abby talks loud and fast, but Abby blames this on being from Long Island. (As opposed to my gut instinct, which is just that Abby is loud and talks fast simply because she’s Abby.)
Real books: Charlotte’s Web, Where the Wild Things Are, Polar Express, The Mysteries of Harris Burdick, The Wreck of the Zephyr, Make Way for the Ducklings, Dinosaurs and How they Lived, Dinosaur Discovery, Dinosaurs A to Z, Dinosaur Bob, Dinotopia, Goodnight Moon, The Runaway Bunny, Animalia, Eleventh Hour,
Elise, Jessi’s synchronized swimming partner, is in Mal’s literature class. I don’t know why I thought she was in seventh grade. The Complete Guide says she’s in sixth grade, though. I think it’s because Jessi had to switch around lunch periods or something to take ‘synchro.’
I had an experience similar to Mallory’s first day of lit class, with a substitute teacher. Class policy said if you wanted help, you raised your hand and the teacher would come to you. So I sat at my desk with my hand raised for fifteen minutes while the sub ignored me and the other kids all got out of their seats and went to the teacher’s desk. Finally I went over to the teacher’s desk, where I got chewed out for not getting my assignment done, because I was sitting at my desk with my hand raised. Why am I bringing this up? Because it took me fifteen minutes to get into the sub’s groove of how she wanted the class run. Mal’s sitting at her desk with her hand raised, but not getting called on. The back cover says that the teacher is favoring boys, but at one point in the class, a boy and a girl get into a discussion. It’s clear reading the chapter that the teacher isn’t calling on raised hands; he just wants the kids to shout out their opinions. Let’s see how long it takes before Mal figures that out.* Oh, and as the book goes on, he does lean more toward favoring the boys.
*(I get it; she’s also not really comfortable just shouting out her opinions. But there are going to be times in her life where that’s necessary, so maybe it’s time to start acquiring that skill now.)
Claudia spelling time! It’s only one sentence: I dont know, Stacey, waht do you git? This would be a lot less funny if Stacey hadn’t started the notebook entry by asking What do you get… and therefore, modeling the spelling of most of those words for Claudia…
Ooh, I like this, too! The sixth grade class officers have their meeting in the memory garden from book #93. Glad to hear that place is getting some use.
Sandra, the class vice president, figures out that some years back, the funds raised during Sixth Grade Fundraiser Week were earmarked for a student lounge but were used for repairs instead. Sandra says that it’s misappropriation of funds, but I guess it depends upon circumstances. If I were eleven, I’d completely agree with her, but as an adult, I think that roof repairs are way more important.
Mallory is late two BSC meetings in a row. When she’s on time the next meeting, Kristy points it out as first order of business. I think I liked it better when she would just yell at them for being late.
Mallory figures out how to save the ridiculous ‘marching band’ by giving the kids kazoos to play. The title quote is Stacey’s response. (It ends up being ridiculous…twenty kazoos playing twenty different tunes at the same time. Abby calls it an attack of the killer bees.)
Remember when puff paint was cool? That was more like 1989 than 1997.
The whole Sandra plotline is interesting because it’s the most realistic in this book. Sandra is eleven or twelve at this point and she’s really aware of what the boys think of her…as most girls her age are. She purposely tries not to appear too smart or strong so that boys will like her better. She wears shoes that hurt her feet so that she’ll seem more feminine. (I’m picturing Quinn from Daria, who did the same thing for a while but stopped because she didn’t need to wear shoes to make her legs look hot, because her legs look hot no matter what she’s wearing…)
This is ridiculous. The marching band story line is stupid (why, oh why, do the BSC members not just tell Buddy he’s out of luck when he tells them he wants to make a marching band), but the actual parade takes the cake. On practice day, the BSC handed out twenty kazoos to whomever showed up. They never sent out a date everyone had to sign up by or spoke to any parents. Kristy agreed to babysit for a ridiculous 9 children by herself in the time period leading up to the parade. But then, proving that Stoneybrook parents are the worst in the world, various parents start dropping their kids off, assuming the BSC will watch them. In a couple of cases, parents literally pull up in a car, drop off their four year old, and don’t even speak to Kristy (who is left alone with a whopping twenty-three children) before driving off. Horrid, horrid parenting.
I’d expected this book to suck, but it really didn’t. (Well, except the marching band part.) Mal had said, early on, that her parents were proud of all of her siblings, no matter their grades, as long as they did their best. Mal found the courage to speak up to her teacher and point out his unconscious bias to him. He denies calling on boys more than girls or letting boys have more time to think on a topic, but later that day, he realizes it’s true. He apologizes to the class and makes a concerted effort to be more fair. But then Mal realizes that wasn’t the only reason she wasn’t speaking up in class. She proves she knows her stuff in the final written project for the class, and the teacher gives her a B+. Even though it’s her first ever B, Mal’s not disappointed, because she realizes it’s the grade she deserved (and in my opinion, probably nicer than she deserved) and she tried her hardest.
Mr. Cobb: collarless white shirt, jeans and a black vest; tan chinos, leather boat shoes, blue linen shirt
Stacey: jeans with rolled cuffs, denim work shirt, backwards painter’s cap
Claudia: shorts, tie-dyed t-shirt with matching scrunchie, red high tops
Helen Gallway (who?): hot pink bike shorts, t-shirt with puff-painted hearts on it

Next: #109