Sunday, May 22, 2016

“It feels like you’re in the rain forest.” BSC Mystery #31: Mary Anne and the Music Box Secret (1997)

This book is a whole mess of plotlines all mixed in together, mostly unsuccessfully.
While Granny and Pop-pop* are on a cruise, a flood ruins their basement. The BSC agrees to supervise the cleanup, and Mary Anne finds a parcel labeled “Do not open or you will be cursed.” Inside is a music box that plays Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. Hidden in a secret compartment is a letter and a photo of a sailor…a sailor about whom MA had been having dreams since ever since she ripped the paper off the music box, long before she ever found the compartment. At the end of the story, Mary Anne learns that the letter, which was addressed to L.S. and signed H.I.W., was written to Granny by her first love, who died in a war. She kept the box with the letter and his photo in his memory and hid them away now that she was happy with Pop-pop.
Weird things start happening at the house, though, when plumbers start tearing up the yard. Everyone—friends, neighbors, plumbers and contractors—start acting odd. Plus, in pile of old letters Granny wrote her cousin June, she reports all these mysterious goings-on that happened more than fifty years ago in the house where Granny lives now, with a star crossed romance between two teenagers named Lydia and Johnny, and an embezzler. On Sharon’s go-ahead, they dig up the yard and find a box full of documents—but not embezzled money, like everyone expected.
In the B-plot, the Barrett-DeWitt kids build a playhouse in the shed, but it’s too big to fit out the door.
Interesting Tidbits
This is actually the very last BSC book I bought to complete my collection. J
The cover: Late-stage Mary Anne seemed to wear an awful lot of really awful cutoff jean shorts. This is really odd to me, as she’s described as being preppy and these super-short, super-awkward shorts don’t really work with that image for me.

And the book starts with Sharon-itis: Mary Anne finds Sharon’s car keys in the bread box. Richard says they just as easily could have been in the medicine cabinet or Sharon’s underwear drawer.
This book takes place in August, near the end of summer vacation, so it pre-dates #110. My mystery placement is always a little off, but I’m (almost) over it.
Huh. Sharon is planning a surprise anniversary party for Granny and Pop-pop, and Mary Anne says she is really organized when it comes to big projects like that. I guess I can see it. I keep my work schedule organized easily, but often can’t remember where I left my keys either. (Though I never find them in my underwear drawer.)
*It’s always Pop-Pop in the books, not Pop-pop. But I’m lazy and it hurts my fingers to capitalize the second p.
Because Granny and Pop-pop just left on a cruise, MA introduces the BSC members as employees on a cruise ship. (I’m so hearing The Love Boat theme playing. Claudia or Abby would have to be Isaac, giving the double point and wink…) Kristy’s the cruise director and MA, her assistant. The creative director? Claud, natch. Stacey’s the purser, Abby, the athletic director, and Jessi, aerobics instructor. Mal would be in charge of story hour, which I didn’t realize was a cruise ship ‘thing.’
Why is the idea of Granny and Pop-pop playing board games funny? My grandmother likes to play board games sometimes. It’s not as if games are only for children….
When Mary Anne opens the ‘cursed’ package, she jokes that her hair turned white and her fingernails grew long. Actually, to me, the fact that she no longer believes in curses means she’s come a long way since #17, when she wore a necklace simply because she believed she’d be cursed otherwise. That said, she ruins the effect by being a little afraid to open the wooden box she finds inside. I personally would have been far too curious to wait even five minutes before opening it, but I’m well aware that I’m a nosy person.
The plumber, Jim, and contractor, Eddie, working on Granny’s house are also working the Barrett-DeWitt house. Jim makes the following observation after Mary Anne says she knows the seven kids in that household well: “Only seven? I was positive there were at least a dozen.” I imagine that’s true in many large families: the chaos and the noise make it seem like there are more kids than there really are.
The contractor for both the DeWitt house and the Porter (Granny and Pop-Pop) house has a brother named Jake who works with him. I didn’t figure out that Jake was Eddie’s brother at first because Eddie spoke to him when four BSC members were taking thirteen kids on a ‘tour’ of the addition to the DeWitt house. Some of those kids were the Kuhn kids, so when Eddie said, “Right, Jake?” I thought he was talking to Jake Kuhn. It’s actually realistic to have two characters with the same name in one scene, but not normal for the BSC universe.
We don’t have a real mystery yet—just a mystery box—but here are all the people we’ve met so far (AKA suspects): Hank and Esther, Granny and Pop-pop’s friends—Hank used to live in the neighborhood when he was a child, as did Granny; Jim and Dooley, the plumbers; Eddie, Jake, and Lori, the contractors.
Mary Anne and Claudia are with Sharon when the plumbers mention having to dig up the yard. MA notices that Hank gets upset at the idea, and she’s curious if Claudia noticed too. At this point, she hasn’t told her friends about the mystery box yet, so Claudia is way more interested in an impending coffee cake than she is in odd behavior.
Granny and Pop-pop live at 747 Bertrand Drive.
The BSC is really obsessed with the letter, which is to L.S. from H.I.W. They are determined to figure out what those initials stand for, as if that will solve the mysteries.
Claudia spelling: anywon (that’s one of my favorites, right up there with babbysitting), culd, thats, exacly, majore, suspekt, dont.
In Dawn’s Portrait Collection Book, Granny’s name was Rita. In this book, it’s Grace.
Back ‘more than fifty years ago’ when Granny was MA’s age, the home she currently lives in was owned by the Bailey family. (Granny grew up in the house next door.) Lydia Bailey, the teenage daughter, was dating a boy named Johnny Buckman, but her father didn’t approve. The two of them were sneaking around behind her father’s back, and there was a whole thing with him embezzling money from the bank where he worked. Granny caught someone burying something in the yard. MA thinks it’s the music box, but that seems like an odd leap. I agree more with Abby and Kristy, who assume what was being buried was money.
I’m trying to put together a timeline of this neighborhood. Granny grew up in the house next door, and Hank lived on the same block. Granny and Pop-pop ‘moved back’ to Stoneybrook after they got married (from where?) and moved into the house they live in now, which must be where they raised Sharon. Jim the plumber lived across the street until he was nine or so, but Sharon doesn’t recognize him. That means he either moved out of the neighborhood before she was old enough to remember (she’s in her early forties, making him fifty-ish) or he was born after she moved out (making him in his twenties). Either of those could work, until MA says that Jim lived in the neighborhood the same time as the Baileys did.
More Claudia spelling: bleery, cemickals, darkrum**, wuld, wirth, somthing, cant.
**I know more than a few people who would love to drink some darkrum….
The BSC really are terrible actors. They pretend they found a metal box in Granny’s backyard, trying to convince anyone who knows about the alleged buried treasure that they located it. MA says that she’s trying to make her voice sound as loud and enthusiastic as possible, so I’m imagining just how fake that sounded. But it worked! Hank, Jim, and an old man the BSC had seen around the neighborhood, who turned out to be Jim’s dad, all were extremely eager to see what was in the box.
Jessi is really enthusiastic about the Barrett-DeWitt family’s new kids’ bathroom. It’s decorated with ‘jungle-animal’ wall paper. She says the title quote, but to me, that would not be a positive thing…. (Oh, and jungles and rain forests are so not the same thing.)
Here’s my real question regarding the Barrett-DeWitt house. If the parents could afford to build this luxurious addition to the house, why couldn’t they afford a larger house in the first place?
Oh, and since when do people bring potluck food AND presents to housewarming parties? I’d be insulted if I thought I was expected to bring gifts for the whole family and feed myself at a party thrown by family friends. Where I live, it’s vogue for some people to throw themselves housewarming parties and register for gifts, but I find that unbelievably tacky. To me, a gift for a housewarming party is a bottle of wine, not towels and rugs. (It’s even tackier that the Barrett-DeWitts open those gifts in front of the guests, as if it were a birthday party.)
Granny tells MA the truth about the music box after MA finds the ID bracelet the soldier was wearing in the photo among Sharon’s things. Sharon said she got the bracelet from Granny to wear to her prom—and that Granny never explained the stars on it, just told her to always remember her first love (Richard.) Granny then wants Mary Anne to have the music box and the bracelet, now that she has her first love, Logan. It’s about the only part of the story that makes sense to me.
Stacey: pink denim overall shorts (after all those mean things she said about Tess’s overalls last week?!), white baby tee, purple Doc Martins, white baseball cap
Claudia: paint-splattered painters pants, tie-dyed t-shirt, red high tops, two braids with purple ribbons
Mary Anne: flowered skirt, blue blouse

Next: #112

1 comment:

  1. I agree with you about the tacky parts.

    Congratulations on completing your collection!