Sunday, July 17, 2016

“Am I getting old, or is very noisy in here?” BSC Mystery #34: Mary Anne and the Haunted Bookstore (1998)

I want to point out, before I begin, that this is the most Scooby-esque title of them all in the BSC mysteries series. Maybe if they’d kept going, there could have been a “[Insert your favorite babysitter] and the Mystery of the Abandoned Amusement Park”, where in there’s a monster. Stacey rips the monster’s mask off and discovers it’s really the groundskeeper, and then Shannon the dog and Logan have some Scooby snacks and eat everything in the kitchen at the Spier-Schafer house. Possible, but let’s move on.
A new, mystery-themed bookstore is opening in town. It’s called Poe and Company, and the building it’s housed in had a Poe connection: allegedly, the original owner of the house, Benson Dalton Gable, either was an admirer of Poe’s, or Poe stole his best work from Gable (depending on whom you believe.) There’s even a rumor that Poe killed Gable. Weird, Poe-related things keep happening in the house, and the BSC moves to figure out who’s behind them. It turns out that the owner, Mr. Cates, and his assistant, Ms. Sparks, did everything as a publicity stunt. Then the BSC and the kids discover hidden compartments in a desk and reveal the true relationship between Gable and Poe.
In the B-plot, Mr. Cates uprooted his two children to open the bookstore. His wife recently left the family, and no real reason is ever given for why. However, Kristy helps his two kids realize that it’s not their fault and that they shouldn’t be angry with their father or his potential new girlfriend, either. Then the BSC helps them feel like they fit in.
C-plot: another ridiculous festival.
Interesting tidbits
Heehee, Mary Anne’s wearing a tank top! Oh, and that’s clearly a wig, see?

The story starts with a pretty detailed retelling of Poe’s “The Tell-tale Heart,” which MA is reading for English class. (I never liked Poe’s scary stories, and would never read them voluntarily myself.)
Sharon-itis: work papers in the fridge
Okay, so the whole plot of this book revolves around a niche bookstore, right? This was 1998, so maybe it was before online shopping started killing even large box stores. But why create a bookstore that focuses exclusively on mysteries? It cuts down your choices of titles, and it cuts down your customer base. I like some select mysteries, but I wouldn’t set foot in a store like that.
Since I haven’t done this in a while: when the triplets are first mentioned in this book, it’s done alphabetically.
You know it’s been raining a lot in Stoneybrook when all the BSC members are tired of rain jokes and puns…even Abby.
“Here’s the office where the old guy wrote stuff.” You can tell Tom Cates really loves living in a historic building and hearing about it all day long.
Mr. Cates and his coworker/possible girlfriend, Cillia Sparks, keep making Poe jokes all the time. It makes me want to retch.
Haven’t even gotten to the mystery yet, but here are the suspects so far: Ms. Sparks, a big Poe fanatic who is helping Mr. Cates open the store; Alex Gable, descendent of Benson Dalton Gable, and his father; a construction worker who seems to do more eavesdropping than working*; Ramona Kingsolver, a professor from Stoneybrook University; and Mr. Cates himself. Kingsolver expresses that she believes Gable admired and respected Poe and initiated a relationship with him. Alex, on the other hand, believes that his ancestor was a superior, more popular writer, and Poe stole ideas from him.
*At this point, MA is supposed to be painting, but she’s doing more eavesdropping than painting. She really shouldn’t judge anyone.
You know it’s important that Ramona Kingsolver is superstitious, because she’s completely nuts-believes-every-ridiculous-story kind of superstitious. She freaks when Alex walks under a ladder, goes ballistic when he opens his umbrella in the house, hates Pluto the cat simply because black cats are unlucky, and wears a rabbit’s foot and four-leaf clover.
Some real (non-Poe) books mentioned for the bookstore: The Westing Game and From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. Both of those are actually awesome books. (The former was the first mystery I actually loved and, at least partly, solved prior to the big reveal at the end.)
Mr. Cates and Ms. Sparks leave the house, but need someone to stay behind and accept a delivery. MA and Logan volunteer. Maybe Mr. Cates doesn’t know they’re dating, but to me, leaving two teens, one of each gender, alone in your house—especially teens that aren’t related to you and you aren’t legally responsible for—sounds like a horrific idea. (Interestingly, when Mr. Cates comes back with his kids, Gillian says bye to MA and MA’s boyfriend. Claudia told her who Logan is. Mr. Cates still seems unconcerned. I guess coming home and finding them still clothed probably helped.)
Caludia speling! Do’nt, annother, Saterday, was’nt, teling, wurest (worst), everybudy, werld, geting. Also, she uses there for they’re, wurst for worst and hole for whole. She also spells Gillian as Jilian, but a) she’s never met her before and b) Jillian is more common than Gillian, so I’ll give her a pass.
Claudia and Stacey take the Cates kids and Charlotte to see Star Wars. Tom says everyone’s seen that movie before. I’m pretty sure all three Star Wars movies replayed that year or there abouts, leading up to the release of The Phantom Menace. That was actually the first time I’d ever seen Star Wars. So, shut up, Tom.
Mrs. Pike says the title line at Pizza Express, right after she gives the triplets money to play video games. Look, lady. You’re the dingbat who took five of your kids out for pizza…right after a very crowded movie…on a day when it’s too wet to play outside. Take some aspirin and get over it.
This is pretty funny, though. When Claudia loses Tom in the bathroom at the movie theater, she runs into Alan. She asks him if a boy named Tom is in the restroom, and Alan says he’s alone. He then laughingly suggests that Claudia lost her date, even as Claud explains that she’s babysitting. Later, he runs into Claudia sitting at the table and asks if her new boyfriend ever came back.
Vanessa even writes a poem about her pizza. I fear for the Pikes when she’s old enough to discover Poe and his ilk.
Ha ha! Alex meets Stacey and starts flirting with her. He says he thought she went to SHS with him, but Stacey confirms she’s in middle school. All I could think was that he must not be that cute, or Stacey would have pretended to be older (like she did in the BSC movie.)
So apparently, since Gable’s grave has never been found (WTF? How do you lose a grave?), Alex believes that Poe killed Gable and walled him up in his own house, and then stole his ‘missing documents.’ (For those not up on Poe, he references “The Tell-tale Heart” and “The Cask of Amontillado,” both of which involve burying someone in a house.) Someone is behind the wall, but it’s the cat, just like Poe’s “The Black Cat.”
Alex claims that the Gable house was the inspiration for Poe’s “The Raven” because there are ravens carved in to the fireplace (or something lame like that). Then MA finds words from the poem carved into a shelf in Gable’s bookcase. Ooh, and then Mr. Cates drops a paper that is signed Annabel Lee, like the Poe poem, and tells MA not to tell anyone else. It’s all so mysterious! (You should hear my sarcastic happiness in that statement.)
Mistake! In Kristy’s notebook entry, she writes ‘Aunt Cecilia.’ Jessi’s aunt’s name is spelled Cecelia. Prior to these books, every one I’d ever known with that name spelt it Cecilia, which is the original spelling. (It’s the feminine of Cecil). However, I’ve since met a real-life Cecelia, and I’m assuming her parents chose that spelling for the nickname Celia, which is indeed how she’s known.
Maybe we were weird little kids, but when we used to play hide and seek, there was no base or home. You stayed hidden until you were found; you didn’t try to escape from your hiding place and race around the house. Anyone else play like that?
Tom has a theory, which is probably at least partly true: he thinks his parents only got married because his dad is obsessed with Poe, and his mother’s name is Annabel Lee. That’s probably what got his attention about her in the first place, but hopefully not what caused him to propose or anything
I keep trying to type Pow instead of Poe. Honestly, this story would be a lot more awesome if Mr. Cates and the rest of the characters were all obsessed with the Pikes’ dog.
Ms. Spark keeps calling Mary Anne Dupin, which I assume is a Poe reference I can’t immediately place. Logan and Claudia suggest calling in the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew to help solve the mystery, but Ms. Sparks says the BSC is better. (A reporter came to interview Mr. Cates about the bookstore, and the random reporter actually recognizes MA from earlier mysteries.)
After someone lets a raven into the building, MA decides to check everyone’s shoes to see who was outside (and would therefore have muddy shoes, since it had been raining for weeks straight). You’d think EVERYONE in the building would have muddy shoes at this point. This doesn’t seem like the best way to make a determination of guilt. So much for MA being Dupin…
I love when AMM and her ghostwriters throw little tidbits about not trusting media coverage. This time, it stems from something Poe wrote (from Dupin’s point of view), but relates directly to the newspaper article posted about the bookstore.
Ha! Remember the reference to The Westing Game earlier in the book? MA goes to a pet store and finds out they ordered a raven for a woman, whom the clerk couldn’t describe. MA says she found a raven—which she sort of did—and gives the clerk her name. Only she writes Marie Roget, a character in one of the Dupin mysteries. It reminded me of a plot point in another of Ellen Raskin’s books, The Tattooed Potato and Other Clues. The main character, who has the improbable name of Dickory Dock, claims she’s a famous poet to hide her identity, only to have that be more disastrous than if she’d just given her own name.
The BSC continues to believe there’s actually a ghost until they find definitive proof that someone’s been creating these situations as a hoax of some kind. (They find the Cates’ missing stereo in the basement, with a ‘beating heart’ tape still in it, explaining the sounds MA and Logan heard while alone in the house.) I love how these teenaged girls, very much old enough to know better, keep believing in ghosts over and over again, despite Dawn and her ghost stories leaving town.
You know the BSC is getting desperate when they start borrowing detective tools from the triplets…
Claudia spelling, part two: furst, pikture, mach (match), difrent, smal, difrences, desine. She also uses its for it’s and to for too.
My only comment on the ‘sunny day festival’? I can’t believe that Stacey would voluntarily make a mud pie, but it’s actually all her idea.
In the end, Mary Anne, with Gillian’s help, finds a hidden compartment in Gable’s desk. Inside is a lap desk, full of the letters between Gable and Poe. There are a lot of unanswered questions though: whatever happened to Gable’s body? What did MA do for her Poe English project? And what kind of name is Cillia, anyway?
Oh, and the last page of the book—before the preview for mystery #35—notes that Benson Dalton Gable was not real and didn’t exist, but Poe did. Well, duh.
I also just realized that MA has #34 and M#34. I wonder if that happens any other time? I can't think of one, but I'm also not trying to hard either. :P
New characters
Tom and Gillian Cates (10 and 7)—28 and 25
Mary Anne: yellow slicker with navy lining
Claudia: jeans painted with raindrops on the legs, long white shirt, gray vest painted with umbrellas, parasol earrings
Stacey: navy rain hat, navy miniskirt, white ribbed turtleneck, white ribbed stockings, navy nail polish; turquoise sundress, white sunglasses with turquoise polka dots, denim jacket
Jessi: t-shirt with shiny gold sun

Next: #119. Can’t wait! (There goes that sarcasm again.)

1 comment:

  1. Holy cow, pet ravens cost hundreds--sometimes even thousands--of dollars! I wonder how many pet stores can just order one willy-nilly; apparently you need special permits to keep them as pets.