Here we are, at the end of this series of posts (did I just hear a lot of “phews” there?) One last time, there may be spoilers ahead.
FIVE GO TO DEMON’S ROCKS, 1961
The Location: The village and lighthouse at Demon’s Rocks.
The ‘Baddies’: Ebenezer and Jacob descendants of One-Ear Bill the wrecker.
Significant other characters: Tinkey Hayling, Mischief the monkey, Jeremiah Boogle.
The Plot: Professor Hayling comes to stay at Kirrin Cottage, bringing his son, Tinker, who has a pet monkey. With an over-full house the boy and his pet drive the adults batty and so when he mentions owning his own lighthouse along the coast it’s arranged for all the children and animals to go stay there. Their driver tells them a little of the local legends and tells them to speak to his great-grandad, Jeremiah Boogle. Jeremiah fills them in on all the old stories and even takes them exploring in the undersea caves where treasure was supposedly hidden long ago by One-Ear the wrecker and never found. They’ve forgotten to lock the door of the lighthouse through and someone steals a few objects from them, most importantly the door key! The next days are rainy so the kids stay around the lighthouse and in exploring the foundations the boys reckon the lighthouse shaft could lead deep into the caves. Jeremiah also takes them along the coast where they bump into an unsavoury character who is supposedly descended from One-Ear. A bit of a disaster strikes when the kids are then locked in the lighthouse by whoever stole the key. The weather is bad so they know nobody will attempt to row to the lighthouse. The boys decide they might as well explore the undersea tunnel while they’re stuck and they make an amazing find – and are spotted by Jacob and Ebenezer. They have to race against the tide to make it back to the lighthouse, and then find a way to summon help.
My favourite parts: When Julian and Dick go out onto the balcony to ring the bell, just like it was rung years and years ago, and wake up half the village I always get a lump in my throat. I also love the underground passages which have the added danger of being flooded by the tide – someone they feel different than any other caves/tunnels where the tide may come in (such as at Spiggy Holes). Since reading this I’ve always wanted to explore an old lighthouse, but I’ve not managed it yet.
FIVE HAVE A MYSTERY TO SOLVE, 1962
The Location: Whispering Island / bay area
The ‘Baddies’: The “groundskeepers” on the island
Significant other characters: Wilfrid
The Plot: The Five are invited to stay in Mrs Layman’s cottage with her grandson Wilfrid as he is too young to stay alone. They hear strange tales of the history of the island in the bay – which is reportedly still occupied though visitors are not welcome. It takes the Five a little time to get along with Wilfrid, and it takes Wilfrid time to make friends with the Five. The Five (without Wilfrid) decide to rent a boat and row around the bay but the tide pulls them towards the island and they make a sudden landing thanks to a sudden large wave. Forced to wait for the tide to change, they have a nosy around the island and post the nasty looking groundskeepers. When they get back to the cove there’s no boat as the tide has carried it away. Exploring the island in the hopes of finding a boat to borrow they find boxes containing statues, and when trying to get water out the well for a drink they discover an aladdin’s cave of amazing treasures. Wilfrid then turns up, worried when the Five didn’t return. Instead of escaping the island, though, they stay to figure out just what is going on and end up in a spot of bother.
My favourite parts: This is one of my least favourite Fives, though I do like the hidden door in the well and the location. I like knowing Lucas the golf pro was based on a real person too.
FIVE ARE TOGETHER AGAIN, 1963
The Location: Professor Hayling’s house in Big Hollow
The ‘Baddies’: One of the circus folk (don’t want to give too much away!)
Significant other characters: Tinker and Mischief, Charlie the chimp, Mr Wooh the magician, Jeremy the circus boy
The Plot: Poor old Joan has scarlet fever, so Kirrin Cottage is in quarantine. The Five are sent to stay at Professor Hayling’s house where they decide to camp out in the adjacent field. They’re disrupted a bit when a circus suddenly turns up claiming to have the right to stay in the Hayling’s field – and Professor Hayling’s land deeds back this up. They are able to share the space fairly amicably, though, which aids the five in investigating when some of Professor Hayling’s papers are stolen from a tower in the grounds of the house. The theft is a puzzling one which takes a fair bit of figuring out, including luring the thief into a trap.
My favourite parts: I’m honestly not sure I have a favourite part. This is my absolute least favourite book in the series… and even the brief visit to Kirrin Island – a location I love – just makes me sad that the final story doesn’t take us back there properly. It’s also a much tamer story – more like a Five Find-Outers mystery than a real Famous Five Adventure.
And that brings me to the end of my look at the main Famous Five books!
Next post: The Famous Five short stories
Thanks Fiona. You have done a sterling job reviewing all the Famous Five books. You can see the decline in standards from the wonderful early days – especially the last few books. Enid obviously wanted to provide new stories for her adoring fans but her slow decline in healh inhibited this process.
Very much look forward to the Adventure series (presumably you won’t be doing them in threes as there are only eight books!)
Thanks Francis. I definitely find the final two books the weakest in the series, but I also love books 17-19. Sometimes it’s hard to figure what’s a weak entry and what’s just not a personal favourite though, as I’m not a fan of Billycock Hill.
Y’know I really haven’t planned that far ahead. I had vaguely envisioned a blog per book but that’s maybe a bit much. I could probably do two books per blog though.