If you like Blyton: The Mystery of the Whistling Caves by Helen Moss

We’ve all seen the books on the shelves that proclaim gaily that “If you like Enid Blyton, you’ll love this!” and if you’re anything like me and Fiona, we approach these books with caution. In experience the books that proclaim to be like another author’s work seldom deliver.

Now when Helen Moss’ books crossed my path, there was no sticker claiming her to be like Blyton anywhere in sight, but I was stuck by the Blytonesque nature of the blurb and the title. The  14th book, The Mystery of the Phantom Lights was handed back to me during my work at the library and immediately I took an interest. The book even made it home with me. But being the way I am, I decided that the first thing I needed to do, was read the first book, The Mystery of the Whistling Caves.

The Mystery of the Whistling Caves

The Mystery of the Whistling Caves

I was expecting something a bit more modern than Blyton’s period adventures, but the covers looked exciting. I was looking forward to diving in, only to find, when the book arrived that it was quite short, which you would expect from a children’s book. It had lovely short chapters and the action started quickly.

The two boys, Scott and Jack Carter are deposited on an island called Castle Key with their great Aunt Kate, while their father swans off to go and dig up a lost city in the middle of Africa for the summer. The boys are convinced that this is going to be a very boring holiday as here appears to be nothing to do in Castle Key.

The boys discover the castle and its upcoming exhibit of Saxon treasure but don’t seem that thrilled by it until later. On their way around the island they come across a girl about their own age called Emily Wild, and her dog Drift.

The story has a lot of easy to make parallels to the Famous Five, and the Five Find Outers (although in my mind this link isn’t quite as strong). For a start the cover of the book reminds me more about a Famous Five book, the castle in the background which is reminiscent of Five on a Treasure Island and Kirrin Castle sitting proudly on the island in the bay.

The stories in these two novels are quite similar as well, both including secret passages and missing treasure. The Mystery of the Missing Cave does have more of a Five Find Outers feel at times because there is a lot of mystery solving on the part of the children, as Emily Wild wants to be a spy. So like Fatty, with her dog Drift, trying to solve the little mysteries of everyday life, and is super excited when the Saxon treasure goes missing and she has a real case to solve.

The story itself is probably meant for what I considered the right age for The Famous Five, which is about eleven. I would say that these books are probably most likely to be a stepping stone from Enid Blyton to other authors, and I certainly shan’t hesitate to recommend them at work. However there are issues; they are modern, so modern technology such as computers and mobile phones do figure in the collecting of information and for keeping in touch. No mysterious telegrams or intriguing letters for these children.

The adventure is a fine one, but because of my love of Blyton’s Famous Five, I do feel that there is at least one character missing from the action – another young girl for a start. Emily is a very determined girl, who does remind me of George except for the fact that she doesn’t go around telling everyone that she is as good as a boy and needs to be called by a boy’s name. Out of the three characters I warmed to her most, because Scott and Jack Carter really did nothing for me.

Jack, the younger brother is clearly a whiny kid, as he seems to have a problem with everything. Scott is the older brother and is more level headed and bit of a drip when it comes to danger. Emily is perhaps the one I find most interesting if a bit two dimensional.

Of course I do need to point out that this book is for children and I am an adult, but for me The Mystery of the Whistling Caves lacks a certain magic that Blyton’s Famous Five have.

While Blyton’s books have stood the test of time and have made it through ups and downs of changing societies while still maintaining their charm, whereas even with as little modern technology included in The Mystery of the Whistling Caves, the books might find it hard to survive as Blyton’s have done.

Another thing I feel I need to say about the books is that, there is an over use of italics. I don’t think there is s page in the book where italics are not used in some form or another. I also feel in this case that the emphasis can come off in the wrong place. A couple of sentences I felt lost their impact because of the italics.

Overall, I did enjoy the book, as long as I wasn’t comparing it to Enid Blyton, but when you put the books side by side, the first book of the Adventure Island series pales in comparison. There is none of a Blyton’s magic in the first book, although I am trying not to judge as I have only read one book and the others may pick up. I brought the next two books yesterday actually, while I was at Seven Stories in Newcastle, and am kind of excited to read them.

The question remains however, is it good to claim that if you like one author you will love this book? See it’s probably a very good for marketing especially if you’re a parent with a child who likes a particular set of books and you want to wean them off reading the same books over and over, but is it really a good thing; like me, could you set too much store, and potentially, be disappointed by the book in your hand. Quoting Fiona (directly) she thinks that “they’re inevitably disappointing,” because a sticker like that carries so much promise.

I think these Adventure Island books by Helen Moss would do well without the need to have the sticker proclaiming that “If you like Enid Blyton, you’ll love this!” because they are good enough to stand on their own. So my advice is, be wary of the books that claim “If you like Blyton, you’ll love this” because for a hard-core Blyton fan, they have the very real potential to be disappointing.

P.S You really all should give Helen Moss’ Adventure Island series a go, maybe unlike me, you’ll find more magic in them.

Image taken from Amazon.
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10 Responses to If you like Blyton: The Mystery of the Whistling Caves by Helen Moss

  1. Francis says:

    Interesting series – it is quite heartening to know that adventure books are not yet dead. It is a pity that the two boy characters are quite weak – think how splendid Jack, Philip, Dick and Julian are. Nothing daunts them and they were a splendid inspiration to us when we were boys.


  2. When I first looked at the cover, I assumed it was an Enid Blyton. That has to be Kirrin castle in the background with a modern-looking Julian and Dick in the boat – the dog even looks a bit like Timmy! I’m such a fan of the famous five books; I’m afraid I might be disappointed with this, but I may well give it a go. Thank you for such an excellent review.


  3. Corinna says:

    Thanks Stef for your review. I remember as a child ALWAYS being disappointed by books that claimed “If you like Enid Blyton, you’ll like these”! I guess you really can’t beat the original!


  4. chrissie777 says:

    Good review, Stef!
    I fell for the same advertising trick years ago. My favorite adult author from the US is Nancy Thayer. In the 80’s there were still barely any books available by her. So when her German publisher claimed that if you love Nancy Thayer novels, you’ll love Sue Miller novels as well, I had of course quite the expectation. But I had to find out that Sue Miller is BORING whereas Nancy Thayer has a very compelling writing style even though these are novels for women, no mystery books.
    Since then I’m very sceptical when I read similar claims from publishing houses.


  5. Sarah says:

    Thank you for this interesting review.
    I agree that they seem to be lacking another girl character. Personally I always found FF’s Anne a bit of a wet fish, I much preferred Peggy from The Secret Island (my favourite Blyton book) so maybe a character a bit like her.
    The boys didn’t do much for me either, a summer of freedom in Cornwall ahead of them and all they could do was moan about being bored. If that’s meant to represent the current generation of children then they must be a miserable lot.
    For young readers who enjoyed the Famous Five and are looking for a good book to read next, I recommend Over Sea Under Stone by Susan Cooper. It’s aimed at slightly older readers, exciting and well written.


    • chrissie777 says:

      Hi Sarah,

      If you want to read an author whose books are rather blytonesque, try to find Norman Dale. He was a British children’s books author (not even Tony Summerfield heard about him) who wrote most of his books in the early forties to late sixties, just like EB. Only a few of his books were translated into German and I read them as a child in the mid to late sixties. I still think they are very suspenseful and when I reread them, I cannot put them down before I finished the book.
      I didn’t read the rest of his oeuvre before 2008 when we spent several months in the UK and I ordered them used from amazon.co.uk.

      Dale was published by The Bodley Head and I contacted them last year. Their employees are all younger than 40 and nobody remembers Norman Dale or Norman Denny (his real name).
      His most famous book is probably “Clockwork Castle”.

      There is an excellent trilogy by Dale that I can highly recommend, maybe you can request it via Inter Library Loan from the UK library system (they have this ILL system in Germany and also in the US where I live now).
      Volume 1 is called “The Exciting Journey”, vol. 2 “Mystery Christmas”, but vol. 3 is by far the best in the trilogy. It’s called “Skeleton Island” and has a gorgeous location near a river with a mysterious river island and secret passageways etc.

      I’m a BIG EB fan, but when I read Dale’s books I was as compelled as when I read the Famous Five or the Adventure series (my favorite series).


      • Sarah says:

        Thanks for the recommendation, those Norman Dale books sound interesting. What a shame they are no longer in print. I’ll have to see if I can get hold of them from somewhere.
        best wishes


  6. Pingback: If You Like Blyton: Dead Man’s Cove by Lauren St John | World of Blyton

  7. Wayne Webster [Rev] says:

    Nothing can beat Enid Blyton’s books but Helen Moss does a good job and her books are close enough. We need to remember that our children today may in fact relate well to a more modern approach than when we older ones were children. Helen’s website is outstanding and she is to be commended.


  8. P Biswas says:

    I have been a huge fan of Enid Blyton since 1980s. I still read her books. Helen Moss sounds very interesting. Never heard of Norman Dale . Hope someone starts publishing his works. Couldn’t find any details about him either.


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