There are many books we’ve recommended to you if you like Blyton, Robin Steven’s Murder Most Unladylike series being the latest one, not only in publishing terms but as being reviewed on the blog.
However for this blog I would like to take you back a little further in time to one of Blyton’s contemporaries. You have heard me mention Malcolm Saville before I’m sure in line with characters and adventures but we’re going to take a proper look at it now.
Mystery at Witchend is the first book in the Lone Pine Series. Now this book was one my mother told me about when I was in my teen years and I finally admitted (approximately age 14) that I would like to read them and they might not quite be as bad as I had feared. I had secretly been terrified that they were going to be better than my beloved Famous Five.
In a way they were better, but only because they were new and exciting, the Famous Five would always be my first love, and nothing would change that, but over the course of the first Lone Pine, as we were introduced to the characters David, Dickie and Mary Morton and Petronella (Peter) Sterling I fell in love with them in a whole different way. I wanted to jump in there with them and be Peter’s best friend, I wanted to go exploring with the Dickie and Mary, the twins, and their Scottish Terrier Macbeth and I wanted to make camp with David and explore the Long Mynd in Shropshire where the books were mostly set.
I think these were the first books where I really had a sense of place from them, whereas Blyton’s descriptions don’t tend to be of anywhere specific and nicely pleasently general, Saville’s descriptions of location were precise and taken from real life. It made me want to visit Shropshire and since I was 16 or 17 I have done, frequently. Its become one of the places I love to be most in the world.
Another thing about Saville is that he tends to write in what I like to think of as ‘real time’, that is he wrote his books so that they were in keeping with what was happening during the war years. Blyton chose to use escapism but Saville uses the war and the contemporary period following the war. Nazi spys are a large part of the first Lone Pine book so much so that they enter into the world quite quickly. Its such an intricate mystery that you’re gripped from the first sentence.
‘They changed trains at Shrewsbury.’
Now how do you not read on after that. So many questions, so few answers that it drags you in. Just like our Blyton favourites, we want to know whats going on and what the adventure is and get to know the characters. We are carried along on this adventure in a style of prose we are familiar with but with new characters to love.
This book opened so many doors for me as a reader that I cannot recommend it highly enough. Please, if you can get hold of a copy, read it because it is worth it! So so worth it!
Stef, thank you for the review. You have convinced me and I will try to find a copy of “Mystery at Witchend” next year.
Great review, Stef . Our family used the change trains in Shrewsbury on the way to my uncle’s farm in Church Stretton in the early 1950s. Those were the days!
I would say that the Lone Piners are a couple of years older than the Famous Five on average, and some of the issues delt with are of a more adult nature, of their time. Like the FF, they have adventures, rather than solve mysteries, like The FFOs. Not all of the characters appear in each book, but there is a chor number who do. Reading these books encouraged me to visit some of the areas where they are based, and have become favourite locations. Church Stretton, Rye, and Dartmoor in particular. Enjoy.