The Mystery of the Invisible Thief by Enid Blyton. The title sort of says it all, doesn’t it? It promises the mystery and the intrigue of a thief who cannot be seen or caught, and it suggests a promise of a really hard brain teaser, and if you’re a child, it is probably not obvious who the thief is, so it’s a brilliant adventure. For me? Oh please! Let me explain.
Boy oh boy! All about Fatty... again
Frederick Algernon Trotterville aka Fatty, I just cannot like him. Not that I agree entirely with Constable Goon, but Fatty is a right pain. There seems to be nothing he can’t do, no problem he can’t solve and yes, he may have brains, but he’s an odious character. Defintitely a Marty Stu without a shadow of a doubt. In Blyton’s eyes and pen, he can do nothing wrong, not even when he is being a teenage boy who really needs a good box around the ears. He’s cheeky, rude, disrespectful and just a boastful mess! I do not know why people like him that much, he is not clever.
All right, that’s going a bit far, he is clever, but he’s a bit dumb as well. He can have brainwaves such as in The Mystery of the Pantomime Cat where he figures out who was actually the robber. This mystery however, his brains have gone because quite frankly, from the first introduction of the baddie, I knew, I just knew it was them. Blyton does this thing where she makes the character deliberately annoying, pompous or just unlikeable so you know he’s the bad guy. One of the other tells she uses is that animals don’t tend to like the bad character and react that way, however this isn’t really apparent in The Mystery of the Invisible Thief as Buster seems to be left behind quite a bit because all Fatty seems to do is dress up. To top it all off as well, the dressing up doesn’t get him any further than it would have done if he’d been detecting in normal clothes, apart from when he helps with Colonel Cross’ weeding in exchange for the Colonels pair of size 12 boots. I think that is the only point in the book where I can say the dressing up did some good, the rest of the time it was just to show that he could. From those dressing up adventures he learnt nothing, or very little at the most.
I really wish these books would move away from the ‘Fatty’s so amazing’ mantra, I promise you, its getting old.
The actual mystery
So moving on, and trying to ignore the Fatty-centric tone of the book, the mystery could have been quite complex, and for children I think it was. However, as I said earlier, I managed to spot the robber from the first scene. When you know Blyton, and know what the format is, it’s quite easy to work it out. I won’t tell you who it is, because I would like to see if you can work it out yourself, but let’s say its quite simple.
The method the invisible thief uses as well is very very simple. I know sometimes the simple methods of committing a crime work well in books because people expect things to be difficult and complex whereas simple works just as well and efficiently. Agatha Christie certainly proves that enough times.
The term invisible is a loose in this context. The children believe that invisible means that someone completely isn’t there and vanishes into thin air. However for someone who is well versed in crime novels, and historical novels, the term invisible can be used to describe someone like a tradesman who you just don’t take any notice of. It’s a play on the word really because it leads you to one idea but then presents you another solution.
There isn’t actually much action to this mystery, no real trailing, or suspects, or anything like The Mystery of the Hidden House for example, but there is just a lot of Goon baiting, which gets tiresome. We have a lot of exploration of boots, and people in the village with large feet aka Mr Goon and Colonel Cross but no leads, no information and no action.
The absolute best bit is when Pip plays a trick on the others which causes Fatty to solve the mystery which I could have done in half the time – and this is supposed to be a bright boy? That’s one for you guys to figure out.
I had high hopes after the Pantomine Cat mystery but they were not fulfilled by Invisible Thief, in fact it was severely disappointing. It was a “look how wonderful Fatty is” novel, with a bit of Goon baiting thrown in. There isn’t enough real showing of the other characters and even Bets doesn’t shine through like she usually does. Its just a bland mystery for me.
Anyway, let me know what you think in the comments below!