The Mystery of the Strange Bundle

So I failed. I had one job and that was to read the book on my way up to Fiona’s when I was on the train, and I didn’t. On top of that, I’ve just not been reading because I’ve been trying to help with Brodie (he’s got a good pair of lungs on him!) and I have just failed completely in my simple task. So I’m going to review the first half of the book for you. Let’s go!


Illness abounds

Oh woe are the Five Find-Outers, they have gone down with the flu, thanks to Bets as she’s managed to get it first over the Christmas hols, and given it around to everyone. When we join them they have managed to be mostly on the mend, and Bets is better and visiting the others faithfully.

After she gets annoyed at Pip, because he’s being mean to her, she decides to go and see Fatty who enjoys her company even when ill. Pip asks her for some bulls’ eyes, so she pops to the sweet shop and buys some for Fatty as well, thinking he’s probably at the same stage as Pip in his recovery.

When she gets to Fatty’s he already has a visitor, much to his mother’s surprise, not to mention that Fatty also appears to be asleep which adds to the confusion. The old lady who is there is apparently known to Fatty and has met the Trottevilles before. Mrs Trotteville isn’t convinced and then the cover breaks when Fatty reveals himself to be the old lady in the chair.

Mrs Trotteville is not impressed, especially given that the cook has given Fatty her aunt’s old smelly clothes. She wants to throw them away or wash them at least and Fatty won’t let her. He convinces his mother that Bets can take them down to his shed before she goes and the clothes are left and the woman forgotten.

Bets and Fatty sit down to talk, Mrs Trotteville having invited Bets to stay for tea, and Fatty tells Bets that he has begun to teach himself to throw his voice and become a ventriloquist. Apparently he’s been inspired by someone visiting his school in the last term and wanted to take it up. How he managed to ‘perfect’ his new skill so quickly, I don’t know, because its a very difficult and precise skill, and it takes people years to perfect it. However this is Fatty, why am I not surprised that he took it on with ease? He’s Blyton’s perfect character after all.

What I do find really distasteful is that he scares Bets with this ‘talent’ so much that she genuinely is trembling with fear. Fiona disagrees with me, saying that Bets is just a big baby, but there’s two sides to this issue. To me they hinge on Fatty’s personality. One is the mature, sensible boy he can be sometimes, when he’s actually in the middle of a mystery and looking after the others, but when he’s bored he can be brutish, and when he’s showing off he is just a pain. He can be so flippant and disregards so many opinions and feelings because hes the ‘great’ Fatty. Fiona thinks I just don’t like him and that many people would disagree with me about him. Feel free to back one of us up in the comments!

The beginning of the mystery 

After the generally recovery from the flu the five and Buster start to explore the village once more much to Mr Goon’s disgust. He’s gotten rather big for his boots since the children were ill because he was able to run after any mystery that may have occurred. He’s as insufferable as ever, back to being rude about Fatty (not that he doesn’t deserve it) but he should at least have manners when dealing with the children and Fatty. When Bets is on her way to visit Fatty, she bumps into Mr Goon, and he tells her what he thinks of Fatty and is quite rude really. Bets then blithely tells Fatty everything who laughs at Goon, but is determined to find a mystery to beat the policeman to solving it.

Anyway, once the children are more recovered from the flu, they are out and about, trying to find a mystery before they go back to school, but nothing appears until there’s a break in two doors down from Larry and Daisy. Again there doesn’t seem to be much of a mystery and it rather feels like there won’t be much of the mystery until the very end of the book again. Still, best to keep going and see where we get with this.

Please tell me it gets better?

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3 Responses to The Mystery of the Strange Bundle

  1. Francis says:

    Thank you Stef!


  2. Michael Edwards says:

         Yes, it probably does get better – although I suppose that depends on what you think would make it better. I have never found this story to be noticeably worse in any sense than any other Five Find-Outers books, found it entertaining enough when I read it again a few years ago, after many years since the previous reading. It may be that this series is just one of those people either like or don’t, and (it seems to me) you may possibly be in that latter category. I don’t know that it’s my favourite series, but I do like it, think it is very clever, and it is perhaps the only adventure/mystery series to include a significant element of humour, which can be very funny indeed sometimes. (Probably the next-funniest series is the Barney series, where Snubby brings in a regular element of humour; but the Five Find-Outers series is probably the one where humour is most tightly bound up with the actual plot.)
         As to the story seeming to get going too late in the book: I think that, in reality, most of Enid Blyton’s mystery and adventure stories do have the actual plot start fairly early (or at least not noticeably late), but this may not be apparent until later in the book. I think many of the books do start with events that seem on the face of it unrelated to the adventure, but those early events, although not adventurous or mysterious in themselves, are setting up circumstances and trains of events that will later relate to the mystery or adventure, without which the main part of the story couldn’t happen as it did. I suppose some may not like that approach, but I don’t have a problem with it myself: Enid Blyton’s writing is usually very readable, whatever kinds of events it is talking about; and I do think Enid Blyton paces her novels, so that they start slowly, and later parts build up progressively, and can get quite exciting, and I suggest that at least part of that excitement is due to the contrast with earlier, slower parts. At times when reading a Blyton book, I have sometimes, just out of curiosity, tried to identify the exact point where the “real” plot began; and I often find that I cannot really do so, or that several points can be considered the start. To me, this illustrates how early, apparently non-adventurous or -mysterious, events can be organically connected with the real mystery or adventure, and how difficult it can be to dismiss early events as unrelated to the meat of the plot.
         This is in marked contrast with some other kinds of adventure story – the Hardy Boys books come to mind – where there is helter-skelter action and danger almost from Chapter 1, and it doesn’t let up until the final page. However, curiously, this, while superficially exciting, can almost detract from the excitement at some deeper, more sustainable level – there is so much going on in a Hardy Boys book that you almost lose track of the overarching plot-line, and many of the exciting events themselves are short-lived, and then the next one happens – and I think this gives a curiously choppy, fragmentary feel to some of those stories, and the overall excitement, I suggest, may well be less than that in an Enid Blyton story which is well-paced, builds up, and you at all times have an overall comprehension of the plot and how it is progressing.


  3. Dale Vincero, Brisbane, Australia says:

    Currently reading Disappearing Cat. Thanks for the lead ladies !


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