My last Famous Five review came in August last year, and that was Five Have a Wonderful Time. If you’re about to tell me that I have missed Five Go Down to the Sea, I haven’t, I just accidentally reviewed it before Wonderful Time…
Anyway, Five Go to Mystery Moor ranks at #17 in the series for me, which is pretty far down. According to the post where I did my rankings this is because it has a slow build up and the exciting end hasn’t stuck well in my mind.
A story in three parts
As usual, here are the distinct parts of the story as I see them;
- Time at the stables
- The tale of the Bartles and going camping
- Parcels dropping, the mist, kidnap and rescue
You could sub-divide the first part into pre and post boys arriving, and the second into more time at the stables and their time camping.
Where are the boys?
Just like with Five Have a Wonderful Time, we start with only some of the Five. This time it’s George, Anne and Timmy who are at Captain Johnson’s Riding School. Anne chose this as she loves horses, and the boys were going camping with friends. George is sulky (what’s new!) as she just wanted to spend the holidays with her cousins.
George’s sulkiness is compounded by the fact that there’s another girl-who-thinks-she’s-a-boy at the stables – Henrietta aka Henry. Instead of bonding over a love of boy’s attire the two of them can’t stand each other and call each other by their full first names.
But never fear – the machinations of Blyton means that Uncle Quentin succumbs to an unidentified illness, meaning the the Five can’t all meet up at Kirrin as planned. The girls are told to stay at the stables for another week, and Julian and Dick decide to come along too.
Blyton was fond of bringing gypsies and other travelling folk into her stories. We’ve already had Jo’s father and the gypsies they travelled with in Five Fall Into Adventure, the fair folk of Five Have a Wonderful Time (more distant relatives of Jo) and the Barneys from Five Go Down to the Sea.
The Mystery Moor gypsies are not terribly well described. None apart from Sniffer get names, and only his father has any sort of identity.
Sniffer is a skinny young boy who brings his horse to be seen by Captain Johnson as it is lame (for some reason when typing the introduction to this post I wrote Tinker, and I also wrote Tinker in my notebook while reading!). Sniffer’s a bit of a sorry character, much abused and beaten by his nasty father. He does have the comfort of his little dog, Liz, though. Sniffer’s father turns up trying to take the horse before it is recovered and has a bit of a stand-off with Julian, though it’s nowhere near as impressive as the ones with Mr Stick.
This gives us our first mystery: Why are the gypsies so desperate to travel onto the moors by a certain date? What’s waiting for them out there?
The second (and third) mysteries
We find a second mystery when the Five (well, minus George and Timmy and plus Henry) find old train tracks on the moor while riding.
Now, George and Henry are both pretty silly when it comes to fighting and arguing, but actually think Julian is an ass to invite Henry along for the ride. He barely knows her, and he knows she and George don’t get along. It’s not just that George has taken a dislike to her, Henry goes out of her way to annoy George and vice versa. Who wants to be in the middle of that? OK, so he feels sorry for her being the only older one with a bunch of little kids, but if she felt that way herself she could have made more of an effort to get along with George.
Henry redeems herself somewhat by being insightful enough to know that George doesn’t really have a headache keeping her from going on the ride – she is George’s headache and she offers not to go.
George is quite hard on herself then – she realises she’s shot herself in the foot when they all go off without her, and she blames herself. To be honest, I’d have done the same, but perhaps for different reasons. If my family or friends had invited someone I hated I’d probably have feigned a headache to avoid the pain of spending the day with my enemy. George seems to have done it in the hope of the others disinviting Henry, however, as she is surprised and annoyed that they do go without her. So she is banking on them knowing the headache is fake, and wanting her to go more than they do Henry. Which is a bit manipulative, but I know that if she’d gone to Julian to ask him to disinvite Henry he would have said no and she would have ended up having a row with him.
Anyway – back on topic, they go without George and find train tracks on the moor, all old and overgrown, even broken in places. I couldn’t help but think that Brodie would love finding train tracks on a moor. Any straight lines he finds (tire tracks in snow, white lines on a football pitch) he calls train tracks and runs along shouting ‘chugga chugga choo choo!’ so real tracks would be beyond exciting for him.
The mystery of the tracks is easily solved, as they go to see old Ben the blacksmith who tells them all about it. It’s a straightforward solution – there were sand quarries on the moor and a family set up a little railway to transport the sand instead of using horses and carts.
What happened after that is the third mystery – though it’s not one the Five could solve. Ben’s story is one of the dark and creepy ones that Blyton occasionally uses, like the wreckers in Five Go to Demon’s Rocks and Five Go Down to the Sea, the drowning in The Ring O’ Bells Mystery and the abandoned nursery in The Rockingdown Mystery. Ben himself is reminiscent of the many knowledgeable old men in Blyton’s stories, Grandad from Five On Finniston Farm, Yan’s Grandad from Five Go Down to the Sea, Old Grandad from The Ring O Bells Mystery, Lucas from Five Have a Mystery to Solve, Jeremiah Boogle from Five Go to Demon’s Rocks…
The Bartles were the sand quarrying family, who ran afoul of a band of gypsies some 70 years before. The gypsies tore up the train tracks and derailed the train. One day soon after the Bartle brothers (9 or 10 strapping men) went to the quarry, and never returned. A mist had stolen over the moors, and gypsies had been seen going through the village…
Ben thinks that the gypsies murdered the brothers and threw their bodies into the sea – dark stuff for Blyton!
To find out more about the gypsies George has Sniffer leave patrins, signs made of twigs and leaves, so they can follow him along to the gypsy camp. The gypsies are sufficiently rude as to make it clear they are hiding something.
Then it all becomes a bit accidental – more children are to arrive at the stables and there isn’t room, so the Five go off to camp on the moors. They follow the tracks to the old quarry and lo and behold, that’s only about a quarter mile from the gypsies’ camp.
That night the boys witness a plane flying low over the moors and a light shining from the gypsy camp. When they wander over to see during the day they find a proper lamp set in a hollow in the ground. Yet the gypsies claim to know nothing about it – or the plane.
The Five can’t work out what a plane could be doing without landing – obviously they’ve never read The Sea of Adventure!
The following night they make sure to watch for the plane and when it comes it drops a load of packets (I wonder if it dropped packets the night before too, and if the boys wouldn’t have seen/heard that). Something’s obviously afoot, even without opening a package to find American dollars.
As the gypsies are obviously up to something dodgy they decide to confiscate the packages and make off with them, back to the village.
The phenomenon is called both mist and fog, though they are two different things. The Mist sounds more ominous (if you read Stephen King).
The mist – the first bad one in a few years – comes just as the Five are leaving the quarry with the packets. At first this seems a boon, it prevents the gypsies from following them, and all the Five have to do is follow the tracks back to Milling Green.
But the rugs holding the packets are heavy, and the boys decide to hide them in the old engine they found rusting in the gorse bushes. I’ve read this book a bunch of times and yet couldn’t tell you how this all played out, beyond them getting separated and lost.
The girls stay on the tracks, the boys walk back up, and go off to the side. However they can’t find their way back to the tracks and get lost. The girls decide to walk into the village for help but accidentally walk back to the quarry and get captured by the gypsies – a catalogue of errors, really.
George hopes to send Timmy to find Julian and Dick, with Sniffer’s help. Sniffer’s father catches her writing a note and tells her she should write a note, and he will use it to lure the boys back so they can recover the packets. He hasn’t thought of how to deliver the note, though, so George tells him to use Timmy as per her original plan. The jokes on him – she’s sending it to Henry and signing it Georgina (just like she did in Five on a Treasure Island).
It doesn’t go entirely to plan, though, as Captain Johnson is away, leaving Henry and William to ride out to the rescue. Julian and Dick also eventually manage to return to the stables, and after a good breakfast courtesy of Mrs Johnson the whole lot go back out to the engine to recover the packets of money.
So that’s the story… next time I’ll go through my questions, comments and nitpicks.