Five on a Secret Trail part 3

Yet again a Famous Five review has run to three parts – and that’s without dedicating a whole post to one character! Here you’ll finally find the comments and nitpicks.

Some general comments

I’ve decided that this one isn’t a nitpick, more of an observation, but I have questions about Timmy’s collar.

Firstly, is it really SO funny that everyone in Kirrin seems to stop and stare and make jokes?

Secondly, it don’t look like I would imagine it to in the illustrations. I thought the collars for dogs (and cats) were generally a sort of cone shape (just put cone collar into Google images to see what I mean). I imagine Aunt Fanny didn’t have a big enough piece of cardboard but the illustrations seems to show a very small cardboard circle sticking straight out which I’m not at all sure would keep Timmy’s long legs away from his ear.

In fact he often looks like a saint whose halo has slipped!

There isn’t very much George-as-a-boy content this time around.

  • Interestingly the twins don’t fall for George being a boy. They both refer to them as girls and although George is irritated with them it’s because they’re denying just having seen each other and not because of the use of girls.
  • George doesn’t make a fuss when the boys make fun of Timmy. George could never bear to look small in front of Julian and Dick. She prided herself on being just like a boy – and she was suddenly certain that her two cousins would think she was “just like a girl” if they heard of the fuss she had made about people laughing a Timmy’s collar.”
  • Julian suggests taking the girls home and he and Dick would stay to investigate. “Anne might go, but George wouldn’t,” said Dick. “You know what old George is – good as any boy, and as full of courage as any boy, too.”

And now for all the rest. Some of these are slightly nit-picky but really they’re just observations, not plot holes or other ‘mistakes’.

    • This is set in August – the previous book was summer, but George says she hasn’t seen Julian and Dick these hols, so it must be a year later than Five Have Plenty of Fun.
    • Chapter one is headed George is rather difficult – I instantly thought isn’t she always
    • George ‘runs away’ to get away from people laughing at Timmy. She tries to run away, just her and Timmy, in Five Run Away Together but Julian catches her and insists they all go, and in Five on Kirrin Island Again she sets off alone to check on Timmy on her island (not quite running away, but similar).
    • Anyway, if she had been patient enough to wait just one day Anne would have arrived and been able to go off with her  (there’s also no real reason for sneaking off – I’m sure her mother would have let her go camping anyway!)
    • For those who criticize the overuse of queer in the books I spotted at least six uses of crazy by page 70 – all between the girls and the twins.
    • Anne goes for night time drink without a torch and gets lost, you’d think she should know better. Also relevant is the illustration shows her fully dressed – did they always sleep in their clothes while camping?
  • Also related is the fact George only brought one mug. That’s why they have to go refill it all the time, including in the night so it’s a bit of a plot point. The one mug gets mentioned rather a lot – it means they all sit by the spring to eat so they can drink, though the mug gets replaced by the pineapple tin later as it holds more!
    • Regarding the night-time flit to the cottage – this is due to them having a non waterproof tent – so a pretty useless tent, then. They leave their bags behind but collect them for pillows once the rain stops, surely they’d be pretty wet?
    • I like how George insists that the people seen at a distance in the night must be up to no good, as why else would they be on the common? Of course it’s not possible that it could be grown-up campers who have a non-waterproof tent.
    • Random capitals – the girls play the Alphabet game with Animals.
    • Julian shows more of his suspicious side after Mystery Moor, he suspects the mad boy and one-eyed dog will raid their camp for food.
    • They go a bit FFO-ish with the footprint they find, as Dick sketches it. “You’re quite a detective, Dick,” said Anne, admiringly, and he laughed. “Oh, anyone can copy foot-prints!” he said. “The thing is to match them up with the owner!” Unfortunately they don’t make use of the sketch other than handing it to the police, but as they’ve trapped the men in the underground passage it’s not really useful.
    • Both George and Anne sleep through the boys discussing whether or not to take the girls home.
    • Anne is the Bets of the story when the others have to explain why the ‘country woman’ is not a real country woman. Our description of her makes her seem country-ish enough, but after they reveal she had gold fillings, dyed hair and soft white hands. Anne even adds that her accent changes. I get irrationally annoyed at this bit as I take people at face-value too, especially when only given half the information!

    • Like Jack in The Castle of Adventure they sleep in a hollow gorse bush. It’s even harder to believe – Jack and Kiki wrapped in a rug, maybe, but two girls and a dog, then four children and a dog? No chance.
    • Guy rides George’s bike back only using one foot, I’m struggling to picture how that works as surely the second pedal would just whack the injured foot unless he could somehow hold it out of the way? I can’t even ride a bike, so it’s really not my area of expertise!
    • Quentin barely features but I love how he opens the door in a temper only to backtrack quickly when he realises it is the inspector.
    • Half past 8 is almost afternoon, according to Dick
    • Lastly, I just have to comment on the cover. I’ve never really paid that much attention to it before. I now realise it shows the Five near the end of the book after they’ve trapped the men underground. I can tell this as Julian has the rope wound around his waist! Blyton mentions ropes around the waist quite a lot but I can’t recall seeing it illustrated before. Somehow I always pictured it under the clothes, but over would probably be more comfortable.

And finally, the real nitpicks.

Bear in mind I’ve already mentioned Dick’s magic hanky, the exceptionally fast police response and the dog/injured boy climbing issues.

  • A stone has been lifted in the stables but no others. As we see them back another night there are other stones of similar size so why not lift them all instead of giving up and coming back later?
  • They say there were no slabs of the right size at the Roman camp, but they lifted some anyway, ahead of the ones that were the right size at the cottage.
  • Timmy is somehow unable to find a person who is up a tree, surely he would be able to smell them and would paw at the trunk indicating to Julian that someone was up there?
  • It’s not a nitpick that they give up very quickly and plan to return to Kirrin to call the police, but it is very un-Fiveish behaviour. What is a bit of a nitpick is that they’re all convinced that Guy has been taken away somewhere, gotten out of the way, and yet they a) stop for breakfast as ten minutes won’t hurt and b) after spying a slab that might fit spend quite some time lifting it, then decide to explore underground despite having no conviction that they’ll find Guy there.
  • Julian thinks that having had some first aid training he can tell just by looking/feeling if Guy’s ankle is broken. When I went over my ankle (at 35 weeks pregnant, no less) I had xrays done and even then they weren’t sure at first!
  • The police say they get all three men but there’s no mention of the woman, Jess. Earlier she stayed in the Roman camp and watched out, was she there this time and just too well hidden? If so, why didn’t she get another rope to help the men out again? If she wasn’t there are the police just that disinterested in arresting her?

Final thoughts?

Do I still feel that this ranks as 18th place? Well, I haven’t read all the books yet on this re-read but yes, I still think this would rank quite lowly.

First, the Guy/Harry thing is overdone. Too many meetings where the same things are said, then the explanation is given by Harry, repeated by the others, then several times after that they repeat how surprised they were that it was twins and not just one boy! OK, we get it!

The enemies are a bit lacking – the Five are never in any danger and never go up against them. The lights/wailing sounds are also a bit silly. The whole idea that Paul has both hidden the blueprints underground in a hard to reach place, but is also so ill that he can’t write a clear map baffles me – given Quentin’s reaction at the end it seems as if the plans went missing fairly recently too. It does say that he half-died escaping with the blueprints but it still doesn’t make a lot of sense.

There are some good moments but overall its one of the weaker books.

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6 Responses to Five on a Secret Trail part 3

  1. chrissie777 says:

    Our German shepherd is almost 7 years old and had to wear a cone collar 3 times after surgeries and when he injured one of his paws in our fenced-in backyard. But for walks we took it off, because he never tried to reach the spot while walking. Only when he did lay in one of his beds and thought that nobody pays attention, he tried to get at it and we put the collar back on.


  2. chrissie777 says:

    For nostalgic reasons I read my FF books in the old German translations from the mid 1960’s, so there is no queer. “Queer” has been replaced by several different terms in the German translations. However, the word “queer” was over-used in “Secret of Cliff Castle” (I counted close to 40 times).

    Liked by 1 person

  3. chrissie777 says:

    As I’ve said before, this was my very first EB book in 1965 and up to that point I hadn’t read anything with twins or with underground passages (maybe shortly after when I discovered Norman Dale’s books), so I found it actually quite fascinating.

    The 5 really weak FF sequels were for me (and still are until this day) “Camp”, “Caravan”, “Mystery Moor”, “Finniston Farm” and “Billycock Hill”.

    Right now I’m reading “Five on Kirrin Island again” and I was wondering if you’ve reviewed it in your blog already?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. hannah975 says:

    I’ve always wondered that Timmy didn’t indicate that someone was in the tree, too.

    Riding a bike with a hurt ankle: You can place both feet on the pedals but you use just the good foot to really “push”. The hurt foot just sits loosely on the pedal and moves with the pedal but no more.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Dale Vincero, Brisbane Australia says:

    Agree with you here Fiona. I think I have only read this book 2 times in many many years, it is so … lame. Not one of the best.
    Thanks for the review.

    Liked by 1 person

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