Birthday and Christmas round up 2020

I’m lucky to have friends and family who know about (if not understand) my love for all things Blyton, and who buy me Blyton-related things for birthdays and Christmases. Here’s my 2020 haul!

Corfe castle goodies from Stef’s trip to, well, Corfe Castle. There were a range of postcards including a wooden one, a magnet and a really teeny yet challenging jigsaw with castle-shaped pieces.

Some of the postcards have already found homes on my bit of wall where I already had some Blyton-y post cards, and on my bookshelf (not in front of my Famous Fives, though, that space is reserved for my two sets of Pepys playing cards and my Sindy-dog Timmy.)

I should have included something for scale, but here’s the jigsaw with its ‘whimsy’ pieces which are a hallmark of Wentworth puzzles. Put together it’s around the size of a small postcard.

A nice hardback copy of Enid Blyton and her Enchantment with Dorset by Andrew Norman.

A ‘lashing of ginger beer’ pin and Blytonian phrases tea-towel, sold by the folk who do an improvised Blyton comedy show.

The Island of Adventure adaptation from 1982 on DVD, with Norman Bowler as Bill – look out for a review of this some time this year!

Darrell and Friends by Narinder Dhami. This is a surprisingly thick book!

Poster sold as a “Great Vintage Illustration of Famous Five Annual of 1979”  but is in fact the 2014 annual cover with 1979 added (with not very much skill!). All very odd. Obviously the person who bought me this just assumed it was exactly what it said, a 1979 annual. It’s still attractive as long as you don’t look too closely at the copy-paste job clearly done in Paint!

And as a bonus, I bought Stef a nice Malory Towers mug and when it arrived the handle was in six pieces. I got to keep the broken mug while the seller sent a new one directly to Stef. It’s not much good for drinking out of (not that I drink tea or coffee anyway) so I have put it on my dressing table to hold bits and pieces.

Did you get anything Blytonian this year?

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My 2020 in books and Blyton

Last year I did a sort of round up of my year in books, so I thought I’d do the same again this year.

Every year I set some reading goals. The main one is how many books – I generally start with a goal of 100 and if if I hit that early I’ll increase it, and I also have some looser goals that I don’t put actual numbers on.

Goal: read at least 100 books

What with the lockdown keeping me off work for over seven months I had a bit more reading time on my hands, so I hit 100 books in July. At that point I upped my goal to 150 and in the end read 166, so you can see that my reading slowed down in the second half of the year.

Goal: Read more new books than rereads

I definitely achieved this one – I read 115 new books and reread 51. I absolutely love revisiting old favourites, or books I enjoyed but can no longer remember the details of, so I definitely don’t think there’s anything wrong in the slightest with rereading. I just know that given the choice I’d sit and reread so many books that I’d not have time to read anything new, and there are so many wonderful books out there waiting for me to discover them.

The rereads

These were mostly books from a couple of different series that I have been reading for the second (or third!) time.

I read the whole of The Chronicles of St Mary’s by Jodi Taylor so that was 26 I’d already read (and four new ones), plus the Frogmorton Farm series also by Jodi Taylor, which was three rereads and one new book.

I also continued reading the Undead series by MaryJanice Davidson, so I reread seven of those and four later ones I hadn’t read the last time.

I had planned to carry on my reread of the Buffy books but only managed two (of a trilogy no less).

I also reread a few Blytons but I’ll come to those later!

The new books (and authors)

Out of interest, I counted 69 different authors on my list of books read this year (I’ve never counted that before so I don’t know how that compares to other years, but maybe this year I’ll aim to read 70 or more different authors!) and a whopping 40 of them were brand-new to me.

In the past few years I’ve found Diana Gabaldon and her Outlander books and Jasper Fforde and his Thursday Next series, neither of which have had anything new published since then! This year I discovered a couple of new authors that I love – firstly Ben Aaronovitch whose Rivers of London series (12 books not including the graphic novels) I devoured during lockdown, and Jemma Hatt who writes children’s adventure books (more on those later).

Other new books came from long-standing favourite authors like Ann M Martin (I got through 19 Babysitters Club books that I’d never read before – there are over 150 of them!), Sophie Kinsella, Donna Douglas, Jacqueline Wilson and Jean Fullerton.

Goal: Read some books I’ve always meant to

I’ve got many many lists of books I’d like to read. I always intend to read some more ‘classics’ and books that have films I like based on them. I also note down lots of books that appear on all those ‘100 books to be well-read’ lists.

And yet I find myself never getting around to these books. Some of them are intimidating, others I just worry I’ll end up disappointed. Hence the deliberate goal to motivate me.

The classics

Last year I started Jane Eyre and this year I eventually finished it. I pretty much hated it, but I read it.

I also read what you’d probably consider a ‘modern classic’ – The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Sparks. I’m not sure how I felt about this – I didn’t exactly love reading it but it’s definitely stuck with me.

I’ll also include a children’s classic just to make myself feel even more accomplished – Five Children and it by E Nesbit.

The books made into films

Any time I enjoy a film and discover it was based on a book I want to read that book to see how the story ‘should’ have gone. I know a lot of people can’t read a book after seeing a film, or TV series but I love it. Equally I’m always keen to see film or TV adaptations of books I’ve enjoyed (I read the Hetty Feather books by Jacqueline Wilson this year and plan to watch the TV series at some point).

Anyway, technically Five Children and It ticks this goal, as does James and the Giant Peach, but I didn’t really read them with their films in mind.

What I think genuinely count are Jaws by Peter Benchley (Jaws is one of my all-time favourite films so I’m glad I enjoyed the book), The Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Banks-Reid which I can’t wait to re-watch, and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (every bit as good as the film).

Books on all those ‘must read’ lists

I think I’ve already mentioned most of the ones that would count for this – Jane Eyre, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Jaws. I think I wanted to do a lot of comfort reading this year so I didn’t push myself too much.

Goal: Find a good balance between books for children’s and books for grown ups

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with reading children’s books as a grown up. I wouldn’t be running a blog about a children’s author if I did! Saying that, I think for me it’s important to broaden my horizons a bit and read books that challenge me.

I don’t put a number on this goal but I aim to read more grown up books than ones for children. I read 104 books for grown ups, 56 for children and six that I think sit in the strange zone of teen/young adult books.

I think I’ve mentioned a lot of what made up my children’s books, The Baby-Sitters’ Club, Hetty Feather, Jemma Hatt’s Adventurers, The Indian in the Cupboard, Five Children and It and a few Blytons. There were a few picture books I picked up while covering in the children’s department at work as well.

Goal: Read more feministly

This is a totally new goal, stemming from the beginning of the year when I read Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez. I hadn’t chosen to read it with any great feminist plan in mind, I just thought it sounded interesting. (If you aren’t aware of it, it’s about how women are generally excluded from research, planning and design across the board leading to drugs that haven’t been tested on women, phones too big for the average woman’s hand and seatbelts that have been tested for people with the height, weight and mass of the average man, amongst many other things.)

That sparked my interested in feminist works – though my definition of feminist books is fairly wide.

After Invisible Women I read

  • Lady Killers: Deadly Women Through History by Toni Telfer. This looks at female serial killers, a title usually associated with men, and examines these women from a perspective beyond the usual clichés of ‘mad’ or ‘hysterical’ females.
  • Misjustice: How British Law is Failing Women by Helena Kennedy. As the title suggests this examines discrimination against women in the legal system (both in opportunities for female lawyers and judges as well as the way females are treated as offenders and victims).
  • Feminism: Ideas in Profile by Deborah Cameron. I found this quite dry, it outlines the different types of feminism, looks at its history and touches on the main areas of life that feminism is concerned with.
  • Warriors and Witches and Damn Rebel Bitches by Mairi Kidd. This is more light-hearted, and comes under my feminism banner as it explores some of Scotland’s inspirational women who have largely been forgotten (or ignored, as most history has been written by men…).
  • Gender Rebels: 50 Influential Cross-Dressers, Impersonators, Name-Changers, and Game-Changers by Anneka Harry. I haven’t actually finished this as it’s pretty dire – the author has her own brand of humour and slang and it’s extremely cringe-worthy at times as she describes strong historical women as as chipper as a deep-fried potato, or more precarious than a sedated flamingo on a Segway. 

I have over 30 books I want to read on this topic but I lost momentum when my library closed due to the pandemic. I will definitely keep going with it in 2021, though.

How did the pandemic affect my reading?

I think the pandemic has affected my reading in lots of small ways.

First, with no work to go to and nowhere else to be, it gave me more time so I read more.

As I’ve said above somewhere, this year has made me reach for more comforting books rather than challenging myself, and it changed my access to books with my library being shut.

Normally I borrow loads, and find lots of inspiration as books are returned, tidied or put on display. I didn’t do a count last year but this year I worked out how many physical books I read as compared to audiobooks and ebooks. I suspect normally its skewed towards physical books, but this year I read far more ebooks.

In fact I read 73 ebooks, 51 physical books and 42 audiobooks (not including the Harry Potter ones which I listen to every night as I fall asleep and probably get through a few times each per year). Not that I think that the format really matters – a book is a book no matter how you absorb the words.

And finally, my Blytons

Well, this is what you’re here for, isn’t it?

For someone who writes a blog about Blyton I actually read shamefully few of her books every year! Last year I read five (all Famous Fives).

This year I also read five. Three Famous Fives (Five Have a Wonderful Time, Five Go Down to the Sea and Five on a Hike Together), The Naughtiest Girl in the School (which I was comparing the text of) and The Island of Adventure which I listened to on audiobook.

It’s strange as normally I would have reached for Blytons as comfort reads but I think I found their idyllic travels a bit hard to stomach while I was trapped at home. I also feel like if I read them I have to review them which means taking notes and so on, and that can sometimes spoil some of the enjoyment for me.

I did read some Blyton-related things, though.

I read three of the Naughtiest Girl continuations by Anne Digby (The Naughtiest Girl Keeps a Secret, The Naughtiest Girl Helps a Friend and The Naughtiest Girl Saves the Day. They were all pretty awful, unfortunately.

I also read three books that come under our If You Like Blyton banner (well, I probably read a few more than that, but three that I actually got around to reviewing!). Those were the Adventurers books by Jemma Hatt – The Adventurers and the Cursed Castle, Temple of Treasure and City of Secrets.

What did your 2020 in books look like?


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Monday #406

We finished up our second Cunningham and Petrov story last week, and we are about to start work on the third which will take part during The Mountain of Adventure. I hope to start publishing it on Fridays in February to give us time to have a decent amount written first. Lately we’ve been finishing a chapter as late as Thursday night before a Friday morning publishing – and let me tell you, that’s not the best way to write a story!

My 2020 in books and Blyton


2020 Birthday and Christmas present round up

Alicia took it into her head to evolve a kind of demon-chant whenever she appeared or disappeared on the stage. She only thought of it a few minutes before rehearsal, and hadn’t time to tell Darrell or Sally, so she thought she would just introduce the weird little chant without warning.

And she did. She appeared with her sudden, surprising leaps, chanting eerily. ‘Oo-woo-la, woo-la, riminy-ree, oo-woo-la …’

Moira rapped loudly. The rehearsal stopped. ‘Alicia! What on earth’s that? It’s not in the script, as you very well know.’

Alicia causes chaos by suddenly ad-libbing lines for the pantomime in In the Fifth at Malory Towers. Later she threatens to quit the pantomime altogether, throwing Darrell into a panic as she can’t possibly rewrite all those scenes in three weeks!

This is a bit what it’s like writing fan fiction at the last-minute. Your characters suddenly try to go off in an entirely different direction, and you can’t let them because it would contradict what’s already been published and read!

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Cunningham and Petrov: The Mystery of the Missing Agent epilogue

Last time Anatoly, Bentley and Thompson got their orders to collect Horace’s boat and return to the mainland.

cunningham and petrov

Chapter 25 – epilogue

As it happened, Anatoly did get his chance to pilot the boat. Bentley decided that if they took a shift each they could travel near enough without stopping in order to get back as quickly as possible.

Anatoly was given the nice, safe day shift, while Thompson took the late evening into the night and Bentley took the early morning hours. Between them they could travel 24 hours a day while only being at the wheel 8 hours each.

It was late on the third day by the time the convoy of boats arrived at the harbour they had departed from the week before. Thompson and Bentley moored their boat and then took hold of the rope towing the broken down vessel and pulled it into a free berth next to them, Anatoly throwing them a rope so they could tie it up too. As they were doing that, figures were making their way down to them along the pier.

“Ahoy,” came Henty’s voice first of all, though he passed them by on the stone harbour and went straight to check on his boat.

“It’s still in one piece!” Thompson shouted over his shoulder.

“So there you are, Cunningham,” Bentley said as he saw Bill standing ahead of them, Bennet by his side. “You led us on a bloody wild goose chase, you know.”

Bill was smoking his pipe and grinned wryly. “Think of it as a training exercise Bentley,” he said with a nod to the three returning men.

He paused, looked straight at Anatoly, and asked, “Bennett told me you worked out how I was in trouble. How did you work it out? I didn’t even get chance to send a message.”

“Just a feeling,” Anatoly said with an insouciant shrug. “You said there were suspicious planes, and I told you to stand by for further instructions. When I could not raise you again… Well. It is you and I know if anyone was to fall into trouble it would be you.”

Bill laughed and clapped him on the shoulder. “You’re too sharp, kiddo. You make a cracking agent, Petrov,” he said with a proud look on his face.

“Hey, less of the kiddo,” Anatoly grunted, swatting Bill away, though deep down he was thrilled at the praise.

“And what are we? Chopped liver?” Thompson demanded, though his earlier surliness had dissipated, and he was smiling as he spoke. “We’ve all been out for a week, knee-deep in bird excrement, searching for you!”

“And it looks good on you,” Bill laughed, going forward to shake hands with Thompson and Bentley. “Thank you, both of you.”

“Trust you to get picked up by a plane just as we were closing in on you,” Bentley said, rolling his eyes. “I swear we were this close,” he held his thumb and forefinger a fraction of an inch apart.

“Come along and tell me all about it in a proper briefing, instead of gossiping like a bunch of old fishwives,” Bennett ordered over the chatter.

They all nodded, and turned to head up off the jetty and into the room where they had had their original briefing a few days ago. Anatoly trailed at the back wondering when he would be able to talk to Bill one on one.

The briefing was short; the three men told the story of their search for Bill, outlining their reasoning behind their route and so on. They hadn’t come across any of the enemy, nor anything else of importance and so after around thirty minutes Bennett called an end to the proceedings. “Well, you did a good job. You were right on Cunningham’s trail, just a few days behind which you couldn’t do anything about. Why don’t you get something to eat and get some rest now? I’m still waiting on one of the other teams to come back in, once they arrive we’ll get ready to go back out and round up that nasty lot. They’ve been playing us for fools long enough.”

The lunch buffet was being set out when they got to the restaurant of the hotel the agents were staying in. Most agents honed in on the plates and would have loved to start digging in but they had to be careful as each of them had given their ration books to the hotel for the stay. The meat, chicken mostly, was portioned out, but at least the vegetables were more or less as much as they could eat. Anatoly filled his plate and went and sat at a small table out of the way, for some peace and quiet while the other agents got on eating and chatting noisily.

He looked up as someone approached his table. “Room for another one?” Bill asked, holding his own plate.

Anatoly nodded and sat back in his chair. “I thought you would want to sit in the thick of it?” he asked Bill after a moment, nodding to the larger group of agents at one of the bigger tables.

Bill shook his head as he put his plate down then pulled out a chair. “I’m going to smack someone if they make another joke about me needing rescued.”

“And what makes you think that I am not going to make jokes at your expense?” Anatoly asked as Bill settled himself across from him.

“You are the lowliest agent in the room,” Bill reminded him. “You wouldn’t dare be so cheeky to such a senior and well-respected agent such as myself,” he added, both of them knowing it was an absolute lie.

Anatoly smirked a little, “You know that is not true, Bill. I mean, you do seem to run into a lot of trouble with those children!”

“They are absolute magnets for trouble, those kids,” Bill agreed with a grin. “But they’ve all got sound heads on their shoulders and can take care of themselves, they’ve proved that time and time again.”

“I would never have gotten away with half of what they do! You would have boxed my ears,” laughed Anatoly. “But they do seem like they are sensible when they get into one of these messes!”

“I would have, and they are,” Bill said. There was a few minutes of quiet as they turned their attentions to their food.

“By the way, are you planning to return my pencil?” Bill asked suddenly. “I mark them for a reason, you know.”

Anatoly sat back and patted his pockets of his blazer for the pencil. He withdrew it from his inside pocket and handed it over. “Did you drop it on purpose?”

“I wish,” Bill said ruefully. “But no. I had no idea I’d need to leave any clues, they snuck up on me so damn quickly.”

“Well it is a good thing it was dropped then! Maybe we should make it our own signal for when I have to come find you again!” Anatoly said, half-joking.

Bill held the pencil stub up and gazed at it intently. “That’s not a bad idea. Not that I expect you’ll be hunting for me any time soon,” he added quickly. “But a quick code scratched on the side of a pencil… could be useful.”

Anatoly nodded. “Just handy to have a marker. Maybe I could have one as well so you can always come and find me!” he added with a smile

“You’d better come up with your own signal, then. The pencil’s mine!” Bill said cheerfully, sticking his pencil in his chest pocked and patting it.

“I’ll think of something and let you know,” Anatoly allowed.

“Are you joining us when we head back out?” he asked, changing the subject.

“I do not know, Bennett has not said anything. I would assume I was joining you.”

“Well, I’ll put you down for my team if you’re up for it?”

“Naturally,” he said with a grin. “If Bennett does not have other ideas. I do not think he likes me much.”

“You’re an unknown quantity,” Bill said tactfully. “He prefers agents he knows well. Give it a bit of time and he’ll like you about as much as he likes anyone.”

Anatoly smiled ruefully. “Hopefully I will get there,” he said. The men ate some of their lunch in silence before Anatoly remembered about the children. “What have you done with your young friends?” he asked Bill.

“I personally returned them to their mother,” Bill said with a slight wince as he remembered Allie’s face as the children had fallen over themselves to regale her with tales of their adventure, heedless of the trouble they were dropping him in. He couldn’t blame them, they had been raised to be honest and truthful. It would have been nice if they’d waited until he’d reached a safe distance before opening their mouths, though.

“Not a hugely pleasant experience?” asked Anatoly with a smirk, sitting back in his chair with his drink.

“She wasn’t best pleased,” Bill said. “She thinks I ought to have told her exactly why I was disappearing, I left it rather vague I’m afraid as she wasn’t feeling at all well that morning. I think she feels guilty for begging me to take the children off her hands, but she’s taken it out on me rather.”

“They are lucky children to have such a caring mother,” Anatoly said, a touch jealously. “I am sure she was just frightened and concerned.”

Bill grunted. “One of these days I shall have to bring her along on one of our trips so she can see that the children are perfectly capable of falling headlong into trouble with absolutely no help from me.”

Anatoly threw back his head and laughed. “I suppose you would say I was the same!”

“Absolutely.” Bill finished his food and sat back with a sigh. “Well, we’ll see if you avoid any trouble when we head out again later. Are you ready for some real action?”

“You bet I am!”

Well, that turned out to be a much longer story than either of us anticipated. Perhaps some day we will return to the islands of Scotland and write about the clean up operation, but for now, that’s the end of what Bill and Anatoly got up to during The Sea of Adventure.

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December 2020 round up

At long last we reached the last month of 2020.

What I have read

I have made an effort to finish things that have been languishing on my currently reading shelf for ages, and I succeeded with one of those, and made some progress on another. I also decided to read some Christmas books as usually by the time I think about it I’ve hardly got time – and I find it weird to read them after December 25!

I read 14 this month and that means I read 166 altogether. (It did say 168 but I discovered one book had managed to be logged as read three times on the same day…)

  • Baby-Sitter’s Christmas Chiller (Baby-Sitter’ Super Mystery #4) – Ann M Martin
  • The Fun of the Fifties: Ads, Fads and Fashion – Robert Opie
  • James and the Giant Peach – Roald Dahl (audiobook narrated by Julian Rhind-Tutt)
  • Pocketful of Dreams (East End Ration #1) – Jean Fullerton
  • A Ration Book Christmas (East End Ration #2) – Jean Fullerton
  • The 1950s Scrapbook – Robert Opie
  • Rivers of London: Bodywork – Ben Aaronovitch
  • Hetty Feather’s Christmas – Jacqueline Wilson
  • Christmas With the Teashop Girls (Teashop Girls #2) – Elaine Everest
  • Five Children and It (Five Children #1) – E Nesbit
  • The Missing Bookshop – Katie Clapham
  • Winning at Life (When #FML Means Family #2) – Kathryn Wallace
  • I Will Judge You By Your Bookshelf – Grant Snider
  • The Ordeal of the Haunted Room (The Chronicles of St Mary’s #11.5) – Jodi Taylor

The ones I didn’t finish are:

  • Gender Rebels – Anneka Harry
  • The Girls of Mulberry Lane (Mulberry Lane #1) – Rosie Clarke

Though there are some others that I’m yet to finish but haven’t picked up in ages, the less said about those the better.

What I have watched

  • Hollyoaks 
  • More of Mythbusters, Only Connect, Taskmaster and Tattoo Fixers
  • We’ve continued with The Crown too (and I’ve done more reading on the royals!)
  • Mulan the live-action remake
  • Some Christmas things – Holiday Home Makeover with Mr Christmas, Jingle JangleThe Christmas Chronicles (again as we had forgotten most of what happened) and Christmas Chronicles #2 which wasn’t as good, plus The Nightmare Before Christmas (breaking my rule and watching after Xmas)
  • Some movies to amuse Brodie on cold afternoons – Shaun the Sheep, Despicable Me and Treasure Planet
  • Can You Keep a Secret? This is based on the Sophie Kinsella book of the same name. I love the book and the film was OK but not particularly memorable.

What I have done

Not an awful lot considering the season!

  • We decided as a family that if we wanted to spend some time together during the five-day window that the rules were to be relaxed for, then we shouldn’t risk being ‘tracked and traced’ which meant no cafes or anything in the 14 days before December 23, and then they changed the rules but we still got together on Christmas day to exchange presents and have a meal.
  • We went hunting for fairy doors in the Botanic Gardens, and did a few other walks and trips to playparks too. 
  • Elf on the Shelf has visited us every day and Brodie has loved looking for him every evening after his bath (our Elf is obviously time-challenged as I know most elves are there first thing in the morning when everyone wakes up). 
  • I had my birthday and Brodie loved the cake
  • We took a wander in the city centre to see the Christmas tree and decorations and posted Brodie’s letter to Santa, then went in again on Christmas Eve and bought hot doughnuts and hot chocolate from a stall.
  • I helped Brodie make some reindeer Christmas cards and he helped me make lebkuchen. 
  • Had a very cold al fresco lunch at my parents’, even with the chiminea going it was freezing!
  • A scavenger hunt over Zoom which Brodie got really into; shouting “What’s next?” all the time and then running off to find the next item before it was even announced.

What I have bought

I bought myself some more issues of Enid Blyton’s Magazine from Sue Bell at Green Meadow Books.

What has your month looked like?

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Monday #405

Happy new year! We might be starting it off in a pretty bad place but at least there is hope for the rest of the year.

December round up


Cunningham and Petrov: The Mystery of the Missing Agent chapter 25


A Happy New Year! It will be the first day of 1958 when you read this, but as I have to send this number of the magazine to the printers before Christmas, it’s not yet 1958 as I write to you. I hope you will have an interesting, happy and lucky Year – and that you have made some Good Resolutions! You know what my main one is – it’s always the same, very short and easy to remember. I hope some of you will make it your resolution too. It’s just – Be Kind!

Enid Blyton writes to her readers in the first magazine of volume 6 of Enid Blyton’s Magazine. I have no doubt that most Enid Blyton readers are kind – if they grew up reading her books they learned the importance of kindness, but given the situation the world is in right now kindness is definitely needed more than ever.


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Cunningham and Petrov: The Mystery of the Missing Agent chapter 24

Last time Bill and the children escaped the enemy only to end up with their boat caught on some rocks.

cunningham and petrov

Chapter 24

As the sun rose on Bill and the children a few miles away, Anatoly, Thompson and Bentley were waking up in their respective tents, ready for another day of searching the islands. They were fairly sure that this island was the island Bill and the children had been on. Anatoly was certain, but Bentley and Thompson chalked it up to youthful enthusiasm, anyone could have dropped a pencil. Still, after breakfast they performed one more sweep of the area near the natural harbour just in case they had missed anything.

Just as they were readying the boat for another day of sailing, the wireless crackled to life.

“Hey, you two, listen to this!” Bentley called, waving them over. “We’re being told to stand down.”

Anatoly and Thompson scrambled onto the boat in time to hear Bennett say “No response to our questions, but the message has been repeated every few minutes for the past hour.”

“Have they found Bill?” Anatoly asked.

Bentley nodded. “He is sending out a message saying he and four children are on a boat out of petrol, and a rough location, but they can’t seem to get a message back to him.”

Anatoly perched on the edge of the boat, a little disappointed that he hadn’t been able to find Bill and enact a daring rescue. He shook the thought from his head, having been told that it was a bad thing to think about when you were agent. Rescues were rarely glorious. Nine times out of ten, you were lucky to get rescued. They were only out for Bill as he was somewhat vital to the service. “Do we wait for further instructions?” Thompson was asking.

Bentley shrugged and asked the question across the wireless himself, receiving an affirmative response. After a hearty breakfast Bentley reported in to see if any instructions were waiting for them. “We’re to collect a boat,” he said, jotting down some co-ordinates on his notepad. “Bill and the children have been safely collected by sea-plane.”

“It is not Bill’s boat then?” Anatoly asked. “We know that got smashed up.” “Presumably the children found another boat somewhere,” Thompson said with a shrug. “Let’s do what we’re told and pack up here.”

“I was just told a boat. You know the rules, Petrov. They say ‘jump’ and you ask ‘how high’ not ‘why’,” Bentley said with a laugh. “Let’s get going sharpish, we’ve got a couple of days of sailing to get back to the mainland at least.”

Anatoly shared a smirk with Thompson as the cleared up what they had left on the island and packed the boat. Soon enough they were chugging along, to the co-ordinates that Bennet’s staff had provided from the mainland, and were astounded to see such a beautiful lagoon in the distance. “If you did not know where it was, you would not think to look here for someone hiding out would you?” Anatoly marvelled.

“No, it’s a damn good place for whatever they’re doing,” Bentley said. “We’d best not head too close, in case we draw attention to ourselves.” He consulted with Thompson who was keeping track of their position on the map and turned the boat a few degrees to the east. They headed the six miles south-east of the lagoon to the co-ordinates they had been given, and could just make out a small boat through their field-glasses, the tide having carried it away from its last-known location.

“Should I swim out and get it?” Anatoly suggested as they drew closer. “That would be the least conspicuous thing I am sure.” Thompson and Bentley glanced at each other. “It is an option, but we don’t know what condition it’s in,” Bentley said. “Let’s see if we can get any closer first before we throw you over the side!”

They took their boat closer and looked over the small craft. “It looks like it’s still seaworthy, and if Bill was on it last, it should be safe enough,” Bentley said. “I doubt the enemy would have come all the way out here just to plant some sort of trap on a useless boat.”

“I’ll bring us up close and one of you can hop over and fill up the tank and we can start heading back. We should have enough petrol for two boats, but if we start to run low we can switch to towing.”

Anatoly, wanting to be useful, was the one to go across to the other boat and soon he had it going. “You’ll have to take your turn at piloting on the way back,” Bentley told him. “We’ll sleep in shifts so that we don’t have to stop.”

The second boat was smaller and had a slightly smaller tank, but the fuel ran out long before any of them expected it to. “You put a whole can in, didn’t you?” Bentley asked Anatoly after they had turned back to see why he was no longer keeping pace with them.

“The tank must be leaking,” Thompson said. “There’s no way that boat has gone through a whole can of petrol while we’re still half-full.”

Bentley sighed. “Well, we can’t keep filling it up if it’s not going to last!”

“We’ll have to tow it in,” Thompson said. “We don’t have enough fuel to keep filling this one up, especially if it’s leaking.

“We could see if we can patch up the leak? ” suggested Anatoly hopefully.

“That would take too long,” Thompson said with a wry smile. “We’ll want to get back as soon as possible.”

That Anatoly couldn’t disagree with. Now the search was over there wasn’t any reason to hang around at sea. Back on the mainland plans would be being made to round up the gang and they wanted to be in on that. Still, he was disappointed not to have the chance to pilot a boat back some of the way.

to be continued…

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A guide to ‘If you like Blyton’ for grown-ups

A while back I compiled a list of all our reviewed authors that you might like if you like Blyton, but it focussed on children’s books. We also have some Blyton for grown-ups recommendations so I’m going to make a separate list of those below (which I will update if we review anything new).miln

Edmondson, Elizabeth

Recommended read: A Man of Some Repute

Elizabeth Edmondson is a pseudonym used by Elizabeth Pewsey, a writer or primarily romance novels. As Edmondson, however, she writes historical mysteries as well as young adult fantasy. A Man of Some Repute falls into the historical mysteries category, being set in the 1950s. It’s the first in a series of three books  and one novella about Hugo Hawksworth – a grown-up Julian Kirrin type – who solves Agatha Christie style murders in and around Selchester Castle.

Kelly, Stephen

Recommended read: The Language of the Dead

Stephen Kelly is also a historical mystery writer, The Language of the Dead is the first of three in his Inspector Lamb series. These are somewhat darker books as they deal with ‘brutal’ murders and as such as a further step than some cosier mysteries.

Milne, A.A.

Recommended read: The Red House Mystery

No, I haven’t made a mistake. You might well recommend A.A. Milne’s most famous works – those about that bear of very little brain, Winnie-the-Pooh – for fans of Blyton’s books, but he also authored a few books for grown ups. One of which is The Red House Mystery where a classic who-dun-it arises upon the murder of the host at a country estate.

Pascoe, Marina

Recommended read: Too Many Cooks

Marina Pascoe is another historical murder mystery writer. As well as some non-fiction works about the history of Cornwall, she has written four books in her Bartlett and Boase series which are set in 1920s Falmouth (her home town).

Sheridan, Sara

Recommended read: Brighton Belle

Continuing the theme with more historical mysteries, Sara Sheridan is the Scottish author of the Mirabelle Bevan series which has eight books so far. Set in 1950s Brighton, Mirabelle Bevan forms her own detective agency (a bold move for a woman at the time) and investigates cases of arson, theft, and several murders.

Tipping, Liz

Recommended read: Five Go Glamping

Liz Tipping is a romantic fiction writer who has written a modern story about four friends and their dog who go on a glamping (glamorous camping) holiday. Liz Tipping is an Enid Blyton fan so the book is s slight homage to the Famous Five.

Vincent, Bruno

Recommended read: Any title you can find cheaply (or better, for free!)

I deliberated over including Bruno Vincent here. He is the author of (so far) fifteen books in his Enid Blyton for Grown-Ups series, all of which feature the Famous Five as adults in the present day. I personally don’t find them very funny over-all, and neither does Stef but I feel like they deserve a mention if only for the lovely Ruth Palmer artwork. Some people seem to find them hilarious, so I can’t discount them entirely.

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Monday #404

I hope you all managed to have some fun over Christmas even if it wasn’t the sort of Christmas you hoped for.

Our guide to ‘like Blyton’ for grown-ups


Cunningham and Petrov: The Mystery of the Missing Agent chapter 24


Into shop after shop went the children and the others, tasting everything they could see. They had tomato soup, poached eggs, ginger buns, chocolate fingers, ice-creams, and goodness knows what else.

“Well I just simply CAN’T eat anything more,” said Silky at last. “I’ve been really greedy. I am sure I shall be ill if I eat anything else.”

“Oh Silky!” said Dick. “Don’t stop. I can go on for quite a long time yet.”

The Faraway Tree crew visit the Land of Goodies in The Magic Faraway Tree and behave roughly how many of us have over Christmas. I swing between Silky’s feelings of having eaten way too much and Dicks’ attitude of ‘give me all the food’.



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Adventure at the Christmas Market

As promised here is our Christmas story starring the Famous Five and the Mannering/Trents.


Lucy-Ann washed the last of the breakfast dishes and sat them in the drying-rack for Jack to dry them. She glanced up at the ceiling as if she could see through to the bedrooms above. “What are they arguing about now?” she asked, referring to the two Mannering siblings whose home they shared.

“I don’t think Philip’s all that keen to go Christmas shopping this afternoon,” Jack said.

“It’s not just Christmas shopping, it’s a whole market,” Lucy-Ann said, her eyes wide. “There will be decorations and food and everything. You don’t mind going, do you Jack?”

“No, I don’t mind,” Jack said as he dried another plate. “It’s not what I’d most like to be doing, but if you girls want to go I don’t mind going with you. I might find something for Kiki’s Christmas I suppose.”

“I happen to know that you’ve not bought a single Christmas present yet, Philip,” came Dinah’s voice from the hall, getting louder as she descended the stairs.

“Yes I have, I’ve got you some musical chiggers!”

There was a pause. “You’ve got me musical…”

“Chiggers,” Philip said cheerfully. “Trombicula doremi and trombicila fasola, to be precise.” There was another brief silence. “Mites, Dinah. Itchy little mites.”

Lucy-Ann winced as they heard Dinah give an enraged shriek and then the sound of her palm meeting Philip’s cheek.

“Break it up, you two,” Jack shouted as he opened the door from the kitchen into the hall, catching the two Mannerings scuffling together.

“It’s jolly good that we are dragging you to this Christmas market,” Dinah said fiercely, stepping out of Philip’s reach and patting her hair tidy. “You’d better not buy me anything disgusting or I’ll box your ears!”

“Maybe I just won’t buy you anything,” Philip said, but in a low voice that Dinah couldn’t hear. He didn’t want another slap.


“I do so enjoy a Christmas market,” Anne was saying as the Five left the house to catch the bus. “I’ve been saving up my money to get all of my presents today.”

“I’m looking forward to it for all the mince pies,” Dick said with a smirk.

“You would!” Julian, George and Anne retorted and Timmy barked, happy to just join in.

“Better keep an eye on Timmy though, George,” Julian added. “He’s getting tubby!”

“He isn’t!” George said furiously. “He’s just got a thick winter coat.”

Anne sighed a little as George got wound up by Julian’s teasing. Dick took Anne’s arm and pulled her in front of the other two.

“Ignore them, dear sister,” Dick said jovially. “I’ll protect Timmy and eat the mince pies.”

Anne laughed. “What a hardship for you!”

“You know me, always willing to lend a hand!”

“Or a mouth,” Julian said from behind them.

“Whatever it takes,” Dick agreed with a wide grin.


Dinah and Philip had managed to not fall out again in the time it had taken them to take the bus to the Christmas market. The whole area had been decked out for Christmas with a tall tree at the market entrance simply covered in red glass baubles, holly and ivy trailing across the awnings of the stall and the scent of mince pies and mulled wine in the air.

“Oh, it’s just like Christmas ought to look like,” Lucy-Ann said, her eyes shining.

“Look like, look like,” Kiki chimed in as the boys smiled at one another. Lucy-Ann was the most into the romantic version of Christmas out of the four.

“Kiki, you silly bird,” Lucy-Ann laughed. “Now don’t you go flying off where we can’t find you!”

“She won’t,” Jack said confidently, scratching Kiki under the chin. “Will you old thing? You can bet she will be keeping an eye out for any roast chestnuts however!”

“I can smell them now,” Dinah added. “Shall we get some while we wander around?”

“No, too fiddly,” Philip said. “We’ll get some for the bus home.”

Although it was the girls who had been keen to do some shopping it was Jack who soon proved impossible to chivvy on as he soon found stalls selling Christmas sweets and nuts, but also seeds and dried fruits, jams and chutneys, and he couldn’t decide what to get Kiki. “It’s no use asking you, Kiki, you’ll want all of it,” he said.

“Walnuts, dates and peanuts! Candied peel and finest jams!” Kiki said, repeating some of the stall holder’s patter, much to his surprise.


The silver and gold Christmas tree shone in the afternoon sun as the Five found their way into the bustling Christmas market.

Anne was the first to make a purchase, a delicately painted trinket-box for her mother, taking out her red coin purse to pay the stall-holder. She pushed it back into her shoulder-bag after, but was too busy trying to decide where to go next to notice that she hadn’t shut the bag properly after.

With the Five crowding around the figurine stall Anne was looking at, and Timmy distracted by the onslaught of wonderful food smells, no one noticed the figure moving up behind them. Nor did they  notice the hand that slipped into the opening of Anne’s bag and and reached for the purse that had been shoved haphazardly shoved in the top. Anne however found herself off balance as the hand had to yank the purse free of the opening which was slightly too small to withdraw it in one swoop.

“Hey!” she found herself shouting as Julian caught her, and the pickpocket ran off into the crowd, dropping the purse as he bumped into other shoppers.

“Are you all right, Anne?” Julian asked as George shouted for Timmy to get the pickpocket.

Dick snatched up the purse from where it had fallen and tucked it securely into Anne’s bag for her.

“We need to report this to the police!” he said angrily, looking around to where Timmy had pushed through the crowd, George in hot pursuit.

“There there, Anne, it’s OK, Timmy will get them!” Julian said as Dick looked around, keeping an eye out for anyone else who might be trying to pickpocket them.

However, Timmy did not get anyone. He returned to the other a few minutes later with his leash clipped to his collar, his tail between his legs and George and a policeman by his side.

“Now you keep that dog under control, my boy,” the policeman warned George. “And don’t give me any more of your nonsense about chasing thieves! If I catch you causing trouble again you’ll be thrown out of this here market.”

“But sir!” Dick said before he could stop himself. “There is a thief about, he tried to get away with my sister’s purse!” he held up the red purse to show him.

“It was just luck that my bag was half-fastened and it stopped him getting cleanly away,” Anne said helpfully.

The policeman harrumphed loudly. “The fact that the purse is still in your possession, Miss, leads me to believe that you were mistaken. It’s most likely that someone bumped into you and your purse was jostled loose from your bag.”

Despite their protests that they had seen the pick-pocket and could describe him, the policeman refused to listen. “You seem like decent kids, so you run along and buy something nice and keep out of trouble. I’m keeping an eye on this here market, and I don’t need any help from children!”

“Keeping an eye on the free samples more like!” Julian said in a low voice as the policeman walked off officiously and scooped up a handful of shortbread squares from one stall and then a few pieces of sausage from another.


The Mannerings and Trents were wandering around the market looking at all the wonderful stalls and all the nice things people had made to sell. There were wonderful scents in the air and Kiki was in her element screeching “God save the Queen” at unsuspecting people. They stopped at a candle stall and Lucy-Ann and Dinah were considering getting a nice set of candles for the dining room that Aunt Allie might like to use for Christmas dinner. Jack and Philip weren’t that interested and were looking around them at the people, wondering if there was anyone they knew around when Philip saw a slim figure moving suspiciously through the crowd. Philip nudged Jack and nodded at the figure in the crowd. “Bit strange,” he said under his breath to Jack.

Initially there was nothing particularly strange about the boy, he just looked like a kid wandering the market. But as Jack watched him he noticed that although the boy was looking around intently, he was far more interested in the shoppers and their bags than in the wares for sale.

A large woman stopped between Jack and the boy, arguing with her husband over which stall to stop at for something to eat, so he heard commotion rather than saw it. “My wallet!” someone was shouting. “It’s gone!” Just as the large lady moved on, having overruled her husband in favour of her own preference for a sausage sandwich, Jack saw the boy slipping between a cake stall and one selling bottles of fine ales, and disappear.

“That way!” he said pointing in the direction of the boy to Philip, and set off after the boy. Kiki screeched happily taking off from Jack’s shoulder and causing a scene.

By the time they’d made it through the gap in the stalls, attracting much more attention in the process, the boy had vanished into the crowds. “What are you two up to?” came a stern voice, making them both jump.

“Following a thief!” Philip panted. “He just took a wallet!”

The policeman eyed them coldly. “What did I just tell you?” he asked, and the boys were puzzled.

“You haven’t told us anything,” Jack said calmly, his hand on Philips arm, warning the other boy not to lose his temper. “But there really is a thief, he went that way!” he pointed to the way they had been heading.

The policeman swelled indignantly. “I told you that you’d be thrown out if there was any more nonsense about thieves,” he said as Dinah and Lucy-Ann came along the aisle between stalls to find them. “Where’s that dog of yours?” he asked Dinah, changing tact. “I told you to keep him on his leash!”

“Dog?” Dinah asked confused as Jack looked around for Kiki. “We don’t have a dog!”

The policeman frowned as he looked more closely at Dinah. “I could have sworn it was a boy with the dog…” he said, half-to himself before he looked at the other three.

“Phweeeeeet!” Kiki made her police whistle sound as she landed on Jack’s shoulder.

The policeman stared at her, wide-mouthed. “You didn’t have a parrot before… Perhaps…” he cleared his throat and spoke more clearly. “I think I’ve mistaken you for someone else. But what I said still stands, I won’t have any kids dogs – or parrots – running round this market in pursuit of imaginary thieves. Now, be off with you!”

The four and Kiki walked quickly away from the policeman. “What is going on?” Dinah demanded of the boys when they were out of sight. “You dashed off both of you, and Kiki made such a row!”

“We thought we saw a pick-pocket,” Jack explained. “But what was he talking about, speaking to us before?”

“And why did he think I had a dog?” Dinah demanded.

“Maybe there is another group of children here with a dog,” Lucy-Ann said, unthinking.

Philip groaned. “Some kids and a dog who have tried to catch a pick-pocket, and one of them looks a bit like Dinah…”

“Not the ‘Famous Five’,” Jack exclaimed.


The Five were now behind one of the stalls, out of the way of the policeman, having a conference. “We should set up a trap,” Dick was saying insistently. “Empty someone’s purse and then leave it somewhere and watch it, Timmy will catch whoever comes to swipe it, and then we can put that pick pocket to the policeman as proof.”

“I like that plan, but maybe we ought to buy a cheap purse. I’m sure none of us should like to risk losing our own, just in case something goes wrong,” Julian said sensibly.

“I’ve got my old coin purse,” George said helpfully. “It’s starting to fall apart but mother says I’m not allowed a new one until the money starts falling out! If someone runs off with it I can ask for a new one for Christmas!”

Julian laughed. “Very clever, old thing. All right, we’ll use your old purse. But where should we put it?” he asked, looking around for inspiration.

“On the fountain!” Anne said excitedly after they peered around for a minute. “It could have fallen out of the bag while someone sat down!”

And so George carefully emptied her money out of her purse and, after casually sitting on the edge of the fountain for a few minutes, walked off and left the purse sitting there. Rejoining the her cousins they found places nearby where they could see if the thief picked it up.

Timmy stood quietly next to George, seeming to understand that they were waiting for something. Why oh why had George left her purse there. He wondered if she knew she had done that. Anne was hiding with Julian as she was a bit shaken from the earlier attempt. The smells from the market were making her feel a little sick now as the scents of gingerbread and roasting nuts engulfed her.


The boys were rattled by the thought of the Kirrins being at the market, and potentially catching the pick-pocket that had evaded them. Lucy-Ann and Dinah tried to cajole them along but they were too busy scanning the crowd for the boy in the green hat, that they barely paid attention to any of the things for sale.

They were just passing the fountain in the middle when Philip stopped and caught the others’ attention. “Look, someone’s left their purse,” he said. “We ought to hand it in before someone walks off with it.” Reuniting a lost purse with its owner was hardly on a par with catching a thief but it was something at least.

Julian stiffened as he heard an exclamation about George’s purse and pushed Anne back a little more as he strained forward to try and get a good look at the people picking up the purse. “You stay here,” he whispered to Anne as he motioned Dick to start moving forward.

The boy who picked the purse up wasn’t wearing the green hat any longer, but perhaps he had ditched it in an attempt to not be recognised. He also seemed to be with a few others, perhaps there was a whole team of pick-pockets working the market! The others hadn’t done anything so he and Dick hurried up behind the one holding the purse and made a grab for him.

Julian caught one of the boy’s arms, and Dick the other as George and Timmy appeared just behind them. “Gerroff!” said the boy holding George’s purse.

“That’s not your purse and you know it,” Julian said, shaking him a little as an awful shriek came from his left and a red-headed someone suddenly grabbed his arm.

“Kirrin, you fat-head, what are you doing?” the red-head shouted.

At the same time Philip said “I was picking it up to hand it in to the police!”

The tussling suddenly stopped and everyone stood frozen as they looked at each other’s faces.





“Phweeeeeeeeet!” That was Kiki doing her police whistle impression, of course.

“Are we all quite finished?” Dinah asked as the boys and George stared at each other gob smacked. Timmy barked an answer and went to lick George’s hand.


“What are you doing here?” Julian asked The Mannering-Trents. “You fat-heads have walked into our trap for the thief!”

“Oh, we’re the fat-heads are we? What does that make you, leaving purses lying around just so you can attack complete strangers?” Philip retorted, rubbing his arm where Julian had grabbed it.

“I told you, we were trying to catch the thief that’s been around here today,” Anne piped up.

“Hasn’t worked out very well then, has it?” Jack said, breaking the tension with a sudden laugh.

Julian and George looked a little disgruntled as Dick joined Jack in laughing and Kiki joined in with her high pitched screech. “I guess we were expecting to be the only sleuths around,” Dick said after a moment as Dinah, Lucy-Ann and Anne all exchanged looked at the boys’ ineptitude.

“We thought you might be here actually,” Jack said, and filled them in on their conversation with the policeman.

“I would have liked to have seen his face when he realised he had the wrong kids,” Julian said.

“How about seeing the look on his face when we present him with a pick-pocket?” Dinah said. “I bet we could get him if we put our heads together.”

“I mean, we can work together,” Jack said vaguely. “But we could solve this without you lot,” he added offhandedly.

“Well, go on then,” George said, her eyes flashing, “We’ll see who’s the best at this sort of thing!”

Dick elbowed her. “More eyes can’t hurt.”

“Who gets credit?” Philip flashed back. “If we work with you?”

“We can share, can’t we?” Lucy-Ann said timidly.

“Does it matter, as long as we catch the pick pocket?” Anne added, meeting Julian’s eyes. She hoped her scared little sister act would make him more amenable to agreeing with her.

“I say it doesn’t matter, as long as we catch him,” Dick agreed.

“Let’s make a plan, then!” Jack said, rubbing his hands together.


Half an hour later, the two groups were strategically moving through the market. Dinah had dragged Philip to a stall to try and find something for him to buy for their mother, and then moved off to another stall to look at a present for Lucy-Ann.

The others were strolling around, keeping their distance but also keeping a close eye on Dinah’s handbag. She had put George’s empty purse right at the top, half sticking out so that it was an obvious temptation to any pick-pocket.

Dinah, while trying to encourage Philip to shop, was careful to keep the bag in full view of anyone behind her at all times.

Dick and Julian were hanging back, keeping an eye on Dinah as she made sure to move around, her bag swinging open over her shoulder. “Do you think this will work?” Dick asked Julian.

“Possibly, just as well as our plan, I think,” Julian said quietly. He started as he saw a green hat passing Dinah, but it was a girl a bit older than they were and she didn’t even glance at the purse.

They were just starting to lose hope – and getting very hungry – when all of a sudden Dinah shouted ‘Hey!’

Everyone started to push towards Dinah, and George sent Timmy towards her as the scrum of the crowd had become too much to push through. Timmy weaved through people’s legs towards Dinah and then bolted after a familiar smell he could make out, one that was making off quickly.

“He’s got the purse!” Dinah called as George and the boys tried to follow Timmy. Lucy-Ann and Anne gathered around her and they followed at a more sedate pace.

They couldn’t always see the thief, but the sounds of him bumping into people and making them shout indignantly was almost as good, Julian thought as they hurried after him.

The thief clearly knew someone was chasing him and gave them a good run for their money, weaving in and out of people as much as possible. Timmy was lolloping along thinking this was a great game when he caught scent of the policeman who had told him off before and began to bark.

“Here, what have I told you!” the policeman roared. “Get that dog under control!”

And suddenly, the thief was trapped between them. They had reached the area which contained a few rides – a merry-go-round was swiftly rotating on their left, and the tall helter-skelter slide was on their right.

Timmy barked joyously as a child flew down the helter-skelter on a rough mat, squealing loudly. Even if he couldn’t get a hold of the thief then maybe he could still get in a nip of the policeman. George had raised him to respect the police and usually he did, but now and again you ran into one who deserved a good nip.

“He’s got my purse!” George called as the thief looked around wildly, looking for an escape route.

Looking sullen, the boy reached into his pocket, pulled out the purse, and handed it over. The policeman took it and looked inside. “And where’s the money?” he asked.

“What?” The children knew that the boy’s look of shock was genuine, but the policeman didn’t.

“What have you done with the money? This purse is empty.”

George stepped forward. “It was empty when he took it,” she admitted.

“Tricked him into stealing it so that you could catch him, did you?” he asked, showing remarkable insight. He harrumphed when George reluctantly nodded. “In that case I think you should all leave, I’m not having you running wild even if there are a few petty criminals hanging around.”

“Well, that’s gratitude for you!” Julian said in disgust as they left the market.

“I suppose he will get all the credit now,” Dinah said unhappily.

“I expect so,” Dick agreed, gloomily.

“At least we caught the thief though,” Anne said, trying to cheer them up. “We also did much better working together!”

“We did, but now we’ve been thrown out of the market!” George reminded her.

Anne sighed, “I didn’t get all the things I wanted either.”

Dinah suddenly looked at Philip and thumped his arm. “You didn’t get a single thing, did you Philip!”

“Er…” Philip side stepped out of her reach. “I didn’t really have time!”

“You’ll do anything to avoid shopping! What are you going to do on Christmas day when you’ve nothing to give to Mother? Or any of us?” Dinah demanded. “I’m not letting you share my gifts again!”

“We can come back tomorrow,” Lucy-Ann said gently. “Aunt Allie is having tea with Mrs Kirrin so will want us out of the house.”

“Is my mother coming round to yours again?” George asked surprised. “I thought she was going shopping!”

“I’m sure that’s what Aunt Allie said,” said Lucy-Ann with a little shrug. “Will we see you at the market again tomorrow?”

“Perhaps,” said Julian. “But we’ll have to be careful not to annoy that policeman.”

“Maybe it’ll be his day off tomorrow,” Dick said hopefully.

“Maybe he will have eaten so much he can’t move,” added George disdainfully.

“Let’s do lunch,” Jack said with a nod. “We can take a picnic into the park across the road. Meet at the fountain at midday?”

“All right,” Julian agreed. And then, as a parting shot over his shoulder as they hurried for their bus he called “Just try not to get us thrown out of the park as well?”

Merry Christmas, everyone!

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Spot the Famous Five’s favourite Christmas songs

You’ll think I have too much time on my hands, but really I don’t!

Here is a short story featuring the Famous Five at Christmas – into which I have added several Christmas song titles. How many can you spot, let me know in the comments!

“Do remember that it’s Christmas Day on Friday?” Aunt Fanny said desperately into the telephone.

“Yes, not to worry, I’ll be home for Christmas,” her husband promised.

“You had better be,” Aunt Fanny warned. “Now, I’d better dash, I’ve to pick the children up at Kirrin Station shortly.

“I do love driving home for Christmas with you all in the pony-trap,” she said a short time later as the four children and one dog sat crowded in the trap with their luggage, all of them in high spirits for the holiday season.

“It would be just like a sleigh ride if only it snowed,” Anne sighed.

“Do you think we’ll have a white Christmas this year?” Dick asked, looking up at the sky.

“Oh, do let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!” Anne cried excitedly. “Kirrin looks such a winter wonderland when it snows.”

“It doesn’t often snow at Christmas,” Aunt Fanny said sensibly.

“And have you forgotten that we got snowed in just last Christmas?” Julian asked with a laugh. “We had a jolly thrilling time but it would be nice not to be cut off entirely this year.”

The others agreed, they would be happy for another adventure but would prefer not to be snowed in. “I’d like to get across to Kirrin Island for one!” said George.

Anne was the first to rush into the house when they arrived. “The holly and the ivy look wonderful on the mantlepiece” she cried excitedly.

“Yes, it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas in here,” her aunt said with a smile as she took off her gloves. “I haven’t put the Christmas tree up yet, though, I was hoping you four would help me with that.”

“Of course we will, it’s nice to be home for the holidays again,” George said.

Aunt Fanny looked very pleased. “Yes, family is what Christmas means to me, it’s so lovely to have you all here.”

“Ooh, only one more sleep until Christmas!” Anne said at bed-time on Christmas Eve. “We must remember to leave out a glass of milk and a mince pie for Father Christmas, and some carrots for his reindeer!”

“You don’t still believe in all that, do you?” Julian asked her.

“Of course I believe in Father Christmas,” Anne said. “If you don’t believe, then he doesn’t come!”

“I don’t believe he comes if you’re badly behaved either,” Dick said. “Especially if you are as cross and sulky as George!”

“I should have told Father Christmas that all I want for Christmas is you to stop being so annoying,” George retorted.

“No use, he won’t be bringing you anything because you’re such a cross-patch,” Dick teased her.

On Christmas morning Aunt Fanny handed out the presents from underneath the tree.

“What’s this?” Julian asked, shaking an oddly-shaped parcel.

“I don’t know, but what lovely Christmas wrapping it has!” said Anne happily.

“Yes it’s very pretty paper,” Aunt Fanny said, “if you’re careful opening it I shall save the paper and I can use it next year!”

“I wish it could be Christmas everyday,” Anne sighed as the day drew to a close.

“Yes, it’s the most wonderful time of the year,” agreed Aunt Fanny.

“Yes, we’ve simply had a Wonderful Christmastime,” the others chorused.

I hope you all have as wonderful a Christmas time as you can given that it’s 2020.

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Monday #403

Christmas week is finally here, not that it will be much of a Christmas for those who can’t spend it with their loved ones as they had hoped. From this Saturday the whole of mainland Scotland goes into the highest lockdown tier, and so I suspect the usual January blues will be greatly magnified. But still, at least we have something to look forward to this week and hopefully some fun can be had. If not we can all stuff our faces Blyton-style and hibernate for a few weeks.

In no particular order:

Our as yet unnamed Christmas fan fiction featuring the Famous Five and the Mannering/Trents as voted for by our readers.


An also as yet unnamed piece I have written featuring the Famous Five at Christmas, which has a bit of a puzzle in it for you all to solve.

Then what a time she had! She went to the toy-shop and bought dolls, toys, and books. She went to the sweet-shop and bought packets of sweets and boxes of chocolate and tins of biscuits. She went to the book-shop and bought all kinds of gay cards. Really, she had a perfectly lovely time – but she was happiest of all when she gave what she had bought to the children, and heard all their squeals of joy and saw their beaming faces.

“That’s my best Christmas present,” she always said. “That’s my very best Christmas present – seeing the children so happy and excited.”

The ‘she’ in the story is Mrs Millikin, and she appears in Little Mrs Millikin, which can be found in the Fourth Holiday Book.



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Fan fic Friday Cunningham and Petrov: The Mystery of the Missing Agent chapter 23

Last time Jack and Philip rescued Bill from the enemies’ boat.

cunningham and petrovAgain, much of this dialogue is straight from the book.

Chapter 23

Jack, the sensible boy that he was asked if they ought to use the oars to row out, to avoid the sound of the engine being heard. Bill had already considered that and discarded the idea – they needed to get away as swiftly as possible, as he felt sure they would be chased and he told Jack as much. He wanted the children out of the line of fire, so just before he started the engine he ordered them to lie flat on the deck.

The ruckus on the other boat stopped as soon as Bill started the engine, and he realised that they’d had no idea there was another boat. Perhaps they could have snuck off quietly, but well, it was too late and they were committed now! Almost immediately came the sound of gunshot, the enemy firing wildly in the direction of the engine-sound and Bill hunched down as low as he could to protect himself.

He warned the children to stay down as despite the poor visibility a few of the bullets had come quite close to the boat already. He swore under his breath and revved the engine of the boat as hard as he could, wishing it was a service boat which was always ready to go at top speed. He was doing his best to avoid the bullets when there was an ear shattering squawk from Kiki. It was so unexpected, that Bill jerked involuntarily at the wheel.

As Kiki continued to screech,  Jack began to rise up to check her. “Oh! Kiki’s hit!” he was shouting. Bill felt an uncomfortable lurch in his stomach, he really was fond of the idiotic bird even if she could be annoying at times. He turned to check on the situation, dimly realising that if Kiki was badly hurt she couldn’t possibly be making such a racket.  “Keep down, you idiot!” he roared as he caught movement out of the corner of his eye. He yelled words to that effect to Jack who wasn’t heeding his instructions and was risking being shot himself as he continued to fuss over Kiki.

With Jack lying down again at last Bill refocussed on the boat and the enemy, and as the shooting stopped he distinctly heard the sound of their boat. He groaned inwardly, the last thing he wanted was a pitch-dark boat chase on the open sea. He shouted a warning to the children, lest they try sitting up like Jack had just done, and told them they would just have to keep going as long as the petrol lasted.

They were lucky to be beyond the reach of the searchlight that the enemy had on their boat, and on information from Jack, Bill began heading towards the ‘lagoon-island’ that the children had visited earlier, leaving the enemies’ boat on a different course entirely.

As Bill began to relax slightly, there came a guttural “Arrrrrrr!” from somewhere in front of him. He jumped at the noise but then had to laugh. The children had brought the puffins with them. “My goodness–have you still got Huffin and Puffin?” He looked at Kiki who was beginning to make noises now she wasn’t the centre of attention, as he had noticed the puffins. “Now don’t start screeching again, Kiki. I’m absolutely certain you’re not hurt.”

As Jack began to ask if he could check Kiki over, the boat coughed and spluttered as it began to run out of petrol. Bill sighed and said bitterly, “Petrol’s run out. It would, of course!? Now we’ll have to row, and it won’t be long before the enemy catch us up!” Everyone got up and stretched as the boat began to drift, and there was grumbling about how heavy the boys were on the part of Dinah and Lucy who had been squashed underneath the boys, but everyone, luckily was unhurt.

Bill was glad when Jack confirmed that Kiki wasn’t really hurt, but his mind was busy elsewhere, as was Dinah’s clearly as she told Jack to forget Kiki and think about what they were going to do.

What ought they to do? Making for the lagoon-island was one option, or was that too close to the enemy and should they try to get as far away as possibly but risk being far from land if a storm blew up? In the end he decided that striking for the nearest land was the best option for the moment, they could always divert at the last minute if they saw anything that worried them.

The boys’ sharp eyes could make out the dark shape of the island, and so he trusted them and they began to row in that direction. Just as Jack was reassuring him that there were no rocks around this island, there was an awful grinding noise and the boat shuddered to a stop.

Bill was dismayed, “On the rocks! And somehow I don’t think we will get her off! She means to stay here alright!” They had a look around and found they were wedged hard on the rocks and with rocks all around them too, so they were indeed rather stuck. At least the boat was still in one piece.

Lucy-Ann eventually had the idea of wrapping up in rugs and having a good long talk as they waited for the morning, and enough light to see if they could do anything about their predicament.

Bill and the boys got some dry clothes on, and sat down with hastily sourced rations of biscuits and chocolate. The children insisted he share his story first, and so he began with being abducted from his boat the night of the storm. He sketched a few details of his time in the shack, careful to keep his tone light, and then told them about Horace Tipperlong’s arrival. He couldn’t resist telling them what Horace had said about them, nor from exaggerating slightly to tease Lucy-Ann about her being the most vicious of the group.

Then it was his turn to sit and listen and he was amazed at all they had been through, as well as how much they had discovered about the enemy. They quite put him to shame, in fact. He had run away from the enemy, only to end up accidentally running into them and being kidnapped, while the children had not only worked out where they were but what they were doing, and had rescued him from their midst!

One thing he didn’t understand was, why hadn’t they headed for safety once they had Horace’s boat? When he asked them this, and they said they’d considered their options and chosen to try to find him, Bill found himself suddenly choked up. He swallowed hard, glad it was dark enough that they couldn’t see the sudden glint in his eyes as he told them they were the finest friends anyone could have, and he was proud of them.

The girls were clearly touched, though the boys were quiet. Before anyone could say anything else, however, Lucy-Ann pointed at the far horizon. The sun was coming up.

To be continued…

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Blyton’s search terms volume 11

It has been a long time since I’ve done one of these (over a year, actually!), but here are the search terms that have caught my eye lately.

The good questions

I always try to (very belatedly) answer questions that have been asked in the search terms, especially if I think that the answer isn’t already on the site!

What is Miss Grayling in Malory Towers’ first name? She doesn’t have a first name given in the books (not in Blyton’s ones anyway, it’s possible that the continuations by Pamela Cox have given her a name, but not in the first couple) and she is also just Miss Grayling in the new TV series.


Is Ring O’ Bells from Famous Five? No, although Ring O’ Bells is somewhere I could picture the Five running into a mystery, it’s from The Ring O’ Bells Mystery which is the third book in the Barney Mysteries (sometimes known as the R Mysteries).

Who has been cast in Malory Towers TV show? The full cast list can be found on IMDb.

Where does this quote come from ‘lashings and lashings of ginger beer’? That was never in any Blyton book though she did have lashings of tomatoes at least once. The lashings of ginger beer comes from Five Go Mad in Dorset which is the first of three comedy spoofs of the Famous Five by The Comic Strip Presents show.

What kind of jacket does Dick and Julian wear in Famous Five 1978? I actually don’t know the answer to this but I do love those jackets and am happy to use this as an excuse to show them again.

In Malory towers which uni does Felicity go to? Felicity is too young at the end of the Blyton Malory Towers books to have a plan for university, it’s possible that by the end of the Pamela Cox ones she declares her intentions. I haven’t read that far, so I don’t know myself!

The strange questions

I will answer some of these if I can, but some are a bit beyond simple explanations.

Blyton’s attitude to people being fat. There are plenty of plump older ladies with jolly smiles who are popular with the children as they bake lots of cakes, and there are people like Fatty who are fat but it has no effect on their skills or popularity. She pokes fun at Goon as he is fat enough to be too unfit to cycle speedily (and also he’s a pretty horrible person) and at times she has characters who over-eat and are lazy and fat as a result. I don’t think she demonizes fat people but neither does she show much understanding for the many reasons that people might gain weight.

What is the best Famous Five book? Well, that’s easy. It’s Five Go to Smuggler’s Top! (Others might disagree, but they’re wrong).

Who is the character within the poem, Firework Night? Give detailed evidence for your answer. The poem Firework Night is from the viewpoint of an un-named dog. The evidence is that the character ‘yelps’ has a tail and ears that can lie flat and lives in a kennel. I suspect that the searcher here might have meant a firework poem by another author, either way, they were looking for someone to answer their homework for them! See below for another couple of example.

Enid Blyton firework poem work worksheet answers and Fire work at night poem of eighth sumary.

What kind of dog is Hindash’s Timmy? / What kind of dog does Hindash have? / What is Timmy’s breed Hindash? / What type breed dog does Hindash have?

I was a bit baffled by these four searches for a while. At first I thought Hindash was an illustrator for the Famous Five, but no. He’s a make-up artist who has a dog called Timmy. This poor, dedicated searcher will have had no luck here and was probably very frustrated by the third or fourth time they ended up on this site.

Dislike Enid Blyton. Well obviously we don’t dislike Blyton here on our dedicated Blyton site, but did this searcher dislike Blyton? Or were they looking for unfair criticism of her?

Love Island from Five Go Mad in Masculine. At first I saw this and thought of the programme Love Island but then I remembered that Uncle Quentin is trying to build a love colony on Love Island in Five Go Mad on Mescalin. The typo (or autocorrect) of Mesculin to Masculine is just so apt it’s funny.

How many impresssions  in the Five Enid Blyton? Impress(s)ions as in editions, or impersonations? Who knows?

Five on Puffin Island Blyton. Puffin Island is from The Sea of Adventure so the Five are unlikely to have visited unless in fan fiction.

Malory Towers spanking cane corporal punishment. This comes up quite often, but there was no corporal punishment in Malory Towers. Violence was rare (Darrell slapping Gwen in the first book for example) and always between the girls.

Mallory Towers Carlotta. Carlotta was a pupil at St Clare’s not Malory Towers.

That’s still not her name

I may have muddied the waters with Dog Loves Books and Enid Brighton but it still amuses me how frequently Enid Blyton’s name gets butchered on Google.

Enid Blaytin chikdren of green medow. This one sounds like something John Cleese would say in a Monty Python sketch

1982 dragon of the Twins of St Clare’s by Enid Bylth

Dogs in Enid Bluton books

A short story by nid Blyton

Firework poem Enid Blydon and edid blyton fireworks

It’s not just her name that gets abused (as the Chikdren of Green Medow attests)

Remember Remember the 5th of November the poor old gut An unfortunate typo!

Snelia Jane books by Enid Blyton with gollywogs. Poor Snelia Jane! No wonder she was such a naughty doll with a name like that.

Fan fiction

Now and again we get unusual fan fiction searches. There are always searches for Famous Five fan fiction and so on but here are a couple of the more surprising ones.

Julian x Elisabeth naughtiest girl kiss fanfic. I’ve never thought of using any Naughtiest Girl characters. Somehow I see them as being a good few years younger than the Five but they needn’t be, of course.

Laura Marlin and Tariq fan fiction. These two aren’t Enid Blyton characters but I have mentioned them in my review of Dead Man’s Cove by Lauren St John. Maybe if I ever brought the Five into the modern day (which I’ve thought about) they’d run into Laura and Tariq.

Have you searched for anything weird lately?

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Monday #402

Last Monday I said there would be a round up of our Christmas posts this weekend, but as I’ve not published on a Sunday in a while I’m in the habit of thinking my blogging week is done when the Friday post goes live. I was going to just republish and old round up, updated, so I’ll just stick the link in here instead:

Christmas round-up

This is all our Christmas-themed posts from present guides to recipes and book reviews to poems.

Stef and I have planned out our Christmas fic, featuring both the Famous Five and the Mannering/Trents as you voted, and so that will go up Christmas week.

Blyton search terms #11


Cunningham and Petrov: The Mystery of the Missing Agent chapter 23 (probably the penultimate chapter!)

Dear Santa Claus,

I am very fond of bears. If you can manage it, I should love to have one for Christmas. Thank you very much.

Love from Tony.

When Tony says he’s very fond of bears he means that he is a little bit obsessed with them, and he’s not asking for a teddy for Christmas, he’s asking for a real live bear. This is from Little Brown Bear which I found in the Bright Story Book. Because it didn’t have Christmas or Santa or Stocking in the title I didn’t know it was a Christmas story until tonight.



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Fan fic Friday: Cunningham and Petrov: The Mystery of the Missing Agent chapter 22

Last time the agents found the children’s camp site, their puffin hole, the remains of their signal fire and Anatoly found a stub of pencil that proved Bill had been on that island.

cunningham and petrovYou should hopefully recognise most of the dialogue in this chapter as it comes straight from the book! There was no way around it short of skipping this chapter, and we didn’t want to do that as it’s fairly important. Hopefully Enid wouldn’t mind.

Chapter 22

Bill rolled his eyes for the hundredth time in the past few hours alone as Horace’s complaining continued, it was nearing midnight according to his watch, he thought it was reasonably accurate as he had been careful to wind it each night, and yet Horace was not winding down at all.  “It’s ludicrous, simply ludicrous that they think they can do this to us,” he was saying, and not for the first time. “I mean, who do they think they are? Locking up legitimate travellers like myself. It’s barbaric!”

Bill wanted very badly to be rude but thought better of it. Horace would, at least, be a good distraction for the guards if he needed. Horace was still speaking when the hatch above their heads was wrenched open. Bill’s head whipped round and he looked up to see Jack, one finger over his lips, warning them to be quiet, and a shadow behind him that he thought was probably Philip. “Come on out, quick! We’ve got to deal with the guard here!” he whispered urgently.

Although his heart had leapt at the sight of the boys, Bill knew that the situation was far from ideal. One wrong move and the boys could be prisoners along with himself and Horace, and they might even get hurt in the process. He was already trying to make mental plans, his mind going a mile a minute, and so he was quite unprepared for Horace opening his mouth and yelling “There’s that villainous boy! Wait till I get him!”

The idea of Horace ‘getting’ anyone would be quite hilarious at any other time, but right now he quite possibly had ‘got’ Jack just by opening his big mouth.

Jack looked a bit stunned for a fraction of a second and then said “Sh!” Bill switched off the light as he heard the guard shout “What’s all this? Hi, what are you doing? Who’s there?” The shadow that was probably Philip disappeared from view, and Bill could hear a struggle in the darkness, and he began to pull himself up and out of the cubby hole. As Bill got to the deck there was a loud splash and he came up fighting, guided by the guards’ panting and swung his right fist into his face.

It was as satisfying punch, made all the better by the guard tripping over the foot Bill stuck out, and before the guard could react Bill threw himself down on top of the surprised man. He was grateful to see Jack coming to his aid, though he was wondering who had gone overboard creating the splash he had heard just a minute before.

“Philip,” Jack told him as he sat down on the guard’s squirming legs.

Bill knew Philip could handle himself in the water even without Jack’s comforting words which followed, and so wasted no time worrying about the other boy. “Get the guard down into the cabin,” he ordered. “Where’s the other fellow – Tipperlong? The idiot spoiled the whole show.” He could have said a lot more about Horace – he was absolutely furious with him – but time was of the essence.

Together they manhandled the guard to the hatch and he gave a yell as they pitched him down, though kindly not straight on his head.

“He’s safe for the moment,” he said, though he knew it wouldn’t be long before he started making a row, and moved on to the next issue they had. “Let’s get the boat going, quick! We’ll be off before the enemy knows what we’re up to!”

“That’s what I planned we’d do! How do we start up the engine? Blow this darkness, I don’t have a torch on me!” by Jack’s tone of voice, Bill could hear that the boy was thrilled and excited that most of this had gone the way the children had planned. The guard they had just foiled was making a racket below, Bill however chose to ignore him and made his way to the wheel of the boat. He began trying to start the boat as lights from the shore lit up the night and the sound of feet filled the air.

Bill quickly realised that they wouldn’t have time to get the boat freed from its mooring and get it started before the men got to them, and he said as much to Jack. “Did you say you’ve got another boat here, Jack? Where is it? And what about Philip? Quick, answer me!”

“Yes – there’s a boat off the end of the jetty there – with the girls in it – and Philip will probably be there by now, too,” Jack replied hurriedly. “We’d better swim for it!”

Bill agreed with Jack’s assessment. “Overboard then!” he commanded. He was ready to dive himself but spared a thought for Horace. The man was an aggravating idiot but he didn’t deserve to bear the brunt of these men’s retribution when they discovered one of their prisoners had escaped. “Tipperlong where are you?” he called. “You’d better come too.”

“I c-c-c-an’t swim,” Horace stammered.

‘Of course you bloody can’t,’ Bill thought despairingly. “Well, jump overboard and I’ll help you!” he commanded but Horace shook his head and crawled away into a corner.

“Well, stay where you are, then,” Bill said scornfully. He wasn’t going to waste any more time on someone who wasn’t willing to help himself. “I’ll have to go with these kids – can’t let them down now!”

Horace did not follow them and Bill didn’t feel it was much of a loss as he struck out to swim after Jack towards the boat the children had stolen. Soon they had reached the boat, thanks to torches being flashed from the children on board and heard the voices of the others. Bill and Jack were pulled into the boat. Bill patted each of the girl on the back as he said, “Come on – we must get going. My what a row there is on that boat! They’ve let the guard out now. Come on, before they know where we are!”

To be continued…

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If you like Blyton: The Adventurers and the City of Secrets

The Adventurers and the City of Secrets is the third book in The Adventurers Series by Jemma Hatt (the fourth, The Adventurers and the Continental Chase just came out at the start of November). Like the previous two books this one is narrated by Ciaran Saward.

Jemma was kind enough to send me the first three books as audiobooks in return for honest reviews, I have already reviewed book one The Adventurers and the Cursed Castle and book two, The Adventurers and the Temple of Treasure.

A departure from the norm?

As with many of Blyton’s series these books do not have to be read in order for you to enjoy them. (I always prefer to read it order, though, it feels strange to me if I don’t!) What’s interesting, though, is after the initial introduction to the characters, this book opens with the children attending an event related to the treasure they uncovered in Egypt in the previous book. It’s still not necessary to have read Temple of Treasure but it’s an unusually strong link between the two adventures.

The previous adventure took place in the school holidays – I can’t remember if it’s stated, but I assume it was the October half-term as the first book was set in the summer holidays and this one is during the Christmas holidays. They’re all quite close together which means the Adventurers might be able to avoid the awkward non-aging that the Famous Five suffer from if the series goes on to double figures.

The other difference is the genre of the book. The past two have been what I’d call adventures, the sort of thing you’d find the Famous Five or Mannering/Trents embroiled in. There’s some investigating and puzzle solving but primarily they are adventurous.

This third book is still adventurous but bring in a bit more of a detective theme akin to the Five Find-Outers. This is a pleasant departure, as though the first two books were enjoyable they did have quite a similar ‘hunt for the treasure’ theme. The detective elements of the book include identifying their suspects, researching those suspects, interpreting some papers they got hold of and following a trail across London.

Also, although the first two books had different settings (Kexley Castle in Cornwall, and Egypt) this one is set in London over Christmas and it feels really modern and fresh.

So what are the Adventurers up to this time?

Instead of hunting for long lost treasures this time the children (and Logan) are investigating the theft of some of the artefacts they had just discovered. So they are still tracking down the long lost-treasures, but it feels very different. Before the treasures were buried somewhere well-hidden and long forgotten. This time they’ve been stolen and are on their way across London with the Adventurers racing after them.

Mrs Jacobs, the sensible one, is gotten rid of swiftly as she has pressing work concerns and so the children are left in the dubious care of Logan. For the most part he doesn’t even have Dee keeping him on the straight and narrow, which is pretty much why the children are able to tear around London on the trail of the criminals and get up to all the things they do.

Lara pulls some very George-like moves in this story. Firstly she immediately identifies her main suspect – the rich and well-connected Frances Battenbridge – on some slightly flimsy reasonings to begin with, but just like George and Mr Roland, she is absolutely right. She is able to convince Tom and Rufus much more quickly than George did the Five (of course Barney believes her right away) and so the adventure can start.

Later she ends up in a vehicle full of stolen goods (a lorry, not a spook train) with Barney and has to escape.

The Adventurers, plus Daisy (Lara’s friend) and Uncle Logan follow the Battenbridges’ trail across London from Churchill’s War Room, visiting disused underground stations (from the 1990s, but still very interesting), the London Transport Museum where they are betrayed by an acquaintance and find themselves in the slowest getaway vehicle ever – a vintage red double decker bus, but also find time for a couple of good meals along the way.

Then for the finale, they are joined by Maye (Karim’s sister from the previous book), find themselves in some underground passages and when locked in a room, pull a Mannering/Trent worthy performance in order to escape.

Final thoughts

I enjoyed this every bit as much as the previous two. While a strength of the first two books were the detailed puzzles protecting the Egyptian treasures I didn’t miss them this time as there was so much else going on – the stolen bus is an absolute highlight and is used quite a bit.

As these are set in the present-day there are obviously modern devices like smart phones and computers. The children do some research on the internet and Tom uses his phone several times to check maps and locations, but technology is not over-relied on. Rufus and Lara don’t have their own phones for a start, and naturally phones don’t get good signals underground! The use of technology helps keep the story moving swiftly (there would have been no time to scour the public library for the information they needed!) but it doesn’t become intrusive. There are a few phone calls from Mrs Jacobs checking on them, a couple of text messages sent, but Tom’s too sensible to be glued to his phone while there’s an adventure to be had.

Jemma has been lovely enough to send me a copy – a signed copy no less – of the next book, The Adventurers and the Continental chase so I will review that soon, probably in the new year.



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Monday #401

The fan fiction poll closed last week and it was a draw with the winners being the Famous Five and the Mannering/Trents of the Adventure Series. Stef and I are already trying to come up with ideas on how those two sets of characters could come together over Christmas so we can start writing!

If you like Blyton: The Adventurers and the City of Secrets by Jemma Hatt,

Cunningham and Petrov: The Mystery of the Missing Agent


A round up of our Christmas posts

“Santa Claus, you’re always giving other people presents, and now I’ve got one for you.”

Ann returns a kindness when she meets Santa Claus in The Christmas Book.

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Fan fic Friday: Cunningham and Petrov: The Mystery of the Missing Agent chapter 21

Last time Anatoly, Bentley and Thompson found Puffin Island along with several clues that someone had been there recently.

cunningham and petrov

Chapter 21

Anatoly plucked the paper from Bentley’s fingers and examined it as the other man hauled himself out of the hole. Disappointingly it was blank. “Useless,” he said with a shrug, holding it out so they could both see it contained no writing.

Thompson took it and examined the paper, holding it up to the sky to see if there was any indentations, or other marks on the paper. “Nothing,” he agreed, handing it back to Bentley.

Bentley curled the paper into his fist. “Why can people never drop nice obvious things like letters with their names on?” he sighed.

“Or monogrammed handkerchiefs,” Anatoly suggested.

“Never mind leaving good clues, if they could just avoid going missing in the first place,” added Thompson.

“I vote for not going missing,” Anatoly agreed. “We should have just locked Bill up at HQ until the heat had died down,” he added with a smirk.

“He would still get into trouble, he’d find evidence of a spy in our ranks or something,” Bentley said, cracking a smile.

“Most likely, but he’d be easier to keep track of,” muttered Thompson.

“Well we’ve lost track of him entirely, so we’d better get back to it,” Bentley said, grabbing a nearby stick and plunging it into the soft ground near the hole as a warning marker.

“Do we reckon the paper fell out of someone’s pocket and ended up here? Must have been recently,” Anatoly said as he went back to his knees to search the ground at close quarters.

“I don’t think it fell in from above, it’s too light to get through all that heather,” said Bentley. “Maybe someone fell into the hole just like I did, it’s impossible to see even though I know it’s there! The paper’s dry but then so’s everything in that hole, I doubt much rain gets in unless it’s absolutely pouring and it hasn’t rained since the storm the other night.”

They all contemplated that for a moment and then Anatoly said, pragmatically, “It is not hard evidence, we need to keep looking, though this hole is good to know about. If Bill knew about it, then there is a chance he would have used it if he thought he was being followed.”

Bentley thought about warning them not to mention his fall to anyone else, but decided against it. He had no doubt that they’d deliberately let it slip if he forbade it. At least he didn’t think either of them had actually seen him fall. He motioned them to continue on the search, though they were all more cautious as to where they put their feet, he noticed.

Their explorations took them towards the Western rise of cliffs and then up; they paused every few minutes to scan the parts of the island revealed to them at that height but saw nothing noteworthy. There wasn’t much to see on the cliff-tops themselves, they were scrubby and mostly barren due to the high winds that would whip around such an exposed area, but as Thompson checked around a small ridge of rock there came a shout.

“Hey! Come over here a minute!” Anatoly and Bentley made their was around the ridge to where Thompson was crouched over the blackened remains of a fire.

“Bits of wood, seaweed…” Bentley pushed the charred remains around with the toe of one boot. He turned around in a full circle, looking out to sea. “Looks like they were signalling for help.”

“Signalling to whom?” Anatoly asked sitting back on his haunches and throwing the charred piece of stick back into the fire pit.

“Anyone near enough to see the smoke, I’d guess,” Bentley said. “But Bill knew something was afoot, he would know that setting a fire could bring the wrong people.”

“He mightn’t have had a choice,” said Thomson. “If the boat and the wireless were out of action  and there was some emergency… someone fell down that hole and broke a leg or something.” He shrugged. “Maybe he was hoping we were already out looking for him.”

Anatoly bit his lip, “What if Bill and the children got separated?” he suggested after a moment, not wanting to think that it may have happened. “The children may have been desperate enough to signal if they were left alone.”

“Yes, they might have taken the risk willingly if something had happened to Bill,” Bentley agreed. “That is, if they were the ones actually on this island, and not some trippers who thought it would be fun to start a bonfire.”

“So, you don’t think this was them?” Thompson waved an arm at the fire.

“I think it probably was, but we’re running on a lot of assumptions here. More than I like,” Bentley said.

“It is not proven that it was them,” agreed Anatoly. “If they have left a clue we have not found it yet!”

“What sort of clue are we expecting to find anyway?” Thompson asked with a sigh. “They aren’t on this island and if they are half the children Bill thinks they are, none of them will have left anything behind. If Bill thought that there was any danger, he’d have not left anything either.”

“Unless it was a message for us!” he added as an afterthought.

Deep in thought they made their way back down what appeared to be a well-trodden path before exploring the Eastern cliffs. There was nothing of interest there, no suggestion anyone had climbed or walked up that side of the island, and so after they felt they had covered as much of them as was reasonable, back down they came.

At the bottom of the cliffs they had intended to head back towards the boat; taking in any areas they hadn’t already covered, but Anatoly drew their attention to a space in the rocks. A natural sort of path ran there, with handy steps here and there as it sloped downwards. Presently they came to the channel they had brought the boat into earlier that day, the trailing piece of rope still caught around the rock.

“Dead end,” Bentley remarked and Anatoly shrugged apologetically. “No, you were right to check it out,” he said to the young man. “If they moored up here then they must have come through this way and across to where we found the camp site.”

As they turned around and began to make their way back up the path Anatoly didn’t know what made him look down, but his eyes caught sight of something unexpected wedged in between two rocks. He fell to his knees, his hand scrabbling for what he had seen. The others looked at him like he had lost his mind, but when he held it up, a stupid grin on his face, they looked confused. Anatoly was holding up a stub of a pencil.

“It’s… a pencil,” Thompson said, no seeing the significance. “Obviously whoever had the notebook also had a pencil.”

“It is Bill’s pencil!” Anatoly said. “He always carries one, he always wears them down to the stub and always sharpens them with his pen knife.”

Bentley reached out and took the pencil from Anatoly and looked it over. “It’s just a pencil. The kind you can buy anywhere. You’re probably right about Bill – I’ve never seen him without a pencil and he does sharpen them until they’re almost gone… but so do a lot of people.”

Anatoly took the pencil back from Bentley and examined it closely. He gave a sudden exclamation and thrust the pencil back at him. “Tell me when you see it,” he said smugly.

Bentley rotated the pencil carefully and then held it up so it caught the light better. “S,” he said, though not with great certainty.

“Well I’ll be blowed,” Thompson laughed. “Smugs! I’ve seen him mark his pencils with S, or a zigzag like an S so people can’t pinch them!”

It was true that the marking was more of a lightening-bolt than an S, but it was challenging to quickly carve a flowing S shape with a penknife on a pencil. “I wouldn’t know about that,” Bentley said, but he was smiling. “I’d never stoop low enough to nick anyone’s pencil.”

“So Bill has been here,” he said thoughtfully, looking at the pencil again. “If only this pencil could tell us where he is now!”

To be continued…

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November 2020 round up

The penultimate month of 2020 is over. I know things won’t immediately get better in 2021 but I know many of us are just sick of 2020 and there is at least some light at the end of the tunnel. At least many of us have got Christmas (or Hanukkah, or Kwanzaa) to look forward to as well.

What I have read

I reached my increased target of 150 books for the year in November – with only one month to go I probably won’t set another target, I’ll just see how high I can go. I read a comment recently where someone said they never left books unfinished one year to the next, and I have 8 unfinished books currently. A couple I’m in the process of reading, a few I’ve not picked up recently and others have been abandoned quite a while, but not long enough for me to put them on the ‘unfinished’ shelf. I would like to finish as many of these as I can in December. I did finally manage to finish Jane Eyre – it only took me a year!

  • The Left-Handed Booksellers of London – Garth Nix
  • The Unmumsy Mum A-Z – An Inexpert Guide to Parenting – Sarah Taylor aka The Unmumsy Mum 
  • Born in the 1940s – Tim Glynne-Jones
  • Born in the 1950s – Jane Maple
  • Property of the Rebel Librarian – Allison Varnes 
  • Little Donkey (Frogmorton Farm #1.5) – Jodi Taylor
  • The Something Girl (Frogmorton Farm #2) – Jodi Taylor
  • Joy to the World (Frogmorton Farm #2.5) – Jodi Taylor
  • Out of Practice (The Larkford Series #1) – Penny Parkes 
  • Hard Time (The Time Police #2) – Jodi Taylor
  • Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte 
  • Beau Peep Book 7 – Roger Kettle and Andrew Christine
  • The Munitions Girls – Rosie Archer
  • The 1950s Home – Janet Shepherd
  • Warriors and Witches and Damn Rebel Bitches – Mairi Kidd
  • The Adventurers and the City of Secrets (The Adventurers #3) – Jemma Hatt

I’m still reading: nothing! For I think the first time ever there’s no books that I read in the last month but haven’t finished. I have some that are unfinished but I didn’t read a single page of any of them in November, so they don’t count!

What I have watched

  • Hollyoaks, which has continued to be ludicrous.
  • More Mythbusters, Only Connect and Taskmaster.
  • I finished Monty Python’s Almost the Truth but haven’t got around to watching the films yet.
  • Dream Home Makeover – a Netflix original. The houses did look nice after but were always full of random ornaments and books-as-ornaments, it didn’t seem like the people owned very much or would have room for anything around all the vases and bits of rope. (Also their idea of a challenging budget for making over a single room was something like $20,000!)
  • I watched Body Fixers on Netflix and was struck by how much it reminded me of Tattoo Fixers, then realised it was a Channel 4 show too. Then I just had to start Tattoo Fixers, of course. Body Fixers was mostly about hair and makeup with a few very minor surgical procedures thrown in, though the title sounds more drastic!
  • Having seen lots of adverts for series 4 we have started watching The Crown from the beginning and we are both really enjoying it – though it keeps making me do background reading to find out what bits are actually true.

What I have done

  • I finally went back to work on the 2nd. It’s quite a different environment – we’re running quite a limited set of services and there are lots of safety things in place – but it’s good to have some routine/purpose and to catch up with my workmates.
  • Watched some fireworks from our back windows on bonfire night, there were no organised displays but lots of people did their own and we could see a dozen of them at least. We also had a mini party in someone’s garden where we roasted marshmallows over a fire. 
  • As always we’ve been on lots of walks, up hills and to parks, along beaches and to feed the ducks. 
  • We all got tested for Covid19, Brodie first and then us a week or so later. Luckily all results were negative and came back within 12 hours or so, so we only needed to stay home one day each time.
  • I repaired some of my most damaged books with book tape, I had a few where the spines were coming right away so hopefully the tape will stop them from getting any more damaged.
  • Had lunch in town and visited the Mary Quant exhibition at the V&A
  • Visited the local wildlife centre and saw a surprisingly speedy porcupine chasing off a peahen.
  • Put up the Christmas tree with Brodie’s “help”.

What I have bought

I bought a couple of new Christmas decorations as I spotted some Noddy ones while putting together my Christmas gift guide for this year.

I also bought the Foxglove Story Book and the Water-Lily Story Book to add to my collection of Foyle’s Flower Story Books. I only need three more to complete the series! As a bonus the seller sent three Noddy toys which Brodie immediately adopted as his own.

What has your month looked like?

Posted in Personal Experiences | Tagged , , , , , , | 7 Comments