Be thirteen so badly? That's
The REAL mystery...
Stacey and her mom are busy settling into their new home. Mallory and Claudia are helping them one day when the girls find an old trunk in the McGills' attic. Mrs. McGill lets Mal take it home, but she can't find out what's inside; it's locked, and there's no sign of a key. At first, she won't wreck it by breaking the locks, but her curiosity finally gets the better of her, and she recruits the triplets to do the dirty work. Inside, she finds a bunch of old clothes and (at the very bottom of the trunk) a diary. It was written in 1890, by a 12 year old girl named Sophie. Sophie's family lived in Stacey's house back then, and the diary is for the most part filled with the trials and tribulations of being 12. When Mal reads further, though, things get interesting. Sophie's mother gives birth to a baby boy and dies soon afterward. Not long after her burial, a portrait of Sophie's mother disappears from Sophie's grandfather's house across town. Mr. Hickman (the grandfather, and also the resident of "Old Hickory's" grave in the Stoneybrook cemetary...see #17)) blames the disappearance on Sophie's father, Jared, whose reputation is pretty much ruined after that. Sophie vows to clear her father's name, and writes in the very last entry in her journal that her spirit, along with her father's, will stay in their house until the mystery is solved. Have Stacey and her mother moved into a haunted house?
Meanwhile, Mallory is tutoring Buddy Barrett with his reading. He's having some trouble in school, and Mal comes up with some fun ways to get him interested in reading again. They read comics, and then make their own. They also read some Encyclopedia Brown mysteries. Buddy enjoys those so much that Mal ends up telling him about the diary mystery that she and the rest of the BSC are working on. Buddy is interested, so Mal takes him over to her house to look over the diary and the trunk. Buddy finds a pocket in the trunk that no one had noticed before, which contains a confession from James Hickman. Sophie's father hadn't stolen the painting; no one had. Mr. Hickman was so distraught over his daughter's death that he hired someone to paint over her portrait, which was rehung in a different room in his mansion. He didn't want to admit what he'd done, so he lied and told people it had been stolen. Everyone else suspected Mr. Hickman's son-in-law, and the old guy just let them think that.
The confession is all well and good, but the painting is still missing. Since Old Hickory owned both the large house he lived in and what's now Stacey's house, Mal and Buddy theorize that some of what's still up in the McGill's attic might be stuff that Old Hickory's nephew moved up there when he inherited his uncle's estate. As it turns out, they were right. The painting is there, and once Stacey's mother gets it properly restored (an ugly picture of ships had been painted over it), they hang it over their fireplace.
Thoughts and Things
- The book opens with this famous Mallory line: "If only I were thirteen instead of eleven, life would be a picnic." Seriously? I don't know about you guys, but being 11 rocked for me, and 13 was awful. Don't be in such a hurry, Mal!
- I wish we'd heard more about what the clothes in the trunk looked like. Finding those would have been just as interesting to me as finding the diary, if I'd been in that situation.
- An 11 year old tutor for a kid who's having serious trouble with reading in school? I know Mal is smart, and she did come up with some creative ways to help Buddy, but really.
- This book makes me think of Afton, a very active member of the online BSC fandom who passed away not too long ago. I think I remember reading somewhere that this was the first BSC book she read,and the one that got her hooked on the series. Miss you, Afton!