It's February, and everyone at Kristy's house has cabin fever. Karen suggests going into Watson's library to play, and the other kids are up for it. Kristy finds an old book there that not only has "diary entries" or sorts regarding things that happened in old Stoneybrook, but it also contains a list of residents. The kids ask Kristy to look up Thomas, and she's pretty surprised at what she finds: there was a Christina Thomas who was born in the 1840's who disappeared from Squirelot (her family's home) in 1863. Kristy can't let a mystery like that go, so she makes up her mind to solve it.
Kristy heads to the library that weekend to do some research on Christina's disappearance, even though none of her friends can join her. Kristy discovers that Christina's parents died in a carriage accident about two years before Christina left home, and that when she left, some gold and important documents relating to the Thomases' fortune left with her. Kristy is pretty excited about that; if she and Christina are related, then Kristy herself might end up rich...if the missing gold is ever found.
The Thomas/Brewer kids aren't the only ones feeling cabin feverish; it's become an epidemic in Stoneybrook. One thing the sitters have found to keep the kids busy is taking them to the arboretum. During their visits, the girls find out that the place is in trouble. It's located on a big estate, and even though the buildings belong to the town, the land doesn't. No one really knows who DOES own it, since a fire destroyed town records. There's a development company that's interested in building on the site, and if they buy the land, the arboretum will have to close. There's one chance for it: a wealthy woman is interested in buying the property, but it needs a LOT of fixing up before she can see it. It's the BSC to the rescue! Almost from the get-go, though, things go wrong. Jessi notices that the bucket she's been using goes missing, and there are footprints where none of the workers have been. There are alos pikes of weeds and things appearing in places that had already been cleared. Kristy thinks it's totally possible that DT Developers (she found their business card on the ground) are the ones looking to build on the property, and just might be sabotaging the efforts to clean up the place.
Kristy goes back the library for more Christina research, this time with backup. They do some genealogy, and figure out that Christina's great-grand niece, Mildred Abbott, is still alive and living in Stoneybrook. Kristy meets her for tea and (hopefully) information. Mrs. Abbott points out that Thomas is a fairly common last name, and that it's totally possible that Christina is no relation at all. Kristy doesn't care; she wants to find out what happened to Christina more than she wants to find the fortune at this point. Mrs. Abbott tells her that Christina's brother, Devon, was trying to get his sister to marry a friend of his. That way, this friend would take control of the money Christina inherited when her parents died, and could then invest it in Devon's business. Christina was in love with someone else, and she was planning to elope with him. Before they can run away, her fiancee is shipped off to fight in the Civil War. She ran away on her own to be with him, but he was killed in action. No one knows what happened to Christina after that, although her family did recieve a letter that she sent to Henry telling him what she was planning. His family had sent it back, thinking it might contain some clues to her disappearance. Mrs. Abbott lets Kristy make a copy of the letter.
Next, Kristy heads BACK to the library to try and figure out where Squirelot was located. She compares a map of Stoneybrook from back in the 1800s with a current one, and at least one piece of the mystery gets solved: Squirelot and the arboretum are the same place. The BSC discusses this new find, and decide (thanks to some clues in the letter) that Christina had a special hiding place at home. Since there were roses drawn on the letter she sent to Henry, the girls think that the rose garden might be a good place to start. They head over the arboretum and find out that Mrs. Goldsmith (manager of the place) is not happy about the mess that was left by the "helpers" the day before. Jessi promises that it will be cleaned up. The club members find some shovels, and start digging in the rose garden. They'd been working for half an hour when they're work is interrupted by Mrs. Goldsmith and Mrs. VanderBellen....the one who was thinking of buying the place. After seeing the mess, the girls are asked to leave. They find out later that Mrs. VanderBellen has decided NOT to buy the arboretum. The girls feel bad, but they STILL have Christina's mystery to solve. They do some more historical research and realize that the moon was full the day that Christina disappeared. There was a circle drawn around the roses on her letter, so the club thinks that the full moon might have some significance. Since there's a full moon in a few days, the girls decide to go and see what they find.
The big night arrives. The girls all tell their parents that they're having a slumber party, but they get Charlie to drive them to the arboretum instead (why does that sound so familiar?). As the girls are waiting for the moon to rise, they realize they're not alone. Someone is following them, and it's none other than Cokie Mason. Kristy and the others had noticed her hanging around when they were discussing the mystery, but hadn't thought anything of it. It turns out that Mildred Abbott is Cokie's grandmother, and so Cokie figures that she should get a share of whatever treasure is found. The girls are all waiting at the rose garden when they realize something important: the roses in the letter weren't red, like the ones in the garden, but brown, like the ones carved into the porch railing. The BSC members plus Cokie all race over there just as the moon is rising. There's a shadow from a tree that's cast right onto the carvings, so the girls start digging under that tree. They find a box containing a locket with a picture of a girl who looks like Kristy, another letter to Henry stating that Christina had all her gold with her, and the original Squirelot lease. Christina left the property to the town of Stoneybrook in the event of Henry's death, so the arboretum was saved. Kristy ends up getting to keep the locket, but she's not so excited about the possibility of being related to Christina. After all, that would mean that she's related to Cokie as well!
Thoughts and Things
- I don't buy that Watson the gardener had no idea that the arboretum existed.
- It's kind of cool that this mystery never got completely solved; we never DID find out what happened to Christina.
- I can't believe I'm on mystery #19 already!
- The girls didn't seem to think about the fact that they were tresspassing at the arboretum, not to mention vandalizing it after they'd already been thrown out once.
- I wish Cokie was on the cover of this book; I'm curious about how Hodges would draw her....
- For some reason, this book was just BRUTAL to recap. I don't know why it was so hard to get through.