Summer is just beginning (I'll ignore the fact that it began in the last book, too) and the BSC wants a vacation. Big surprise; Kristy doesn't like that idea. Then, the club gets a call from Lisa, Karen and Andrew's mother. They have some friends, the Menders family, who've just inherited a mansion in a little seaside town in Maine. Lisa, Seth, Karen, and Andrew are going up to Reese with the Menders family, and they need two sitters to go along. Claudia is one of them; she already has a long-term sitting job with Karen and Andrew. The girls can't agree on who should be the second. In spite of her earlier reluctance to take a vacation, Kristy pretty much insists that it should be her. When Lisa calls needing an answer as to who her second sitter will be, the girls are honest with her. Kristy, Mary Anne, and Dawn all got permission to go to Reese with Claud. Lisa then invites them all to come.
The car ride up to Reese is pretty uneventful, although Mary Anne annoys everyone by playing tour guide. THe mansion is very cool, and the Menders kids are nice, but really reluctant at the idea of moving from Boston. Lionel, 14 and too old to be sat for, wants to be an actor. He doesn't think he'll be able to make that happen in a tiny town like Reese. Jill is 10, and obsessed with being a teenager (she starts following Dawn around and copying her right from the get-go). Jason, 9, is into sports, and Martha, 7, is very shy. Karen Brewer convinces herself that it's her mission to help Martha make friends, but all that happens is that Karen acts like an irritating nuisance and pisses Martha off. The girls also meet Mr. and Mrs. Cooper, the couple that the Menders family has hired as caretakers for the summer. They're nice enough, although Mrs. Cooper can't talk (she has some problem with her vocal cords).
Since no BSC member can go into an old house without thinking that it might be haunted, the girls of course think that the Randolph Mansion is home to a ghost. It actually looks like they might be right, because odd things start happening that first night. They see someone (or something) out in the hall with a candle, but none of them are brave enough to actually step outside their bedrooms and investigate. The next morning, they find spots of wax on the hall carpet. The girls suspect Lionel Menders; he was acting strangely that morning, and he seemed awfully interested when he caught them looking at the wax blobs. Lter that day, they meet Georgio Trono, grandson of the former Randolph Mansion caretakers. He's the tall, dark, handsome, and (as the girls think) sinister type. He makes all of them uncomfortable, especially when he warns them about staying out of the fourth floor and attic of the mansion, but he seems to take quite a shine to Claud....
Creepy things keep happening. Their second evening in Reese, the BSC members are taking some of the kids on a frog and toad hunt. All of a sudden, they see a light go on in a window in the fourth floor of the mansion. The door to the fourth floor is locked, and no one had been up there since they arrived the previous day. The Coopers suggests that it might have been a reflection from the nearby lighthouse, but the BSC members aren't so sure. That night, the hallway ghost makes another appearance. This time, the girls catch the ghost in the act; it IS Lionel. Too bad they can't explain who's causing the noises upstairs when they're all together.
Claudia has been spending more and more time with Georgio. She's still not exactly comfortable with him, though, especially after she goes to the gardener's shed with him to take a look at a picture of a float he made once. Not only does she find out that Georgio is in college, but she also spots some orange candles that are the same color as the wax the girls found on the floor after the first ghost appearance. They never actually asked Lionel if it was him that first night; they just assumed it was. Now, they're not so sure. Georgio is just plain creepy, and STILL seems determined to keep them out of the fourth floor. When the girls add up all the evidence (lights going on and off, ghost appearances not explained by Lionel, screams in the walls), it looks like someone might be trying to make the Menders family and the sitters think the place is haunted. The question is...why???
One day, Mary Anne decides to do some research on the mansion. She heads to the historical society, and what she learns is pretty interesting. The house has a dumbwaiter, which none of the girls had noticed before. One of its "stops" is actually in Dawn's bedroom. Also, as Mary Anne is returning the materials to the woman at the front desk, she finds out that someone else had been in, asking about the mansion. It was a woman with a thick accent, which rules out Mrs. Menders. Claudia is also doing some research of her own; as scared as she is of Georgio, she goes with him to meet his grandparents in the hopes that she'll learn more about the house. The Tronos tell her that the dumbwaiter has been boarded up for years, and every time Claud tries to learn more mansion secrets, Georgio tries to steer the converstation to other things.
THere's a mini fair in Reese, and sitters take advantage of the time without kids too investigate the dumbwaiter. They find the kitchen entrance to it behind a painting, and they see something down in the bottom of the shaft. Dawn volunteers to go down and see what it is. Just as she gets in there and sees that the object is a tape recorder, the Coopers come back from running their errands. The other members of the BSC get the dumbwaiter closed and the painting back in place just in time; poor Dawn is stuck in there for the time being. That turns out to be a good thing; when the other three sitters leave the kitchen to go bring in the bags of groceries, Dawn learns that Mrs. Cooper can talk. She fills her friends in as soon as they get the Coopers out of the kitchen and Dawn out of the dumbwaiter. They also find out that the Coopers aren't lifetime residents of Reese, as they've always claimed. The mystery gets even more interesting when the girls learn from Mr. and Mrs. Menders that Mr. Menders has a cousin living in Scotland who will inherit the mansion if he doesn't want to live in it full time. That's when Dawn remembers; Mrs. Cooper spoke with a heavy accent. They recruit Lionel to imitate some accents for them, repeating a phrase that Dawn heard Mrs. Cooper say. Sure enough, the accent that matches the one Dawn heard is Scottish. The pieces of the puzzle are starting to come together.
Lisa, Seth, and the Menders parents take a day trip over to Boston, leaving the kids alone with the Coopers. The BSC members aren't thrilled about this, given what they now know (or at least suspect) about the Coopers (actually, the Randolphs). Nothing scary happens, although they DO find a list of horrible things the couple had come up with to do to the Menders family, the BSC, and even Georgio (who turns out to be totally innocent). There's a horrible storm that night, and the adults can't get back to Reese until the next morning. They fill them in on everything they've discovered about the Coopers, but they've already left the country. That's probably a good thing; the Menders family has decided to move to Reese permanently. Also, for those of you who are concerned about Claudia (aka "Jailbait") and Georgio, she finally confesses her real age to him in a letter.
MEanwhile, back in Stoneybrook, the BSC is being run by Jessi and Mal, with occasional help from Shannon and Logan. They have to turn down quite a few jobs, since there are next to no sitters available, and pretty soon, people stop calling. Mallory and Jessi are sure they've ruined the club...until they find out that people haven't been calling because they've been on vacation. They should know by now that that's ALWAYS the case when the club stops getting calls!
Thoughts and Things
- Why didn't any of the sitters have a fling with Lionel? He was the perfect age, and they DID make it clear that they weren't actually sitting FOR him.
- This book is actually kind of awesome. Think the fact that it's a Super Special (yay!) makes up for the fact that it's also a mystery (boo!).
- Karen drove me and everyone in the book crazy. She just needs to shut the heck up and leave people alone.
- Jill Menders and her crush on Dawn was annoying, too. Dawn was very patient to put up with her the way she did. It's also another example of how childish the BSC views 10 year olds, and how 11 year olds are suddenly mature enough to be considered friends instead of sitting charges.
- This is actually the last BSC book I got before I stopped collecting the first time. I'd only been collecting sporadically since #60, but this marked the end of my childhood BSC reading.
- I wonder what Georgio thought when he got that letter from Claud, telling him that she's actually 13? Also, I find it hard to believe that a dark, brooding college guy wouldn't have tried more with her than taking her on a Ferris wheel and kissing her on the cheek. This wasn't the 1950's, people.
- I really like the Menders kids, and I wish we'd seen them in another book.