Abby is home sick with a nasty case of bronchitis. It's pretty hard for her to NOT be active, so she gest bored pretty fast. Then, Abby decides she's going to start watching the neighbors using her dad's old binoculars. At first, she just kind of watches kids come home from school, but then she notices something about Mr. Finch, the Stevenson's backyard neighbor: he looks exactly like one of the wanted criminals that she saw on Mystery Trackers, an American's Most Wanted-style show. There were two on the show that day that he could be; one was a bank robber, and one was an embezzler who ran off and left his family. Abby can't remember which one that Mr. Finch reminds her of, though. She keeps spying on him through her binoculars, though, and soon discovers another clue. Mr. Finch has drawings on his fridge that were clearly done by kids. The odd thing? No one has ever seen any kids visit him. Kristy tries to talk some sense into Abby; after all, there could be lots of reasons why Mr. Finch has kid drawings when none live there. Abby is pretty convinced that he's a crook, and she calls the Mystery Trackers Hotline to tell them what she suspects. She talks to an intern, who doesn't quite think that they have enough to go on. She DOES give Abby the names of the two criminals from the show she watched: the bank robber is Harry Bronson, and he's from Chicago, while the embezzler, Arthur Maguire, is from Iowa.
Not long after that phone call, Abby sends Kristy over the Mr. Finch's place to snoop in his mailbox. They find out that his first name is Otto...and that he recieved a leter from Des Moines, Iowa. Abby gets back on the phone with the Mystery Trackers intern, and tells them what she's found out about Mr. Finch. The intern checks to see if Otto Finch is one of Maguire's aliases, but it doesn't come up in their records. Byt this time, the rest of the BSC is involved in the mystery. Mary Anne stops by the police station to chat with Sgt. Johnson about the case, but all he agrees to do is check up on Mr. Finch. Then, Stacey and Claudia do a little internet stalking, and (after waiting 10 minutes for them to download) have pictures of both Bronson and Maguire. Bronson is DEFINITELY not a match for Mr. Finch, but Maguire definitely could be. Abby then calls Sgt. Johnson herself, but he advises her to just forget about it. It's not like Mr. Finch has done anything wrong. Abby continues to spy on him, though, and she catches him burning stuff in his kitchen sink. Not illegal, obviously, but very suspicious. Once again, Abby enlists Kristy's help to check out the situation. They pretend to be from the phone company, and get Mr. Finch out of the house by telling him he needs to go to the phone company offices downtown to straighten out a problem with his bill. As soon as he drives away, Kristy heads over to his house. First, she looks in the windows to get a better look at those pictures on the fridge. Then, she digs through the garbage can to see if she can find anything. Before she can get safely back to Abby's, though, Mr., Finch comes home. He's just about to go around to his back door, which would give him a full view of Kristy, when Abby gets the brilliant idea to call him again. As soon as the phone starts ringing, Finch heads for the side door instead.
Abby waits for Kristy to get back, and when she does, she has big news. The pictures on the fridge are signed "Patty" and "Joseph," which are the names of Arthur Maguire's kids. The furniture in Finch's house also resembles the furniture in Maguire's house as shown in the Mystery Trackers episode, and the half-burned photo that Kristy pulled out of the trash? Maguire's kids. It's pretty clear to both girls that Maguire and Finch are, indeed, the same person, so Abby risks another call to Sgt. Johnson. He tells them that he's been in touch with the Des Moines police department, and that the girls need to just drop the case. Not long after that, though, Kristy and Abby witness Finch/Maguire packing a bunch of stuff into his car. It looks like he's going to make a run for it, so Abby tries calling Sgt. Johnson again. He's not at his desk, so there's nothing the girls can do except wait and watch. Before Finch/Maguire can get away, though, the police (including Sgt. Johnson) show up and arrest him for his crimes. Mystery Trackers in on hand to film everything, and Abby even ends up getting some reward money from them for her role in Maguire's capture.
Subplot: a bunch of sitting charges are building go-karts for a race.
Thoughts and Things
- You'd think that a book which mostly involved Abby staring out her window would be boring, but I actually enjoyed this one. Maybe it's because I've always secretly wanted to catch one of those most wanted criminals from tv. :)
- At the beginning of the book, the BSC members wonder why a criminal would choose to hide out in Stoneybrook. Ummm, maybe it's because they have the worst police department ever???
- Abby watches a second episode of Mystery Trackers while she's home, entitled "Nasty Nannies." If you ask me, that sounds more like something that should air on a premium cable channel really late at night....
- I kind of liked the go-kart subplot. At least it wasn't another fair/festival/carnival/etc.