Friday, May 16, 2008

What could be so bad?…..BSC Mystery #23: Abby and the Secret Society

Memory Reaction

Since this is an Abby book, it was obviously a later one, which explains why I only remember things about it I didn’t like. At some point, things that didn’t bother me in the earlier books suddenly seemed embarrassing to read about. Like, in this book, Abby is bored and decides to start this new project helping out at a country club or garden or something. Instead of just going and doing it, she gets approval from Kristy for the whole club to do it. None of the girls ever did anything without being a representative of the BSC. It is so annoying.

It is also a mystery, and I have all these memories of the girls running around with that cop they were friends with and thinking, “this guy should get fired.” I mean, a police officer taking 13-year-olds on investigations with him? Seriously? That sort of thing happened in some early books, and I thought it was cool, but by the time I read this one, I thought it was awful. That is probably why I only read a few more books after this one.

Revisited Reaction

The basic plot is that Abby is bored and things are slow at the BSC. She sees a sign at school looking for help setting up this new country club in town, which it turns out is actually a remodel of an old super-exclusive (meaning racist) country club where shady things happened twenty years ago. Abby gets the whole BSC to sign up with her, and the girls, along with a few other kids from SMS start helping out. It turns out Nikki (the owner) used to live in Stoneybrook and went to the club as a kid, until she realized what an awful place it was.

While the girls are working “mysterious” things start to happen. I use the quotes, cause there is really nothing mysterious about it. The old mayor of Stoneybrook shows up and tells Nikki how it is horrible to reopen the club and let anyone in. Some guy who works at the club doesn’t talk or smile a lot so the girls think he is a bad guy. Nikki’s father (who she hasn’t spoken to since she got married to a Korean man and moved out of Stoneybrook) starts showing up to get a look at his grandson. None of this is particularly mysterious, just kind of shady, but try telling 13-year-old detectives that.

But THEN, Sergeant Johnson shows up at the club and tells Abby how twenty years ago some reporter friend of his was investigating a secret society at the club that was involved in extortion, blackmail, and other fun things. Before the friend could publish anything, he drove his car of the road and died, and Sergeant Jonhson has also believed he was killed. Abby and the rest of the BSC decide, who better to look into a decades-old mystery where the last person to investigate was murdered than the seven of them?

Fortunately for everyone, the BSC does have success. Shocking, I know. They find a clue that the Sergeant’s friend left in the country club that leads to another clue, than another, etc, until they reach a dead end. So, they tell Sergeant Johnson and with his approval, Abby writes an anonymous letter to Armstrong, the old mayor/secret society ringleader, telling him about the clue so they can follow him to the next one. Because it is not entrapment or anything, for a cop to be in on that. And it is also not unprofessional for a cop to let teenagers be part of a set up like that. Not at all.

Armstrong shows up, realizes it is a trap, and tries to use Nikki’s son as a hostage. But, then Nikki’s father shows up, and stands up to Armstrong and saves his grandson. He decides his family is more important than his old racist ways, and all is forgiven with him. Then Sergeant Johnson arrests Armstrong, and the BSC find where the last clue was leading. They uncover a bunch of evidence about the old extortion ring the reporter had collected before he died. He hid it so Sergeant Johnson could find the evidence if anything happened to him. Now that it is in the open, no one really cares. Even though this old mayor confesses to murdering the reporter, we are told he won’t spend much time in jail. But no one is really upset about that. The country club opens and everyone loves it and Nikki is reunited with her father. So, happy endings all around. Sort of.

There is also a lame subplot where the BSC is baby-sitting for Nikki’s kid, but he is really shy so it is hard to make friends, but he blames it on being half-Korean (he should sooo meet Jessi). It all works out in the end though and he makes friends, then is never heard from again. Also, he and the neighborhood kids all are making their own mini country clubs in their yards. But, I am guessing no one really cares about that.

Wow, mystery plots take a long time to summarize.


  • Abby hates February because it is too cold to play summer sports and too warm to play winter sports. Which, really? In Connecticut? I live in New Jersey, and in February it is just as much winter as it is inJanuary – it snows and drops below freezing. I could see if she was talking about March, where it is a weird in between month that could be really warm or really cold depending on the day. But February is full on winter. Plus, when you are in school, most places have a winter break that month, which, yeah!
  • Abby tells us all about her first reactions to the BSC: Kristy = bossy, Mary Anne = shy, Claudia = wacky/a flake (hee), Stacey = a good dresser and not much else, Jessi = only caring about ballet, and Mallory = serious, Logan = wow, and Shannon = studios. And even though she hasn’t met her, Abby has a reaction to Dawn: that she is mellow (ha) and health-conscious.
  • Fortunately for the readers, Abby has since learned there is much more to the rest of the BSC, which means someone told her all the boilerplate descriptions to put in Chapter 2. I would have much rather read more about her thinking Claudia is a flake, but I guess that wouldn’t have been allowed. Do you get the feeling Ann M. Martin came up with Abby because she was bored with the BSC and wanted a character to start pointing out the ridiculousness of it all?
  • What Claudia had on when Abby first met her: “some mixture of tie-dyed items, thrift shop finds, and homemade jewelry.”
  • You know the country club was “bad” back in the day, because it was called, “Dark Woods.” What kind of name is that for a country club?
  • I don’t really get why Nikki decides to buy and reopen the country club. She hated the club when she was a kid because it was exclusive and moved out of town years ago. If she wanted to open a country club, why not do it in the area she was living? Why uproot your family to move back to a town where you have unpleasant memories? Especially, if you don’t get along with your family that lives there?
  • Okay, I really can’t see this happening. While they are gardening, Abby and Mary Anne start singing “Stop! In the Name of Love.” First of all, Mary Anne? Sing outside where anyone could hear? Second, this book was published in 1996. Why are the teenagers singing Supremes songs?
  • I don’t know many four-year-olds, but I am guessing very few go around calling people by their first and last name. Especially random people who have baby-sat them a few times.
  • The girls see Nikki’s father creeping around the club watching her son, and they…actually TELL her. I am so impressed. Normally, they would try to figure things out on their own.
  • How is “Cokie” a nickname for Marguerite?
  • Kristy just happens to trip on the floor and find a clue that Sergeant Johnson’s friend had left. No one found it for over twenty years, but Kristy literally stumbles across it in about a day.
  • The first clue was written on a floorboard with wine. But to figure that out, the BSC spends several hours at Claudia’s writing with various liquids on wood pieces. (They don’t actually try wine, they use grape juice and make the connection). But, they get away with this whole experiment because Claud’s parents are working late. Honestly, Claud’s parents were always home early, but the one day the ghostwriter need the girls to have free run of a kitchen, the Kishis’ work late.
  • Ha. I think I love Cary Retlin. He and Alan Gray overhear the girls talking about the mystery, so they plant a “clue” telling them to look for penguins. So, Abby, Jessi, and Stacey spend the whole day acting like idiots trying to figure out what penguins could be referring to.
  • Would a town as small as Stoneybrook really have three World War II memorials?
  • The girls are cleaning the old golf clubhouse and find a pair of “black-and-white checkered knickers.” Stacey rightly makes fun of them, but Claud likes them and actually wears them later on. But don’t worry, they look totally cool on her.
  • Who hires middle school kids? If Nikki wanted teenagers to help her out because they are cheap, why not go to high school kids? They would be better workers, and would be able to get themselves there. Instead, she has a van drive students who are working for her to the club, which seems like a waste.
  • I don’t really see all these people in Stoneybrook just deciding to join a country club because a new one opens in town. Do you really see the Pikes joining a country club?
  • At this point in the series, the BSC has a mystery notebook. But they just start writing in it when no mystery exists. Like, “Oh Mr. So-and-so sure is unfriendly. Maybe it is a mystery!” Or maybe he just doesn’t smile? (Which is actually why the caretaker doesn’t smile. Nothing mysterious about that). On the other hand, if they ever got stuck on a deserted island where weird things happen, they would not have the same communication problems that some plane crash survivors do.
  • None of these girls stop and think that they are investigating people who killed someone. Wouldn’t you think someone would step back from a mystery when murder is involved?
  • I can’t believe Sergeant Johnson is allowed to be a cop. He is on an investigation and lets seven teenage girls follow him around? Even if that was appropriate, it would just be bad technique – eight people are easier to spot than one.


Unknown said...

I have to admit that back when I was 16, somewhere around the same time that book was written, I also sang "Stop in the name of love" with my friends... but we were into cheesy old songs, which might explain a lot...

Mary Ann said...

This cop is crazy... I think I remember in one of the books, HE actually approaches the BSC for help because of their prior mystery solving where Claudia had taken those pictures of the bank or something. 'Cause obviously a group of 13 year old girls is the perfect place to turn when you're a COP who needs help... wtf?

And I never got a winter break in February! No fair!

Anonymous said...

Weird. I didn't think I had read this book, but I vividly remember the penguins clue and Stacey thinking it referred to the guys in the photographs in their tuxes.

Anonymous said...

Oh man, I loved this book! I know heaps of people hate Abby but she was my favourite character... The whole thing with the cop, though, I'm pretty sure even at the time I read it I found him pretty skeevy.

MilkMan said...

"How is “Cokie” a nickname for Marguerite?"

Methinks it probably has something to do with her bathroom activities when she's cutting class ;-)

Sorry about the no winter break in Feb, Mary Ann. You were totally missing out. But, I think what you meant to say was "Nofe Air! Nofe Air!"

BadKat said...

I had no clue that Abby existed until about 7 months ago. I also had no idea that Shannon actually became some sort of interim member. I must have stopped reading at like #48 or something.

Anonymous said...

Wait- what are knickers? I thought they were underwear... seriously, that's disgusting if Claudia wore them.

Anonymous said...

the cokie-marguertie doesn't make sense, but i know this girl named Maria and her nickname is Chuly.
the fuck?

Sadako said...

Actually I was in 6th grade in '96 and a bunch of girls would randomly sing "Stop! In the Name of Love" it does happen.

Anonymous said...

Shannon = studios.

i think you mean studious

Unknown said...

I just read #127 Abby's Un-Valentine and she goes on and on about how she loves February because she has no allergies during that month. Yet here she apparently hates February.

Elise said...

I just love this blog, and this review has to be my fave so far (I'm reading in a random order haha), I was in fits throughout. Weirdly, like most people here it seems, I stopped reading around the time Abby joined too - by the end I was just praying for one of them to turn 14 and end the tediousness of them ALWAYS BEING 13!!!!! As you can tell, it annoys me even now...