This was the second to last mystery in the series, so it was quite a while after I stopped reading. Therefore, no memory.
Abby gets sick with bronchitis and has to miss a bunch of school. She’s a pretty active person, so she gets bored with this quickly. While watching some America’s Most Wanted-type show, she becomes convinced she recognizes one of the fugatives. Everyone tells her she’s imagining things, but she tracks down a tape of the episode and decides the person she recognizes as an embezzler is her neighbor. Again, people tell her she’s imagining things, but she convinces Kristy to snoop around the guy’s house to find out more information. Abby finally convinces that cop that the BSC has a totally inappropriate relationship with to look into the neighbor. He does, and because we want to encourage kids to spy on their neighbors, it turns out that this man’s the criminal in question.
He also appears to be a rather incompetent criminal, because despite being on the run, he gets mail at his home from his home town (in Iowa) and keeps pictures his kids drew on the refrigerator with their names visibly signed. And by visibly signed, I mean Kristy can look in one of his windows and see the names. We don’t see all the behind the scenes stuff, but apparently the cops found enough evidence that the neighbor was really the embezzler in question. Abby and the rest of the BSC get to watch, because they just happen to be in Abby’s room at the time of the arrest. The whole thing’s filmed by the TV show that first featured him, and Abby gets a reward from the show.
We also get an incredibly boring subplot about how kids in town are entering this go-cart race. The Pike triplets are making one, and Vanessa’s making one with Charlotte and Becca Ramsey. Nicky feels all left out, but manages to worm his way onto the triplets’ team by giving them some decals or something boring like that. The Rodowsky boys are also making a go-cart, but aren’t sure how. The end up spying on the girls’ team because they don’t want to admit they need help. I think it’s supposed to be cute, but it isn’t. There’s also drama with the Rodowskys because Jackie wants to be the driver, and Shea thinks that’s a recipe for disaster. But somehow Jackie convinces him and actually does pretty well. But they all lose to Bill and Melody Kormon, a last minute entry.
- Supposed the neighbor embezzled from his company, “driving it into bankruptcy,” then abandoned his family after stealing his wife’s life savings. But then they tell us he disappeared with more than $20,000 of stolen money. Now, I’ll assume that Abby’s interpretation may be exaggerated because she was sick when she first saw the show, but how’s $20,000 enough to warrant a spot on any kind of show like this? Or enough to hide out in the rich section of a Connecticut suburb? How much more do they mean?
- Just for the record, this book totally acknowledges that the plot’s straight out of Rear Window and other similar movies.
- Abby says she and Mary Anne are both old movie buffs, which isn’t usually mentioned, but I think is consistent with their characters/other books.
- Mal asks if he does anything suspicious like go out at odd hours or “wear disguises.” Does she mean leave his house in weird hats or sunglasses? I mean, really. What does she expect to see? I would think someone putting on an actual disguise wouldn’t do it before they left their house, since otherwise it would be obvious who they really were.
- It seems kind of out of character that the girls just laugh about the idea that the Rodowskys are spying on Charlotte, Becca, and Vanessa because they don’t want to ask girls for help. I would think they’d try and convince the boys it’s okay to go to the girls.
- Abby’s sister, Anna, plays the violin and likes classical music. I get that. But why does everything about her need to be connected to that? She tells Abby how if she was home sick and had time to do nothing she would read a biography on Beethoven, catalog her CD collection, and prepare for her Advanced Music Theory class. She can’t play the violin, but also watch soap operas or read romance novels?
- As I was reading this, I started thinking how if these books took place today, these girls (who are always going to the library to research during mysteries) could just Google the neighbor. So, imagine my surprise when Claudia and Stacey actually use the Internet (on Janine’s computer). I guess these books got “modern” after I stopped reading.
- I always wanted to build a go-cart when I was a kid. In TV-shows and books kids were always having chances to do this, but I never heard of one happening in the real world.
- During their Internet hunt, Claudia and Stacey find a couple pictures of the embezzler that Abby can use to compare to the neighbor. And in only “ten minutes” they have two blurry pictured printed out. Isn’t technology amazing?
- While Abby’s home sick she doesn’t just spy on the embezzler, she spies on everyone on her street, with binoculars. Kristy’s torn between being interested by what Abby’s learned and worried (because Kristy herself is a neighbor).
- Kristy and Abby have this ridiculous conversation about how the pictures on the neighbor’s refrigerator (they can see them through the window) are evidence that the guy has kids who are around 6 and 8. Apparently, they know that all six-year-olds draw houses with smoke coming out of the chimney and eight-year-olds draw horses or rocket ships (depending on gender).
- Throughout this book I kept thinking how Karen is always getting in trouble in the Little Sister books for spying on her neighbors, and here we have Kristy helping Abby to spy on the neighbors.
- So, the show Abby watched was actually called “Mystery Trackers,” so I’ll buy that a white-collar criminal would show up on one (when they wouldn’t on America’s Most Wanted). But stealing $20,000 does not seem worthy of that much attention. Not that it isn’t a bad thing to do, there are just worse criminals.
- One of the things Abby tells Kristy’s that the Kormons are building a go-cart that she thinks will be very fast, even though the rest of the BSC and the other kids entering the race don’t know about this. I guess Kristy offers to help the Kormons, because the day of the race she shows up with them, and has to convince the judge to let them enter (since they got there late). Kristy’s all thrilled and pleased with herself after they win, like she had some stake in the competition, but I’m not sure why.
- What annoys me about this book’s that everyone keeps telling Abby that she’s imagining things and that she shouldn’t be spying on her neighbors. But, having her be right basically invalidates all those comments and encourage kids to “snoop.” I hope this reaction doesn’t mean I’m old.