Didn't read this as a kid.
I actually really enjoyed this one, because it ended up being about how the BSC isn’t an actually detective agency and probably shouldn’t be chasing criminals around. This is the last mystery book to come out, so I guess that’s a fitting end.
It starts out with Kristy, David Michael, and Karen exploring the woods behind their house that leads to some big mansion on a private road. While doing this they see the BSC’s cop friend Sergeant Johnson driving by (but he doesn’t see them), then hear a gun shot and an alarm going off. Kristy and the kids run away, but then a cop tells them to stop. It is, of course, Sergeant Johnson. After he sees who it is, he has them wait in his car while a bunch of other cops show up and do their cop thing.
It turns out some rich loner guy, Reinhart Golem, owns the house but is currently out of the country. Someone lured his security guard away and then stole a bunch of diamonds from the safe. This person also left a picture of a cat, which is the calling card of some notorious “Cat Burglar” that’s wanted all over the place. We also find out that there’s some tension between Sergeant Johnson and a couple other cops. According to him it’s because a new guy wants to take the current Chief’s job when he retires, and Johnson (I’m going to stop typing Sergeant every time I say his name, because it’s really annoying) is his biggest competition. Oh, and Cary Retlin apparently lives in the area, so he keeps showing up.
The BSC decides to investigate, because that’s what they do. They show up at the mansion and find a bullet casing and a red marker (that was supposedly used for drawing the cat picture). They get caught snooping by the owner, who just got back into town. He encourages the girls and Cary to solve the crime and even offers up an award. He keeps encouraging and complimenting them every time he sees them.
We also find out that these other cops are acting like Sergeant Johnson’s a suspect and the BSC has to admit they think he’s one too. He was at the crime scene right before the alarm went off and has been acting “odd.” Then Kristy sees a set of markers in his office that’s missing a red one, and look just like the one found at the crime scene. We also hear that Johnson had investigated Golem about something before, and it didn’t go anywhere. I guess we’re supposed to think he’s got something against the guy. More importantly, the cops finally find some diamonds in his desk, so they arrest him (in front of the BSC). But he tells the girls he’s being framed
Kristy starts to believe him, and thinks the evidence is off somehow. So they do some more investigating and come to the conclusion that the other cop’s framing Johnson. It’s dinner time so half the girls go to Chez Maurice (the restaurant where Golem eats most of his meals) and Kristy, Abby, Mary Anne, and Cary go to Golem’s house. It turns out he’s at home, so Kristy’s group starts telling him their theory about a frame up. But then Cary and Kristy realize that Golem has a lamp that was stolen by the Cat Burglar previously, and figure out Golem is the real thief and was trying to get the insurance money for the diamonds. He was framing Johnson because he held a grudge from the previous investigation. Golem tries to lock the girls in his house before they can stop him from getting on a plane to Europe, but Abby and Mary Anne manage to get out of the house.
At the same time the rest of the BSC was looking for Golem at Chez Maurice and happen to see his name in the guest book on the day of the crime. They realize he was lying about being out of town that day, so they go to the cops, who were already getting suspicious. They all go to Golem’s and manage to save Kristy, Abby, Mary Anne, and Cary. Anyway, Kristy feels really stupid for letting Golem manipulate her and the other girls agree, so they decide to stop looking into mysteries for a while.
The subplot’s all about how Charlotte Johanssen read Harriet the Spy and decided to spy on everyone she knows. It turns out her friends are also spying on her, but they end up doing it together. At one point Becca and Vanessa hear some negative things Charlotte said about them during one of her solo spy trips. They fight, then they make up. It’s really thrilling stuff. And we get a little plug about how we should all read that great book.
- According to this book Kristy’s house ends with a wooded area that goes past Cary’s house. I was going to say this didn't match the map, but I guess it could, depending on what else is off the edge on that side.
- At a meeting a job comes in for a Thursday. Mary Anne looks at the book and says, “Stacey, Mal, or Abby.” Then Mallory says how she has an eye doctor’s appointment and Abby says she has a special soccer practice. But, shouldn't Mary Anne already know this? Isn't that the point of the appointment book? Unless maybe both of those things just came up. But do they not tell Mary Anne about appointments until she asks who’s free that day?
- During one of Charlotte’s spy missions, they look at the Ramsey’s house and she says that Aunt Cecilia always spends all afternoon cooking dinner for the family. That makes her sound like a maid or something.
- Johnson brings Kristy in for questioning and takes her into his office where no one could overhear them to talk. I’m not surprised his colleagues were suspicious of him.
- Cary gets called down to the police station for questioning (as a witness, not a suspect), because Kristy told the cops was in the area during the break in. They make a point of showing that his father was with him for the questioning, which makes it look even weirder when Kristy goes in alone. Johnson said they don’t need her parents because it isn't an “official” questioning, just a “consultation.” Sure. That sounds totally legit.
- Stacey warns Charlotte that spying on her friends could make them mad at her, like in the book. But Charlotte says she’s recording everything instead of writing it down, so no one will ever know. But of course, when she starts spying with Becca and Vanessa, she accidentally plays the wrong tape and they hear (and get pissed off).
- Charlotte’s bitchy comments about her friends – Becca’s a baby that’s spoiled by Aunt Cecelia, and Vanessa’s embarrassed that her father can’t afford to buy her a nicer bike. Vanessa defends them both saying Cecelia’s actually strict and her dad offered her a new bike and she refused. Becca doesn't defend herself, but I guess it’s kind of hard to say you’re not spoiled without sounding like you are.
- You can tell this is a later book, because when the girls are doing research on the Cat Burglar they talk about using the internet instead of just microfilm in the library.
- After the girls found the marker and bullet casings, I was already to complain about how the hell the cops missed that stuff. But, they actually reference how weird it’s that the cops didn’t find it. AND it turns out that it was planted after the fact, so it’s not that ridiculous. Other than the fact that they didn't know immediately it was a frame up.
- For anyone who cares, Sergeant Johnson’s first name’s James.
- I can’t believe this Golem guy was dumb enough to sign his real name to a guest book in a restaurant when he was pretending to be out of town. He planned out an elaborate crime that involved tricking his security people and using kids to frame a police officer. And he has been breaking into houses for years. But he didn’t think to sign a fake name? Or maybe eat in that once? He deserves to get caught for that.
- I find it funny that they’re giving the kids a plot that was Mallory’s storyline in TWO super specials. Okay, Mal didn't get the fight part of the story. But she did reference Harriet.
- Claudia outfit: “Purple painter’s pants with lots of loops and pockets for carrying tools, red high-tops with purple laces, and a red sweatshirt customized with purple embroidery.” It’s inspired by Harriet.
- Stacey outfit: “She [had] on khaki pants and a white button-down blouse. She [had] a dark blue ribbon in her hair…her shoes [were] brown lace-up boots.” Pretty tame…I feel like Stacey’s clothes were more interesting in the early books.
- Cary keeps saying he was bird watching when the BSC bumps into him around the mansion. They think he’s making that up, but apparently he’s actually a serious bird watcher.
- Kristy thinks about how rich Golem must be because he eats most of his meals at Chez Maurice, and she would need to save up for months to eat one meal there. She does realize even non-rich adults make more than baby-sitters, right?
- Also, haven’t Logan and Mary Anne eaten at Chez Maurice? They never mentioned up saving for months for that.
- They don’t really explain why the cops went from being convinced of Johnson’s guilt to thinking Golem was manipulating things, even before talking to the BSC. But whatever.
- Sergeant Johnson shows up at Claudia’s house during a BSC meeting. Janine comes and knocks on Claud’s door and tells them there’s a cop there to see them, and “if she didn't know better” she’d think they were in trouble. Do they expect me to believe that the “genius” didn't think there was anything weird about a cop wanting to talk to teenage girls alone?
- While I do love the book ending with them deciding not to play detective anymore, it’s kind of silly that THIS case makes them think it’s too dangerous. Having a criminal stalk you and try to kill you or having physical fights with thieves doesn't bother them. But almost getting trapped in a room does the job. Makes total sense.