Friday, May 24, 2013

“The BSC members had done a lot of detective work, but that didn’t make us real detectives”…BSC Mystery # 36: Kristy and the Cat Burglar

Memory Reaction
Didn't read this as a kid.

Revisited Reaction
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.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

“We’ve all done a lot of sharing and confessing lately”……..BSC Chain Letter

I never read this as a kid. I think the bookstore in my town must not have carried it, because if I had seen it I would have gotten it.  Anyway, it’s not really a book, so I can’t do my normal format.  It’s more like a collection of letters that are supposed to tell a story.  The set-up’s that Kristy’s appendix bursts and she’s in the hospital, at the same time that the rest of the club’s on vacation.  Stacey and Claudia are in NYC, Jessi and Mallory are with the Pikes in Sea City, and Dawn and Mary Anne are in California.  Kristy was supposed to be in California as well, so she’s obviously not happy in the hospital.
Kristy’s cousin Robin (who has been mentioned before, so yay continuity) sends her this chain letter where you are supposed to send a letter to one person telling them a secret you’ve never told anyone.  Then that person does the same thing to someone else.  So, Kristy starts the chain by writing to Stacey, and we hear a bunch of (mostly lame) secrets.
  • Kristy tells Stacey she hates her father and sometimes wishes he was dead.  She thinks this may make her a bad person, but Stacey responds that it doesn’t.
  • Stacey tells Mallory that when she first moved to Stoneybrook she dyed red, but thought it looked terrible and dyed it back before anyone saw.
  • Mallory tells Jessi that once in school she totally blanked out on a test and she ended up copying Jessi’s answers, so they both got As.  Jessi responds that she already knew and was mad at first but got over it. 
  • Jessi tells Mary Anne that once when she was baby-sitting for her siblings, she suggested playing pirates with Becca.  They were trying to make a treasure map and have it look old by burning the edges. But they dropped the match and burned a hole in the carpet.  They moved a chair to cover it, so when her parents eventually saw it they thought it was friends of theirs that smoked.
  • Mary Anne tells Claudia that she was seeing a therapist for a while.  Which is probably the most interesting secret, only I already knew about it from later books.  Where I was annoyed I missed hearing it directly.
  • Claudia tells Dawn she once stole a dollar from Mimi’s purse so she could buy Twinkies.
  • Dawn tells Shannon that on their flight to California she told Mary Anne that she saw Cam Geary on the plane, in first class.  The flight attendant closed the curtain, so Mary Anne spent the whole time trying to get a look up there and missing him.   But Dawn made the whole thing up.
  • We don’t see who Shannon sends it too.  But her secret would probably be about flunking a test on purpose.

  • Claud steals the money from Mimi when she was 12.  Wasn’t she baby-sitting by then?  Wouldn’t she be able to buy a freaking Twinkie?
  • Jessi’s parents don’t think very highly of their friends do they?  Did they let the friends in their house alone?  Cause if it was dinner party or something, wouldn’t the Ramseys have noticed a fire in their living room.
  • I don’t believe Mallory would cheat on a test.
  • I REALLY don’t believe Jessi would be lighting matches in the middle of her living room while baby-sitting.
  • I don’t know when this was released chronologically, but Kristy tells Stacey that Sam cried when their dad didn’t call on his last birthday.  If Sam and Stacey were still dating at that point that seems it seems a bit too personal for Kristy to tell Stacey.  But maybe that’s why you don’t want to date your friends’ siblings.
  • I like that Mary Anne sent her secret to Claud, because it’s a Claudia book where this is referenced later on.
  • Stacey’s note back to Kristy about not being a bad person’s pretty nice.  Only she sends this on a postcard.  Which anyone could read.  Nice way to respond about a SECRET Stacey.  She doesn’t spell out what Kristy said, but you can get the idea.
  • Stacey tells Mallory that her hair dying incident was why she stayed so calm when Mallory needed to dye her hair back to red in California.  I don’t remember Stacey being especially calm, but whatever.
A few other random letters go around:

  • Mary Anne writes to Cam Geary about how she was on his plane and gets a signed picture.
  • Karen sends Kristy a get-well card because we have to insert her into every book.
  • Logan writers to Mary Anne and Dawn from his trip in Kentucky and his cousin Lewis jumps in with a bunch of random comments.
  • Dawn’s writes a random postcard to Claudia about going to Disney Land with Mary Anne.  She has a PS asking “if you kissed a boy while you were riding around in [the teacups] would your braces lock together”?  I guess it’s supposed to be a joke, but it seems weird.
  • Her postcard is a picture of the Hollywood sign, not a picture of Disney Land.  Maybe it would have cost more money for Scholastic to use a Disney pic?
  • Also, Dawn has to point out that she practically “grew up” in Disney Land but was willing to go back for Mary Anne’s sake. How big of her.  And do people in California really go to Disney Land all the time?
  • Margo writes to Stacey to say she saw Toby in Sea City with some girl who was ugly.  She also calls Toby ugly.  Mallory says it isn’t nice for Margo to do this, but I think Margo’s actually being nice to Stacey.  She didn’t call Toby ugly to his face.
  • Jessi and Mal send a bunch of letters trying to organize a surprise reunion party for when they all get home and Kristy’s out of the hospital.
  • Claudia’s answering machine’s broken and we get a bunch of random notes where she asks Janine to check it, where Mrs. Kishi says people are calling her line, and where Claudia asks Kristy if she knows where it can get fixed, etc.
  • It’s implied that the girls all tell each other the secrets, and that Jessi even tells her parents.  But we don’t get any discussion on them, which would be the most interesting part of the whole thing.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

“As long as she’s no longer the Worst Kid Ever”…..BSC # 116: Abby and the Best Kid Ever

Memory Reaction
I didn’t read this one as a kid, but I do remember Lou and like that they did a follow up book.

Revisited Reaction
So, Lou McNally, the Papadakis’s old foster child’s back in town.  Her aunt and uncle have now adopted her and her brother and bought a house in Stoneybrook.  Abby gets a job sitting for them, and she’s worried about whether Lou’s still “the worst kid ever.” But as it turns out, Lou’s very polite and well behaved this time around.  In fact, she’s so well-behaved she starts driving Abby crazy.
Abby’s also working on a project for Black History Month because she needs extra credit at school.  She decides she wants to involve little kids in her project, because she’s kind of crazy.  And because it’s the BSC and that’s what they do.   She ends up asking Lou and her brother to help out, along with some other kids in town.  They’re making a mock news show about escaped slaves using the Underground Railroad to get to freedom (using Dawn’s secret passage). 
Lou tries to be really helpful with the project, but she keeps accidentally screwing things up.  She almost drops the camera, she walks into the middle of scenes, and she’s constantly popping up asking what she can do to help and annoying Abby.  She also keeps apologizing for every little thing. Finally, Abby reaches her breaking point and tells her to lighten up.   Lou takes this advice to heart and starts acting up again.  Not nearly as badly as in her original book, but she keeps trying to scare people by jumping out at them.  Then, she accidentally drops a plate and it breaks.  Not because she was doing anything wrong, she just dropped it while setting the table.  She’s all panicked that her aunt and uncle will “send her back” because she’s bad.  Her brother and Abby try to tell her this won’t happen.  Then when the aunt and uncle get home, the brother tells them what Lou’s worried about.  Of course the aunt and uncle are very reassuring, and I guess that settles things.  And I know you’ll be surprised to hear this, but Abby’s project’s a huge success.
The subplot’s that the Addisons are moving out of Stoneybrook. The BSC wants to help them out with move stuff and to say good-bye. Corrie’s all sweet about it, however, Sean doesn’t believe the BSC will miss him because he’s caused so much trouble for them.  They spend way too much time trying to convince him otherwise, and eventually they succeed.  It’s a very nice goodbye, considering the Addisons aren’t one of the series most prominent clients.  And Abby tells us how Stoneybrook now really feels like her home.

  • In the first chapter, Abby’s thinking about Kristy and how she has a soft spot for “bad kids,” then randomly mentions Lou as an example.  It made me laugh because Abby didn’t even know Lou, so the statement comes out of nowhere.  It’s like on a TV show when they have a “previously on…” and show something from two seasons ago, so you know it’s going to be brought up again.  Of course with this book we knew that anyway since it’s on the cover. 
  • At a BSC meeting, Claud’s has a bag of M&Ms and is separating out the green ones to eat.  Interesting.
  • Outfit 1: “Stacey was wearing a cropped sweater in dark green-blue that looked good with her blue eyes. She also had on a short skirt (black faux suede), pale blue tights, and very cool-looking black suede boots that came to just above her knees.  Tiny gold knot earrings completed her ensemble.”
  •  Outfit 2: “Claudia had decided to wear red.  That meant she had on a red tunic with an orange-red braided belt (that she had made herself, naturally).  Her leggings were a rose-pink color, and she had on black shiny flats with tiny rosettes on the toe.  She’d pulled her hair back with a large red silk scarf that matched the tunic.  Her earrings were silver snowflakes, also homemade.”
  • Abby hears that the McNally’s are moving in at the same time as the Addisons are moving out and assumes the McNally’s are moving into their house.  Which actually seems like a weird assumption, but whatever.  This isn’t actually the case, as the child abuser from the next book’s moving into the Addisons.  We get introduced to him and his kids here.
  • Nicky Pike’s the one who suggests doing a project on the Underground Railroad, using Dawn/Mary Anne’s house.  I don’t know if this was intentional, but I thought it made sense he would think of this because he found the passage before anyone else.
  • Abby references Jenny Prezzioso, saying she was once nicknamed “Miss Priss” because she went through a phase where she had to wear very dressy clothes.  This, again, is something that happened before Abby was in town.  Which may be why it’s inaccurate – the reference is that Lou’s dressing in the same style as Jenny, when Lou’s wearing corduroys and a sweater.  Maybe she just meant that’s Lou’s version of dressing up?  The way extra lacey dresses were Jenny’s? 
  • The girls offer to do anything Sean wants for an hour to convince him they don’t hate him.  He makes the girls take him sledding and actually pull him back up the hill while he’s sitting on the sled.  After they finish, Stacey says “Wow, that was hard work, I’m glad we’re done,” (meaning physically pulling him on the sled), but it erases all the good will they just got. 
  • Honestly, I don’t know why they care so much about Sean. Just let the kid think you don’t like him.  Who cares?  He’s leaving town so it isn’t like he’s causing you any trouble now.  He’s not going to be scarred for life because he thinks his old baby-sitters weren’t big fans.  He’s got way too many issues with his parents for that.
  • Also, it’s not great precedent to tell someone you’ll do anything they want to get them to like you.
  • In the club notebook, Claudia comments that it’s “strange” that spending time with Corrie made her think of Mimi.  But that’s not strange at all, considering Corrie was a pretty big part of her life at the time Mimi died.
  • Mary Anne’s sitting for the Addisons and the parents suggest ordering pizza for dinner.  Mary Anne asks if they can make it instead, which they say is fine.  Then she looks around the kitchen and finds pizza dough and sauce all ready to use.  Who keeps stuff like that in their house, especially when they are packing up to move? 
  • Why didn’t the Papadakises ever get another foster child?
  • Abby refers to something as “Easy as pie,” and Stacey’s all “Pi r squared,” while Claudia’s all, “what flavor?”  For some reason that made me laugh.  I know, I am a nerd.
  • When they’re at the library, Stacey picks up a book called “Finance for Dummies” then reads it and keeps laughing. I don’t remember Stacey being such a math dork in the earlier books, just that she was good at it/liked the subject.  But I really like that they’ve raised the bar with it, just because it shows you the popular/sophisticated/fashionable one can still be smart.
  • What is it with Abby and February?  She starts this book by complaining that you can’t really play sports in winter and talking about the number of holidays in February.  There’s at least two other books where she talks about disliking the month and/or needing something to do to get through it.
  • Claudia helps Corrie make this huge map of Stoneybrook, with pictures of key events/places on it as a memento.  It’s very elaborate with all kind of things glued on.  I feel like I’ve seen them do a big map like that as a goodbye for someone else too.  Maybe one of the times Dawn left?
  • Lou seems to really believe her aunt and uncle will “give her back.”  Probably a realistic fear for someone in her situation. My only issue with this is how much time are we supposed to think has passed since her original book and now?  Wouldn’t someone have picked up that she was having an issue and talked to her by now?  Wouldn’t a kid like that probably need/get some kind of counseling anyway?