The Secret of Lone Tree Cottage

“If we have guessed wrong,” said Jean, “I’ll never be able to look a policeman in the eye again.”

“They’ll be wild!” admitted Louise. “But I’m sure we’re right, Jean. We can’t be wrong this time.”

I managed to squeeze in a second book during the power outage, and continued with the adventures of the Dana Girls in The Secret at Lone Tree Cottage.

The book begins about a month after By the Light of the Study Lamp when the popular young English teacher Amy Tisdale [I keep wanting to say Ashley Tisdale] invites Jean and Louise to Friday night dinner with her parents. It seems her father, a perpetually grumpy hypochondriac, isn’t doing so well healthwise. As they pull out of Starhurst, Miss Tisdale seems shaken by a rough looking man who tries to stop the car, and she tells him not today. A few days later, Miss Tisdale receives a telegram during class and leaves suddenly. She is not heard from again, though her car is found abandoned on the road to Hilton.

Mrs. Tisdale does not want to tell her husband (or the police) because she fears her husband’s heart won’t be able to take the strain; instead, she hires a private detective and asks the girls to do everything they can to investigate. She also mentions that Amy had a twin sister Alice, now Mrs. Brixton, who was disowned for marrying a man of whom her family did not approve. On a hunch, the girls go into Hilton and manage to track down Mrs. Brixton, now widowed, and her five-year-old daughter Baby Faith.

Alice Brixton is doing poorly both in health and finances, and her home at Lone Tree Cottage is a shabby little place. Lately she has been hounded by one of her husband’s former business associates, a sailor named Sol Tepper, who claims that she owes him money her husband swindled him out of. She is afraid he may have kidnapped Amy for ransom. Her fears prove correct when a letter from Amy arrives saying $5000 will be asked from their parents. Miss Tisdale used their sisterly code (every fourth word), however, to request that they not pay ransom or notify their Father.

Louise and Jean, though hesitant to keep the struggles of both sisters a secret from their Father, continue the search for Sol Tepper. Every time they get a lead, however, something happens to change the game. Sol even resorts to kidnapping Faith when he doesn’t receive his ransom. Finally, with Uncle Ned’s help, they search up and down the river and find the hideout, reuniting the entire extended Tisdale family just in time for Thanksgiving.

Notes and thoughts on the book:

  • I’m sure it was a different world back then, but I teach high school and it seems odd for a teacher to bring individual students home to meet her parents. As a student, the only time it happened was when my French teacher hosted the entire honor society for a traditional meal at the end of the year.  I had college professors do something similar as well.
  • “Carolyn Keene” takes great care to distinguish between the sisters, especially in this sentence after Louise runs off to fix her hair before meeting a visitor: “Jean, who was not so particular about appearances, sauntered into the library.” Louise, of course, would never saunter. Neither would Nancy Drew. George probably would.
  • The girls are naturally champions at the school tennis match
  • Never let it be said that the Dana girls neglect their studies! Miss Tisdale’s substitute is so strict that Jean has to read David Copperfield in the car as the girls drive to Hilton. Later, of course, they take off two days from classes.

“Hello,” drawled Lettie. “I hear you had the day off. It’s nice to be some people. Mr. Crandall must be thinking of adopting you.”

  • Math at work: Louise uses a map to draw a five-mile-radius circle in order to narrow down their search. Jean is able to calculate in her head the area they will need to cover (31 and 3/7 miles; apparently they use 22/7 for pi).
  • A world-wise Uncle Ned cautions the girls that they have no proof Mrs. Brixton is who she claims to be, and don’t know she is trustworthy. They protest that Baby Faith is too adorable to have a mother who is a crook. Uncle Ned is not convinced; clearly he doesn’t understand series book conventions like the girls already do.

“Whenever a particularly mean trick is played in Starhurst,” said Louise, as Evelyn disappeared, “everyone immediately thinks of Lettie Briggs.”

  • Pranks: Lettie moves Miss Tisdale’s car so the girls will think it has been stolen, but accidentally leaves her handkerchief on the seat; Jean sends Lettie into the library telling her she has a male visitor, but it’s really the detective waiting for Louise; Lettie steals a Thanksgiving basket the girls had bought for the Brixtons (and has the grace to feel guilty afterwards)

“And that,” said Jean, as they drove back to Starhurst, “ends the excitement for today.”

Published in: on November 2, 2011 at 11:28 pm  Comments (1)  
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  1. […] with the previous books in the series, it’s easier to give short reactions than to try to write a formal […]

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