Childrens - Shastrix Books


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The Secret Seven

The Secret Seven

Enid Blyton

24th May 2020

Having completed my adult revisitation to Enid Blyton’s Five Find-Outers series, I turned next to the Secret Seven, which had been my second-favourite of the prolific author’s mystery series as a child.

This first book sets up the group, introduces the main characters and sets them off on their first adventure.

I was slightly surprised by how different it feels to the other series - this is clearly aimed at a younger audience, and uses simpler language, is shorter (barely 100 pages) and the plotting and mystery more straightforward (there is so much blatant foreshadowing that I don’t think anyone of any age wouldn’t spot the twist coming).

The gender roles feel very dated right from the start, and this is I suspect going to be a recurring feature as I make my way through the 15 stories, but I can always hope…

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Buy book: UK
The Hooded Hawk Mystery

The Hooded Hawk Mystery

Franklin W Dixon, Charles Strong & Priscilla Baker-Carr

24th May 2020

I’ve been rapidly making my way through the Hardy Boys original series during lockdown, and this one seemed like a solid entry.

The boys are mysteriously gifted a Peregrine Falcon, and of course find a way to make use of it to solve a mystery. It’s interesting that its them that gets a new hobby, as that has traditionally been the role of Chet through the series so far.

It’s much more of the classic vein, and partly that’s probably true in my head because it’s one that I read as a child - but it’s based in Bayport, involves lots of the common elements, and feels slightly educational too.

There are a couple of aspects that are a bit dated and likely wouldn’t be included in a novel aimed at the same target audience today, particularly around animals and hunting. There’s also some dated language that today would be correctly interpreted as racism - if not for the fact that the terms in question have died out and so many readers wouldn’t even understand what they meant.

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The Yellow Feather Mystery

The Yellow Feather Mystery

Franklin W Dixon, William Dougherty & Priscilla Baker-Carr

3rd May 2020

The Yellow Feature Mystery sticks in my head as one of those classic Hardy Boys titles. I must have read it in the listings hundreds of times as a child - and yet it wasn't one of the books I'd read, or which formed part of my collection. Until now.

The mystery begins when the teenage detectives are approached by a college student and asked to find his grandfather's will - which he believes will leave an entire school to him.

It actually proceeds to become a classic Hardy Boys story - with lots of sleuthing, solar plexus jabs, and suspects and friends all over the place. This all came as a pleasant surprise as preceeding entries in the series had become weaker and repetetive.

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Buy book: UK
The Mystery of Banshee Towers

The Mystery of Banshee Towers

Enid Blyton

3rd May 2020

The final story in Enid Blyton's Five Find-Outers (and Dog) series feels different from the earlier fourteen. Home again for the holidays, the group decide to fill their days with excursions, and just happen to head up the hill to Banshee Towsers to see a gallery of paintings - where lo and behold a mystery awaits.

I don't know whether Blyton intended this to be the final adventure, and had assumed from vague memories of reading this as a child that my memories of it being different were probably because I had a different edition of this story to all the others.

But it still feels different reading it now - the tone of the narration is different, subtly more colloquial - almost feeling patronising to the reader in a way that wasn't the case in previous novels. Almost as if Blyton had lost the voice of the series in the three years between stories. There are returning elements - from early books as well as recurring characters.

And it continues to feel like a conclusion - the ending in particular feels like it's not going to lead to more adventures - it's wrapping up. And unlike Blyton's more famous series - The Famous Five and The Secret Seven - there's no follow up by another author.

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The Secret of Wildcat Swamp

The Secret of Wildcat Swamp

Franklin W Dixon, William Dougherty & Priscilla Baker-Carr

25th April 2020

The ‘Hardy Boys Go On Holiday’ part of the series continues with this trip to the countryside to help someone find fossils in a swamp.

I’m again surprised at the prevalence of firearms - this wasn’t a feature of the books I remember from reading in childhood, and yet here Joe in particularly is totally happy wielding a gun. I’m don’t find this comfortable reading any more, although perhaps for the expected audience some fifty years ago that was an entirely normal experience.

I feel like the books have by this point hit upon a formula and they are sticking too closely to it. Every plot now has become the same, and the reliance of the coincidence as the Boys’ case and their father’s come together is breaking my ability to suspend disbelief.

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The Wailing Siren Mystery

The Wailing Siren Mystery

Franklin W Dixon, Andrew E Svenson & Priscilla Baker-Carr

18th April 2020

In book 30, the Hardy Boys head off camping again. It’s another of the weak middle era of the original series, where coincidence and cookie-cutter plots involving woods and helicopters lead our heroes round in circles for a bit.

It wasn’t the worst of the books that I’ve read recently, but is far from the best. Overall I think I’d describe it as ‘forgettable’ - I’m fairly sure I’ve read it before but unlike other books had no memory of any element of the plot, and even now just a couple of days after reading it again the events of the narrative are slipping out of my brain.

Not worth it I don’t think unless you are on some sort of completionist binge like me.

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The Mystery of Holly Lane

The Mystery of Holly Lane

Enid Blyton

18th April 2020

Somehow I got lost in my read through of the Five Find-Outers series and skipped this one - going back it’s one of the best, so I’m glad I realised.

The five are back together for the school holidays, setting themselves random challenges, when Larry comes across an unusual gentleman, who is soon the victim of a crime. Thought the usual classic combination of clues, disguises, and a baffled policeman, the team aim to solve the mystery.

It’s got all the elements that make this my favourite of Blyton’s detective series, and I really enjoyed revisiting it.

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Buy book: UK

Other reviewed books

The Mystery of the Strange Messages
The Short-Wave Mystery
The Mystery of the Missing Man
The Secret of the Crooked Cat
The Clue of the Broken Blade
Five Children and It
Especially Jennings
Brigands M.C.
The Mystery of the Laughing Shadow
The Disappearing Floor
The Mystery of Tally-Ho Cottage
Jennings of Course
The Twisted Claw
The Falls
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
The Mystery of the Talking Skull
The General
The Mystery of the Moaning Cave
The Mystery of the Strange Bundle
The Sleepwalker
The Mystery of the Screaming Clock
The Mystery of the Vanished Prince
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Mad Dogs
The Tower Treasure
The Mystery of the Silver Spider
The Mystery of the Invisible Thief
The Fall
Don't Touch Anything
The Mystery of the Fiery Eye
Crocodile Tears
Man vs Beast
The Mystery of the Pantomime Cat
The Secret of Skeleton Island
The Wide Window
Divine Madness
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
The Mystery of the Hidden House
The Accused
The Mystery of the Vanishing Treasure
The Reptile Room
Ark Angel
The Rithmatist
The Mystery of the Missing Necklace
The Field Guide
Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief
The Mystery of the Green Ghost
Coots in the North and other stories
The Killing
The Abduction
The Mystery of the Spiteful Letters
The Mystery of the Whispering Mummy
Eagle Strike
The Mystery of the Secret Room
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Maximum Security
Alcatraz Versus the Knights of Crystallia
Alcatraz Versus the Scrivener's Bones
Great Northern?
The Mystery of the Stuttering Parrot
Skeleton Key
The Mystery of the Disappearing Cat
Class A
The Secret of Terror Castle
The Picts and the Martyrs
The Assassination Game
Point Blanc
The Recruit
The World of Poo
The Mystery of the Burnt Cottage
Missee Lee
Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone
Just Like Jennings
Catching Fire
The Big Six
The Trouble with Jennings
The Hunger Games
Secret Water
The Bad Beginning
We Didn't Mean to Go to Sea
Pigeon Post
The Song of the Quarkbeast
Coot Club
Winter Holiday
Jennings as Usual
Peter Duck
Take Jennings for Instance
Thanks to Jennings
Swallows and Amazons
Our Friend Jennings
The Last Dragonslayer
According to Jennings
Jennings' Diary
Jennings and Darbishire
Jennings' Little Hut
Jennings Follows a Clue
Jennings Goes to School
Artemis Fowl

Unreviewed books

A Killing in the Market
Alcatraz Versus the Shattered Lens
An Ear for Danger
Beyond the Law
Biggles - Flying Detective
Biggles and the Black Peril
Biggles and the Secret Mission
Biggles Defends the Desert
Biggles Defies the Swastika
Biggles Delivers the Goods
Biggles Fails to Return
Biggles Flies East
Biggles Flies West
Biggles Goes to War
Biggles in France
Biggles in the Orient
Biggles Learns to Fly
Blood Fever
Blood Relations
Brother Against Brother
By Royal Command
Castle Fear
Choke Hold
Cold Sweat
Countdown to Terror
Crime in the Kennel
Crusade of the Flaming Sword
Cult of Crime
Dangerous Games
Dead on Target
Deep Trouble
Diplomatic Deceit
Dirty Deeds
Disaster for Hire
Double or Die
Edge of Destruction
Endangered Species
Evil Incorporated
Fatal Error
Final Cut
Final Gambit
Flesh and Blood
Flight into Danger
Foul Play
Foul Play
Fright Wave
Fun for the Secret Seven
Funny Business
Go Ahead, Secret Seven
Good Old Secret Seven
Good Work, Secret Seven
Grave Danger
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
High-Speed Showdown
Hollywood Horror
Hostages of Hate
Hot Wheels
Hurricane Gold
James and the Giant Peach
Jennings Again
Jennings at Large
Jennings in Particular
Jennings Unlimited
Lethal Cargo
Long Shot
Look Out Secret Seven
Mariel of Redwall
Martial Law
Martin the Warrior
Maximum Challenge
Murder at the Mall
Murder to Go
Night of the Werewolf
No Mercy
Open Season
Outcast of Redwall
Pearls of Lutra
Perfect Getaway
Power Play
Programme for Destruction
Puzzle for the Secret Seven
Reel Trouble
Rigged for Revenge
Rock 'n' Revenge
Rough Stuff
Scene of the Crime
Secret Seven Adventure
Secret Seven Fireworks
Secret Seven Mystery
Secret Seven on the Trail
Secret Seven Win Through
See No Evil
Seven Strange and Ghostly Tales
Shock for the Secret Seven
Sidetracked to Danger
Sky Sabotage
Slam Dunk Sabotage
Speaking of Jennings
Still William
Swallows and Amazons for Ever!
Terror on Track
The Alaskan Adventure
The Apeman's Secret
The Bellmaker
The Blackwing Puzzle
The Borgia Dagger
The Camels are Coming
The Clue in the Embers
The Cold Cash Caper
The Crowning Terror
The Crystal Prison
The Dead Season
The Final Reckoning
The Firebird Rocket
The Genius Thieves
The Ghost at Skeleton Rock
The Hypersonic Secret
The Jennings Report
The Jungle Pyramid
The Last Laugh
The Last Leap
The Lazarus Plot
The Long Patrol
The Masked Monkey
The Midnight Folk
The Mummy Case
The Mystery at Devil's Paw
The Mystery of Death Trap Mine
The Mystery of Monster Mountain
The Mystery of Smugglers Cove
The Mystery of the Chinese Junk
The Mystery of the Coughing Dragon
The Mystery of the Cranky Collector
The Mystery of the Dead Man's Riddle
The Mystery of the Desert Giant
The Mystery of the Flaming Footprints
The Mystery of the Headless Horse
The Mystery of the Invisible Dog
The Mystery of the Kidnapped Whale
The Mystery of the Magic Circle
The Mystery of the Missing Mermaid
The Mystery of the Nervous Lion
The Mystery of the Purple Pirate
The Mystery of the Rogues' Reunion
The Mystery of the Samurai Sword
The Mystery of the Scar-Faced Beggar
The Mystery of the Shrinking House
The Mystery of the Silver Star
The Mystery of the Singing Serpent
The Mystery of the Sinister Scarecrow
The Mystery of the Smashing Glass
The Mystery of the Trail of Terror
The Mystery of the Two-Toed Pigeon
The Mystery of the Wandering Cave Man
The Number File
The Oaken Throne
The Outlaw's Silver
The Pentagon Spy
The Phoenix Equation
The Search for the Snow Leopard
The Secret Agent on Flight 101
The Secret of Phantom Lake
The Secret of the Haunted Mirror
The Seven and the Lion Hunt
The Seven and the Magician
The Seven and the UFOs
The Seven Strike Gold
The Seven to the Rescue
The Sky Blue Frame
The Stone Idol
The Vanishing Thieves
The Viking Symbol Mystery
Thick as Thieves
Three Cheers, Secret Seven
Trust Jennings
Typically Jennings
Uncivil War
Web of Horror
Well Done, Secret Seven
Without a Trace
Witness to Murder

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