The Mystery of the Missing Necklace
By Enid Blyton
Methuen & Co., 1947

This is the fifth novel in The Five Find-Outers series, a series of mysteries for children -- preferably children living in 1950s England. There are 15 novels in the series, and for the most part they can be read in any order; however, if you want to start at the beginning, the first book is The Mystery of the Burnt Cottage. The Mystery of the Missing Necklace is arguably a good starting place because it is exemplary of the Find-outer novel.

The five are on summer vacation, and a bit bored because instead of having a mystery together, they spent the first bit of their vacation at the boring old beach. However, the eldest of the five, Fatty, has had a growth spurt and his voice has broken; this is important because Fatty is also a master of disguise, but up until now has mostly had to limit himself to delivery boys and other childish disguises. The five determine that, if they can't have a proper mystery, they will at least have fun with costumes.

During Fatty's first big outing in costume, he stumbles into a mystery, and naturally, it is a mystery that will require a series of brilliantly executed costume changes. The children also have chances to exercise their knowledge of invisible ink, tailing suspects, and general development of cunning plans. Overall, it's an exciting adventure, and unlike The Famous Five, they manage to have a perfectly acceptable adventure without dragging smugglers and secret caves into the mix.

The Find-Outers, however, have a serious narrative problem: they are bad guys. Well, not really, but they are bratty children actively interfering with police investigations -- they will steal from the police (not this adventure, but the last one), harass them, drop false cues, and withhold evidence. If it's a matter between letting the cops solve a case before them or letting the bad guys get away... well, flip a coin, it could go either way. But this is okay, you see, both because the local policeman, Mr. Goon, is fat and rude, and also because Mr. Goon's boss has an inexplicable fondness for the children. The Mystery of the Missing Necklace does a better than usual job of addressing this whole mess; the kids know they ain't doing right, Mr. Goon knows he's gone too far, and even so neither backs down.

Of course, good wins out in the end (not because anyone is very noble, just because crime never pays), and everyone has ample reason to continue their petty vendettas next novel. This is an excellent frame to read the other novels against, because This Is They Way They Is. If, in another novel, you come across the five being surprisingly rude to a random person, you might think that this is the author trying to make a point about People of a Certain Class or Girls Who are Heard When They Should be Seen, but no, the five are just like that.

Overall, between the twisty mystery, the petty infighting, and the proper detecting, this is one of my favorite Five Find-Outer mysteries. However, The Famous Five are still way cooler; who doesn't prefer smugglers and secret caves to some fat kid disguised as a tramp?

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