in Mystery Scene - Page 1
Series Reading List
It's easy to condescend to the books as "kiddie potboilers,"
which, in fact, they are. But that overlooks some real achievements
that made the series so memorable. For Campbell salted the contrivances
of the genre with witty dialogue, strong characters and a vivid evocation
Trixie lives at Crabapple Farm in the Hudson River valley, along with
her parents and three brothers: 16 year-old Brian, 14 year-old Mart;
and six-year old Bobby. Modeled on Campbell's own home just outside
of Ossining, New York, Crabapple Farm sits a few miles outside of fictional
"Sleepyside-on-Hudson," a name derived from combining "Sleepy
Hollow" and "Sunnyside," the name of Washington Irving's
The first three books introduce most of the series' regular characters
and set the pattern for the remainder of the series. The Secret of the
Mansion and its companion volume, The Red Trailer Mystery, chronicle
the adventures and blossoming friendships of Trixie and her new neighbor,
the wealthy, but lonely and timid Honey Wheeler, and Jim Frayne, a hot-tempered,
resourceful runaway. The trio find a fortune in the dilapidated "Miser's
Mansion," rescue Jim from a venal and abusive stepfather, and outwit
trailer thieves on their way to finding Jim a home as the Wheeler's
newly adopted son.
When Trixie's older brothers come home from summer camp in the third
volume, The Gatehouse Mystery, the teens form a club, the Bob-Whites
of the Glen, vowing to help others and be like "one big family."
In between swimming, horseback riding, baby-sitting, and other activities
Trixie and the Bob-Whites also catch big city diamond thieves.
Later volumes added two more regulars, Diana Lynch, the school beauty,
and Dan Mangan, the rebel who's been misunderstood, but with The Gatehouse
Mystery the world of the series is formed. Trixie is firmly situation
in a close-knit circle of family and friends. This sense of community
exercises a strong appeal for many readers. "Trixie is a world
you want to be in," says Jennifer Dussling, currently the Trixie
Belden editor at Random House. "Not everything is about moving
the plot along - sometimes they're just hanging out and toasting marshmallows."
Fowler agrees and believes that the ensemble cast influenced her own
creative choices. "My books are much more multi-cultural, but the
family feeling is there, just like it is in the Trixie Belden books."
Further, the various characters are often distinctly drawn individuals.
"These books taught
me to pay attention to how characters speak," says Lora Roberts,
author of Another Fine Mess. "Trixie and her friends are alive
and are fomenting the action. They're doing things that develop naturally
out of their characters and situations."
In the late 1940's, Trixie herself was something of a breakthrough character.
"Trixie raised readers' expectations of what a girl character can
be," says Octavia Spencer, co-author of the new Rock Holler Gang
series which features a female leader. "She is not afraid to go
after what she wants."
While she's a strong character, she's not perfect. Especially in the
first six books, the action of the mystery often coincides with Trixie's
personal development. This personal stake sets the series apart from
many mysteries where the detective's derring-do and insight solves someone
else's problems. Nancy Drew stories, for example, can have a sense of
noblesse oblige, Nancy arriving in well-heeled, well-groomed poise to
solve the problems of those not quite so quick-witted or fortunately
situated as she.
article and the accompanying images were originally published in Mystery
Scene magazine, Winter, 2004. Trixie Belden® is a registered trademark
of Random House. This page and its author are not affiliated with Random
House in any way. I am not receiving any payment for reproducing this
article on my site, which is intended as a fans homage.
Trixie Belden® is a registered trademark of
Random House. This page and its author are not affiliated with Western
Publishing/Golden Books or Random House in any way. I'm not making any
money or profiting in any way from this site, which is intended as a
fan's homage. All original text and graphics are copyright © 2003