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Authors & Fans

Trixie in Mystery Scene - Page 1

A Series Reading List

Julie Campbell



 Page 2

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 of locale.

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 home.

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.

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This 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 fan’s 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 by