They tie large planks to the branches to sit on and bring cushions and find a nice cubby-hole in the tree to store their food. He goes to hunt for it that evening, and is surprised to hear a vehicle approaching, with no lights on, and then someone saying – "No one about is there!" Jack is alerted that something odd is going on, especially when he hears an angry snorting sound and a curious high squeal.
Taking a picnic to Bramley Woods they meet someone who tells them a strange tale about seeing someone hiding something inside one of the trees. Sadly it flies across the field, and over a wall into the grounds of Bartlett Lodge, which is a very big house but is closed up whilst the owners are abroad. So Peter says Colin and George can do a spot of shadowing, the girls can do observations and Jack and Peter a little spying. But they discover someone else is hiding in their tree - because of something he over-heard which had caused him to run away. He races home in fear, and can't wait to report the happenings to the other Secret Seven members.
So once the gardener is out of sight, Peter and Jack climb into the grounds of the large house and Peter climbs a tree to retrieve the plane which had landed on a high balcony. Just before he climbs down he sees a gas fire on inside one of the rooms, which he knows is strange as the house is empty. A young man watching George confronts him and takes him home, telling his parents what he was doing. Susie gains access to a meeting in disguise, and Binkie actually causes the meeting to be literally washed out. Pam sees the funny side of it the next day, but Peter doesn't.Jack, now back in the fold, but late for the meeting due to Susie's misinformation, evidently hasn't forgotten the events of the last book.
When Janet says she'd rather read a book (and by this time the reader assumes it is a Famous Five book), than have a meeting, Peter is quick to say that if she has something better to do then they can easily get someone else instead!
He is so ashamed when Susie tells him what happened that he decides to play safe and stay away.
That brings Janet to heel, though he has to order her to help him to tidy the shed as well for good measure.Susie has a toy aeroplane that can fly, but she can't fly it herself. She asks a question that has been asked in the Enid Blyton Society forums: "Why don't you let me belong?" And the answer is that they don't want her!
He can hardly be blamed for Susie's antics this time though, but one wonders what would have happened had he been present.This story has a few unexpected twists and turns. They have to limit themselves to seven members of course anyway.When Peter gets home he tells Janet that they've got to call a meeting, the only reason being that Susie jeered at him for not having a meeting for ages. There are also wooden planks and a rubber sheet tied to a branch high up in the tree, so the children could safely sit down on cushions.The story starts to come to life when Janet gives Colin a book to read about ships. They have two aims: to try and find the medals stolen from a general, and also to keep a look out for a gang who are taking birds' eggs in Bramley wood. It seems that they let the society meetings slip sometimes when there is not much happening. On the same day, a storm breaks out and Colin realises he has left the book in the cubbyhole of the tree. It takes Susie to spur them into action.Jack at least knows the correct password this time and no one yells it out, though Colin apologetically admits that he can't remember it as it is so long since they had a meeting. This leads to Colin and Peter going on a nail-biting midnight trek to find the book up the tree but they are not alone and realise some of their biscuits and chocolate have disappeared.In shock the two boys stumble across a scruffy looking boy called Jeff and his kitten who had happened to discover the Seven in their tree earlier that day. Jeff tells the two boys how he had escaped from his thieving Uncle Harry and Mr Tizer after they thought he had overheard their conversation. Barbara bravely tells the third baddie to 'clear off' but she has to run away to safety when he tries to grab her badge.A man comes to their rescue and says that the medals might be hidden in a tree.
He is magnanimous and takes the blame himself.They have to choose a new password and 'Snooper' is suggested. Pressed by the Seven to tell his story Jeff reveals some puzzling clues before he is found again by his uncle. The old rule about the girls not going out at night is waived surprisingly, so they all participate in the climax of the adventure. The clues are Emma Lane, red pillow, grate, Thursday 25th and MKX.At first the children think there are nothing in them and concede defeat after Peter and Janet's father rubbishes their whole story. He does stick up for her, despite her behaviour, and this makes him the 'nicest' member, together with the good-tempered Janet who doesn't make silly or aggravating remarks.They throw around some ideas and Peter suggests disguising themselves, but Pam sees the flaws in this idea (they are only young children after all) and it is dismissed. It is only when the Seven realise that Emma Lane is in fact Ember Lane, red pillow a red pillar box opposite a warehouse with a grate, and MKX the registration on a mail van that the Seven suspect a robbery.
In fact she takes over for a bit and is as bossy as Peter and twice as sarcastic!"What food have you brought?" Pam asks Susie. It is interesting to see that Pam is not afraid to criticise Peter's suggestion, as at other times it seems that he is a bit of a dictator, especially where she is concerned. Probably his bark is worse than his bite.In fact they are not really motivated, and keep coming up with objections, so Peter's patience starts to wear thin.


George grumbles that he would rather tackle a real mystery, but Peter pulls rank on him and tells him to obey orders.
An exciting end follows on the night of the 25th!This is probably the best book I have read so far in the series. A car pulls up near the gate and two mysterious men get out even though the lane leads to nothing and it is late at night. In my view Jeff is a really interesting character and his tale and the clues really add to my nerves and sense of excitement. This was strange enough, but Jack then heard the sound of squealing and thudding in a mysterious van like carriage on the back of the car. It is the end of the series as far as Susie goes, so she bows out in style.Review by David CookAfter three adventures in and around term time, finally a story set in the holidays. Peter takes command again and goes to retrieve the aeroplane with Jack, and once again they are plunged into a mystery because of Susie. It is great that the Seven have finally meet another child on their adventures, especially the manner in which Peter and Colin stumble across Jeff in the dark of the night. In understandable horror, Jack runs back home and leaves a letter for Peter and Janet calling for an urgent S.S.
The trouble is that Enid never tells us which holiday it is but, as the following book takes place during the summer holidays and one of the Seven's tasks in this story is guarding the birds' nests in Bramley Woods from egg thieves, I think we can take an educated guess at Easter!This story starts with Peter acting entirely out of character by forgetting first the current password and then where he and Janet have put their badges, two misdeeds that he has chastised all the other members for throughout the series. In fact, that's how the story ends, giving Susie and her aeroplane the credit for the adventure, which is one of the 'human interest' Secret Seven stories.Peter comes in for some hero-worship in this book. The tree house meeting place is a good idea as well and I just wish I could have had the fun the children must have had up there. Then, unusually, he phones all the other members to summon them to a meeting rather than delivering the usual notes.Of all the Secret Seven stories, this is the most contrived and unrealistic. It is true that he behaves like a leader and gets things moving, but this?"The members gazed at Peter in real admiration. Peter makes the orders, and it is agreed that himself, Colin and Jack would go down to the house to ask the caretaker if he had heard anything in the night, whilst Pam and George have to enquire about the owner of the big empty house. Peter has a good idea for a temporary member to take George's place.Of course, when Susie hears about this she begs Peter again to let her join. Rather than telling the police about the mystery, I wish the Seven would be more willing to take things into their own hands and get into a bit more danger like the Famous Five do. As for Janet and Barbara, they are given the task of following the tracks from the car and mysterious carriage.The Seven are successful with all their tasks. One, as mentioned, is to watch out for egg thieves, and the other is to retrieve the medals stolen from Colin's neighbour, the elderly retired soldier, General Blanksome. Why, he had behaved like a first-class detective" Jack goes even further with his praises and the modest Peter has to stop him. This is her big chance to get in, but she is too late — they have a new member already!Their observing and shadowing uncovers some mysterious activities concerning the disappearance of a dog. It was just a bit of an anti-climax after an otherwise decent read!There are a couple of moments in the book I do not like.
Janet and Barbara find out that the tracks went exactly where Jack had been, whilst George and Pam find out that Mr J. The scene where Colin, moved by the General's plight, promises to get the medals back is well written and touching, but the events that follow do not ring true, hanging as they do on a totally unbelievable character.This is Tom Smith, who comes to the aid of Jack, Barbara and George when they are set upon by a gang of boys stealing eggs. I think a certain F.Trotteville would have let Jack carry on!I have to say that Peter certainly handles that particular meeting well. It is horrible when the reader is told the kitten had been kicked by Jeff's uncle and his friend. Tom puts the gang to flight and then pools his food with the three he has rescued in a joint picnic. And at the end he decides on a new password, simply because they have had the other one 'too long'. Again, Blyton shows her love for animals and disapproval for their mistreatment through the character of Janet. The three boys make the most exciting findings when they discover that the old caretaker had even heard the same squealing and thudding noise in the night.Due to this revelation, the Seven come to the conclusion that the two men in the car and mysterious carriage went to the house and hid a prisoner.
That does make a change from "we must choose a new password because Susie knows the old one, thanks to Jack's carelessness."Review by David CookAt this point in the series were two major changes. When they do finally get it off they all try to look at the same time and crack their heads together! Secondly, Peter and Janet's dad is very cruel to doubt the Seven's story and to accuse Jeff of making the whole thing up.
On hearing Colin's story and that the only clue to the break-in is that the burglar must have small hands, Tom announces that he may have a clue and relates a story of how he saw a man creep into the woods and thrust a box into a small hole in a tree. Peter decides that only the four boys can go, with two staying with the snowmen the children had built in the field, and the other two boys going up to the house to find the prisoner.


When the SS members ask where the tree is, Tom adopts a 'rough' voice and demands why should he tell them and suggests they share the ?50 reward, ?40 for him and ?10 for them if they help him retrieve it. Burgess Sharrocks took over and held the position until the end of the series but, compared to his predecessors, his work was only adequate.The other change was that the stories started to be less about criminal activities and more about social problems and, indeed in this story, the Seven think they have encountered a conspiracy and it turns out to be a domestic crisis.
In their white overcoats, white skull caps and white face paint, Peter, Jack, Colin and George go to the field in the middle of the night.The real excitement starts when Peter and Jack, the two that go off to the empty house, hear the same squealing and thudding noise, which the follow down to the cellar.
Enid cleverly lays us a false trail in her creation of the complex personality of the central character, Georgie Grim, the gardener. Before they have a chance to look the two men come back and in their anger lock the boys in the cellar.
This book is a good example of my criticism that the Secret Seven's British titles were often unmemorable whereas, in this case, the American one contains a neat and clever double entendre.Susie features prominently again as the owner of the superb model aeroplane, which leads the Seven to the mysterious Bartlett Lodge.
Now they have a definite mystery to solve they are far more productive and as Jack says, going at full speed again.
First, he tells her off for suggesting the tree house should have an SS carving at the bottom, and then he shouts at her for squealing in fright when he nearly fell down the tree. It is here that they are given an enormous shock as they come face to face with the prisoner. And the canal features yet again — this time flowing alongside the cottage home of Georgie Grim and his wife.
After all, Pam was only worried that Peter might get hurt; regardless of if she had potentially given the Seven's secret away to Jeff who had heard the noise. Appalled they cry for help and luckily Colin and George eventually come and rescue them.The next morning the Seven phone the police and the two men are arrested. I was amused to note that, on page 80, when Barbara tells Pam she has misspelt the word "absolutely", her name is spelt BARABARA!
This is epitomised in the title of Chapter 15, 'Jobs For Everyone' (which sounds like an election slogan!).They all do good work, including Pam and Barbara, who don't want to get ticked off again by Peter. You can tell that there are likely to be fallings out between the Seven as the series progresses!
As a reward the children are given circus and pantomime tickets in a happy ending to the adventure!In my view, the first book of Blyton's Secret Seven series turns into a fairly strong mystery and story.
There is excitement and drama and the sinister character of the old man who locks them up adds to the tension. The practice at watching and observing they had at the beginning stands them in good stead in the end.Review by David CookBruno Kay takes over the artwork for this and the next two entries in the series, but his style is so similar to George Brook's that you barely notice the change.
Not many readers would be able to figure it out, and I certainly got a surprise when it was revealed. The story takes place during the Easter term and is concerned with dog stealing, a theme that was to re-occur.The Seven have not had a mystery to tackle so Peter despatches them on various errands to keep them practised and alert and they make discoveries that have a later bearing on the adventure they become embroiled in.
Looking back, there were clues to this, such as the thudding noise, the footprints in the snow, and the carriage, but it is easy to say that once you have read the book.My criticisms would be that it takes a while to get into the book.
Susie twice attempts to join the Seven, once at the start of the story reminding Peter a meeting is overdue, and later when George is forced to resign ("of all the cheek!" says Jack) but, apart from that, every incident in this excellent story has relevance to the plot.Once again the background is of a town setting with a hotel and a dead-end alleyway alongside a warehouse leading to a manhole cover featuring prominently. The sense of unpredictability and excitement does not really start until Peter, Jack, Colin and George dress up as snowmen. When the three boys remove the manhole cover and crack their heads together as they simultaneously try to look down, Peter asserts his authority over Colin and Jack.
Even then, I find it a bit hard to believe that the four boys could really look like snowmen. By this, I mean it was a case of identifying a mystery, finding clues and splitting up in pairs.
And of course, the four boys in the Seven get to take part in the dangerous aspect of the adventure in the big empty house.The book is very systematic and follows the typical codes and conventions you would expect from a mystery series. Instead, they enjoy seemingly innocent trips into the beautiful countryside, only to eventually find a mystery. The Famous Five Series is really is unique in this sense.The characters in Secret Seven are not as strong either as the Famous Five. In the Famous Five, they are all individuals, and the reader is given a strong insight into their personalities and relationships, whereas little is mentioned about the characters in this first book of the Secret Seven series. Peter is a poor version of Julian, to the point that he gets rude about the passwords and badges, and even shouts at the deaf old man. Jack is probably the strongest character, playing a huge part in discovering the mystery in the first place, and coming up with further bold ideas and a lot of bravery when he was in the house with Peter, who was also brave in this instance.
But apart from this, there is not much, even Scamper is not the same as the loveable, courageous Timmy.As a book, The Secret Seven was a good first mystery, but it is not a patch on Famous Five.



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