by Margaret Sutton
Thus endeth the Judy Bolton series. At least the ones written by Margaret Sutton. This one is pretty good. Even though I gave the last one 5 stars, it was not really for the story but for Margaret’s daring to tackle the issue of racial prejudice and right-wing hate groups. This one is almost 4 stars.
Roxy, Judy’s look-alike cousin we first met in #14 The Clue in the Patchwork Quilt, wants Judy to investigate a piece of property she inherited through her stepmother who treated her equally with her biological children. She will get a 24th share of The Sand Castle, a seaside cottage on Fire Island. Roxy knew that Judy will be visiting her great friend, Irene, on Long Island to celebrate her daughter, Little Judy’s birthday. Also joining them will be Pauline, another NYC friend I think we first met in #6, The Ghost Parade, and Flo, another friend of Irene and Judy that we met in #30 The Phantom Friend. Coincidentally Flo is a cousin of Roxy, but not a cousin of Judy, even though Roxy and Judy are cousins. This is because Judy’s mother was sisters with Flo’s dead biological mother and Flo and Roxy were related through her stepmother. This story could really have used a family tree because there are so many relatives involved and many of them have important roles to play. Also coincidentally the Sand Castle is the little cottage on the beach that Dale and Irene rented last summer, and Dale and Irene want to buy it. Also coincidentally, The shady lawyer handling the estate is Dale and Irene’s lawyer. There are a lot of coincidences in this book as there are in most children’s mystery series.
Instead of a quick day trip, the girls (and little Judy-because Dale, Irene’s husband is hopeless) the girls are stranded on Fire Island because of an impending storm and spotty boat service since it is off-season. While there, Judy encounters A mysterious Woman in Black (No not that one), who may or may not be one of Roxy’s relatives, a ghost, or someone else entirely. Also, buried jewelry, stolen loot, harmful family gossip, a jilted lover, an old bank robber fresh out of prison who is also a relative, and a plane crash that kills a father and maybe a 12-year-old child (not to mention a young pilot-Judy Bolton is not for the faint-hearted), a kidnapping, and a daring rescue (yay, Pauline!). Also, it turns out that Flo being on the expedition to Fire Island is not such a coincidence after all. Judy finds the Jewels and the warring family is semi-reconciled, although still difficult. As usual, Peter comes in at the end, if not to the rescue, at least to arrest the bad guys. The book ends with **Spoiler**Aggie, the little 12-year-old, who is not dead after all, reunited with her rehabilitated bank robber Grandfather and finding a home with Aunt Hazel, whom Judy got to know on the bus to Long Island (coincidentally). And Little Judy has her birthday party.
The book ends with a teaser for what was planned to be the next book, The Strange Likeness, but alas, it was not to be. The longest-running juvenile series by a single author was canceled. Based on conversations with Margaret before she died at age 98 in 2001, the book was completed 45 years after Sand Castle by 2 of Margaret’s devoted fans using Margaret’s own outline and with the full cooperation and participation of two daughters.