By Margaret Sutton
Judy knew now that she was in the hands of a two-faced criminal who was playing a deadly game with people instead of chessmen. Mr. Mosher was only another pawn… but he was playing against two queens, Mrs. Mosher and Judy. He was also playing against a suddenly ferocious black cat.
“My black knight!” Judy thought…the next few minutes were a dim hazy confusion of flying fur, struggling men, and screaming children.”
Judy and Honey join Horace’s chess club with their new friend Lorna’s encouragement. Right away we are swept into an adventure that involves 10 escaped prisoners possibly including Lorna’s wrongly convicted father, hollow chessmen, and mysterious notes. On top of that, Judy’s beloved Dad, Dr. Bolton, is missing, and Horace and Honey are on the outs again with Lorna in the middle.
Judy comes up against a sinister “granite-faced man” whom Judy calls “Mr. Stone,” who is part of the chess club. And it turns out that’s really his name! What are the odds? Also part of the mix is a local elected official, C.L. Sloan, who is quite probably on the take. It turns out the L. stands for Launt, as in Alden Launt. He is one of the escaped prisoners and we remember him as Honey’s work colleague who turned out to be involved in espionage and stealing government plans in The Secret Quest. Judy’s search for her missing Dad with Horace and Lorna following in her wake, leads her into some exciting adventures. It soon becomes clear that Dr. Bolton has been kidnapped in order to treat 2 of the prisoners who were wounded in the escape. Retracing her Dad’s last known steps, she has a close call with a speeding truck going in the opposite direction on her way to the Moshers who called Dr. Bolton because their baby swallowed a screw. Blackberry runs away into their locked barn, and Judy climbs a tree and jumps into an open window eventually landing on Dr. Bolton’s abandoned car. Everything comes to head at the Moshers when Mr. Stone shows up and manhandles Judy until Blackberry tears into him in the defense of his mistress. Luckily Peter shows up with his colleagues. Mr. Brown is taken into custody. Dr. Bolton is found safe and sound at the Farringdon-Pett mansion where the escaped prisoners had been hiding out. (Interestingly, Arthur has taken Lorraine away on a trip around the world because Lorraine is sick of living with his parents in the mansion. Mr. And Mrs. Farringdon-Pett the elder are conveniently away to parts unknown as well, leaving the mansion conveniently deserted.) Needless to say, Lorna’s father is exonerated, Horace gets his big story for the paper, and He and Honey have made up their differences (until the next book, probably.)
This was one of the better ones in the series with some romantic drama, tense moments, lively action, interesting characters, and the reappearance of old friends and enemies. As usual, there were some confusing aspects if one reads too closely and critically, but the strengths carry the day.