The Clue of the Broken Wing (Judy Bolton #29)

by Margaret Sutton

“I dozed off and didn’t wake up until I heard those police sirens.”
“Then what?,” asked Judy. “I don’t suppose you knew they were coming to arrest me?”
Peter grinned. “I should have known it. Past experience should have taught me that something was bound to happen. You enter a queer old house. The police arrive. You vanish. It all adds up.”

The cheer of the kitchen had vanished. Like the rest of the house, it was suddenly filled with ghosts. Their names were fear and suspicion and guilt. Prejudice was there, too, and panic that drives a person who runs away.

Like many of Margaret Sutton’s books, this one has some dark elements in it which reveal her social consciousness. Although those children reading it in the ‘50s or even today may not have picked up on these, an adult reading it today surely does.

A little girl, afraid of a temperamental and harsh mother’s punishment, runs away from her in a department store and is helped by a woman who finds her at a bus terminal. The little girl tells her she is alone in the world and the woman takes her with her while visiting her estranged mother who is neighbors with Judy Bolton. Her mother disapproved of the man she married, who is poor, and will not accept him. She tells her mother that “Anne” is her own little girl in hopes that when she dies (she has a terminal illness) her mother will not try to take her real daughter away from her husband and his mother. Anne is happy with her loving grandmother but still thinks of her real family and misses them.

The book picks up a year later with Judy and Peter traveling to New York City at Christmas time to visit her friend Irene, her husband Dale, and her daughter, little Judy. When they get to Irene’s address, they are surprised to find Irene’s house is razed to the ground and an apartment building in its place. She goes across the street while Peter, tired from his long drive, takes a nap, to find out what happened to Irene and her family. It is the home of the Lakes, the same family that lost little their little girl and believes, along with the police, that she is dead. They suspect that Judy is part of a gang that kidnapped their daughter “Sukey” for reasons I won’t go into here, and the adventure begins when the witch-like Mrs. Lake locks Judy in an upstairs room and calls the cops. Plus we have the mystery of what happened to Irene and her family. They soon find out that Irene and Dale moved out to Long Island and didn’t tell Judy and Peter because Irene wanted it to be a “surprise.” It was a surprise all right. Irene is a real dingbat among other things, but after we get past that bump in the road, she turns out to be a valuable partner to Judy while she tries to help the dysfunctional Lake family against their will.

While the ending results in a happy reunion between the Lakes and their girl, Mr. And Mrs. Lake’s behavior throughout the book has been alarming, to say the least. While their actions are smoothed over at the end, we can’t help but be concerned about their parenting skills and can only hope for the best as far as the fates of their younger children. (Polly, their oldest, seems to have escaped their negativity and is remarkably likable and well-adjusted.) Margaret does a good job balancing the bleakness of the Lakes with the cheerful Christmas celebrations at the Meredith’s new home. (when they finally find it.) Despite the loose ends, I think it’s one of her best. **4 1/2 stars**

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

January 8, 2022

The Haunted Fountain (Judy Bolton #28)

By Margaret Sutton

“This can’t be happening to me,” she thought. Never, in her whole life, had she felt so alone and helpless. She felt it was her own fault, too, for not calling Peter and telling him where she was going. But wouldn’t Honey tell him? She knew, and so did her father. Didn’t anyone care?…“They can’t let me just lie here and die,” thought Judy. She had never thought very much about dying. She had always felt so vibrantly alive. But now, suddenly, it seemed possible.

This book has it all! Judy, Lois, and Lorraine go to visit a fountain that Judy remembers from her childhood that seemed to talk to her. Lorraine reveals that she no longer trusts her husband, Arthur, and seems very upset. But she will not open up to Judy or Lois. Judy finds a diamond in the fountain and meets some intimidating shady characters. She enlists Horace to go back with her to the fountain to investigate and they end up getting trapped under it when someone turns the water on. Also under the fountain is a dying man, parolee Dick Hartwell, who discloses that he was coerced by a gang to forge important men’s signatures on incriminating documents for blackmail purposes. Because of leaky pipes, the room they are in starts to fill with water, and Judy and Horace realize that unless they escape, they will drown.

What follows is Judy’s very exciting and tense escape from the deadly fountain, her race to save Horace and Dick from drowning, a terrifying confrontation with hardened criminals (Judy gets slapped!), Judy’s despair when she thinks her brother is dead, a very romantic reunion with Peter, and ensuring the true criminals are brought to justice (remember the Vine gang from The Haunted Attic?. In addition to the action-packed adventure, we also have the marital drama of Lorraine and Arthur and their unhappiness with each other. Will they be reconciled?

By the end, Judy and Horace wind up in the hospital, and Blackberry, Judy’s cat, is awarded a medal for bravery. All the loose ends are tied up, including the mystery of why the fountain talked to her when she was a young teen. This mystery is many loyal Judy Bolton fans’ favorite book in the series. It is not hard to understand why. Her physical courage is at the forefront here as well as very tender scenes with Peter, Horace, and her father. Lorraine and Arthur’s problems lend complexity. It is exciting but it has emotional depth as well. Once again, Margaret Sutton ventures into territory seldom seen in juvenile series of this type.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

November 26, 2021

The Trail of the Green Doll (Judy Bolton Mysteries #27)

By Margaret Sutton

“This must be the entrance to the cave…We never would have found it if Judy’s shoe hadn’t scraped against it when she fell.”
You were determined to find it, with or without me,” she retorted. “Isn’t anybody going to ask me if I hurt myself?”
Apparently nobody was.

Judy’s adventure starts out with her putting a sign on the road advertising her home as a place for tourists to stay. Without consulting her husband who is a secret FBI agent with an office in his house. Not Good, Judy, Not Good. Of course, It quickly attracts some really sketchy men and Judy comes to her senses. Anyway, a young single mother with two children whose car had just been forced off the road and her purse stolen also saw it, and Judy is off to the races.

What follows is a mystery involving a valuable jade collection that is missing from a mansion that has just burned to the ground. The rather flaky and secretive widowed mother was traveling to see her Uncle Paul, the owner. Besides being the key to the missing jade, her history includes a soap opera-ish love triangle between her, her late husband, and his identical twin brother, three cousins who grew up there.

This effort by Margaret Sutton is notable for its exploration of the Hindu mythological tale, The Ramayana, which permeates the story and the mystery. It surely would have been very strange and very educational to her young readers.

This book is not a favorite despite its exotic and interesting aspects. The little family and their troubles did not appeal to me, and one of the mysteries (Talking Trees!) had a very far-fetched explanation. Almost as implausible as the secret tunnel in The Black Cat’s Clue.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

October 8, 2021

The Clue in the Ruined Castle

By Margaret Sutton

Peter, [Judy] said impulsively, “why don’t I ever faint and let you hold my head and comfort me? Don’t you wish I would?”
“I don’t ever wish you any different than you are,” and Judy knew he meant it….
“I wouldn’t change you, either,” Judy replied in a sudden rush of tenderness….
“Well, now that we’ve settled that, let’s see if we can’t find out what happened here.”

Judy investigates the local lore of a ruined castle that is mixed up in a scam, missing money, rumors, and a ruined reputation. An elderly old man is missing or dead and two children are feared kidnapped and being held prisoner. The 100-year-old family matriarch, “granny”, is a volatile and trying presence.
This got off to a slow start, thanks to a large number of minor characters being introduced and complicated family history gone into at the beginning of the story. It did pick up in the middle thanks to the inclusion of old friends Lois and Lorraine getting in on the action as well as Blackberry, Judy’s cat which thinks it’s a dog in this one, and Horace’s foul-mouthed parrot. As much as I appreciate new characters being introduced, I do like it when we re-visit the original squad. Lorraine is always a loose cannon or a wet blanket, but she was a pretty good sport in this one.
While Judy and Honey are trapped in a dungeon, the kids are found safe in their beds, the old man escapes and hitchhikes his way to safety, and the bad guy is caught. So kind of a disappointing finish as well.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

August 13, 2021

The Haunted Road (Judy Bolton #25)

By Margaret Sutton

Dr. Bolton patted his black-haired daughter on the shoulder…”I have a quotation that may help you get through today…It’s this: A trouble either can be remedied or it cannot. If it can be, then set about it. If it can not be…bear it so bravely that it may become transfigured to a blessing.”
‘Today I’m setting about it,” Judy said. “I’m not ready to bear it bravely and I’m the one who’s transfigured-or disfigured. I can’t decide which.”

I had to take a break from this book because of other commitments, so my memory is a little weak about some of the particulars. This was pretty exciting and suspenseful due to Peter’s disappearance while chasing a highjacked truck. At first, there is a real danger that he was buried in a landslide. When we learn that he probably got away from that, we know he is still in danger because he never comes back. Judy is frantic, and can’t help but think that the worst has happened. At the urging of Peter’s boss, Mr. Trent, she does some undercover work in a factory. The scenes in the factory are interesting, especially dealing with the notorious Twila North. What a piece of work she is!

Judy hides away in a truck, which leads to her finally finding Peter. He has been wrapped up in a sheet for 5 days unable to hardly move with only an occasional drink of water. He hasn’t eaten or, as Peter subtly hints, been able to use the bathroom.

Despite the grim proceedings and Peter’s life being really feared for, there is some good amusing banter between Judy and Horace including some banter regarding how she looks with her new disguise of black dyed hair and glasses. I also like the brief appearances of Holly, Honey, Lois, and Lorraine.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

July 14, 2021

The Forbidden Chest (Judy Bolton #24)

By Margaret Sutton

Judy sets out to prove that her new friend Holly did not steal some valuable glassware from her aunt Cleo and Uncle Fred. Along the way, she meets a “poor little rich boy,” Harold Wilson, who is the Number One suspect. Once Judy meets his abominable parents Judy’s heart is touched and she does what she can to prove both suspects innocent. We are treated to a secret underground fort, a forbidden chest that disappears seemingly into thin air, a cross-country train ride (with prisoners headed to “The Rock!”), and a visit to a horse ranch arranged by the FBI.

We also see some charming glimpses of Peter and Judy together and are re-introduced to people we met in The Black Cat’s Clue, including Aunt Cleo the Drama Queen, and her phlegmatic husband. When we learn why Holly’s dead mother made her promise never to open it, it is quite poignant. Once the chest is opened it is quite the shocker! No body parts though, I promise! 

Rating: 5 out of 5.

May 19, 2021

The Black Cat’s Clue (Judy Bolton #23)

By Margaret Sutton

Although I did like some aspects of this book, it also had some problems for me as well. I liked the twist at the end and the introduction of Holly Potter. I also liked that her difficult family was somewhat redeemed at the end.

Judy meets a 15 year old orphan, Holly, and befriends her. She has run away from an unhappy home to live with her beloved uncle, David Potter. Upon her arrival, she learns that her uncle has recently come into some money but has been killed and his relatives are now ensconced in his house. Very suspicious, no?

One of the characters. I can’t say who, because it would be a spoiler, really rubbed me the wrong way. I did not like his personality at all. And one of the characters who I don’t think I was supposed to like (because Judy didn’t), was really a hoot, so I did like him.

The major problem I had was with one of the keys to the mystery, the existence of which was totally unbelievable bordering on the bizarre. Usually, Margaret Sutton does manage to make the happenings fairly believable and tie everything up and together for a very satisfying end. Although she did explain the ghosts or “transparent people” at her home to my satisfaction, the solution of the mystery to the haunting of David Potter’s house was lame. All of the dots did not seem to connect in this story.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

March 20, 2021

The Clue of the Stone Lantern (Judy Bolton #21)

by Margaret Sutton

**Spoilers**

One of the best Judy Boltons in which we learn that Roberta, Judy’s little boarder cum-surrogate daughter-cum-little sister who saved Judy and Peter’s life on their wedding day is actually a semi-famous cold case kidnap victim. She wandered out of her beautiful garden when she was 3 years old and was picked up by a man who had just lost his wife and daughter. She was held for ransom which was paid by her well-off parents, but meanwhile the kidnapper was arrested on another charge. 5 years went by. She was handed off to one unloving person after another and her name was changed. Eventually, she made her way to Judy’s loving care. This is all discovered while Judy and Peter are chasing down the hot money that was paid for the ransom which started to reappear once her kidnapper, whom Roberta thought was her father, got out of prison.

Roberta sees her old garden on a seed packet and she starts to remember her old life. The scene where Roberta (Barbara) is returned to her loving family and says goodbye to Judy is pure gold. I defy anyone to get to the third to the last chapter and be able to put this book down. 

Rating: 5 out of 5.

December 11, 2020

The Warning on the Window (Judy Bolton #20)

By Margaret Sutton

He was escorted to the police car a short time later. Judy watched, her gray eyes as cold as steel.

And no wonder. She just escaped from and triumphed over the man who almost killed her husband, Peter. Some very clever sleuthing by Judy catches the dangerous criminals out FBIing the FBI. Her friend Arthur’s housing development is being ruthlessly sabotaged. There are two good twists at the end, but there also are good clues prior to the reveal as to who the evil mastermind is and the purpose behind it. Full of domestic drama as Peter lies on death’s door in the hospital and loads of action, the book ends very dramatically in a blaze of glory (literally).

Rating: 5 out of 5.

October 23, 2020

The Living Portrait (Judy Bolton #18)

By Margaret Sutton

Another enjoyable Judy Bolton! There are some great scenes between Judy and Peter. And Judy’s brother, Horace, was showcased a bit too. Some of Roberta’s behavior was frustrating but it was all accounted for later. It is a very clever little mystery with lots of clues for young readers to follow and solve even ahead of Judy, which can be a treat for mystery fans. In fact, Judy behaves a little out of character in this one. For an adult reader, she is very slow to catch on to the fact that the portrait was switched out with a copy and slow to get out of bed to investigate an intruder. To Margaret Sutton’s credit, though, she has Judy own her mistakes and makes a point of Judy being embarrassed at herself. She also tears off following Peter to a trap he has set for a dangerous criminal and almost gets her and Monica, an innocent bystander, shot. But once again, Judy owns her thoughtlessness. This is what is so great about Judy Bolton. She is not always level-headed, competent, and wise. In this one we even have a little temper tantrum and a hint of sulking. As a reader, you sometimes want to yell at her, but the weaknesses and faults are usually acknowledged and dealt with.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

July 20, 2020