The Enid Blyton Society
The Mystery of the Secret Room
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Book Details...

First edition: 1945
Publisher: Methuen
Illustrator: Joseph Abbey
Category: Five Find-Outers
Genre: Mystery/Adventure
Type: Novels/Novelettes

On This Page...

Reprint Covers
Artwork
Reviews by Imran Patel & Robert Houghton
Further Illustrations

Reprints


Wraparound dustwrapper from the 1950 reprint, illustrated by Joseph Abbey



1st German edition published by Erika Klopp Verlag in 1954,
illustrated by Walter Born with the title Mystery of the Hidden Room
Foreign Titles
German: Geheimnis um ein verborgenes Zimmer
French: Le Mystère de la Maison Vide
Dutch: De Vijf Detectives – Het geheim van de verborgen kamer
Spanish: Misterio en la casa Deshabitada
Portuguese: O Mistério do Quarto Secreto
Swedish: Mysteriet med det hemliga rummet
Finnish: Aution talon salaisuus
Icelandic: Dularfulla herbergið
Czech: Tajemstvi Tajneho Pokoje
Greek: Iiafiaaeto Myetiko Aomatio


Spoiler Warning — If you have not read the book the reviews give the plot away.

Imran Patel's Review

The third book in the Five Find-Outers series is more an adventure than a mystery and weaker for it. However, it is in this book that the Find-Outers series really becomes the Find-Outers series; Fatty really becomes the Fatty we know — the real leader of the Find-Outers with of course his wonderful disguises: they made their first appearance here — as what Mr. Goon says in a "Frenchy fellow"! Certainly a lot of fun and adventure — but sadly, no real mystery.

Actually there is a mystery. But not really my type, sorry. Yes, it is a lot of fun. But do fun and mystery go together? I don't think so (I could be wrong though.) There could have been another logical reason for the Secret Room (discovered by Pip; he says that this was his favourite mystery in a later book: and I can understand his liking, since he discovered it! — but I have to disagree.) Does it have to be a mystery? Can't it have another more likely explanation? As this is the Mystery series, we can safely rule that out. Oh; what am I saying?! Could there be an incidence not related to a mystery in a mystery series by Enid? Of course not!

Naturally the Find-Outers are right in their suspicions. The only real Find-Outing in this book is to find the owner of the house which has the Secret Room, and to Find-Out if she knows about the furnished room. The owner is a nice old lady named Miss Crump. And as you might guess, she knows nothing about the room. She says that she doesn't live there because a man with the name of John Henry Smith came there and asked if he could live there because of relations...but this all is a big fat lie as discovered by Fatty & Co. All very suspicious, eh?

Fatty disguises himself as the "Frenchy fellow" (I just love the sound of the word 'frenchy', even if it isn't really a word), which, previously, had completely taken in the other Find-Outers. That's natural, of course! From here the story is quite similar to The Mystery of the Hidden House, written three years later. No real mystery; but I feel that the villains in this book slightly made up for that. This section is very dark. They see nothing bad in beating Fatty to attain their needs! Both of the men are very villainous-looking; and certainly more dangerous than the typical comic stupid baddies. Hmm, the way I talk about this makes it sound like a Famous Five story! Well, to be honest it does have a bit more than a Famous Five novel. Oh well...

Before I go on I just want to recap. At the start of the book, Fatty had taught the other Find-Outers a number of detective tricks, and as we all know Blyton will use them in the mystery at some stage. The tricks were actually pretty simple — something any detective would know about — but in this day they are unrealistic. The getting out of a locked room trick isn't possible where I live, because the locks are completely different. Writing with orange juice...hmm; sounds rather difficult. And it goes without saying that we don't have disguises like this boy...

It is all rounded up nicely as in other books, although as I mentioned previously this isn't a Whodunnit, and so we don't get that special revelation in the end. Still, a lot of fun.

A final word about Larry. He gives the leadership of the Find-Outers to Fatty without any real kind of problem. This is sporting: he certainly knew that Fatty was much, much more deserving of the leadership. He knew he couldn't have done anything about it. Still, I would have expected an argument, but of course there is no real quarrelling between the Find-Outers.

At the end of the day, The Mystery of the Secret Room comes across as a good read and nothing more. Blyton was still preparing herself for the big one, and that would come two books later, in the great Mystery of the Missing Necklace. It is clearly a promising series at this point. We are left wondering how they would solve the next mystery...

I would rate this 7/10, one of the average ones. Spiteful Letters next, which, if I recall correctly, is another "average" one for me.
Robert Houghton's Review

Book three is also rather on the weak side, but it is this book that seems to provide a 'watershed' between the slightly simpler plots of the early series to the more complicated ones that are to follow. The Mystery of the Secret Room has all the ingredients of an early 1940's Blyton book. It is in a way the book closest in style and content to a Famous Five book, with Fatty actually being taken prisoner and a note being sent (as in Five On A Treasure Island) to the others in the hope that the villains can catch them all. As often happened, it is Bets who realises there is more to this letter than meets the eye, when she smells oranges and realises that Fatty has written a secret message between the lines of the 'fake' one.

This third mystery is also the first one in which Fatty tries disguises, something that was to feature heavily in all of the rest of the books. At this stage, he is limited to boys' disguises, butcher boys, delivery boys of all kinds. Fatty gives the rest of the Find-Outers (and the reader) a few lessons in disguise, teaches us how to write invisible messages and how to get out of a locked room with the aid of a newspaper and a piece of wire! However, the Find-Outers of these early books are still very much children of the nursery and playroom. The solving of mysteries still seems to have a 'part-time' feel to it, whereas in the later stories solving mysteries becomes a much more urgent and much sought after pastime! These illustrations are hidden by default to ensure faster browsing. Loading the illustrations is recommended for high-speed internet users only.