The Enid Blyton Society
The Mystery That Never Was
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Book Details...

First edition: 1961
Publisher: William Collins
Illustrator: Gilbert Dunlop
Category: One-off Novels
Genre: Mystery/Adventure
Type: Novels/Novelettes

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Reprint Covers
Artwork
Review by Julie Heginbotham
Further Illustrations

Reprints


1st German edition published by Mosaik Verlag, Hamburg in 1966,
illustrated by Nikolaus Plump with the title Riddle of the Deep Cellar
This book was turned into No.7 in the Barney series
I read this book as a child, but only once, and never opened it again, until now. I read it this time, with more interest and intrigue, due to a report that was published in the Sunday Telegraph, that Tony very kindly sent me, which he was going to put in the journal a couple of years ago, but space didn't allow.

Briefly, in the report by one of Macmillan's readers, Britain's best-loved author was branded a racist, and ridiculed for her plot lines in this book which was rejected for publication, so therefore Harper Collins took on the book and published it in 1961.

So onto this 'controversial book'. It tells the story of Nicky Fraser, who invents a mystery, along with his friend Kenneth, to cheer up his uncle Bob, who is a private detective and staying with his sister (Nicky's Mum) for the Easter holidays, for Bob has been unwell and needs a rest. Another prominent character in this book is the dog Punch. Enid writes him as a truly loveable character and he plays an important part with regards to showing off a major clue, which is a shoe from one of the villains of this book.

Nicky wants the mystery to be on Skylark Hill, where there is a burnt out house, with a tower and beneath the house, are natural made cellars and passages that go into the hill itself. Kenneth composes a coded letter, from someone called Harry. Quote: 'Tell Jim we're ready. Meet in cellars. Stuff hidden on Skylark Hill. Look out for signal from Tower. Harry.'

So with this message Ken and Nicky ask Uncle Bob to go with them up Skylark Hill bird watching. Discovering a chaffinch's nest in a bush, Nicky decides to hide the secret message here and calls over his uncle and Ken to see what he's suddenly 'discovered'.

Uncle Bob deciphers the message with no problem and tells the boys it's just a schoolboy hoax. Nicky and Ken won't let this end here, and take Uncle Bob to the burnt out ruins of the house, which was once owned by an Eastern Prince.

They explore the remaining tower and start on the cellars, but due to Nicky's torch battery running out, they have no choice but to go back outside in the daylight, leaving poor Punch to find his own way out as he had wandered further into the cellars. Punch soon joined them, coming from another direction and so indicating a further entrance that the boys hadn't yet discovered but would come to light towards the end of the mystery.

On the return home, Uncle Bob shows the secret message to Ken's sister Penny and her friend, Winnie, which annoys Nicky as he didn't want the 'girls' to be involved with the mystery.

During the night Penny does see signals coming from the tower up on Skylark Hill and goes to tell her brother Ken. He automatically thinks its Nicky and goes over to Nicky's house, only to find his friend in bed. The boys realize then that their made up mystery has become real.

The following day the boys decide to explore again and send the girls off to the museum to see if there are any maps of the old place on Skylark hill. They find plans of the natural underground passages and cellars deep inside the hill and so trace them.

In the meantime, the boys and Punch have started to explore the cellars and are captured by the villains who are exploring the passages trying to find a gold statue belonging to the Prince who once owned the house.

Punch playing his part, manages to bite the foot of one of theses men and it's this shoe that Punch steals, as the owner takes if off to examine his bite. The boys, now captured in a narrow passage, which the villains have blocked by a large stone, explore the back of this cave and find the golden statue.

In a true Blyton finish, the girls manage to discover the boys by using the tracing of the map and go for help in the form of Uncle Bob. The villains are caught by the police using Punch's shoe as evidence to their guilt.

This is the basic story line but Enid does pan it out more by the loveable antics of Punch, and in the beginning of the story, how the boys go to meet Uncle Bob, hoping he's in disguise, from a train, that he isn't on.

This may not be one of Enid's best loved books, but the tale is a lovely simple one for any young child to read and thoroughly enjoy, as I'm sure they'll be able to connect well with the characters.

So back to the statement made by one of Macmillan's readers. Enid does refer to the villains of this book as foreign, also she refers to them as speaking in a foreign language, and Winnie says they're HORRID. But if these men were foreign, they would be speaking in their own language and not English. Also children did use the word horrid to cover a variety of things they didn't like. I don't see how Enid Blyton could be justified as being branded a racist, and xenophobic, just by one person's opinion of this book. She was certainly not reading it from a children's point of view. She put a wrong interpretation on certain words, blowing them out of all contexts, therefore forming her own conclusion which she incorrectly voiced. These illustrations are hidden by default to ensure faster browsing. Loading the illustrations is recommended for high-speed internet users only.