The Enid Blyton Society
The Adventure of the Secret Necklace
Back Book 3 of 9 in this category Next

Book Details...

First edition: 1954
Publisher: Lutterworth Press
Illustrator: Isabel Veevers
Category: Young Family
Genre: Mystery/Adventure
Type: Novels/Novelettes

On This Page...

Reprint Covers
Review by Robert Houghton
Further Illustrations


Wraparound dustwrapper from the 1st edition, illustrated by Isabel Veevers

Frontis from the 1st edition, illustrated by Isabel Veevers
Serialised between June 1953 and June 1954, this addition to the Playways family of books is probably nearer in theme and style to what one might call a 'real' Enid Blyton tale than any of the others published by the magazine. It seems strange that a book with a genuine plot should take it's place, somewhat uncomfortably maybe, amongst a set of books which were, for the most part, simple 'family' stories, but it makes a refreshing change in this instance, and is an entertaining read, though it never attempts to break any new ground on its way.

Enid is clearly in her element in this story, which is simply a reworking of half a dozen or so of her earlier short stories and longer novels. The short stories 'The Hidey Hole' (1932), 'Smugglers Cave' (1947) and the full-length novel The Treasure Hunters (1940), all share their basic plots (that of a forgotten family treasure and the search for it) with The Secret Necklace. These, in turn, are re-working's of Enid's first full-length adventure story The Wonderful Adventure (c. 1927). All involve old houses and all end with our intrepid heroes finding the family treasure, which has been lost for centauries, quite often with the result that the family can afford to stay at the house which, before the treasure had been found, was in the process of being sold.

Though so much repetition may seem a bit of a 'cop-out', we must remember that 1952 had been Enid's most prolific, publishing 44 books during this year, as well as writing and compiling her own fortnightly magazine, which began in 1953 and on top of this, had obligations to fulfil for Playways with her monthly serials. It must have been more than tempting, therefore, to regurgitate successful plots of the past in order to reach demanding publishing deadlines.

The story begins like many a 'Holiday Adventure', with a letter from Granny, an invite to her old house in the country, and with the promise of meeting a cousin the children have never met before (shades of Five on a Treasure Island). There is also an interesting tie-in to the last book, Snowball the Pony, when Bob says 'I wonder if that little pony is still at Granny's — we were too little to ride on him last time — but this time we could.'

By chapter two the children are on their way, the weather being typically Blytonian, and the train journey as long and sleep inducing as usual. As usual, once they reach their destination the children have no problem engaging a porter to carry the luggage, and Granny is there to meet them at the other end — complete with a pony and trap like Aunt Fanny, to take them to the house.

Like George, cousin Ralph is reluctant to accept his two cousins, and even runs to hide when they arrive, jumping out at them later dressed as a red Indian, so that at once a hostile situation is set up between the cousins, giving the story a central conflict that as well as helping to pad out the plot considerably, also has quite a bearing on later events.

Ralph is rude, won't wash his hands, doesn't like reading, is 'very big for his age' and scowls when Granny tells him off — so at once we recognise him as the character who will get his just-deserts, will learn to change his ways, and will be thoroughly 'shaken down' by the end of the book. He also comes up against 'Turner', the gruff gardener at Tall Chimneys: a rather strangely-wrought character who comes across as little more than a child himself, despite being 'big and strong' and depicted in the illustrations as being a man in his forties at least. Turner is an excellent example of Enid's inability (according to some critics) to portray properly rounded male characters in her novels, as he comes over as petulant and childish in most of his scenes.

Ralph continues to make a nuisance of himself as chapter 5 begins, proving himself to be noisy and domineering and to have a wardrobe of dressing-up clothes that many a costume hire shop would be envious of. This time dressed in a sailor suit, Ralph throws stones at the ducks, prompting a slapping session from 'a very small and angry Mary, her cheeks red and her eyes bright and hard.'

Of course, by chapter six we are beginning to realise that Ralph's toughness is all bravado — he is in fact scared of water and can't swim (a weakness that, as we have seen before, Enid was keen to pour scorn on during several of the stories featuring the 'Caravan Family'). Several strange coincidences are sneaked into the plot by Enid at this point, such as the fact that Ralph, like the Caravan Family, has been on the Queen Elizabeth — the biggest liner in the world', and that the twins have just been taught to swim the year before, whereas Ralph's reluctance to go in the water mirrors Ben's in The Seaside Family. Later, Enid plugs her 'Secret Seven' series when the children relax in the garden with a book 'about seven children who make a secret society and have adventures.' The book they choose to give to Ralph is Secret Seven Adventure, and it is very interesting to note how Ralph says he would rather 'climb trees' than read an Enid Blyton book (!), though it is quite firmly hinted at that the reason for Ralph's lack of interest is that he doesn't know how to read in the first place — something else that will figure in the plot a little later on.

Soon, the weather turns rainy, and Enid, having set the scene expertly and developed the characters (a job she does exceptionally well considering the short length of the book), we are plunged into the adventure part of the story. This is done convincingly, with Granny giving the children puzzles to solve, one involving the six portraits of women in the gallery upstairs, five of which wear a beautiful necklace. In the sixth picture it is missing — for as Granny explains, it 'disappeared about one hundred years ago.' According to family legend it's supposed to be hidden 'somewhere in this house' — but as to the reason it was hidden or by whom, Enid seems at a loss to explain.

And so the adventure begins, the one pity being that there are only five chapters out of thirteen to go before the end of the book.

From this moment, 'Secret Necklace' runs to the familiar pattern of many another E.B adventure book — but it remains entertaining even so, and is a 'mini-masterpiece' of the genre Enid was to become best remembered for. All of the familiar elements are in place — the old history books of Tall Chimneys in the library, the maps of the house, the magical words 'secret passage' and the searching for the doorway that will lead into it. This search is held up temporarily by Ralph's inability to read — though he pretends he can — giving his cousins made-up directions to the passage instead of what is really written — a very effective moment that ties in superbly with what we have learned about Ralph's character so far.

This results in a new falling-out and in Mary and Bob determining to try to find the secret door whilst Ralph is asleep, closing chapter ten with the prospect of a good old Blytonian 'Midnight Adventure': creeping down the stairs with a torch while everyone is in bed asleep. They find the door easily without Ralph's so-called help, follow the typically 'dark and musty' passage, which leads back up behind the walls of the upstairs rooms, and then find the usual E.B door, 'studded with big nails', with a handle in the shape of a 'big iron ring'.

The door opens into a typical E.B secret room — with a wooden stool and table, a narrow bench and an old rotten blanket: a place where 'people have been hidden from their enemies in the days of old'. Inside they find a cupboard, and inside the cupboard, piled haphazardly, the children find all manner of sparkling treasures: bracelets, rings, brooches, and last of all (of course!) 'The magnificent emerald and diamond necklace that the twins had seen round the necks of the five women in the portraits! Yes — there was no doubt of it — this was the long lost necklace!'

But the adventure isn't over yet — the heavy door bangs shut and the children are trapped. They fill up the time by dressing themselves in the treasure: or at least Mary does, whilst Bob looks on. Then they hear a noise in the passage outside: Ralph has discovered the open passage and followed it to find out where his cousins have gone. He confesses how ashamed he was and is that he couldn't read the words in the old book and explains how he made them up instead, explaining also that he does things like that because he's 'so big that people expect me to know an awful lot and I don't.'

So the three children are friends again — Ralph's coming ensuring that Bob and Mary weren't trapped all night — and they rush to show Granny what they've found. The last chapter has Granny sitting up in bed hearing the story of how the children came to discover the long lost jewels, then, next morning, Cookie makes a 'special cake' to celebrate the finding of the necklace, and the twins promise that they will soon teach Ralph to 'swim and to row and lots of other things.'

This well-plotted tale draws to a close with the usual rewards being handed out to the children by granny — watches for the boys and a 'small sparkling brooch that had been in the lost jewellery' for Mary, though one nowadays might well feel that it would have been nicer for Mary to receive a watch also: a brooch seeming a little useless compared to the 'splendid watches' given to the boys.

The Adventure of the Secret Necklace is probably the most successful of the Playways serial stories, and also one of the most conventional. It seems to sum up all that Enid Blyton stood for as a writer, and is made up of all of the very best Enid Blyton story elements. This makes it an interesting and very readable adventure story, aimed expertly at younger readers, and a perfect 'trailer' for the 'Secret Seven', 'Famous Five' and 'Mystery' stories these young readers would encounter, as they grew older. These illustrations are hidden by default to ensure faster browsing. Loading the illustrations is recommended for high-speed internet users only.