I was recently moved to suggest that The Secret of Hangman’s Inn (1956), the sixth title in the Ken Holt series by husband-and-wife team Bruce Campbell, was the point at which that series found its feet and jumped to life. Today I’m going to promulgate that The Mystery of the Hidden House (1948), the sixth title in the Five Find-Outers series by one-woman publishing sensation Enid Blyton, is the point where this series finds its feet and jumps to life. Coincidence? Yes, undoubtedly.
Aaah, the difficult second novel. Sharna Jackson’s High-Rise Mystery (2019) was a great debut, with a superb setting, wonderful mix of characters, and a neat little mystery at its core. How does this follow-up compare?
Ten more cases for America’s Sherlock Holmes in Sneakers, Leroy ‘Encyclopedia’ Brown — how many do you think he’ll solve? What’s that? Oh, I suppose the title is something of a giveaway, hey? Well, moving on, then…
I, doubtless in common with anyone who has persevered through the stronger and weaker works of any prolific author’s career, have been moved at times to reflect at what point a long-running series becomes good before it starts to tail off in quality through the challenges of sustaining such an output.
How Emil and the Detectives (1929) by Erich Kästner came to my attention is something I’ve long forgotten. I don’t remember anyone ever mentioning it, yet it seems to have constantly been in print while also being made into a movie and adapted for the stage. And I didn’t even know if it qualified as a detective novel for younger readers. So the only thing to do was to read it myself.
In the early 1900s, Edward Stratemeyer devised the Stratemeyer Syndicate of children’s books, where multiple volumes of the same series could be written by various authors and published under a common nom de plume. Two of its more famous alumni were The Hardy Boys by ‘Franklin W. Dixon’ and the Nancy Drew mysteries by ‘Carolyn Keene’.