A Three-Cornered Mystery, Dana Girls #4
Louise and Jean are cantering about the mountains above Starhurst when they come out of the woods near a service station and tea room. They are surprised to see a car with a license plate registered in their hometown of Oak Falls - the plate begins with the same serial numbers as many others there. The car belongs to a realtor, Taylor Lott, who is on the trail of his clerk who absconded with rental payments and many valuable papers. He expected the thieving Mr. Carrillo to come along this route, but is losing hope. The Dana girls promise to keep their eyes open.
In due course, as the girls enjoy their lunch, the girls spot Mr. Carrillo stopping at the same service station! They bluff that they haven't heard of any robberies and chat him up for details, but ultimately can't get the information to Mr. Lott in time.
Later, the girls are invited to stay for the weekend at the home of Miss Darrow, a new reporter, and her mother. At the Darrow Farm, they discover that Carrillo had worked at the farm in the past, spending a great deal of time in the barn.The girls find a cache of papers there that the man will likely return for, and get permission to spend the night in the barn.
Things begin to get complicated. An injured man staggers into the barn, the Darrows are missing from the house without an explanation, and the girls must head home for spring vacation without finding any more clues and surprisingly unconcerned about the mother and daughter who went missing in the middle of the night while entertaining guests.
One of Carrillo's victims, a shrewish widow, is played for laughs and the girls spend ages finding her a housekeeper. A detective is employed to track down Carrillo, and he doesn't give the girls much credit for the information they give him, perhaps its because of the rattlesnake he took care of for them.
Oh no! I'm forgetting the foreign spy angle! These books are chock full of excitement, can the Dana Girls get through this slog and save the day? I just want to write about the plot of these books and diagram it on a cork-board, preferably with lots and lots of colored string to clear things up. There's just so much going on in 200 pages.
Since this is the last of Leslie McFarlane's role in the series, I do want to point out something strange. His 'Hardy Boys' books were full of humor, chums, and lengthy descriptions of food. The humor he wrote into this "girls" series was much dryer, about social standing mainly, and the supporting characters were undeveloped. The Dana Girls have their hands in a few pranks, but they appear to be an island in and of themselves except for their "friend of the week" who is the center of the current mystery. It's a shame more effort couldn't have been shown. The Dana Girls get into all sorts of trouble, take risks, and are shown to be as smart as any man and capable as any professional detective, but their original author couldn't bring himself to develop their world. Thankfully, Mildred Wirt Benson was called in after Leslie refused to go on with the series, and rocks the boat a little.
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