August 27, 2011

BSC Mystery #20, Mary Anne and the Zoo Mystery: Gorilla Warfare

Posted in books tagged , , , at 9:23 pm by Jenn

Matt's shorter than I always pictured him

Summary: SMS teams up with a local zoo for a project in which the eighth graders observe animals. They’re split into groups of three, and the group with the best report gets extra credit and a trip to a water park. The timing is great, since there are two gorillas, James and Mojo, on loan, and there’s a lot of hype surrounding their visit. There are also a bunch of protesters hanging out around the zoo.

Mary Anne’s in a group with Alan and a guy named Howie (previously mentioned as a friend of Claudia and Stacey’s), while Logan’s in a group with Dawn and Claudia. Kristy’s placed with Stacey and wants nothing to do with her, so their group studies their own pets (Stacey doesn’t have one, so she studies the Johanssens’ dog). So Mary Anne, Dawn, Claudia, Logan, Alan, and Howie go to the zoo a lot; Logan, Dawn, and Claudia observe the gorillas while Mary Anne, Alan, and Howie watch an emu, bears, and seals. Alan and Logan really want to beat each other, so they get all macho and competitive.

One day the emu escapes from her cage, and when Mary Anne goes to take a look after the emu’s return, she sees that the fence is intact. There are also some stains that look like berry juice from a nearby bush. She decides that the emu didn’t really escape but was let out. Oh, and the director, Ms. Wofsey, has lost her master key that opens all the cages. It happens to look like all the keys the SMS students were given to access info at different exhibits.

This is, of course, a case for the BSC. They decide that the protesters are obviously suspects, but they’ve also seen a couple in matching sweatsuits observing all the animals. Not long after that, a giraffe is let out of its cage. Mary Anne again sees berry stains nearby. Knowing that one of the gorillas, Mojo, knows sign language and can see the emu’s cage from hers, the BSC girls bring Matt Braddock to the zoo to communicate with Mojo. However, Mojo will only sign “food,” so the girls think she’s hungry, since Mr. Chester, a zoo employee, is bringing her lunch.

Next the gibbons’ cage is opened (they don’t escape), and Mary Anne and Logan think the matching-sweatsuit couple is responsible, since they’ve been observing the gibbons. The couple has been writing down prices, and Mary Anne and Logan think they want to steal a gibbon and sell it. As she’s doing more observation for the project, Mary Anne realizes that she no longer has her own key – she has Ms. Wofsey’s skeleton key. She knows she hasn’t had it the whole time, and the only time she could have accidentally swapped her key with someone else’s was when she, Alan, and Howie were taking things out of their bags to look for change.

Mary Anne confronts Alan, accusing him of freeing the animals to better observe them for the project (though why would he free animals he wasn’t observing)? Alan admits that he’s been doing research for the project, which was supposed to only be based on observation and the info from the exhibits, but has no idea what she’s talking about regarding the key. They both realize that Howie must have had Ms. Wofsey’s key. He confesses that he found it in the bushes and used it to open the emu’s cage, but she didn’t escape until after he left; obviously he didn’t secure the cage well enough. Howie also says that he didn’t free any other animals, and he has to be telling the truth since Mary Anne had Ms. Wofsey’s key by that point.

Logan and Mary Anne remember Mr. Chester saying he was late to an event because he was feeding the seals, but he wasn’t, since they’d just been with the seals. With a couple of more pieces of potential evidence, the BSC girls (and Logan) tell Ms. Wofsey their suspicions. Ms. Wofsey thinks Mr. Chester was trying to get her in trouble because he’s mad that she got the job he wanted. She knows that Mr. Chester’s big move will be trying to free Mojo and James, so the zoo sets up a sting operation involving people in gorilla suits. It works (yeah, I bet), and Mr. Chester is done for. Later, the girls realize that Mojo was probably signing “food” because Mr. Chester fed all the animals. Also, the matching-sweatsuit couple was looking for an animal to buy for some rich guy.

The B-plot involves a baby elephant being displayed at the mall until a home can be found for it. (Maybe this is crazy, but couldn’t they take it to…THE ZOO?) The BSC girls and their charges decide to hold a walkathon to raise money to relocate the elephant. They call it an Elephant Walk and make buttons and other swag for it. There’s some drama because on the day of the walkathon, the girls don’t have a stereo to play “Baby Elephant Walk,” and Claudia suggests that they borrow one from Stacey. Stacey agrees to loan it to them, but only if she can participate. Kristy’s ticked but doesn’t have time to do anything about it. Anyway, the walkathon is a success, and contributes to getting the elephant relocated.

Thoughts: This mystery is actually structured plenty well, with some good red herrings. Bravo, ghostwriter.

Mary Anne shares a soda with Alan and Howie. That’s kind of gross. And I’m sure Logan wouldn’t appreciate it. Mary Anne probably told him about it, too. I bet they’re like Marshall and Lily from How I Met Your Mother, telling each other every single detail of their days.

Like Stacey would ever let Charlotte wear a matching kitty headband and backpack.

Mary Anne is much less of a mouse than usual in this book. When Logan’s insults toward Alan bug her, she asks him to stop – without crying. I’m impressed.

Logan: “Do gorillas like chocolate cake?” Mary Anne: “Everybody likes chocolate cake.” For some reason, I thought that was really funny.

I think something was moved around here. Matt signs to Mojo, and then a few pages later Jessi asks if anyone who knows sign language can talk to Mojo. Then Matt signs the same questions he’d already asked her. Why would Jessi ask that if she knew Matt had already signed with Mojo?

Speaking of that, Matt signing with the gorilla was the only part of the book I remembered. I always thought that was really cool.

Recurring character Erica Blumberg makes a good point: “How would a gorilla know what an emu is?”

I love that Alan cheats on a class assignment by doing extra work.


  1. Allison said,

    They should have made a reference to “Murders in the Rue Morgue” by Edgar Allan Poe, where the solution to the mystery was (spoiler alert!)…
    the orangutang did it.
    P.S. Who would let a giraffe loose? Of all the animals that have no hope of making it in the American landscape. I doubt the authorities would try to shoot it since it’s not a predator, but it would inevitably need to be recaptured and re-zooed. This reminds me of that incident last year when the crazy die let all those exotic animals, right before offing himself. It was very tragic because most of the animals had to be put down.
    P.P.S. This plot sounds all kinds of preposterous.

  2. Marianna EM said,

    I have this book, and I just re-read it about a month ago. #QuarantineProblems
    Ms. Wofsey was really nice, but too bad she got stuck with such an ugly last name.
    And I read somewhere that in one of the early books, Stacey actually had a crush on Howie?? But in this book, he doesn’t sound like anyone Stacey would every be interested in. Mary Anne describes him as being immature and disgusting… not exactly Stacey material.

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