March 5, 2012
BSC Mystery #24, Mary Anne and the Silent Witness: He Didn’t Start the Fire
Summary: The club starts sitting for a new family, the Martinezes, whose previous sitter quit unexpectedly. The kids are mostly great, but the boy, Luke, who’s eight, acts like he doesn’t trust his sitters. That may or may not be connected to the recent fire that took place at the house. The BSC girls suspect that the fire may have something to do with a developer named Reginald Fowler who wants to tear down some houses to build an office complex. The Martinezes won’t budge, so Fowler may have set the fire to scare them.
Luke seems to know something, but he’s not talking. One day when Mary Anne’s at the house, someone writes “don’t tell” on a window, which freaks Luke out. He’s also keeping some secret with his best friend, Steig, who happens to be Cary Retlin’s little brother.
Mary Anne goes looking for Luke in the woods while she’s sitting one day, and instead sees a teenage boy with a brick with green paint on it. He’s talking to Fowler, but Mary Anne doesn’t hear much of the conversation. A cop sees her when she picks up the brick, and Mary Anne is taken to the police station for vandalism. The only reason this plot point is important is that it allows her to learn from the police that Fowler isn’t even in Stoneybrook.
Time for reasearch – to the library! The BSC girls discover that Fowler was born the same day as twins named Samuel and John Wolfer, and decide that he’s actually one of them (since Wolfer is an anagram of Fowler). Him being a twin would explain why Mary Anne saw him in Stoneybrook while the police said he was away. They think Fowler started the fire at the Martinezes’ house, believes Luke knows it was him, and is threatening Luke to keep him quiet about it.
In their attempts to find out the truth, the girls get in touch with Allie, the Martinezes’ former babysitter. She’s with her boyfriend, Beau, when they find her, and Mary Anne recognizes him as the boy she saw talking to Fowler. The two teens come clean: Beau accidentally set the fire at the house with a cigarette, and Allie kept quiet to protect him, then quit because she felt guilty. But the two mysteries are connected: Fowler was blackmailing Beau, making him commit vandalism to threaten people so they’d sell their houses. Beau was also the person threatening Luke to keep quiet.
Beau feels bad, so he agrees to help the BSC girls with a sting operation. They send him to meet Fowler and arrange for his twin to show up. The truth comes out and the ever-helpful Sgt. Johnson hears it all. The final nail in Fowler’s coffin is Luke’s other secret: He found a map of Fowler’s plans for the town, which shows more industrialization than he claimed he wanted. This sinks Fowler’s plans and makes Luke and the BSC girls heroes. More Luke, really, but it’s not his series, is it?
Thoughts: Fowler and Beau are both stupid villains. Luke isn’t actually threatened with anything. I mean, if you’re going to scare a kid, you have to tell him you’ll get him in trouble with his parents or hurt them or something. Just saying “don’t tell” won’t accomplish anything.
And while I appreciate that the twist in the story is that most of the plot is a red herring, all the town-development stuff is boring.
Cary has two brothers, Steig and Benson. Okay, two things: 1) Steig? I didn’t think there were any Americans named Steig. 2) Benson Retlin? Do his parents hate him?
How has Kristy not run Allie out of town?