The Mystery of the Missing Necklace by Enid Blyton (Methuen, 1947) Entertaining but something of a misstep. Fatty proves fallible, Goon shows himself to have brains, and the Five Find-Outers shadow and disrupt a police investigation rather than go about solving the mystery themselves. (Also, the gang members’ secret communications seem needlessly convoluted.)
The Mystery of the Spiteful Letters by Enid Blyton (Methuen, 1946) The Five Find-Outers hit their stride and Fatty, assured beyond his years, comes to the fore as their cheeky, disguise-wearing, outrageously daring leader. The mystery in this instance remains slight but the plot is cleverly structured around the children’s interactions with Goon.
The Mystery of the Disappearing Cat by Enid Blyton (Methuen, 1944) In this second book, Blyton still has the Five Find-Outers (and dog) as a fairly generic group of kids happening upon a mystery and solving it largely through happenstance. A spot of Goon-baiting aside, they are yet to come into their own.
The Mystery of the Burnt Cottage by Enid Blyton (Methuen, 1943) The first Five Find-Outers novel works well as a standalone, though lacking the assuredness and personality of later volumes. As Blyton feels her way, many elements of this great series emerge in nascent form. Only Fatty’s disguises (and latterly Ern) are missing.
The Ragamuffin Mystery by Enid Blyton; ill. Gilbert Dunlop (Collins, 1959) The final ‘Barney’ mystery is a fast, pleasant read, set in Wales and introducing another memorable animal (a goose named Waddle). Although there’s a sense of adventure, the children trip along rather than detect, and have too much access to adult help.
The Rat-a-Tat Mystery by Enid Blyton (Collins, 1956) The fifth ‘Barney’ mystery is, if anything, even slighter than its predecessors. Not much detecting goes on! Yet the children have fun—overseen on this occasion by Mrs Tickle—and the animals cause their usual mayhem. The story flies by pleasantly enough.
The Rubadub Mystery by Enid Blyton (Collins, 1952) In this fourth ‘Barney’ mystery, Blyton perfects the formula of having a mystery unfold around her young protagonists, to be fallen into as much as investigated. The clues appear innocuous for much of the story and then come together in a rush.
The Ring O’Bells Mystery by Enid Blyton; ill. Gilbert Dunlop (William Collins, 1951) This third ‘Barney’ mystery might easily have been written during a languorous English summer. The rustic idyll shines warmly from its pages and the adventure unfolds slowly, picking up pace only in the concluding chapters. A pleasant read enlivened by chaotic animals.
The Rilloby Fair Mystery by Enid Blyton (William Collins, 1950) The second ‘Barney’ mystery doesn’t really make good on its potential (in truth rather solving itself in the end) but Blyton lays down clues throughout and the children’s day-to-day adventuring makes for pleasant escapism. Blyton’s integration of animals makes the book memorable.
The Rockingdown Mystery by Enid Blyton (William Collins, 1949) A solid introduction to the ‘Barney’ (or ‘R’) mystery series. Standard Blyton characters Roger and Diana are superseded by their mischievous cousin Snubby, vagabond circus boy Barney and his monkey Miranda, and of course Snubby’s (actually Blyton’s daughters’) memorably madcap dog Loony.