The Secret Island by Enid Blyton (Basil Blackwell, 1938) Blyton’s first full-length adventure novel is low on peril but pleasantly diverting, and more substantial than later efforts. Pitched at younger readers, it sees four children run away to fend for themselves on a bountiful island—memorably taking a cow with them!
The Famous Five: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know by Normal Wright; ill. Eileen Soper (Hodder, 2000) An odd, rather pointless reference book, bolstered by colour illustrations and snippets of information about Enid Blyton’s life and inspirations, yet mainly just a plodding recapitulation of Famous Five characters, plot lines and themes—which readers would already know from the novels.
The Mystery of Banshee Towers by Enid Blyton (Methuen, 1961) The Five Find-Outers’ swansong comes after a four-year break and proves sadly anticlimactic. Banshee Towers is a breezy read but Fatty is a shadow of his former self and the mystery itself is lamentable. (In fact, the villainy makes no sense whatsoever!)
The Mystery of the Strange Messages by Enid Blyton (Methuen, 1957) A return to form, despite some glaring continuity issues. There’s a freshness to the storytelling (less happenstance and more from Goon’s perspective) and Blyton structures the plot more tightly around the mystery and its investigation. One of the better Five Find-Outers books.
The Mystery of the Missing Man by Enid Blyton (Methuen, 1956) The arrival of Eunice (plus dieting!) deflates Fatty of his pomposity and self-assuredness. The plot is more original than those of the preceding mysteries; at the same time, the other Find-Outers are near absent and the ending comes as a damp squib.
The Mystery of Tally-Ho Cottage by Enid Blyton (Methuen, 1954) A rather sombre mystery. Blyton rehashes several familiar plot devices but scripts little investigation and few hijinks. Goon is at his least likeable and Fatty his most fallible, while the other Find-Outers contribute virtually nothing (save yet another epiphany-inducing comment from Bets).
The Mystery of Holly Lane by Enid Blyton (Methuen, 1953) An enjoyable bit of detective work for the Five Find-Outers (and dog), stumbling upon another mystery and outwitting Goon. As ever, the investigation itself doesn’t amount to much. Fatty, however, remains irrepressible, and has much the same conceited appeal as Sherlock Holmes.
The Mystery of the Strange Bundle by Enid Blyton (Methuen, 1952) Another mystery stumbled upon and solved largely by chance, the investigation aided by a fortuitous discovery arising from Fatty’s having played a prank on Goon! The usual fun but not very satisfying. Fatty at last has some comeuppance for all his Goon-baiting.
The Mystery of the Vanished Prince by Enid Blyton (Methuen, 1951) An odd instalment in which the Find-Outers do very little investigating. (Pip finds one lucky clue and they stumble upon people who explain the mystery!) The modern reader cannot help feeling uncomfortable at the children’s casual assumptions of social and racial superiority.
The Mystery of the Invisible Thief by Enid Blyton (Methuen, 1950) A high point of the series. In retrospect, the denouement is obvious—not least of all because Blyton has twisted a plot contrivance from the previous two books!—but the clues are cleverly seeded and remain overlooked amidst a resplendence of Goon-baiting.