Monday, December 10, 2012

Meg and the Disappearing Diamonds (Meg Duncan #1)

Meg and the Disappearing Diamonds (Meg Duncan #1)
Holly Beth Walker
Whitman, 1967

Genre: Mystery


Meg is shocked to discover that Mrs. Partlow's house has been broken into. However, it appears that nothing was stolen even though the old lady has a lot of valuables. Mrs. Wilson is also surprised since Mrs. Partlow had inherited her family's diamonds, which she knows have been taken out of the family vault in preparation for her niece’s wedding. On her way to Kerry's house, Meg stops by Mrs. Partlow's house and discovers Mike, Kerry's brother, staking out the house as he wants to be a reporter and is always on the lookout for a good story.

Meg and Kerry go to the pet shop to get food for Meg's cat, Thunder. While there, she sees a pretty collar and wants to buy it but is told that the collar belongs to a Mrs. Glynn and is for one of her dogs. She is an actress who is in town from New York City. Just then, Mrs. Glynn comes into the shop with her three dogs who happen to be tiny toy poodles named Child, Little One, and Toy.

Meg and Kerry are invited to a luncheon at Mrs. Partlow's house with the other neighbors to see her diamonds. Unfortunately, the party is crashed by Mrs. Glynn and her dogs. For a while, the party is commandeered by Mrs. Glynn wanting the spotlight on her. When everyone stops paying attention to her dogs, Mrs. Glynn tries to say that the diamonds can't possibly be real. Everyone thinks that she's very rude. When the box gets back to Mrs. Partlow, the necklace, earrings, and diamond covered snood are missing. Only the bracelet remains. Mrs. Glynn also announces that the toy gun for Toy's cowboy costume is missing. She accidentally trips into the food table and discovers one of the missing earrings in the icing of the cake. Mrs. Glynn insists that everyone should be searched but nothing else is found. The girls find Cissie, Kerry's cousin, hiding in the bush nearby and confront her because she's a bit of a kleptomaniac.

Later that day, Mrs. Glynn shows up at Meg's house. She has brought Thunder the collar that Meg was admiring in the pet store. Meg realizes that the bells don't make it nice twinkling sound and instead make a thudding sound. She figures that Mrs. Glynn found the collar to be defective and didn't want it anymore. The next day while Meg is practicing ballet moves outside Mrs. Glynn shows up to ask how her cat likes his new collar. When Meg tells her that the cat is off wandering about Mrs. Glynn seems concerned.

Later that night, the radio announces that Mrs. Glynn's poodle's diamond crown is missing. Meg had warned her that she shouldn't have put something so valuable on her dog. There is also news that the pet store has had a birdcage stolen. Later that night she hears the sound of a cat outside and tries to investigate. The only thing she notices is a light outside of Mrs. Partlow's house. She grabs a flashlight and discovers Mrs. Glynn hunting around the outside of the house. In the morning she investigates the area and finds a piece of pink velvet just like one of the bows the dogs wear. When she returns home she sees a man leaving in a car and realizes that he had been in the house. When Meg is practicing her ballet again, Mrs. Glynn shows up once more asking about the cat. Meg wonders why she's so concerned since she has said that she hates cats. Cissie shows up and looks at the gun holster on Toy. She grabs it and runs, angering Mrs. Glynn who chases after. When Meg returns to her house she finds Cissie waiting for her. She hands Meg a ballet slipper that she stole and inside Meg finds the missing snood—minus the diamonds. Cissie won't say anything about where she found it and Kerry is upset at the thought that Cissie possibly stole something so valuable.

As he girls hunt for one of Cissie's hiding spots, Meg notices that on the outside fireplace the vines appear to have been disturbed. Moving them aside she discovers a secret hiding spot and inside it she finds the dog crown, Toy's gun, and Child's pink velvet bow. She also sees an oddly shaped piece of leather on the ground—it is the bottom of a high heel shoe. The only person in town who wears shoes like that is Mrs. Glynn. Meg thinks she might have the mystery solved. She calls Kerry and asks her to meet her in the meadow. Meg finds all three of Mrs. Glynn's dogs there. When she pats her leg, the dogs go wild and she discovers that certain body signals tell the dogs to do certain things. Meg picks up Little One and discovers under the dog's coat Mrs. Partlow's diamond necklace. Meg realizes that Mrs. Glynn must have reported her own dog's crown missing to throw suspicion off of her.

Meg and Kerry hear Cissie crying and see her emerge from some bushes with Mrs. Glynn on her tail. She grabs Cissie's doll and finds the toy gun holster. She screams, “Where's the snood?” and grabs Cissie by the hair. Mike runs at her and Mrs. Glynn slaps him. Cissie runs to the bridge and emerges with Thunder in a birdcage. A man appears out of nowhere and grabs the cage from her. Mrs. Glynn demands the collar but the man refuses. Thunder scratches him and escapes. Luckily, the constable shows up and the adults suddenly act all nice but Meg tells him about the diamond necklace.

Meg explains how Mrs. Glynn used the dogs as a way to hide the stolen jewels in plain sight. As the criminals are lead away, Meg realizes that both the man and Mrs. Glynn seemed super concerned about Thunder. She unbuckles his collar and discovers the reason the bells don't sound like bells is because the missing diamonds from the snood are hidden inside!

Thoughts and Nuggets of Wisdom for Research

Meg appears to suffer from a condition many series book heroines suffer from—the girl detective with the dead mother. We learn that Meg and her father also live with a Mr. and Mrs. Wilson. Mrs. Wilson is the housekeeper. There are a middle aged couple who are easy to live with and Meg considers them as much a part of her family as her father. Thunder, Meg’s cat, is Meg's dearest pal. He makes up, a little, for the mother, brothers, and sisters she does not have. Meg's father is an important man who works in government in Washington, D.C., but lives in the “country. Work took her Dad away from home quite often. Unlike the fathers of Nancy Drew or Penny Parker, Meg’s father is pretty non-existent.

Mrs. Partlow is an interesting character. She represents old money. She is described as the “‘First Lady’ of the village of Hidden Springs, Virginia. She lived at Holly House. Her oaks and maples had been planted before the Washingtons built Mount Vernon. Up here in horse country a Partlow was not just a Virginian. A Partlow was Virginia. That was not poor” (p. 15). The small town atmosphere is also readily described when, after the diamonds are stolen “she did not have to ask Mrs. Wilson what happened next. She knew. Mrs. Wilson had called Miss Culpepper, who called Mrs. Wayburn, who had called Mrs. Hosey. That's the way news got around in Hidden Springs. Neighbors were longtime friends. No matter what the news, everyone knew it” (p. 85-86).

The other characters of importance who are described are Kerry and Mike’s parents. Unlike Meg who has supportive Mr. and Mrs. Wilson, Kerry has Ma’am and Sir. She has five brothers and a small sister  and “so many cousins came and went that Meg lost count. At the present time Cissie was living at the farm. Meg did not know how many horses the Carmodys owned. She did know life was lively on the Carmody farm, and no living thing was neglected” (p. 35). They tend to be pretty strict about things.

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