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Five Fall Into AdventureReview by Keith Robinson (July 12, 2005)
I hardly remembered anything of this book as I started into it, apart from the ragamuffin girl named Jo who looks and acts like a boy. Not only is she a rival for George, but she even looks like George! And, to George's disgust, Timmy likes her too. This naughty, likeable character plays a vital role in the story...in more ways than one.
Aunt Fanny and Uncle Quentin head off for a holiday in Spain—but not before Uncle Quentin loses his temper with the newspapers for saying exactly what he told them NOT to say! Now everyone reading the paper will know that his valuable scientific work and plans are locked up at Kirrin Cottage, practically inviting would-be burglars to come along and steal them. Disgruntled, he is forceably led from the house by Aunt Fanny and bundled into a taxi. Phew, they've gone—and the house is left in the care of the Five and Joan, the cook.
A trip to the beach that afternoon proves interesting when the Five come across what looks like a dirty boy and his father. They ignore him and dig big holes in the sand to lie in, then go swimming—but when they return the boy has taken over George's sand hole! A fight breaks out—but rather than let George (a girl) get into a fight, Dick steps in and punches the boy instead. Then they all find out the boy is actually a girl after all! The ragamuffin departs, and the Five believe they'll never see her again.
With Aunt Fanny and Uncle Quentin away, Joan looks to Master Julian as the Man of the House. Julian naturally loves this role and becomes Very Responsible Indeed when bedtime comes, making sure to lock all windows and doors...except for the tiny window in the pantry, which won't close properly. But it doesn't matter—it's far too small for anyone to climb through anyway. That night, Anne is terrified by a face at her bedroom window! Timmy rushes out to find the intruder, but returns later wet and bedraggled, ashamed of himself for failing to catch anyone.
The next day they all go down to the beach again. There they meet Jo, the ragamuffin girl. She spits damson stones at them and then teases George and makes Timmy come to her despite George's commands to the contrary. Like it or not, they seem stuck with the girl...although Julian and Dick both agree she's rather a fun, plucky person to be around. George fumes quietly.
Then things start happening. Anne, scared in case the Face at the Window returns, asks George not to leave her that night as they all turn in. So George asks Julian if he can just let Timmy out for "his last walk" (dogs don't poop in Blyton's world). Timmy heads off into the night...and eventually returns acting very strangely, somehow tired and limp. That night a burglar breaks in and ransacks Uncle Quentin's study. Joan finds an almighty mess in the morning, and it turns out that Timmy had somehow been drugged while he was out on his walk, hence the reason he never stirred when the burglar was rifling through Uncle Quentin's work. After the police have come and gone, and Timmy has recovered from his extra-long sleep, George makes sure to take him out that night herself so she can watch over him.
And then she and Timmy disappear...
George's disappearance is not unduly missed for a whole day. Anne wakes and finds her missing from her bed, and believes George has simply gone out early with Timmy. Later that morning, on the beach, the others look out to sea and spot two figures in a boat, which they assume to be George and Timmy. It's not until the boat comes in carrying two boys that they all get very worried indeed. Where can George be? That's when Jo turns up at the cottage and delivers a note that demands one of Uncle Quentin's valuable notebooks is handed over in return for their cousin! Jo is brought inside, but refuses to give any information. She bolts the first chance she gets and leaves Julian and Dick to make plans.
The adventure really gets under way when Julian, Dick and Anne once more come across Jo and persuade her to help them. Actually Jo herself offers to help—purely because she thinks Dick is kind and wants to please him. She leads them into the forest to find an old caravan that she says George is probably locked in...but then she disappears and the others are left alone to find their cousin by themselves. After eventually finding the caravan empty, with a message from George scribbled on the wall that says "Red Tower" over and over, and then a horrible night in the forest after getting lost, Jo once more turns up like a bad penny. But this time she can help. Red Tower, she says as Julian demands her to point it out on a map, is not a place but a person. And Jo knows where he lives!
For once Anne is left out of the rest of the book as Julian, Dick and Jo head off to Red's castle-like place on the sea to rescue George and Timmy. Here they come across various bad guys including Red, Markham, Jake and Simmy, and confusion reigns when Jo—cunning as a fox—dives in and saves the day. The shenaginans in the tower are a lot of fun and for once I felt that the bad guys really had a reason to be at a complete loss! Jo is too clever by half, and would make a fantastic permanent member of the Famous Five (although then Timmy would have to be demoted and the group called the Famous Five and Dog). George positively pales in comparison to this feisty little munchkin!
All in all, a great book, and one where Dick gets one of the lead roles and George takes a back seat. Julian is more grown-up than ever, and Anne is just...well, poor little Anne.
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