This is part four of the series of Famous Five posts. If you’ve not yet read these three books you might find this gives away some things you didn’t want to know, so read on at your own peril.
FIVE ON A HIKE TOGETHER, 1951
The Location: Some un-named moors (though presumably not the moors from Off To Camp or Mystery Moor), the Taggarty’s cottage, Two Trees and Gloomy Water.
The ‘Baddies’: Dirty Dick (who’s as unpleasant as his name suggests) and his friend Maggie.
Significant other characters: Dirty Dick’s poor old deaf mother, an escaped convict by the name of Nailer, an extremely rude and unhelpful police man (a rare occurrence in Blyton books) and a helpful old postman.
The Plot: The Five set out for a few days of hiking at their Autumn half-term holiday. Timmy hurts his leg down a rabbit hole so George and Julian take him to Mr Gaston at Spiggy House (no known relation of Spiggy Holes) as Mr Gaston keeps horses and dogs, and there’s no vet for several miles. Dick and Anne carry on to find Blue Pond farmhouse following directions from an old fellow they meet – who only seems to know the word “ar” – and in the pouring rain they stumble across a cottage they assume is the farm. The deaf old lady there lets Anne sleep in a little attic room, and sends Dick out to sleep in an old barn. He is awoken in the night by a man with a wild-eyed face who rattles off a strange message and passes him a scrap of paper. Once the Five are reunited the next morning and have had an epic breakfast they take the note to the village policeman, convinced it had something to do with the escaped convict they’d heard about. Annoyingly the policeman completely disregards them, and sends them away. There’s nothing for it but to hike to Two Trees as mentioned in the mysterious message and try to figure it all out. Unfortunately the message has been delivered to Maggie as well so she and Dirty Dick turn up at Two Trees and are not pleased to see the five. The Five have to use all their brains to outwit the dastardly duo and find the loot before they do.
My favourite parts: The message “Two Trees. Gloomy Water. Saucy Jane. And he says Maggie knows”, and the treasure map marked “Chimney, Tock Hill, Steeple and Tall Stone” are both fixed in my memory. I still laugh at Maggie and Dick trying to watch for all the landmarks at once and then how the five outwit them at the end. I also like the atmosphere of the book, from the terror of the bells clanging at night to the sinister feeling of Gloomy Water.
FIVE HAVE A WONDERFUL TIME, 1952
The Location: Faynights Castle
The ‘Baddies’: Mr Pottersham, the scientist.
Significant other characters: The fair folk: Bufflo, Skippy, Alfredo, Mr India-Rubber and Mr Slither, Jo the gypsy girl, Beauty-the-snake, Mr Terry-Kane the other scientist.
The Plot: The Five are camping by Faynights Castle and struggling to get along with their campsite neighbours – some gypsy fair folks – until Jo turns up and bridges the gap between the two sides. It turns out she’s related to some of them. It has been in the newspapers that two of Uncle Quentin’s colleagues have gone missing, and rumour is that they have defected with some important secrets. Uncle Quentin is adamant his friend would never do such a thing, so when the Five look through their field glasses and see a familiar face at a window of the castle they are determined to get to the bottom of things. They set off at night to investigate and end up prisoners themselves, but Jo is able to escape and rally the fair-folk into embarking on a daring rescue.
My favourite parts: Another ruined castle, and more secret passages – some of my favourite things in real life as well as in books. I like how George is late to the holiday thanks to a cold caused by swimming in the sea in April, that sounds just like her, doesn’t it?
FIVE GO DOWN TO THE SEA, 1953
The Location: Down by the sea in Cornwall, the Five are staying at Tremannon Farm.
The ‘Baddies’: The Guv’nor
Significant other characters: Mr and Mrs Penruthlan, Yan and his old grandad, the Barnies.
The Plot: There is a history of wrecking on the Cornish coast and they are intrigued to hear from Yan and his grandad that there are still lights being shone on stormy nights. The Barnies, travelling performers, then arrive to set up for their annual performances in the Penruthlan’s barn. Julian and Dick sneak out a couple of times and become suspicious of Mr Penruthlan as they’ve seen him out when he’s told his wife he’d been in the stables. The five decide to explore the hillside ruin where the wrecker’s light is supposed to shine from, and find a secret way where they then get trapped. This being a Famous Five story though, of course they escape and are able to apprehend the wrong-doer at the last possible moment.
My favourite parts: Julian and Dick dressing up in Clopper’s costume and getting stuck in it makes me laugh every single time. I like the whole Barnies idea, travelling performers who can make everyone laugh and have a great time even if the singing is a little off, and the props are falling apart. Oh – and of course – there’s a secret passage, and by now you should know I love those.