Tuesday, March 10, 2009

BSC Mystery #17: Dawn and the Halloween Mystery

Brief Synopsis:

This book takes place when Dawn is living in California for six months with her dad and Jeff. A little before Halloween, Dawn witnesses an armed robber wearing a clown mask making a hasty getaway in the parking outside a costume store. As a result of the robbery, the parents in the neighborhood decide to call off trick or treating. So Dawn and her California friends (Sunny, Maggie and Jill) try to both solve the crime based on Dawn's recollections of the robber (clown mask, make of the car, etc.) and come up with a Halloween party as an alternative to trick or treating.

Dawn's been babysitting for Erik and Ryan DeWitt and their new friend, Timmy Ford, whose parents are recently divorced and who lives with his dad. When Dawn sees the same car from the robbery in the Fords' driveway, she calls the cops and they arrest Mr. Ford. But then of course, it turns out that Timmy's mother, Mrs. Ford, was the robber because she wanted to earn more money to try to take care of her son. Dawn sheds a tear, and then it's on to the Halloween party.

  • Dawn tells us about her Dad's girlfriend, Carol, whom she used to hate but now likes. According to Dawn, she used to think that adults shouldn't wear ripped jeans, MTV t-shirts, neon sunglasses or listen to new music or drive little red sports cars. Apparently, Dawn's dad is dating a 40 year old with a midlife crisis.
  • Dawn and her friends think hot dogs are the height of grossness because they're made from things like pigs ears. The girls complain about them when they stake out Frank's Franks (the armed robber had a bumper sticker from there on the getaway car). One day I want to take her out to Katz's Deli for some kielbasa and chicken liver. (And then if I'm feeling brave, to Harlem for some chitlins.) Claudia's twinkies aren't looking quite so bad now, are they?

  • The girls come up with three suspects based on people who bought clown masks. The first was a man from the flower store (ruled out because he had the mask lying around in the open). The second was a boy from the track team (ruled out because he was too nice). And of course, it ends up being the third one (a blonde woman). The ghostwriter clearly was watching Scooby Doo when he wrote this (the criminal is always the third person they meet). There's even an unmasking! Zoinks!
  • I love the fact that Dawn and Sunny find three people who bought this exact clown mask at one store and assume that the robber had to have bought it there. No, he/she couldn't have bought it in another town or...you know...have stolen it.
  • And by the way, when Dawn is given descriptions of people who bought clown masks, she rules out the tall, blonde woman right away. Even though the robber was 5'8, which is short for a man, as the police point out. Score one for sexism! Someone's going to have a hard time getting into Smith or Wellesley. (Or even Vassar.)
  • Dawn's sleuthing really bites. She and Sunny follow Tom (the track team guy) home and decide he's too nice to be the criminal. He's running a Halloween party at the high school, he's nice to dogs, he helps old ladies across the street. Yeah, criminals and sociopaths are never deceptively charming pillars of the community. Oops, I just tripped over my biographies of Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacy, and Leopold & Loeb.
  • Sunny flirts with the guy who works at the costume store to get him to tell them who bought the clown mask, and it totally works. Rereading this book made me think of California Diaries and how I couldn't wait till Sunny got all wild and out of control. And till Maggie got anorexic and Jill got...well, dropped in favor of Amalia and Ducky. Now I have to look back with sadness on the day that I came home from school to discover that all my Ann M. Martin books had been given away to poor children and my puppy had gone to live on a farm. Stupid traumatic childhood.
  • Dawn calls the cops when she's trick or treating with some of her babysitting charges and sees a creepy looking figure wearing a clown mask digging something up in the Fords' yard. I have no idea why the robber decided to wear the clown mask. Or how Dawn even knew that it had to be the robber and not some random person in a clown outfit. Or an actual clown who chewed through his ropes and escaped from a local circus.
  • Oh yeah, the Barretts and the DeWitt kids are having problems in Stoneybrook. Mrs. Barrett and her new flame, Franklin, find a house to buy that's big enough for the whole family for when they finally tie the knot. Only problem? The Barrett and DeWitt kids are upset because they'll have to move away from their old neighborhood and change schools. The BSC, of course, has to butt in and Mrs. Barrett and Franklin decide they'll move into a smaller house that's still in Stoneybrook. I'd like to see a realistic reaction from Mrs. Barrett if a bunch of 13 year old girls tried to interfere with their house hunting, but then this book would be entitled "Dawn and the Lesson in Household Finances" and that wouldn't be any fun.
  • Speaking of the DeWitts, the fact that there are two DeWitt families (the kids that Dawn sits for in California and the family that Mrs. Barrett is going to marry into) in BSC world is finally addressed. Dawn says something about how it's a huge coincidence and the California DeWitts are not related to the Stoneybrook ones. Of course, it's kind of bizarre that Cynthia DeWitt (in California) is described as a totally gorgeous actress who's always going on auditions for TV commercials and that Mrs. Barrett (soon to be Mrs. DeWitt) is also described as super hot as well. But not an actress.

Assessment of Dawn

As the BSC's resident sleuth? Fail. As a feminist? Fail. As an individual? Fail. I did really like this book back when I first read it because so many of the other so called BSC mystery books were pretty non mysterious (Mallory and the Ghost Cat and The Mystery at Claudia's House, I'm looking at you) or they were just plain unrealistic (pretty much all of the later ones). Still, for someone who supposedly loved mysteries/ghost stories so much, Dawn made a terrible detective. Dawn, go away. You're no good.


Because clowns figured so heavily in this book, a list of all the clowns that have ever creeped me out:

David Friedman (as in "Capturing the Friedmans")
Possible pedophile clown!

John Wayne Gacy (serial killer clown)
Yes, this guy would give me insomnia even if he wasn't a serial killer.

Ronald McDonald (the Joe Camel of the clown world)
He gets points off because he himself is less scary than one of his best friends. I'm talking, of course, about creepiness personified: the Grimace.

Binky the Clown from "Garfield" (creepy animated clown)
Don't look too deep into his eyes--you'll get sucked in!

Clarabell (old school creepy clown)
I have no words.