31 May 2020

Books Completed Since May 1

book icon  Star Trek FAQ 2.0: Everything Left to Know About the Next Generation, the Movies and Beyond, Mark Clark
For the Star Trek fan in all of us: Clark, author of Star Trek FAQ, is back with this volume covering the six classic Trek films and the concurrent Star Trek: the Next Generation, and also the Next Generation films, chronicling the development of the films and the then parallel development of the new series—the very idea of which the original series fans appeared to hate—along with the casting of a new crew who would carry on the ideals of Star Trek without its characters being carbon-copies of the original Enterprise crew. TNG eventually surprised everyone, especially the die-hard fans of the original series, despite the bumps of the first season, in becoming a new fan favorite, with the quiet, cerebral Captain Picard garnering a big fan following along with the android Data, who had been originally scoffed at.

Clark also investigates "Treks not taken," like the "Starfleet Academy" idea, and also how Gene Roddenberry, who began suggesting plotlines that others knew were unworkable or repetitious, was gently eased out of the series he created. Chapters cover each season of Next Generation, plus there are offerings on Star Trek foods, guest stars, crossovers, Data's most memorable episodes, notable episodes, Worf and the conversion of Klingons into allies, new enemies like the Ferengi and the Cardassians, amateur Trek productions, Next Generation novels, and even profiles of series producers and directors. A big treat for classic series/Next Gen fans. One wishes for a book like this about the other Star Trek series, especially Deep Space 9.

book icon  The Doggie in the Window, Rory Kress
After seeing a Wheaten terrier for the first time, Rory Kress knew she wanted one of her own. Not wanting to support puppy mills, she did copious research and then adopted a puppy from a store which had papers stating "Izzie" was born at the home of a reputable breeder who was certified by the USDA. Of course as a puppy Izzie had quirks, but they were just that, Rory thought, quirks, like people have, like being afraid of loud noises. But some years later Rory decided to investigate just what a USDA certification entailed—and it let her on a shocking trail.

I thought this book was a bit repetitive once the point was made, which is that a USDA certification doesn't mean squat. Of course they have rules about how animals have to be homed, fed, watered, and enriched, and basically they are bare minimum. Factory farms, where cows and pigs are kept in manure-caked pens all their lives and chickens are crowded into living spaces so small they have to have their beaks clipped so they don't peck each other to death, are also USDA certified. On her journey Rory visits pet shops and laboratories that work with animals; talks to puppy mill investigators, supposed "hoarders" giving up animals who are really puppy mill breeders in disguise, dog psychologists, and even actual responsible breeders; and, finally finds the place where Izzie came from: not the worst of puppy mills, but one nonetheless, despite that "USDA certification."

To be read by anyone who wants to buy a purebred or even one of these silly "designer breeds" (did you know the man who originally bred the "goldendoodle" now regrets doing it, because so many of the dogs are being bred irresponsibly?) to understand the conditions so many of these dogs are produced under.

book icon  Another Man's Moccasins, Craig Johnson
In Absaroka County, Wyoming, Walt Longmire is called in when the body of a dead Vietnamese girl is found. Even more curiously, she has Walt's name among her effects. While investigating the site, Walt turns up Virgil White Buffalo, a member of the Crow nation who has just been released from prison and is living in a cave nearby. Walt soon doesn't believe Virgil has anything to do with the crime, but wants to help him as he works on the puzzle of the young woman, who triggers flashbacks of his time in Vietnam as a Marine investigator, and his friendship with a young prostitute at a run-down bar and gambling joint. Once a Vietnamese man shows up in Absaroka County, searching for a lost granddaughter that he states is the dead woman, it seems part of the mystery might be solved...or does it just make the story more complicated?

Fascinating, but very tough, entry in this already excellent series, touching on past crimes and well as present, and filling in more of Walt Longmire's past. His Vietnam flashbacks are very real: the smells, the heat, the clamor, the squalor, the fear, the innocence destroyed. I grew up during the Vietnam era and watched dead and wounded men nightly on news reports, but Walt's up-front and personal experience have brought that even further to life. The story of Virgil White Buffalo is also well done and a little sad. 

book icon  America's Women: 400 Years of Dolls, Drudges, Helpmates, and Heroines, Gail Collins
Even though today we are hearing more about the contributions of women to world history, we still seem to hear about the same women: the famous (or the kept-from-being-famous, like Caroline Herschel and Dorothy Wordsworth) and the wealthy. In this overflowing summary, Collins tackles 400 years of the lives of mostly ordinary women: indentured servants, slaves, widows who inherited their husbands' businesses, pioneer wives, colonial midwives, Civil War women forced to manage after a husband or brother's death, the first pioneering "working women," war workers from both world wars, and the Milltown-slugging 50s housewives, starting with Eleanor Dare, who gave birth to the historic Virginia before both disappeared from history, to the teen girls of the late 1990s, fixated on their bodies.

I just loved this book, although in 400 pages to cover 400 years naturally nothing really gets studied in depth. You just can't do it. What this book is is a springboard: to finding a period of history or a career type that most interests you and then doing even more reading: women spies in the Revolutionary era? women of color becoming entrepreneurs? pioneer women coping with loneliness and overwork? 1920s flappers? wives of Tories? women of the 1890s hospitalized for nervous complaints? Whatever interested you in this book is out there in more detail, so enjoy the text and then hunt up whatever intrigued you most!

book icon  St. Nicholas, Volume XXV, May - October 1898, Century Publishing Company
This poor volume. It's in the worst shape of all my bound issues, the back completely falling apart. Had I the money, I'd get it rebound, or at least resewn. I ended up reading about half of it via digital copy on Google Books.

The serials are mostly a disappointment: we have "Two Biddicut Boys," begun in a previous volume, about two Connecticut lads duped into paying ten dollars for a trick dog that has one further trick: going back to its owner. They determine to make chase to get the dog or their ten dollars back, but it's a plodding narrative. "The Lakerim Athletic Club" (also joined in progress) is the seemingly endless saga of a dozen sports-obsessed boys who want to build a clubhouse. In the process each of the boys makes good at one sport, detailed in that particular entry, including, in the last part, a very funny entry where the club bookworm bests a professional golf player. The one cute serial (well, tolerable if you like tales about little girls and their ponies) is "Denise and Ned Toodles," the latter who is a clever Welsh pony. A nonfiction serial about pirates is also included.

"In Old Florence," little Japanese children, and weathervanes in Nantucket are covered in just some of the travel articles. "The Bumble Bee," "Tim: a Parrot Story," "Birds of Paradise," and modern diving methods highlight nature and science entries. Benjamin Franklin, Viking ships, the escape of privateer Miguel Pedro, photography landmarks, the at-the-time new queen of Holland, Wilhemina, and the amazing first-person "A Boy's Recollection of the Great Chicago Fire" are just some of the notable historical profiles.

"The Kingdom of Yvetot" tells a unique story about a family in France who have a tiny kingdom bequeathed to them due to an event in 1066. In "A Stamp-Collector's Experience," a man who finds a set of rare stamps and compares them with another set is promptly accused of theft. An etymological article traces the history of flower names, another language offering lists words that came from odd sources. "On Deck," from Carolyn Wells, contains the names of over 90 Shakespeare characters. "Uncle Sam's 'Farm' in Canada" talks about the tiny portion of the U.S. that thrusts up past the Canadian border at "Lake of the Woods." Since this was the time of the Spanish-American war, the July, August, and September issues have numerous articles about the ocean, from seafaring adventures to photos of the latest of US Navy ships to explanations of how storms form on the water. And "O-U-G-H, or the Cross Farmer" notes that the spelling and pronunciation of English words isn't just a modern conundrum!

book icon  The Wonderful Year, Nancy Barnes
The Martin family is moving to an orchard in Colorado!

The doctor says Mr. Martin, an attorney, has overworked himself, and must go do something else out in fresh air for a year or two. So the whole family—Dad, adventurous mother Jo, 12-year-old Ellen, the family horse Billy, the family terrier Bobby, the canaries and the goldfish, and all their furniture—hop a train to Mesa, Colorado, to try their hand at raising fruit for a couple of years. It's the early part of the 20th century (it's after 1912 because Ellen learns to play two currently popular songs on the piano: "Oh, You Beautiful Doll" and "Melancholy Baby") and Ellen eventually overcomes her reluctance to leave home and friends, especially after she befriends fifteen-year-old Ronnie Ferrington on the next farm, for to her surprise he treats her like an equal and doesn't tease like the boys she used to know. When her parents finally buy her a bicycle, Ellen's happiness is complete.

There are some scary adventures when Ellen encounters a snake and gets lost exploring the countryside on her own, but otherwise it's a year of happy discovery, and, as hinted at in the final few chapters, also a year of approaching adulthood.

Very ambling, sweet, slow-moving story about growing up, with a very unconventional mother character and an adventurous girl who's not invulnerable to crushes but who is definitely her own person and not tied to gender expectations of the pre-First World War years. Also, illustrated by Kate Seredy in the sketchy style in which she was known for then.

book icon  Becoming Mrs. Lewis, Patti Callahan
I knew of Joy Davidman Lewis from the film Shadowlands and from the books The Narnian and C.S. Lewis and Narnia for Dummies along with online bios of C.S. "Jack" Lewis, so I was interested in reading this novel of her friendship and then love for Lewis. I mostly enjoyed it, as it clearly illustrated how the pair intellectually stimulated each other through their letters and later through their personal relationship. You really got a feeling for Joy's increasing dismay into her disintegrating marriage (her husband, Bill Gresham, was an alcoholic and adulterer), her love of her two sons, and her admiration, first intellectually and then emotionally, for Lewis. Her descriptions of Oxford make me want to pull up stakes and move there. And the sad discovery of her real cause of chronic illness and its terrible repercussions are all too vivid.

However, it pretty much asks us to admire Joy as an independent woman who chose to make a change in her life when we would have criticized a man for exhibiting the same behavior. She pretty much walks out on her husband and kids, leaving them with her (as described by Joy) much more attractive cousin (and then seems surprised of nowhere that hubby and cousin get cozy together!) while she's enjoying herself in England with Jack Lewis, his brother Warnie, and Jack's friends. Then she does reclaim her sons and brings them to England, but the book glosses over the fact that while the younger, Douglas, loved Jack Lewis, England, and the whole arrangement, the older boy David disliked Lewis and the whole situation, and even today refuses to speak about it. Lewis, despite his eccentricities, seems almost too idealized as well.

book icon  The Great Abraham Lincoln Pocket Watch Conspiracy, Jacopo Della Quergia
This has to be the strangest alternative history/steampunk fantasy I've ever read. A couple of times I considered giving up on it, because some of the characters were just so strange, but on the other hand I wanted to know how it came out. Oddly enough, I'm not sure how it did!

Following real historic events, which are footnoted, the story follows President William Howard Taft, his opinionated and intelligent wife Nellie, his Secret Service guard Willkie, his personal friend and assistant Archibald Butt, and Robert Todd Lincoln (plus a supporting cast both historical and fictional) try to solve the riddle of an impossibly-manufactured pocket watch Robert inherited from his father (and which inadvertently may have caused his assassination), mysterious lights from an equally hush-hush mine in Alaska, and an attempt on the life of Nikola Tesla—and that's just for starters.

The book starts out with a crazy bang with the President in London participating in a wrestling match against five opponents, and winning. Then he has to race home because the automaton (a maligned unit created by Thomas Edison) that impersonates him when he's secretly off on Airship One, his state-of-the-art zeppelin, is malfunctioning and wrecking the White House. All this goes on before the mystery of the pocket watch ever starts, and then comes a mysterious Russian, a standoff at a secret lab at Yale, and finally the maiden voyage of the Titanic (with all this other stuff going on, you had to figure Titanic came into it somehow).

I like alternative history stories and historical stories, but this one was just too weird for me

book icon  The Joy of Being Disorganized, Pam Young
I'm disappointed.

So long ago, in the 1990s when one of those temporary overstock book sales lasted for over a year in an old clothing store near my office, I found the first of the organizing books by "the Sidetracked Sisters" Pam Young and Peggy Jones. Pam and Peggy were two untidy sisters, who, to the dismay of their clean-as-a-pin mother, were as kids and grew up to be slobs whose husbands were always late to work (despite working like crazy to help clean up the mess), their kids late to school, and they were late to everything and missed appointments and meetings because they never learned to corral their stuff properly and take charge of their time—until they formed an easily-followed index card-driven system to bring order and calm to their lives.

The two organizing books, a cookbook, and, my favorite, The Sidetracked Sisters' Happiness File (which anticipated Gretchen Rubin by thirty years) written by Pam and Peggy in a lively style were all great. This, written only by Pam (Peggy having retired due to bad health) is...not good. Basically it's a big long pep talk with a motherly narration, tedious folksy stories, and a big dollop of Christianity. The book itself looks self-published and distressingly cheap, with big fat type, wide margins, and widely spaced paragraphs. It's, frankly, dull, and I'm really glad I bought a cheap used copy instead of ordering a new one off Amazon.

book icon  Drop Dead Healthy, A.J. Jacobs
Have I mentioned lately that Julie Jacobs is a saint? (Not to mention their two patient sons!)

Yes, husband and dad A.J.'s on a new quest: to be as perfectly healthy as he can. And he's going to do it from top to toe. He begins with healthy eating, but covers everything from eyes and ears to hands and feet to glands and organs. Of course along the way he hits every health fad, from cleanses to vegetarianism to acupuncture to alternative medicines to that oldie-but-goodie, thoroughly chewing your food, and talks to some very sensible doctors, scientists, and other knowledgeable folks and a few really weird ones.

As I started this book I mused that this might not be as good as the first two books, but A.J. was sneaky: he paralleled his quest for good health with the failing health of his grandfather, a humorous, loveable guy whose deterioration with age as the narrative continues is painful to read. So this entry in A.J.'s experimental adventures is a bittersweet one, and, considering the conflicting health advice he gets from experts, an intriguing tale as well.

book icon  Star Trek: The Vulcan Academy Murders, Jean Lorrah
This was one of the first (#20) of the Pocket Books line of Star Trek novels, and written by Jean Lorrah, a beloved member of the original Trek fan community, author of one of the most well-known of the early fanzines, "Night of the Twin Moons," the first to concentrate on the relationship of Spock's parents. Lorrah later went on to write non-Trek fiction. I picked it up for a dime at a book sale. I think I was overcharged.

Saying that, I didn't find it as terrible as some reviewers did. I did appreciate the effort Lorrah made to further extrapolate the lives of Vulcans and the geography of the planet, not to mention discussing the non-Vulcans who lived and worked on the planet, including physician Daniel Corrigan and instructor Elenya Miller, who have to interact with the stoic (not emotionless) Vulcans every day.

Unfortunately, the book's mystery isn't very mysterious. The assailant is introduced early on, and there are blatant (at least to me) clues that led me to think "This person could be the killer" and then reject the very idea because this person, by their attitude, was absolutely too obvious and just couldn't be the one. Wrong. Then Captain Kirk basically deputizes himself to find the murderer. Jim Kirk is one hell of a captain. He's a terrible detective. He makes lists of suspects. Then lets his suspects see them. Seriously?

I'm also unsure if Lorrah herself put in all the breathless moments and the exclamation points. I've read other Lorrah; she never seemed this ...emotional. The text is sprinkled with !!!!!!!s everywhere. I'm thinking some "helpful" editorial assistant added them later to "add excitement," and all it does is make the story look like Amateur Hour.

Readable as a curiosity. Just don't pay too much!

book icon  St. Nicholas, Volume LVII, May through October 1930, Century Publishing Company, Scholastic Publishing Company
Well, this was it. With the May issue, "St. Nicholas" stepped out of one publishing company (The Century Company was killed by the Depression) and into another. The format of the magazine continued for two more issues, and then the boom really struck: only one serial, fewer stories, "The Watch Tower" and "Keeping Up With Science" halved in pages.

The stories about "boys and girls" were mostly about older teens, and mostly sporting older teens: tales had to do with golf, tennis, football, even a girl training a hound for foxhunting; there was also a teen sister cooking dinner for an uncle, another teen girl entering an art contest. Tommy Dane, the American boy living and working in Mexico, had a couple of outings, one with frantic gunplay; Felix, an older teen working at his first factory job, endures jibes for being slow, but he also has something an quicker employee does not; Hsiao Fu, a teen boy in China, has a return engagement in which he shows that helping others is not bad luck; and the serial is an interesting entry from Hildegarde Hawthorne (a frequent "Nick" contributor who was the granddaughter of Nathaniel), "The Navajo CaƱon [note spelling!] Mystery" in which the Native characters are treated with relative respect, for all that they speak in some sort of weird patois where they mix up their "L" and "R" pronunciations, the protagonists two older teens who have driven a jalopy of their own construction across country. There's also "Kin to the Woods: A Story of the Tennessee Cumberlands," whose ecological theme is still current today. The Great War is still a subject in "How Shorty Got the Iron Cross" as well as in "Keewah," the story of a range horse who finds himself on the battlefield.

The nonfiction devotes a good deal of time to aircraft and flying, at least one article in each issue, including one in which both boys and girls are encouraged to get into piloting gliders (oh, I can see helicopter parents blanching about this now; one of the girls they feature is only thirteen!). Another article talks about the fun both sexes can have with a small outboard motor. Several of the nonfiction pieces are nature stories about an animal told from their point of view, including one about a trout named Flash. Richard Byrd is still being lauded for his flight over Antarctica.

Sadly, an excellent article about training your hunting dog is marred at the beginning with a joke about lazy dogs told by "two darkies." Not to mention there's a "Rastus" joke in the "Just for Fun" column in the October issue, showing that "St. Nicholas" unfortunately was not free of the adult bigotry that ran rampant at that time. It's always jarring when these instances come up, because the magazine is otherwise written at such a high level of intelligence.

book icon  World War II Rhode Island, Christian McBurney, Brian L. Wallis, Patrick T. Conley, John W. Kennedy
This is a slim but dense volume of different essays about World War II in the Ocean State (or "Little Rhody," as it was nicknamed back then). Opening and closing pieces address how the citizens of the state received the news of Pearl Harbor and of VJ Day, but the rest talk about war events specific to the state. Most obviously, there is the story of the Naval Air Station at Quonset Point that later gave its name to the utilitarian metal building known in the US as a "Quonset hut," plus the torpedo station and Naval college in Newport. Davisville, near Quonset, was the home of the "Seabees," the Naval engineers. There are also articles on women war workers, plus the daycare workers who watched over their children, and the Liberty Ship shipyards, but the most intriguing pieces are about the prisoner-of-war camps in the state, one which was just a POW camp, the other which was an indoctrination camp which prepared Germans for postwar life: teaching them that Hitler was wrong in his bigotry against Jews, that countries other than Germany were not "decadent" and barbaric (this was particularly necessary for the young soldiers who were brainwashed early as part of the Hitler Youth). Interesting reading for all Rhode Islanders!

book icon  The National Review Treasury of Children's Literature, edited by William F. Buckley
I first came upon this, and its companion volume via a reference to "St. Nicholas." And indeed, all but two of the stories in this volume are from that magazine. So, since I have all these magazines, why would I order the same stories in these volumes?

Alas, because I am a "St. Nicholas" purist, it  had to be. Luckily I found excellent secondhand copies at low prices. And once again I was seduced by the content: two of Alcott's "Spinning Wheel" stories, one with a plucky girl heroine Tabby Turnbull; two Jack London offerings; several of Palmer Cox's Brownie poems and adorable illustrations (also Carolyn Wells' "Happychaps," which appear to be little insects); a good collection of fairy stories, including a selection from Lewis Carroll's Sylvia and Bruno; two Native American legends; fables like "Noll and Antoonje"; two stories from The Jungle Book (which Rudyard Kipling was encouraged to write by the editors of "St. Nicholas"); even novella-length treats like Tom Sawyer Abroad (which still reads to me like Mark Twain got bored after ten chapters and just abruptly ended it) and Sir Marrok, about Arthurian-era Sherwood Forest.

The one real curiosity here is Buckley's attempt to write a "St. Nicholas"-like story about a boy who learns a lesson, "The Temptation of Wilfred Malachey." It's set modern-day with computers, but has young Wilfred (the son of an impoverished writer nevertheless determined Wilfred get a good education) going to boarding school and, finding he has no funds to treat his fellow wealthy classmates, beginning to steal from them. Then he finds gold: one of the teachers appears to have a computer that grants wishes! One reads it wondering just what Buckley was trying to get at.

book icon  Re-read: Have His Carcase, Dorothy L. Sayers
Two years after her trial for murder, Harriet Vane is still unsettled by what happened to her and stuck with a fine case of writer's block. To relax she takes a walking tour of the southwest coast of England, only to find a man with his throat cut by a straight razor on a rock near the surf. By the time she reaches the nearest town, Wilvercombe, the body has been washed away by the tide, but Harriet dutifully reports the crime to the police. The news makes the papers and Lord Peter Wimsey arrives to see if he can be of help solving the crime, something Harriet is both interested and repelled at doing, especially after sad, fortyish widow Mrs. Weldon, staying at the same posh hotel the murdered man worked at, confesses to the mystery writer that the dead man was her young Russian fiance who had escaped the Soviet Union and she feels his death was caused by Bolsheviks.

Lord Peter and Harriet's sleuthing (ably aided by Wimsey's manservant and best friend Mervyn Bunter, the local Inspector Umpelty, Peter's old friend reporter Salcombe Hardy, and even London Inspector Charles Parker) is delightful, with them sharing a repartee along the lines of Nick and Nora Charles, save that Harriet is still firm about refusing Peter's marriage proposals. The evidence is complicated by a hiker, a camper driving a three-wheeled Morris, a woman in a red motorcar with a funny license plate, a drunken itinerant hairdresser (we would call him a barber), a couple of seagoing locals who are acting mysteriously, the other dancers at the hotel, Mrs. Weldon's exasperated farmer son, and even an escaped horse. Tide tables and a secret code make this a suitably complex murder mystery, even if it doesn't advance Lord Peter's "case" much.

book icon  Lord Darcy: Murder and Magic, Too Many Magicians, Lord Darcy Investigates, Randall Garrett
A friend has been recommending these to me for years, so when this omnibus copy showed up for a buck at the book sale, why not? It's the mid-1960s on an alternate Earth where (a) magic works and science is viewed with skeptical amusement and (b) Richard the Lionheart never died from the wound sustained in the Crusades, so England and France never parted ways and a Plantagenet still sits on the combined throne of the Anglo-French Empire. Lord Darcy (his first name unknown) is an investigator for Prince Richard, the brother of John IV, the King. Darcy, who vaguely resembles Sherlock Holmes (and perhaps Heathcliff), partners with an overweight red-haired master magician, Sean O Lochlainn, to investigate crimes. The volume presents eight of the ten Lord Darcy short stories (more like novellas) and the one Darcy novel.

I love the world-building in these stories up to a point. The result of the Plantagenet line continuation through Prince Arthur seems very real. Also the "magic" having definite rules rather than just appearing (forgive the pun) "like magic" makes the situation much more believable. The mysteries themselves are excellent; Garrett loves locked room tales and it shows in his complicated plots (although one seems borrowed from Dorothy Sayers and another from Agatha Christie—but with a twist in the latter).

Darcy is...interesting, but I never get a sense of him as a real person. To me he compares less favorably to someone like Lord Peter Wimsey, who became more fully rounded as each novel was released. Darcy seems more an idealized (handsome, athletic, intelligent yet intuitive) character, very two-dimensional. Master Sean, who operates as his forensic assistant rather than a "Watson," is more interesting, but if Garrett had called him "the tubby Irish sorcerer" one more time I was going to scream. I preferred the short stories to Too Many Magicians, which I felt was overlong, although it does introduce Mary, Dowager Duchess of Cumberland, who seems rather sweet on Darcy and who I enjoyed. Magicians, unfortunately, also introduces a fascinating character, Lord John Quetzal, who's a magician from this universe's version of Mexico, and who disappears halfway through the book, as if Garrett had changed the end and not made accommodation for him. (Also, if the Marquis of London and Lord Bontriumphe are based on Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin, I'll guarantee you I'll never read a Wolfe novel. Two more annoying characters I've never read.)

Something else bothered me: I understand that the magic of the Darcy world has basically retarded the development of technology, but they developed some technology—steam trains, a version of the telephone, telegraphs, even a primitive magic-battery-powered flashlight—and then quit. Somehow I can't see 1966 still having horses, carriages, gaslight, etc. Seems odd to reach a level of technology and then just quit

Still, recommended if you like fantasy elements in your mysteries.

book icon  The Happy Hollisters at Pony Hill Farm, Jerry West
A wooden horse leads to a real one in this complicated (well, for a kids' book) entry in the Hollister series. The kids—12-year-old Pete, 10-year-old Pam, Ricky (age 7), Holly (age 6), and 4-year-old Sue—wish to buy an Appaloosa (not capitalized in the story) rocking horse at an auction of a recently-deceased Shoreham resident. At the auction they meet Chuck, the dead man's nephew, who never knew his uncle and was hoping to find out something more about him. The kids later find a clue in the rocking horse of a possible inheritance for Chuck, but by then the boy has left town. Soon they're preoccupied with an invitation to visit a place called Pony Hill Farm—where, presto, a lost Appaloosa filly shows up. Could she have something to do with the rocking horse the kids bought?

If you say "no," you haven't read enough Happy Hollisters books!

How you react to this one depends on your tolerances for one whopping coincidence. It's nonstop action (and Joey Brill gets his at least once, praise the Lord!) in which the girls shine, especially Holly, who handles a big quarter horse and some trick riding with ease. If you've read a couple of the few stories where only the boys go on ahead to track the bad guys and the girls stay back where it's "safe," this one has a great rib-tickling high-five of a denouement!