Friday, July 11, 2014

BSC Mystery #3: Mallory and the Ghost Cat

By Ann M. Martin, ghostwritten by Ellen Miles. Published February 1992.

Can we just start with the title and plot? It’s like they started running out of ideas by the third book in the mystery series. Poor Mal, always getting the shaft.

That’s certainly how she begins the book. She has sole responsibility for her siblings. I…don’t understand this. Why is there not another sitter there? I understand Mrs. Pike is at a meeting that’s running late, but presumably she’s already been there a while. The fact that they normally have to have two sitters is never mentioned. And normally they make such a big deal out of this.

Anyway, Mal, with Claire’s help, is getting dinner ready. English muffin pizzas. Her parents are super grateful when they get home, and then call a family meeting for after dinner. Mr. Pike’s Uncle Joe has recently moved to Stoneybrook, to the nursing home, Stoneybrook Manor. They’ve decided to invite him to stay with them for a while. He’ll stay in the den. The little kids are excited at first, until their dad tells him the people at the home have said he gets cranky and depressed. Mal just worries that they won’t need her to sit anymore if he’s there. Yeah, I’m sure he wants to spend his golden years sitting. But her mother assures her they’ll always need her. Well, that’s a bit of a frightening prospect.

New client time! The Craines need a regular sitter for their three girls, while their aunt, who normally watches them, is dealing with a broken leg. And, surprise surprise, Mal gets the job.

Mr. Pike drives Mal to her first job at the Craines’, and insists on walking her to the door. Mal is all embarrassed, but remembers Kristy saying recently that it was a good idea to have a parent or someone meet new clients. It’s certainly a fine idea, but do we ever see this happen again? I’ll keep an eye out.

Mr. Craine doesn’t seem to think any less of Mallory, though. He introduces her to the girls, Margaret, Sophie, and Katie. Cute names. They’re six and under. They continue drawing for a while, and then Mal gets them all down for a nap. She starts to read once they’re asleep, but is distracted by a meowing sound. She tries to ignore it, but then worries it’s hurt or trapped or something. She looks everywhere for it, but can’t find it. Later, once the girls are awake and drawing again, Mal asks where their cat usually hides, and Margaret tells her they don’t have a cat.

The Pike kids are overly excited the morning of Uncle Joe’s arrival. I do not understand that at all. I would never have even been comfortable, let alone excited, about some old guy I’ve never met moving into my home.

While the adults go pick up Uncle Joe, they leave Mal in charge, and this time she does address the “normally two sitters” rule, but says that since it would only be an hour or so, it would be ok. Really? A lot of shit can happen in an hour. Wtf, Pikes?

Fortunately, nothing does happen, they all just get ready for a big welcome for Uncle Joe. But when the adults get there, Uncle Joe does not seem impressed. He just seems old and tired. And he does not seem to like kids. Which, in Stoneybrook, is sacrilege.

Mal is happy to be out of the house, at the Craines’ again. While she and the girls are making cookies, Mal hears the meowing again. This time, the girls hear it, too. They look all over the first and second floors, but find nothing. They wonder if they have a ghost cat. Then Margaret says they haven’t been in the attic yet. They venture up there, and while shining the flashlight around, a streak of white rushes by them, and Margaret runs after it. When Mal catches up, Margaret does, indeed, have a white cat. It must have gotten in through a hole in the rafters. The girls ask their mother if they can keep it, and she agrees that they can. They have already named it Ghost Cat. But they will look for it’s owner, too.

The Pikes decide they need two sitters for the night, so Claudia comes over. She introduces herself to Uncle Joe, and calls him just that, and he says, “My name is Mr. Pike”, and something about young people having no respect for their elders. Claudia is shocked. Mal pulls her into the kitchen, and Claudia says he’s a mean old man! Actually, Claud, I love you and all, but it is actually poor manners to address him so casually upon first meeting him.

They all sit down to their super boring dinner (only bland meals while Uncle Joe is there), and the kids are actually really quiet for them, but they do a couple of little things. Uncle Joe gets irritated and goes to his room. So the Pike kids ditch their boring dinners and raid the kitchen. Margo worries about Uncle Joe being sad, and then comes up with the idea to bring him milk and cake, and for her and Claire to put on their play for him. So they let them do it. When Mal checks in later, the girls are performing, not noticing that Uncle Joe has fallen asleep. But the plate and glass are empty, at least.

The Craine girls take Mal to the laundry room to show Ghost Cat to her the next time she sits. That’s where he stays all the time. Otherwise he runs and hides somewhere. But, maybe he’d get more comfortable if you’d just let him hide until he was ready? It makes me sad thinking about him stuck in a tiny little room all the time. Anyway, he does indeed escape and hide when they open the door. So it’s time for another cat hunt. Mal doesn’t think he got in the attic, but Sophie suggests it, so they look there. They don’t find the cat, but they do find a hatbox of letters.

Mal takes it downstairs, and reads the letters to the girls, and they’re really interested, because the writer, Kennedy Graham, adopts a white cat, names him Tinker, and they become best friends. Tinker later dies, though, and Kennedy was distraught, and constantly thought he heard meowing. They also find a picture of Kennedy, a rugged man with white hair and a scratch under his eye. Then, they hear a meow themselves, from the attic. Mal checks, but there’s nothing there. Ghost Cat, however, is back in the laundry room, like he’s been there all along.

Ok, so Uncle Joe is not doing so well. He makes weird little collections of stuff all over the house, gets time confused, and forgets Mr. Pike’s name. One day he disappears, and a neighbor finds him in her house, asleep on the couch. But what finally does it, is Margo gets up one night to go to the bathroom, and she runs into Uncle Joe in the hall, fully dressed in his suit. She totally freaks out.

The next day, Mr. Pike tells the others that they’re going to cut his visit short. They can’t give him the care he needs. And now he fills us in on the fact that the nursing home said he was showing signs of Alzheimer’s, and asked him to watch for symptoms. Umm, yeah, pretty sure that’s happening.

Mallory enlists the help of Dawn, super ghost hunter, to come help with the search at the Craines’. Dawn does a bunch of stupid shit, but it appears that Ghost Cat is real. While the little girls are petting him, both Mal and Dawn hear a meowing from upstairs. But before they can react, the phone rings. It’s a guy calling about an ad the Craines put in the paper about the cat. The guy describes Ghost Cat perfectly, and says its name is Rasputin. Mal says he can come by that evening. But the guy says he’s out of town; he can be there in two days. Mal thinks this is weird. She wonders how he saw the paper.

Uncle Joe’s last day at the Pike house is actually a good one for him. Mal is shocked to find Nicky sitting on his lap, with Uncle Joe doing magic tricks for him. He says he knows Mal is surprised, and apologizes for taking so long to get used to them. Then he does tricks for all the kids. Mr. Pike is glad to see this, but says one good day doesn’t really mean anything. Stoneybrook Manor is still the best place for him.

Mal is still at the Craines’ when Rasputin’s owner comes to pick him up. She and the girls follow Mr. Craine to the door, and they’re shocked to see that he looks exactly like the picture of Kennedy Graham. Margaret and Sophie think both he and the cat are ghosts. Mal can’t argue with them.

The Pikes all go to visit Uncle Joe, and they get him on a particularly good day. He’s happy to see them, and introduces them as his family. He shows them around Stoneybrook Manor, and they all stay for dinner. Turns out, he probably hated the food at the Pikes’, because he whips out a bottle of hot sauce, saying he can’t stand boring food.

Mal goes over to the Craines’. Even though their aunt is better, they still want to see Mallory some, too. The girls surprise her with a cat of their very own. They got her from the shelter. Yay! She’s a gorgeous cat, white with blue eyes, so she’s deaf. Just like Jessi learned. I looked it up, and it is a 65-85 percent chance of deafness in them.

The girls have named her Tinkerbell, after the original Tinker. And Margaret informs Mallory that ever since they got her, there hasn’t been any meowing coming from upstairs.


Yeah, so there were no actual mysteries solved in this book. Just weird things happening, that went away.

o   Mallory fills us in on a deep, dark secret. She and Jessi sometimes pretend to be horses. Oh, my. While it is nice to see them not acting all mature, I still think it’s a little weird. I was nowhere near as mature as these girls are supposed to be at eleven, but I would have been mortified to have even been caught thinking about doing that.

o   Mal is reading A Wrinkle in Time, and she says it’s too difficult to describe. But she thinks it will be really good. What a ringing endorsement for such a kick-ass book.

o   Ok, I’m twelve years old. This line out of context is fantastic. “My bed was soon a mass of squirming, giggling, shrieking boys.”

o   The Craine girls have Simpsons, Barbie, and Muppet Babies sleeping bags. That is shockingly modern for the BSC. And seriously, were Muppet Babies the shit, or were they not? (They totally were.)

o   Oh my goodness, and then the Pike boys are rapping. Ellen Miles, what have you done to our Pleasantville-like innocence?!

o   And yet another house (not to mention another Mallory book) where people have left an attic full of stuff throughout the years. I’ve never had a proper attic like they always have, or an old house, so I don’t know. But do people really do that?

o   Good lord, there’s a lot of random shit in this book! Anyway, Kristy sits for the Kormans (it was too boring to mention before) and they have fishsticks, which Melody doesn’t like. So Kristy lets “Melody pick at her bun, as long as she ate a little salad”. Wait…what? How the hell are you supposed to eat fishsticks? On a fucking bun? I have never heard of that.

o   They really need to do something to get Margo’s motion sickness under control. She throws up twice before they even leave the neighborhood. This sounds like a serious problem.


  1. I think it's fairly common for people to leave stuff behind in attics or basements, especially in older homes. I imagine it gets mentioned in passing like "oh there was some stuff in the attic when we moved in and we just left it up there"...what do you say to that?

    Great re-cap! I always remember when the girls made cookies together and the youngest made something disgusting. That sentence always grossed me out and I tried to skip over it when re-reading. And remember when Mal meets Aunt Bud and thinks she will be offered a beer? Oh Mal!

    1. I would freaking love to move into a house and find a bunch of old stuff. But then, I love junk.

      On the surface, that sentence doesn't seem too bad, it's just describing a gray-looking lump of dough. But when you really think about what you would have to do to get dough GRAY, well...

      And yes, Mal worries because Aunt Bud rides a motorcycle. OBVIOUSLY that means she's into underage drinking.

  2. Isabel EscalanteJuly 13, 2014 at 6:37 PM

    My very first BSC book! I was in the third grade, and one of my friends was reading this book... since I'm a cat lover, it caught my attention. She let me borrow it, and after that, I was totally hooked on BSC books.

  3. In Claudia's defense, she's used to Mimi and Nannie, who have everyone call them Mimi and Nannie (my granny is the same way). But yeah...I hope she learns to start with more formal titles unless told otherwise.

    Good point about Margo. I wonder if she ever needs IV fluids or stuff like that.