- The Vanishing Shadow (1932)
- The Haunted Attic (1932)
- The Invisible Chimes (1932)
- Seven Strange Clues (1932)
- The Ghost Parade (1933)
Published in the 1930’s, the Judy Bolton mysteries focus on 15-year-old Judy, who lives in a small town somewhere in New England, presumably upstate New York. The daughter of the town doctor, Judy is, in many ways, a typical teenager – but one with a knack for problem solving… and problems seem to come her way.
I first came across these books when I was about 15 myself. I picked one up in an antique store, and enjoyed the lighthearted, semi-ridiculous plot. After that, I began collecting them whenever I came across them, which is when I realized that, unlike many of the other mystery series from this era, Judy actually gets older throughout the series – by some of the later books, she’s married and setting up her own household! Somewhere in my late teens I read all of the books that I owned at the time, but I haven’t reread them in years, and have actually collected quite a few more since then, so there are several – especially the later books – that I have never read.
There are 35 books in the series, published over a course of almost thirty years. Since then, a few more have been added to the series – the most recent in 2012 – but I’m assuming that they weren’t written by the original author. I don’t own all 35 of the original, but I own most of them, and have the first 24 in order. At that point I’ll have to decide if it’s worth hunting up the rest, as the later books are rarer and more expensive.
The first five books have honestly been a hoot. They are wildly impractical. In The Vanishing Shadow Judy overhears a conversation between two dastardly villains, who then try to buy her silence. When she refuses, they kidnap her… and hold her prisoner until she promises not to tell anyone – and then they let her go! Then BEST part is… she doesn’t tell anyone! She feels bound by the honor of her word and has to work around her vow. Ah, for the days when people were so trustworthy!
The rest of the books are just as ridiculous. In The Invisible Chimes, Judy and her friends try to stop some criminals by forming a human chain across the road, forcing the villains to either run them over or run off the road! In The Ghost Parade, instead of waiting for a storm to pass, Judy and her friends race their boat through the islands in the midst of it!
But despite the fact that they’re a little absurd, these books are also great fun. Judy isn’t a perfect character, and I really like that about her. At times, she’s impatient, makes mistakes, and gets a little pouty. She feels like a genuine character who grows and changes, instead of just being a paper-cutout of a teenage girl detective. Her friends also have different back stories, although it always cracks me up when “regular” characters conveniently end up with a really rich friend, who in turn paves the way for everything to go smoothly. Yes, Judy comes from a workingman’s background… but her friend’s brother owns an airplane?? Not quite as middle-class as everyone pretends to be. ;-)
For the most part, these have been 3* and 3.5* reads. Enjoyable, entertaining, engaging – but nothing magnificent. I’m looking forward to reading the rest, though, and seeing how Judy’s life develops.
Also: The Vanishing Shadow was book #1 for my #20BooksofSummer challenge!