The Mystery of Trixie:
Investigating the Mystery of the Uninvited Guest

by Jenni Johns, submitted for publication in The Whispered Watchword in April 2002.

She’s impatient, impulsive, impetuous and impressive. She’s the schoolgirl shamus who relies on hunches, an inquisitive nature and the help of her brothers and friends to solve baffling mysteries. Trixie Belden has been called the character that girls could most relate to; a teenager with a normal home and normal problems. However, once the die was cast, how much more was there to find out about our favourite detective? Some ghost writers introduced Trixie’s jealous streak, some developed her budding relationship with Jim, but did we really get to know her any better? In The Mystery of the Uninvited Guest, ghost writer Gladys Baker Bond was able to add greater depth and allow a deeper insight into Trixie Belden by creating a multi-layered story in which there are two mysteries and two uninvited guests.

Every good story has conflict and The Mystery of the Uninvited Guest begins with Trixie accusing a female of spying on her from her room, and the reader as confused as her brothers are as to the cause of her outburst. It is soon revealed that Trixie believes her cousin Hallie is the culprit, but she had been keeping her cousin Hallie’s visit a secret from her brothers as she hadn’t been able to deal with her own feelings about Hallie’s impending visit. Immediately, the reader sees a side of Trixie they haven’t seen before and while a loyal reader may feel some sympathy for Trixie, it’s not a side of her that one could like:

Trixie was glad Hallie’s grin didn’t include dimples. Her mouth was wide and thin-lipped. With relief at having found a flaw, Trixie began to relax. Then an imp inside her head whispered, Does everybody like dimples, or do you think so just because you have them? (p. 18)

Now this was not the generous, friendly detective the reader had grown to love. Just what was wrong with Trixie Belden? Trixie becomes more frantic and more upset as she tries to work out what has happened with Hallie’s luggage and just who was using the binoculars that she saw in her bedroom window. An outburst of temper leads to a reprimand by her father and Trixie struggles to calm herself down, and when she does the reader is given a clue to what was troubling Trixie:

Now she sensed that no matter what adventure grew from the suitcase mix-up, Trixie Belden faced the biggest mystery of all, the mystery of self – the enormously important question, Who am I? (p. 25)

Whoa! Hang on, this was supposed to be a light-hearted book for children/teenagers! When did Trixie Belden start getting so philosophical? What this passage suggests is that Bond was trying to make Trixie a character that teenagers could relate to, and the reader becomes aware that not only is there a traditional “physical” mystery for Trixie to solve, but also an emotional mystery which may put our heroine’s ability and patience to the test.

In the following chapters, both the physical and emotional mysteries develop. The mystery of the suitcase mix-up is quickly solved, but the mystery of what Bobby saw with the binoculars remains. The Bob-Whites also become entangled in a string of thefts when Di’s house is burgled and Trixie’s emotional mystery intensifies as she struggles to cope with her cousin’s presence. This allows Bond to draw the reader deeper into the story as they are hooked, as always, by the traditional mystery, but also find Trixie’s behaviour compelling because she is in a situation that most readers would find familiar:

Trixie saw that Hallie was watching and listening. Like the new child on a playground, Hallie wanted in on the activity, but she wasn’t sure what game was being played. Well, Trixie thought, I’m not sure I want her in the game! (p. 39)

Hallie certainly appears to be fulfilling the role of the uninvited guest, but in chapter five another uninvited guest appears when the Wheelers receive a strange phone call from a Miss Ryks, asking to attend the wedding of Jim’s cousin. Everyone is baffled by the request, but strangely Miss Ryks is allowed to attend and Trixie adds another unseemingly related mystery to her list. It is then that the interpretation of the title becomes clearer to the reader, but it is still uncertain what role Hallie will play in the mysteries Trixie must solve.

Bond uses Hallie as a tool to explore Trixie’s insecurities and inner feelings, providing her with more of a personal voice than any author has given her before. There is a greater emphasis on description of thought rather than dialogue in this book, which allows the reader a better insight into what is going on in Trixie’s head. What the reader discovers is not the perfect teenage girl but a teenager who often lacks confidence:

Thinking deeply, she tried to make sense of her violent reaction to Hallie’s arrival… With or without company, just keeping her balance during the coming weeks was going to be almost more than Trixie could manage. For the first time, the Bob-Whites of the Glen were to take part in a wedding. Trixie was to be maid of honour when Jim’s cousin, Juliana Maasden, married Hans Vorwald, a young attorney from Amsterdam. Each time she thought of walking down the aisle, Trixie shivered nervously. Hallie couldn’t have chosen a more inconvenient time to visit. (p. 32-33)

This passage suggests Hallie again as the uninvited guest, whose acts provoke Trixie’s insecurities. Trixie also feels that Hallie is competing against her to solve the mystery of the wheelchair Bobby saw with the binoculars and to find out more about the strange Miss Ryks.

By this time, Trixie was sizzling. Here stood the Belden-Wheeler Detective Agency in person – both persons – without a chance to get a word in edgewise. Who did Hallie Belden think she was? (p. 72-73)

It would be easy for the reader to resent Hallie, given the effect she has on Trixie, but she really is so similar to our heroine that it is hard to dislike her. Hallie tries desperately to fit in with the Bob-Whites and Trixie is reluctant to include her. However, Trixie realises that she can’t exclude Hallie from what is going on around her and eventually sees that she needs Hallie to help solve the mysteries she faces.

The tension between Trixie and Hallie reaches its climax in the middle of the book when the two girls argue over Hallie’s involvement in the mystery. There is a heated exchange that results in Hallie bursting into tears, and Trixie realises that Hallie is as vulnerable and insecure as she is:

To Trixie’s surprise, tears ran down Hallie’s brown face. In alarm, Trixie asked, “Is – is something wrong?” She’d never seen Hallie Belden cry.
Hallie swiped at the tears with the back of a hand. “That’s the first time you have said ‘sorry’ when you didn’t have to,” she gulped. (p. 104)

From that moment, the tension between Hallie and Trixie disappears and their relationship is assisted by the disappearance of Juliana’s ring and then the disappearance of Dan Mangan. The search to find Dan and their belief that he did not steal Juliana’s ring brings the two girls closer together. Trixie now seems more in tune with Hallie’s feelings and makes an effort to include her in her investigations, also realising that she needs as much help as she can get. Finally, Trixie reaches out to Hallie and the two girls confide in each other and realising they are both struggling to find out who they are and where they belong:

Almost shyly, Hallie asked, "Do you ever wonder who you are?"
"Yes. You, too?" Trixie asked softly.
"Do you sometimes feel like you're standing with a cold wind blowing? You shout into the wind, but your words get pushed back down your throat. you know you'll keep swallowing your own words till you can answer the question, 'Who am I?' But there's no one to tell you the answer."
Hallie sounded so lost and lonely that Trixie's eyes misted. "I don't know much about mountaintops," she said. "I have the feeling that I'm in a glass box. All the people in the world march past me, but I can't join them because of the glass. I know that when I can tell just one person who I am, the glass will melt and I can join the parade. It's hard being a teenager, isn't it?" (p. 184-185)

Trixie doesn’t actually solve the mystery of who she is, but with Hallie’s help she is able to better understand herself and her behaviour and with it comes a sense of resolution. Typically, the resolution of the “physical” mystery follows soon afterwards and it is perhaps not surprising that the author gives Trixie a break and allows Hallie to be captured. This leaves Trixie to save the day, the wedding presents, and Hallie and Dan, and the real uninvited guest goes to prison.

In The Mystery of the Uninvited Guest, ghost writer Gladys Baker Bond gave more depth to the character of Trixie Belden by presenting her with both physical and emotional mysteries to solve. Bond has Trixie tackle difficult questions about herself by using one uninvited guest to force her to look within herself and give the reader a deeper insight into Trixie’s character. The reader was treated to the traditional mystery, but also given the opportunity to explore a mystery of their own as they read along and empathised with Trixie, perhaps even asking themselves the question: Who am I? Perhaps it was Bond’s desire that by reading this book, the reader would get to know themselves, and Trixie, a little better.

The End

Author’s note: The article refers to page numbers in the 1977 edition of this book that I own. Thanks to Meagan Ladhams Zieba for her editorial comments.
There’s a lot more I wanted to say about this book that I couldn’t fit into this article, but hope it will prompt you to consider the book from another perspective. I welcome your thoughts and comments: