Friday, March 13, 2009

Secret Messages & Mysterious Codes

Mr. Stratton straightened. His smile faded. “Now, who is to be spokesman?”

“I am,” said Trixie. Jim was co-president of the Bob-Whites, but Trixie usually did the talking.

“Trixie, the School Board doesn’t want secret societies to exist in Sleepyside schools, when clubs – really gangs – can be the source of so much trouble. The board feels…that your club will have to disband.”

“We couldn’t!” Trixie almost shouted…

Most people can think of a book that impacted them. In my case, Trixie Belden forever changed my fiction reading, and especially #7, The Mysterious Code. The section above is from the back cover. The series, first from the 60’s and 70’s, featured spunky Trixie, her brothers, their wealthy friends, lots of horseback riding and the crimes they solved in their Sleepyside town. Trixie had a crush on Jim, and in #7, he gets her a corsage for a Valentine’s Day event. Here began my love of a few things including romantic suspense and codes.

The Trixie books seemed more real than Nancy Drew, as Trix made lots of mistakes and got in trouble a lot. She was terrible at household chores. I won’t say why that seemed more real. No one can say these books are multicultural or politically correct, especially the Asian brothers portrayed in #7, but it was a beloved series for me and many other. Author Denise Swanson has a Trixie Frayne (what her name would have been had she married Jim) in her series as a tribute. I even saved up the back page ads of those books when I was young for a t-shirt. I see those now on Ebay for big bucks.

My favorite Sherlock Holmes is The Adventure of the Dancing Men. I still have an old copy of the children’s book Alvin’s Secret Code by Hicks. Puzzles and codes always fascinate me, and I busily made strips of paper to wrap around sticks with my friends when I was younger (to read vertically). I set some papers on fire trying to brown lemon juice messages on them.

While my handwriting now seems like a code to lots of folks, I miss the note passing and other forms of coding I did when I was younger. Texting is not the same! I was delighted that the cover of Missing is a jigsaw puzzle, and I promptly had a puzzle made from the cover photo when it came. Puzzles are the closest I get to my secret message days.

What got you into mysteries?

-Amy Alessio

Amy Alessio is a YA librarian and author. Her most recent short story is featured in Echelon Press's new mystery anthology, Missing. Amy has a personal blog, Vintage Cookbooks. She also blogs for the Love is Murder conference and for Echelon Press’s Teen Scene.


  1. I was a diehard Agatha Christie fan. I didn't socialize in high school [too shy!] and would hide out in my math class during lunch and read AC mysteries. I distinctly remember my mom checking out Curtain, Hercule Poirot's last mystery, from the library and her being so sad about it being the last. That impacted me and that's when i started reading them myself.

  2. Trixie Belden was my favorite, too! Wish I had kept them.

  3. I inherited a box of Trixie Belden books from my cousins in Texas. I kept them. I don't have the complete series but I loved those books.

  4. I loved Nancy Drew--think I was too old when Trixie Belden came started. (Remember, I'm the great-grandma of the group.)

    Frankly, I always saw a mystery in everything.

    a.k.a. F. M. Meredith

  5. I'm glad you posted, Marilyn, because I didn't have a clue about Trixie! I was a Nancy Drew fan, too (and a grandma)

    Great post, Amy. I've learned about a great new mystery series!


  6. I loved Trixie best too! I still have my old ones from when I was a kid. In fact, I'm having to replace them now because they're so worn out. *g*

  7. I loved Trixie Belden! I don't even remember how I found her, except that I'd read my way through Nancy Drew and needed something new to read. :) I liked her better because she wasn't perfect and was closer to my age at the time.

    Usually when I mention the series, people have never heard of her! Good to see I'm not alone. :)

  8. I'm glad to see so many others of you still have your Trixies! (Deb you are welcome to borrow mine!) I still see a few of the Julie Campbell hardcovers at antique stores, but mostly I have the paperback with the oval pictures on the cover.

    I also loved the one about the velvet gown which was later in the series. Great comments!

  9. I'm thrilled by the post about my friend Trixie, and specifically book #7 which to this day remains my favorite. Even gave a copy to a friend named Bob White (who had never heard of the series). Trixie's my fave, because she could never quite control that temper. I still collect them, along with Connie Blair, and the Three Investigators.

  10. Count me among the Trixie Belden readers. I had an entire shelf in my bedroom dedicated to the series and it was imperative that my dad take me out and buy the newest one. When I moved away from home when I was 17 I sold all of my books at a garage sale and oh, how I kick myself for that now! But I have recently begun recollecting the TB books in hardcover.
    I agree with the comment about Trixie seeming more real. I think that was what appealed to me as well. As a twelve-year-old she seemed like, well, me and I thought of all the great adventures I could experience.

  11. Coming late to the party.

    Trixie was my hero. I now refer to her as the thinking girl's Nancy Drew.

    But I never liked the post-syndication (aka Kathryn Kenny) books, so my heart belongs only to the first six, by Julie Campbell.

    I got rid of them all when I was 16 (oh, what a fool I was...) but have now reassembled the 6, thanks to ebay. When I got my hands on my first reclaimed copy, The Gatehouse Mystery, I read it with a positive orgy of nostalgia.

    Hee hee, I just noticed my verification word is "tutor", as in Jim and Brian had to tutor Trixie in English and Math over the Christmas holidays, so they could all go to Arizona.