Original Publication Date: 1989
Mallory, Stacey, and Claudia explore the attic in Stacey's new house. It's full of things previous owners have left behind, including a trunk which Mallory is allowed to keep. It's mostly full of antique clothes, but Mallory also finds the diary of a twelve-year-old girl written in 1894. She's fascinated reading about it, and becomes more intrigued when she reads about the titular mystery.
Sophie (the diary's author) discovers in March that her mother is expecting a second child, but will have to be on bedrest until October, when the baby's due. She gives birth to a son named Edgar (like my husband's cat), but dies three days later. Sophie's grandfather, who we later learn is Old Hickory, is furious with Sophie's father, Jared, who he believes selfishly got his daughter pregnant when she was too weak. He's so upset that he write Jared, Sophie, and Edgar out of his will, though he does allow them to continue living their home, which he owns (and later, Stacey's mom owns). Then a painting of Sophie's mother disappears from Old Hickory's house, and the blame falls on Jared. He's essentially blacklisted. Sophie vows to clear her father's name, but the diary ends without resolution.
Meanwhile, the BSC is helping tutor Buddy Barrett in reading. Mallory does most of the work, and helps make reading fun for him. He too is intrigued by the mystery and reads Sophie's diary. He finds nothing helpful there, but searches the trunk, in which he finds Old Hickory's confession: he had the portrait of his daughter painted over but was too embarrassed to admit it, so he let the town think Jared stole it. Mallory and Buddy go back to Stacey's attic and find the painting. Stacey's mom has it restored and hangs over the mantle in the McGill's.
But one piece of the mystery is unsolved: is Sophie's father, Jared, the same Jared who supposedly haunts Dawn's secret passage? Cue Twilight Zone theme music...
Established or continued in this book:
The Girls (and Logan):
Claudia candy: Ring Dings
Mallory thinks a diary is something you write in daily, listing what happened. A journal is something you write when you feel like it about what you're feeling. I...always considered them the exact reverse. She hides her journal under her mattress.
Mallory inherited her nose from her grandfather and still think 11 is old enough for elective plastic surgery (a nose job).
Stacey and her mom moved in a week ago in this book, and we know that it's not late autumn, winter, or early spring since Mallory isn't sure if she'll be able to see into the McGill's back windows "when the trees are bare."
Dawn's "never rude." Just wait...
There's nice continuity regarding how Stacey got the moving boxes from the grocery store, and how the manager got sick and tired of seeing her.
Mallory calls Jessi every few diary entries (or should that be journal entries?) to discuss what she's read. She calls her WAY too much, which is what sparks some trouble between them in Mallory and the Dream Horse.
Dawn is "the world's neatest person." Remember that for RS#31 (Dawn's Wicked Stepsister) when Dawn thinks it's ridiculous to have separators in the silverware drawers.
Dawn's mom has been on twenty-five dates with Mary Anne's dad. Yes, you read that right, a whole 25 dates. Things are going to be moving awfully fast a moment here...
Mallory hates it when Vanessa speaks in rhyme. Fortunately, she hasn't for some time. (Sorry)
Bedtime is 10:00 for nine-year-old Pikes.
Emily Michelle has "another earache." I vaguely remember a Little Sister book in which Emily Michelle gets ear tubes because of her frequent ear infections, but I'm not sure if it got mentioned in any of the other series.
David Michael is still a champion whiner. And...hey, he and Emily have basically the same second name.
Mallory's brothers read Archie comics.
Mallory says Mary Anne has yet to make a scheduling mistake, but she recently forgot to write down a job until Dawn reminded her (RS#27). Foul!
Mallory knows that Dawn called the Barretts "The Impossible Three" which means that either the BSC talks about it a lot or that Mallory's read the club notebook cover-to-cover. I wouldn't be surprised by either one.
Charlotte Johanssen pretty much gets in on the ground floor of helping solve mysteries. She's involved quite a bit in the Mystery series, and this as well.
SMS: Nothing new
PSA time: Nothing new
Really, Mallory, of all people, shouldn't the aspiring writer know the "Us babysitters have discovered..." is grammatically wrong? I know writer doesn't have to mean editor, but a writer should know the subject of a sentence from the object. Especially given that just a few pages later, you know enough to write "...a girl a few years older than I" [am] rather than "...a girl a few years older than me."
Mallory also can't do math. She says the events in the diary happened over a hundred years ago. That's true now, in 2010, but 1989-1894=95, not more than 100. She should have said decades ago, because that's less specific and would still work today.
Starting 8th grade: 2
Halloweens in 8th grade: 1
Summers after 8th grade: 1
BSC Fights: 5
SMS Staff: 13 (2 6th grade, 3 7th grade, 4 8th grade, 2 elective, 1 vice-principal, 1 secretary)
Students: 32 8th graders, six sixth-graders
Types of candy in Claudia’s room: 36 (bubble gum, Butterfingers, butterscotch candy, Cheese Doodles, a chocolate bar, cookies, Cracker Jacks, crackers, cupcakes, Ding-Dongs, Doritos, gumdrops, Fritos, Gummi Bears, Heath bars, Hershey's kisses, Ho Hos, jawbreakers, licorice, licorice whips, Lifesavers, M&Ms (regular and peanut), Mallomars, marshmallows, mini candy bars, Oreos (Double Stuf), popcorn, pretzels, Ring Dings, root beer barrels, salt water taffy, Snickers, taco chips, Tootsie Roll Pops, Tootsie Rolls, Twinkies)
Crushes: Claudia-4 (Austin Bentley, Timothy Carmody, Trevor Sandbourne, Will Yamakawa), Dawn-1 (Parker Harris), Mary Anne-2 (Alex, Logan Bruno), Stacey-4 (Toby, Pete Black, Scott Foley, Sam Thomas), Kristy-1 (Bart Taylor)