The Motor Girls at Lookout Beach

by Margaret Penrose, 1911

The last time we saw the Motor Girls (see Motor Girls on a Tour) they numbered eight and were taking three weeks to complete a three-day Motor Tour -- probably because they were also solving three or four mysteries, involving vast numbers of characters, at the same time.

Lookout Beach is the next volume in the series, and, luckily, is much easier to read. There are only three Motor Girls, plus their brothers and male friends, plus a couple of chaperoning adults, a handful of secondary characters required by the (single!) plot, and a fairly realistic timeframe.

On the other hand, they don't get to the beach until two-thirds of the book has gone by. Most of the action takes place in the strawberry fields, where Cora proves that, had she needed a career, she could have been quite successful as a labor negotiator.

She's not quite on such solid ground when she lets her brother persuade her to skip town to avoid the detectives. True, they are private investigators hired by the bad guys -- who are women. And I found it interesting that Cora and her brother Jack, left home alone to keep house while their parents "go to the city" can blithely leave the house to the servants and take off for the beach (a two-day drive away, if you don't take your life in your hands and speed along at 25 mph) at -- literally -- a few hours notice.

Instead they get lost in a storm and break down in a graveyard, which appears to have absolutely nothing to do with the plot except to separate them from their chaperones so they can find clues in peace. Someone else finds the diamond earrings. The detectives turn out to be good guys, the runaways turn themselves in, the villainess is jailed. The Motor Girls? They spend an entire chapter in a ocean boardwalk attraction called "The Human Washing Machine" -- a cross between a funhouse and a midway Haunted House. That has nothing to do with the plot, either.

© 1994 Jo Anne Fatherly

This review first appeared in The Whispered Watchword, the newsletter of The Phantom Friends