The Secret of Steeple Rocks

Harriet Pyne Grove, 1928.

This isn't a bad book, or even a dull book, but a lot of the time it's a pointless book. Six young people spend a summer on the Maine coast, and become interested in the strange goings-on in the local "Pirate's Cove." They don't solve the mystery -- when a government agent shows up they supply him with the information he needs to solve it. While this is realistic, it's not very exciting. And it's notable -- and just as realistic -- that everyone who is aware of the "secret" immediately thinks of bootlegging and dismisses it, whereas what is really going on is the entrance of illegal aliens, including undercover Communist agents.

The narrative wanders down a lot of dead ends: for instance, there is much talk early on about how Dalton is going to teach his sisters to shoot, but all that comes of it is that when he needs to repel intruders he has a gun to shoot into the air. Surely he could have scared them off without using two chapters to set it up. At the climax, too, we unaccountably follow the villain's wife for half a chapter before returning to the protagonists. Subplots are started that would be worth exploring (What exactly is Beth's relationship with the lawyer? And how does Peggy cope with the unwelcome knowledge the summer brings?) and then abruptly dropped.

There is material here for a good book. It's a pity Grove didn't write one.

© 1993 Jo Anne Fatherly

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