Ruth Fielding of the Red Mill

March 21, 2007

After my two recent disappointments with Romance Island and The Second Honeymoon, I decided to read a Stratemeyer Syndicate book next. There’s hardly anyone more reliable than Stratemeyer; by the time you’ve read a few of his productions you know exactly what to expect from the rest, and that’s not always such a bad thing.

So. Ruth Fielding of the Red Mill, by Alice Emerson AKA various employees of Edward Stratemeyer under a collective assumed name. I’d never read this one before, although I’ve read a bunch of the ones where she’s older. It’s the first in the series, so we learn how the orphaned Ruth comes to the Red Mill to live with her uncle, Jabez Potter. He’s the surly miser type, and I like him because when he softens toward Ruth at the end of the book, he doesn’t get any less surly or miserly — I don’t care much whether characters are good or bad. I just like them to maintain some kind of integrity.

First fun thing Jabez Potter does: gets the time of Ruth’s train wrong, goes to the train station too early, and returns home before she arrives. She ends up participating in the search for Tom Cameron, the son of the local rich guy, whose motorcycle has apparently been run off the road. When they find him, the half-conscious boy mutters that it was Jabez Potter who was responsible for the accident, but is only overheard by Ruth and Jasper Parsloe, local creep. Afterwards, when Tom is taken to the doctor’s house, Ruth is forced to stay overnight with the stationmaster and his wife, where she makes the acquaintance of their crippled daughter, Mercy. I like Mercy because she’s bitter and sarcastic.

Eventually Ruth does get to the Red Mill, where she meets her uncle and his housekeeper, Aunt Alvirah Boggs, who manages to be both comic relief and sympathetic motherly figure. She also meets and makes friends with Tom’s sister, Helen Cameron. I’m sure it won’t be much of a surprise when I say that Ruth and Tom get married about two dozen volumes into the series.

Anyway, there’s not much of a plot(Uncle Jabez loses his money box during a flood, it’s obvious that Jasper Parsloe’s stolen it, eventually the kids find it and return it), and I can’t exactly say that this is a good book, but it’s nice. Ruth Fielding is one of the better Stratemeyer series, I think. There’s a cool scene with a spelling bee, in which Ruth does well but doesn’t have a complete triumph, and the author doesn’t make too much of the school bully type. Also, Uncle Jabez and Mercy Curtis get along pretty well, which is fun.

In conclusion, if you like this sort of book, you’ll probably like this one.

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