Ruth Fielding on Cliff Island

March 23, 2007

So, it looks like I’m going to keep working my way through the Ruth Fielding books at Project Gutenberg. Ruth Fielding on Cliff Island takes place a year after Ruth Fielding at Snow Camp. Ruth and her friends — more of them this time — spend Christmas vacation on Cliff Island, which has recently been purchased by Ruth’s friend Belle Tingley’s father. Coincidentally, Ruth is acquainted with a boy named Jerry Sheming, who was run off the island by real estate agent Rufus Blent after Jerry’s uncle, Pete Wilton, was committed to an insane asylum. Yeah, it’s a bit complicated. Pete always said he owned the island, but the deeds were in his treasure box, which was buried by a landslide.

Ruth gets Mr. Tingley to give Jerry a job as a guide on Cliff Island, but Rufe Blent doesn’t want Jerry around in any capacity — he’s planning on searching for the treasure box himself. Eventually the box is found and a situation is worked out so everyone will be happy. Except Rufe Blent. I never thought of calling someone named Rufus “Rufe” before, and I kind of like it. “Blent” is a good name too. I feel sure I’ve seen it used as a word before — maybe in some piece of poetry, instead of “blended”?

Anyway. The more of these I read, the more I feel that Ruth Fielding is the best early Stratemeyer series. They’re not great books, obviously, but they’re better written than the average Stratemeyer product, there are more characters and less caricatures, and the plots aren’t as bad as most, although just between this and the Snow Camp one, Ruth and her friends have been lost in snowstorms twice and have had four encounters with two panthers.

A bunch of the later Ruth Fielding books were written by Mildred Wirt Benson, best known as the ghostwriter for many of the Nancy Drew books. I don’t know how her Nancy Drew’s compare to others, but I know the one Ruth Fielding of hers I own is the worst book I’ve read in this series. So, while I find the Stratemeyer Syndicate fascinating, I am not one of Mildred Wirt Benson’s fans. And she does have some.

This book measures up pretty well against other in the series. The plot is maybe a little better than average, and the kids have fun a little more convincingly this time around. So. I’m definitely still enjoying Ruth Fielding. Ruth grows on me more and more, as do Tom Cameron and Mercy Curtis. If I was part of Ruth’s gang, I would hang out with Mercy, the bitter, sarcastic bookworm. Or, actually, I would probably be Mercy.

Next up: Ruth Fielding in Moving Pictures.


  1. I’m liking the Betty Gordon series better.

    I keep noticing that Ruth (akaRF plucky orphan) always has an eye on the main chance. RF is the kind of girl who tells the teacher on your for your own good. And you end up thanking her for it.

    Betty Gordon goes – whoops, screwed up again.

    Truth is – I like the side characters in the Ruth Fielding series so much better than her that I keep hoping they’re going to revolt and leave her on her own.

    • I got halfway through the first Betty Gordon book but never finished it. I do really like Ruth Fielding though — and the side characters. And I think it’s partly because she’s so prosaic. She’s the smart, responsible one, and instead of being somebody’s nagging sister, she gets to be the heroine. And she’s ambitious and driven, and protagonists of boys books get to be like that often, but protagonists of girls books are supposed to be self-denying. I want Ruth to have an eye on the main chance, because no one else is going to do that for her.

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