The Crew of the Belinda by Jane Shaw

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  This is the last of the three Girls’ Own books which I got cheap the other week.  It’s quite entertaining, but it’s just ridiculously silly.  We’ve got a fairly typical GO scenario in which the children’s mum died when they were young, their dad is an absent-minded professor who’s decided at the last minute to spend the school summer holidays on some work thing, and the children have been dumped on a relative.  In this case, it’s a rather prissy auntie, who’s going to come and stay.  The children, three girls, aren’t keen on this idea, so the two youngest – aged not, say, 7 and 8, but 14 and almost 16 – decide to burn the house down to keep the auntie out.  As you would.  They actually get as far as pouring paraffin over everything before they’re stopped.

After this, they decide to rent the house out (presumably having got rid of the smell of paraffin).  This idea works.  But then, whoops, they’ve got nowhere to live.  Never thought of that.  But then, wa-hay, the eldest remembers a houseboat on Loch Lomond, which an uncle who’s gone away to sea said was theirs to use any time.  Hurrah!   Oh, but they haven’t got any money, because the absent-minded dad forgot to make any financial arrangements and the tenants aren’t paying up front.  Never mind.  They can make money by charging people to borrow their books.  Sorted.

So off they go.  After this, the auntie is barely mentioned again.  Presumably she arrived, found that the house was occupied by complete strangers and her nieces had vanished without trace, shrugged her shoulders, and went home.  The housekeeper, who knew about the paraffin and the letting, has left the girls to it and gone ahead with her plans to spend the summer with her own family.  Good for her!   Most GO housekeepers would have felt obliged to take the girls with them, to stay with an apple-cheeked sister or cousin who would ply them with vast amounts of food for which no payment was expected.

They then arrive at the boat, and get caught up in a forgery plot which involves people hiding counterfeit £5 notes inside books on boats and tins in the loch, and leaving caviar pots lying about.  This last is a red herring.  The caviar pots do not, in fact, belong to the local squire, but to someone who works for him.  And then their dad turns up.   Oh, and there’s a cat.  And a friend from school.  And her brother, who keeps playing tricks on them because he’s narked that they’re using their own houseboat, which he wanted to pretend was a Viking longship.  And an incident in which they go to church, pretend to put money in the collection bag, and one of them gets her hand stuck in it.

I’m still wondering what happened to the auntie.  And why they didn’t just tell her that they’d been invited to stay with friends for the holidays.

Oh well.  It was so utterly ridiculous that it made me laugh.  So it gets marks for that.  But it doesn’t really get marks for anything else!