The Secret Seven - Enid Blyton
The Secret Seven series of 15 books, by prolific author Enid Blyton, follows the adventures of a strictly secret society made up of 7 children, who like to solve mysteries that they happen upon, or actively go looking for!
Although many may think, like I did before doing this research, that The Secret Seven - the first title in this series - is the first time we are introduced to the seven, this is not the case. In 1947, At Seaside Cottage a small volume was published by Brockhampton Press and featured the main characters of Peter and Janet, with their golden spaniel, Scamper. A year later in 1948, Secret of the Old Mill was published, in which Peter and Janet, after reading a book called The Secret Society, decide to create a secret society of their own, using the old mill on a hill near their home as a meeting place. They invite five of their friends to join them, and so The Secret Seven are born.
Peter is the head and leader of the secret society. He is very strict with members and takes his responsibilities very seriously indeed! - So woe betide any member who may forget the current S.S. password or forgets their badge when it comes to meeting times. One of my favourite passages about Peter is in Secret Seven on the Trail, where Peter wants to disband the society and stop meetings until the Christmas holidays. '"Nothing ever turns up in term-time" repeated Peter, who liked getting his own way.' When the others disagree with him, and threaten to run the society without him, he backs down, but only slightly - still having the last word and compromising by agreeing to a meeting only if anything turns up, which he is certain won't happen. To me, this shows his strong and stubborn nature but, without his natural abilities as a leader and his organization and delegation skills, the society would undoubtedly not run as smoothly!
Janet is Peter's younger sister. She is a serious member of the Secret Seven, who takes direction from her brother Peter, for the most part very well. Of the girls, she arguably shows the most initiative when it comes to gathering clues, as in The Secret Seven, where tyre tracks have been left in the snow by a suspicious van. Janet decides to copy these tracks, as she realizes that they 'just might come in useful', as inevitably at the end of the story they do.
Jack is often seen as second in command and possibly best friends with Peter and enjoys being a loyal friend and member of the society. He appears to play a more prominent role than Colin or George in the adventures. He is forgetful at times and sometimes gets into trouble with Peter for forgetting the password or for forgetting his badge. Jack has an annoying sister Susie, who is always trying to spy on Secret Seven meetings. In Secret Seven on the Trail, Jack actually gullibly believes something that he overhears Susie talking about and decides to take action. However, Susie's annoying plan does backfire and the Seven have the last laugh with their adventure that starts at Tigger's Barn.
Colin is not such a prominent member of the Seven as some of the others, but still gives a rounding to the group as a whole and has some 'highlights'. In Well Done Secret Seven, his slight forgetfulness in Windy Wood leads them all into adventure.
George is also not a very prominent member of the society but still appears to take his role seriously and with a sense of humour. We have a glimpse of George out on his own in Go Ahead Secret Seven, doing some 'practice shadowing'. Here we see his boyish humour as he 'even blacked his face' and had taken 'a rubber truncheon' so that he could pretend to be a 'real policeman'. However, this shadowing gets him into real trouble and even results in his parents banning him from being a Society member for a time.
Pam is portrayed as a very giggly girl, who doesn't appear to take things as seriously and solemnly as the others. Pam can also be quite jumpy and close to tears at the smallest of things. An example of this can be seen in Well Done Secret Seven, when she inadvertently gives away the location of the Societies new HQ by squealing. However, there are some occasions when she does take notice, like in Secret Seven Adventure, where she spots a pair of socks - a useful clue indeed!
Barbara can nearly always be found with Pam, giggling about something as can be seen in Go Ahead Secret Seven, when they are supposed to be 'shadowing'. Janet comes across Barbara and Pam 'sitting on the bus-stop seat, looking rather giggly, with note-books in their hands'.
The Secret Seven Series
There are 15 titles in the series (or 16 if you want to include Secret of the Old Mill). Some of these titles were originally published as serializations in magazines, before appearing in book form, such as Go ahead Secret Seven in Sunny Stories and Secret Seven Win Through in the Enid Blyton Magazine.
Most of the stories begin with a meeting of the Seven in their Headquarters - the shed at the bottom of Peter and Janet's garden. More often than not supplied with freshly baked cakes or biscuits and lemonade or hot cocoa, meetings are a serious affair, with no member being permitted without the password. Peter takes charge of the meetings and is very good at delegating jobs to do and clues to follow to different members.
Whenever a member says "Nothing ever happens", you know for sure that they are about to be dragged into the depths of a very exciting mystery.
The society like to try to solve the mysteries on their own, without adult help, sometimes with disapproval from their long-suffering parents! They follow clues and gather information from many sources, in between all their normal school and homework! However, occasionally they do call in reinforcements (such as the police) to apprehend the villains.
Scamper is Peter and Janet's beloved golden spaniel and often accompanies them to meetings to 'stand guard' against possible 'snoopers', like Susie, Jack's sister. Scamper is usually the 'extra' member of the Secret Seven, although he does take George's place in Go Ahead Secret Seven, after George is forced to resign for a short time. However, Scamper still helps them on their way, very often alerting them to danger or sniffing out vital clues!
The 'Seven' books do not appear to be the most popular series of Blyton's books, with 'The Famous Five' and 'The Adventure Series' being more popular with readers and collectors. Maybe this is because the stories are shorter and seem to be aimed at younger readers, with the characters not appearing to age as you progress in the series. Others feel that a couple of the plots are too 'recycled' from previous titles. However the 'Secret Seven' books do provide the reader with a good starting point for the different series of Blyton mystery books, progressing onto the 'Famous Five', 'Adventure' series and others.
Why not try a Secret Seven book for yourself from the titles below and make up your own mind!
1) The Secret Seven (1949) - The first title in the series. Set in the winter time, we see the Seven enjoying the snow. However, this leads Jack into making a shock discovery, which takes them on a mysterious adventure. What is really happening at the old house on the hill? Who does it belong to? And what are the strange noises that were heard there? Can the Secret Seven help to solve this mystery?
2) Secret Seven Adventure (1950) - In their second adventure, the Seven's game of Red Indians in Little Thicket, draws them into a thrilling search for a pearl thief. This search eventually leads them to the circus. Can all the clues be put together in time, before the circus moves on?
3) Well Done, Secret Seven (1951) - Being the third title in the series. Set in the summer time, the Seven decide that they need a more airy place for their summer meetings. What better place than a tree-house? Soon, though they realize that someone has been visiting their tree-house and eating their provisions! The visitor soon takes them on a trail of some thieves - but what do some of the clues REALLY mean?
4) Secret Seven on the Trail (1952) - The fourth title in the series. Susie (Jack's annoying sister), is really being at her most annoying, setting up her own secret society. However, what started out as a joke, really turns into a dangerous adventure starting at Tigger's Barn and ending at a foggy railyard. Are the Secret Seven clever enough to outwit the villains?
5) Go Ahead Secret Seven (1953) - In this fifth adventure, the Seven are having some shadowing practice. George shadows a sinister looking man, who gets him into trouble with the police and he has to resign from the Secret Seven. Certain that something is up, the rest of the gang spy on this man - what is he really up to? Can they solve the mystery, so that George is reinstated to their secret society.
6) Good Work, Secret Seven (1954) - The sixth book in the series. The Secret Seven are plunged into an adventure, when Peter and Janet's father has his car stolen - with them inside it! They realize they must take care though, when a dangerous gang appears to be involved...
7) Secret Seven Win Through (1955) - In the seventh title in the series, it's the Easter holiday but what a blow is in store, as the Secret Seven's shed (their meeting place) is being painted. Soon they find a new secret meeting place - a cave. A mystery begins however, when they realize that an intruder has also been using the cave at night. Determined to catch the intruder, the Seven set a trap...
8) Three Cheers Secret Seven (1956) - The eighth Secret Seven book. A search for a lost model aeroplane takes Jack and Peter to an abandoned old house - or is it? Why was there a lit fire in one of the rooms - who is living there and why? It's another case for the Secret Seven Society to solve!
9) Secret Seven Mystery (1957) - In the ninth title, the Secret Seven begin their search for a schoolgirl who has gone missing. Where is Elizabeth Sonning? Who stole the money from her school? Will the Seven be able to find out, even with Jack's sister Susie putting them off at every chance?
10) Puzzle for the Secret Seven (1958) - The tenth book in the series. After a trip to the fair, the Seven witness a terrible house fire and help the family as much as they can. Little do they know that a mystery is waiting just around the corner, with the theft of a valuable violin - could the two incidents be connected?
11) Secret Seven Fireworks (1959) - In the eleventh book in the series we can see Jack's sister Susie is up to her tricks again and forming another detective gang, to try and rival the Secret Seven. Then some money goes missing and Susie is chief suspect - but could there be another explanation? The Secret Seven are determined to find out!
12) Good Old Secret Seven (1960) - The twelfth mystery in the series, sees strange goings on at Torling Castle . Who was the face at the window? What are they doing there? Is there something sinister going on? Good old Secret Seven are on the case!
13) Shock for the Secret Seven (1961) - A highly charged thirteenth installment in the series! After a big fight between Jack and Peter, Jack resigns from the Secret Seven and says he's going to set up his own club with his sister Susie and their friend Bony. The now Secret Six are soon involved in a disturbing case - village dogs are going missing. When Scamper becomes the latest victim, the Secret Six want the case solved as soon as possible. Will they be able to do it on their own? Or will Jack come to the rescue?
14) Look Out Secret Seven (1962) - In this fourteenth title, the Seven investigate the case of an old General's missing medals. Scamper is a real help - what would they do without him to help protect them from intruders and in Bramley Woods? But can the Seven really solve a mystery that the police can't seem to crack? Will they recover the missing medals?
15) Fun For The Secret Seven (1963) - The fifteenth and final title and mystery for the Seven to solve. Tolly and his horse Brownie are in trouble and need some help. The Seven need to help them find somewhere to hide out, so that the dangerous horse thieves will not be able to find them. Can they find the right hiding place? Will Janet and Peter's horse be safe? Can the thieves be caught in the nick of time?
Contributed by Joanne Hill