Sutton, Margaret. The Mystic Ball. New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1934.Judy Bolton and Other Girl Detectives

Not all girl detectives were as perfect as Nancy Drew.  Among the sleuths depicted on a more human scale were Judy Bolton, Trixie Belden, and Carol Duncan of the Melody Lane series.  Nancy Drew has the freedom and the money to act independently and do as she pleases.  These other girl sleuths attended school, worked around the house or at a job, and coped with the restraints of a more traditional family situation.

Judy Bolton solves riddles and problems and exposes secrets, but she must cope with family responsibilities and her own limitations.  Likewise, Trixie Belden must struggle with her math homework, chores, and obnoxious brothers.  Judy and Trixie are not the heroic figures that Nancy Drew is, but they are appealing because they are realistic and believable.



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Judy Bolton

Unlike typical girls’ series books, The Judy Bolton series by Margaret Sutton was based on actual locations in Potter County, Pennsylvania; markedly different from Nancy Drew.    Judy grew up and married as the series progressed.  The back cover of the books often advertised that the mysteries were often based on actual events that occurred in Pennsylvania—such as the dam collapse in the first book in the series, The Vanishing Shadow.  Farringdon, the main town in the books, is based on Coudersport, Pennsylvania. 

Sutton, Margaret.  The Warning on the Window. New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1949.

Sutton, Margaret. The Warning on the Window. New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1949.
Sutton, Margaret. The Midnight Visitor. New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1939.

Spooky old houses figure prominently, and mysteries often involve reuniting relatives.  Judy is aided in her sleuthing by her brother Horace, her childhood friend Peter (whom she eventually marries), and his sister Honey.  Judy’s black cat Blackberry has a prominent role in the books; he actually helps her solve mysteries and saves lives. 

Sutton, Margaret.  The Midnight Visitor. New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1939.

Sutton, Margaret.  The Mystic Ball. New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1934. (blow-up above)

Trixie Belden

Trixie Belden is a 14 year old girl detective who lives at Crabapple Farm near Sleepyside-on-the Hudson, New York with her parents and three brothers.  She and her friends form a club called the Bob-Whites of the Glen.  The first books of the series were written by Julie Campbell Tatham, who also wrote the Ginny Gordon series and many of the Cherry Ames and Vicki Barr books.

Campbell, Julie.  The Red Trailer Mystery.  Racine: Whitman, 1950.

Campbell, Julie. The Red Trailer Mystery. Racine: Whitman, 1950.
Garis, Lilian. Stingyman’s Alley. New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1938.

Melody Lane

Melody Lane is not the name of the heroine of this series; it refers to the street where girl-sleuth Carol Duncan and her family and friends live.  The series of nine books were written by Lilian Garis and were published by Grosset and Dunlap from 1933 to 1940.

Garis, Lilian.  Stingyman’s Alley.  New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1938.

Unlike most other series books, this series emphasizes the hard times of the Great Depression and depicts the money problems of the characters.  For instance, Carol Duncan loses her job playing the organ at the theatre because the new movies were no longer silent.  She needs to find another job to support the family while her father is out of work.

Garis, Lilian.  The Secret of the Kashmir Shawl, New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1939.

Garis, Lilian. The Secret of the Kashmir Shawl, New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1939.