Throwback Thursday: Retro Reads: The Girls of Canby Hall #2: Our Roommate is Missing

Throwback Thursday: Retro Reads

We’ve all heard of Throwback Thursday, the day you post photos from the past to Facebook or Instagram. Retro Reads is my bookish version of Throwback Thursday. I’ll be rereading and posting a recap/review of books I loved when I was younger, mostly series books. Fair warning: These are more recaps than reviews. They will be thorough and there will be spoilers.

For the first few weeks, I’m going to be transferring my previously posted Girls of Canby Hall recaps over here.

Our Roommate is MissingThe Girls of Canby Hall #2: Our Roommate is Missing
Author: Mary Francis Shura writing as Emily Chase
Published: 1983
Goodreads

Who kidnapped Shelley?

Shelley is missing, and her roommates, Faith and Dana, are frantic. Where is she? Then the FBI agents arrive at Canby Hall to investigate. Shelley’s disappearance has turned into a kidnapping case. A week of mystery has begun for Faith and Dana, and a week of terror has begun for Shelley.

In their second adventure, The Girls of Canby Hall face danger together.

You would think a title like that would deserve an exclamation point: Our Roommate is Missing! The roommate in question is Shelley. Sadly for Shelley, her disappearance isn’t even noticed at first. Everyone’s too busy with the big Canby Parent-Alumnae Weekend.

Dana’s mother and Faith’s mother and brother visit for the weekend, but Shelley’s parents can’t make the trip from Iowa. It’s too far and too expensive. Instead Shelley subs for Casey, who threw a tantrum when her parents sent her aunt instead of visiting themselves. I know from the first book that Casey has issues with her parents, but it seems like she could have been a little more mature about it, especially knowing Shelley’s family couldn’t even attend at all. At least she got an aunt.

It’s not until late Sunday night that Dana and Faith start to wonder where Shelley could be. Asking around Baker House, they discover that no one remembers seeing Shelley since noon. They reluctantly start to head up to their housemother’s apartment to tell Alison that Shelley hasn’t returned to their room, when they hear her phone ringing. It’s after midnight, so it must be an emergency. They hear Alison going down the stairs and start to follow her when the room lights up from headlights turning into the drive. They rush to the windows and see…

Three cars, all long, all black, and all gleaming under the lanterns of the drive, had pulled to a stop and simultaneously hooded their lights.

Feds! Or have I been watching too much of The X-Files? Faith recognizes the couple that emerges from the middle car as Casey’s parents, the Flints. They showed up after all! Looks like Casey threw that tantrum for nothing.

Dana and Faith hide as Alison leads Casey’s parents up the stairs to check Casey’s room. They overhear Mr. Flint mention the word kidnap. But Faith knows Casey hasn’t been kidnapped. She talked to Casey earlier when she was looking for Shelley.

Alison goes to Casey’s room and returns with Casey, who doesn’t understand what’s going on and doesn’t want to talk about her parents…until she sees them. Then she flies into their arms for a tearful reunion. Alison suggests that the group go up to her apartment to figure out what’s going on.

After they leave, Faith and Dana sit on the stairs and slowly begin to realize what’s happened. Someone has been kidnapped. Shelley is missing. Shelley, who took Casey’s aunt to the train station in Greenleaf. Shelley, who Casey has been emulating with her clothes and hairstyle over the past few weeks. Shelley is missing.

Once again, they head up to Alison’s apartment. It’s Faith who finds the words.

We’re awfully sorry,” she said carefully, “but we had to tell you that we can’t find Shelley anywhere. She’s gone — simply gone.”

Alison can’t understand why she wasn’t informed earlier. Surely the dorm monitor should have noticed at bed check? Unbeknownst to Alison, Heather Blackburn is well-known for going to bed early. A better question might be why Alison doesn’t keep track of her girls. What is she being paid for anyway? Alison rushes to check the sign-in sheet on the girls’ door. Shelley signed out to go to town; she never signed back in.

Mr. Flint calls the FBI. He just picks up the phone and calls Mulder and Scully the authorities. Just like that.

This next part is a little confusing, so pay attention. While they wait for the FBI, Mr. Flint launches into an explanation. He and his wife frequently travel abroad to purchase artwork for their gallery, as well as pieces for clients. Many of their clients order copies of famous art for exhibition rooms. In the last year, the Flints have imported six excellent copies (good enough to “almost” fool Mrs. Flint, who is known for her skill) and three have been stolen from the gallery.

Wait, what? I’m no expert in copyright law, but this doesn’t even sound legal. I didn’t read through everything here, but it seems like it’s questionable, at best, and depends on the age of the piece.

Last fall, they were checking out the originals in museums in Europe when Mrs. Flint spotted a fake!

“You mean you were selling a copy of a copy?” Casey asked?

He shook his head. “It was worse than that. This was a giant swindle. The criminals were using us to achieve their ends. After we examined and accepted the copies, the criminals replaced them with stolen originals. So the pictures we imported to America were originals, but we didn’t know it. Then, one by one, they were stealing back from us the originals, which we unknowingly had to sell. The copies were hung in European museums in the place of the stolen originals.”

That sounds awfully convoluted. It’s hard to believe that no one noticed that certain European museums were being broken into twice. It’s also kind of genius, since no one caught on until Mrs. Flint’s eagle eyes spotted the fake.

Mr. and Mrs. Flint are now working with the government to build a case against the art thieves. Their lives have been threatened, and this is the reason for the kidnapping: the thieves want to scare the Flints into silence until the trial is over by kidnapping their daughter.

Switching over to Shelley’s point-of-view, she had initially told Casey that she would spend the weekend with Aunt Edie to try to shame Casey into doing it. It hadn’t worked, but Shelley finds that she likes the woman and has fun showing her around the school. Before she leaves on the late Sunday night train, Aunt Edie gives Shelley a bracelet for her to give to Casey. It belonged to Casey’s grandmother and Edie has had Casey’s name engraved on the inside.

Shelley waits until the train leaves then goes to find a taxi. When a man calls out to her, she hesitates and a van pulls up next to her. She tries to run back into the train station but she’s too late. She’s pulled into the van and her arms are tied behind her.

They drive for a long time, first in town and then out in the country. After a stop for the driver to call Casey’s father (he leaves a message) to inform him of the kidnapping, Shelley makes an escape attempt, hurling herself out the door of the moving van. Good thinking there, Shelley. Try to get away when you’re out in the middle of nowhere.

Monday morning, February 22, back at Canby Hall, it’s snowing. The trial is scheduled for March 1. It’s been decided to keep Shelley’s disappearance on the DL. The rest of the school has been told that Shelley and Casey are under quarantine and Faith and Dana are also excused from classes due to being Shelley’s roommate.

Alison drives the girls to the Inn to meet with the FBI, who have set up a headquarters there. They listen to the recording the kidnapper left, trying to determine whether they recognize the voice. Like Dana and Faith know any international art thieves! The Flints don’t recognize it either. After Shelley’s parents arrive, Alison drives Dana and Faith back to school, where they are to return to classes on Tuesday.

If Shelley is still under quarantine, wouldn’t that mean she’s contagious? And wouldn’t that mean Dana and Faith could still be carrying whatever germs they might have picked up from being in the same room with her, if not sick themselves?

Casey’s parents will be leaving so she’s going to be moving up to Alison’s apartment. She’s supposedly quarantined in her room, so I don’t see why she doesn’t just stay there, but this gives Dana and Faith the chance to poke around amongst Casey’s things while they gather supplies to take up to Alison for her.

Bret calls several times for Dana, and grows impatient when she won’t take his calls. She doesn’t want to have to tell him, without a good explanation, why she can’t see him on Friday night. When she finally does take his call and refuses to explain, he gets angry. Swell guy, that Bret. After what he put her through first term, you’d think he could give her a little slack.

Or she could have just lied and given him a made-up but plausible reason.

Returning to Shelley, at least she didn’t knock herself unconscious or injure herself badly when she jumped out of the van. One of the kidnappers picks her up off the ground and throws her back in the van, showing her for the first time that he has a gun and revealing that he believes she’s Casey Flint. Shelley insists that she’s not, but they don’t believe her, especially after they find the bracelet with Casey’s name on it in Shelley’s pocket. They leave her alone in a cold, dark, nearly empty room in an abandoned sawmill.

Sunday night turns into Monday turns into Tuesday. Breakfast brings milk and sticky buns, lunch and dinner are both sandwiches and cold French fries. Shelley keeps track of the days using little heaps of sawdust under her cot, one pile for every day. By Thursday she realizes that the sawmill isn’t abandoned after all, when she hears trucks and men talking. She is sometimes able to hear her kidnappers’ voices too, and hears them mention Melrose.

That night, Shelley is blindfolded and led to a phone to talk to Mr. Flint. She tries to tell him, in code, that she’s at a mill in or near Melrose.

“Nobody’s mean to me. I get regular meals.” She forced a little laugh. “Not my favorites, no mushroom soup or mashed potatoes, but I’m fed.”

“Oh, Casey,” he said. From his tone, Mr. Flint was as choked with emotion as she was.

“Listen, Daddy,” she said swiftly. “Tell Mama-Millie that I love her. And thank Aunt Rose for the magnificent days. I’m fine, not marvelous, but fine.”

Thursday night at Canby, the FBI shares the recording of Shelley and Mr. Flint’s conversation with Dana, Faith, and Casey. They immediately pick out that Shelley hates mushrooms and mashed potatoes and got Casey’s aunt’s name wrong, but they chalk it up to her being drugged. Faith goes into town to pick up the pictures from the Parent-Alumnae Weekend. When she returns, she shows Dana and Casey a man in one of them. He’s the same man in one of the pictures of Casey’s father that they saw when they were picking through Casey’s things on Monday. Alison takes the pictures to the Flints to see if they know who he is.

While she’s gone, Dana and Faith come up with a plan. They’re going to get Bret to drive them around to look for Shelley. Because fifteen year olds are better investigators than the FBI. Faith is sure that Shelley was trying to send them clues in her conversation with Mr. Flint. They decipher that Millie could be a mill and Rose is somewhere nearby. Checking the atlas, they settle on Melrose, “just north of here and maybe a little west.”

Friday night, Dana and Faith check out to go to the Oakley Prep dance and then take the train to New York to visit Dana’s mom. This last part, of course, is a lie. They’re going to sleep in Bret’s car (IN FEBRUARY. NORTH OF BOSTON.) and then have him take them to Melrose on Saturday. They don’t tell him about Shelley, or the details their plan, only that they need to sleep in his car and for him to drive them somewhere. He points out that he could have taken them back to Canby that night and then just picked them up again Saturday morning.

At least someone is thinking clearly. That would have made a lot more sense.

Dana’s family simply wasn’t one where people kept things from each other. Yet here she was with a trick recording on her mother’s machine, sleeping in the parking lot of a boys’ school in the dead of winter, and all because of some clues (or imagined clues) from a girl who sounded drugged.

Am I the only one who thinks this is crazy?

Dana, Faith, and Bret drive around the Melrose area in a snowstorm looking for mills. Bret is still in the dark about why they’re doing this. He has his faults, but he’s a pretty good guy for going out of his way like this on very little information.

The storm has worsened by the time they finally reach the mill. Bret remains with the car. The girls split up and Dana is walking up to the mill when the kidnappers come out and spot her. Dana recognizes the man from the pictures. She runs away from them, slips on the ice, and lands in the mill pond.

Well, she’s as good as dead. Landing in icy water in a snowstorm? The kidnappers say it’s only going to take three or four minutes for her to freeze to death.

Faith sends Bret for help then hides and watches as the men put Shelley into a van and drive away. Even worse, she realizes that they’re going to catch up with Bret soon. She rushes inside the mill and finds a phone, then calls for help.

Somehow Dana has dragged herself out of the pond and managed to reach the mill. Faith tries to keep her warm and finds some dry clothes. It doesn’t take long for Bret to arrive with the police.

Shelley has been rescued, thanks in part to Bret, who was driving too fast on the snowy road and ran into a snowplow. A policeman traveling with the snowplow was trying to help with the accident when the van came down the road, tried to speed past the police car, and ended up in a ditch. The original artwork was inside the van, so it, too was recovered.

Back at Canby Hall after a celebratory party at the Inn in Greenleaf, the headmistress meets with the girls. They’re not going to be punished for breaking the rules, but only because the FBI admits that they wouldn’t have followed up on Shelley’s clues if they’d been told. They would have considered them too whimsical.

What? You always hear that you’re supposed to report anything and everything. If they don’t have anything else to go on, and they didn’t, what harm would it have done? Fifteen-year-olds cracked this case!

After the headmistress leaves, Alison brings out a birthday cake for Dana, who’s turning 16 on February 29. She’s a leap year baby so I guess this takes place in 1984 even though the copyright date in my book is 1983.

The Cover
Shelley still isn’t chubby. Some people just have round faces. It doesn’t mean they’re overweight. The book does mention at the end that she’s lost weight, but really it was only a week and the kidnappers did feed her, even though the food was disgusting and cold, so how much weight could she really have lost?

Why does the kindapper have that hat perched on his head just so? It looks like it doesn’t fit well. And why is he smirking?

Jenna