Throwback Thursday: Retro Reads – The Girls of Canby Hall #4: Keeping Secrets

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.

Keeping SecretsThe Girls of Canby Hall #4: Keeping Secrets
Author: Patricia Aks writing as Emily Chase
Published: 1984
Goodreads

Were her secrets all she was hiding?

Faith’s dark eyes are newly lit by romance, and Dana is happily dating Bret, but Shelley has problems. She’s outraged because her new bracelets are missing — and she’s not the only victim of theft. All is not well at Baker House, but who would steal? Everyone knows everyone else so well — except for Mary Beth. She’s aloof, quiet, and seems to be keeping secrets…But what could a Canby Hall girl have to hide?

Faith needs a Canby girl to take pictures for the Historic Homes of Boston feature for the school paper. Really? This is the kind of news they put in the paper? Are historic homes of interest of teen girls in the 1980s? Faith has narrowed her selection of victims lucky girls who fit her requirements (live within 15 miles of the Boston area, know something about photography, not already involved with the paper) to one: Mary Beth Grover.

Yes, that Mary Beth Grover. The Mary Beth who rebuffed Shelley’s friendly attempt at conversation in the laundry room the first week of school. The Mary Beth who turned Dana down when she asked Mary Beth to perform at Song Night. The poor girl is probably just socially awkward and would rather be left alone. Stop bothering her, roomies of 407!

Of course Mary Beth says no when Faith asks her, but Faith can’t let it go and makes her say no twice more. Even that’s not good enough for Faith, who grew up with a social worker for a mother. Faith believes that Mary Beth is behaving like someone with a terrible secret. Apparently Faith has never met a shy person before. After class, Faith invites Mary Beth to go to Greenleaf with her for ice cream. Again, Mary Beth says no, and again Faith persists. Mary Beth rushes away to her next class, no doubt glad for an excuse to get away.

Faith finds another girl to do the assignment and later tells Dana and Shelley about Mary Beth. They decide that there’s something “basically wrong” with her. Dana wonders what her boyfriend Bret would think about Mary Beth. My guess is that Bret wouldn’t even notice the girl.

The next afternoon the roommates walk to Greenleaf to go shopping. On the way Shelley tells the others about her biology class, where they are dissecting frogs. Shelley thought the whole thing was disgusting, but she’s glad she didn’t have to leave the room to throw up the way a girl named Millie did. Millie, like Mary Beth, is socially awkward. She’s basically a mess: the last one picked at sports, never prepared to be called on in class, the kind of girl who throws up over a frog dissection.

The girls split up to shop in different stores and agree to meet for ice cream in an hour. It doesn’t take long for Faith to pick out a record to send home for her sister’s birthday and she heads for the ice cream shop, where she orders a double cone with scoops of maple walnut and pistachio mint. Suddenly I want ice cream but I think I’ll have to settle for the homemade blackberry chocolate chip frozen yogurt in my freezer. That sounds better than maple walnut or pistachio mint anyway.

While she’s waiting to pay for her cone, there’s some pushing several people behind her in line and the strawberry ice cream belonging to the boy behind her lands on her shoulder.

He looked about seventeen, was almost a head taller than Faith, black, handsome, with the deepest brown eyes she’d ever seen. When he smiled at her apologetically, Faith thought she might melt more quickly than the ice cream.

He’s so dreamy! He pays for her ice cream and they sit down to talk while Faith waits for Dana and Shelley. His name is Johnny Bates and he’s a junior at Greenleaf High. His father owns a gas station. Johnny wants to be a detective. That’s a huge turnoff for Faith, whose father was a police officer killed in the line of duty. Johnny gives Faith his phone number before she rushes off to meet Dana and Shelley.

Dana tells Faith that Johnny’s cute, and Shelley says they make the perfect couple. Faith likes the idea of having her first boyfriend but she tells her roommates that he wants to be a cop and she just can’t go there. They encourage her to call him; it doesn’t have to turn into marriage.

The next morning, Faith is still thinking about Johnny so she decides to call him. She runs into Mary Beth, who is coming out of the phone booth. It’s early for a Canby girl to be up on a Saturday, so Faith is surprised to see that Mary Beth is already dressed and finished making a phone call.

Johnny’s glad Faith called. He invites her on a picnic and she suggests an area near the skating pond. Johnny brings peanut butter sandwiches and Tab; Faith contributes pretzels and mustard, her favorite snack. They run into Alison on their way to the skating pond, and Faith introduces Johnny to her. Faith tells Johnny that Alison is only twenty-five and explains that Alison is responsible for helping her and her roommates work things out. Things are going well for them until they start talking about Johnny’s term paper on criminology. He notices a change in her demeanor and asks why she reacted the day before when he mentioned wanting to be a detective.

Faith explains about her father, noting that he died when she was ten. (In Roommates, it’s said that he died two years ago, when she would have been about fourteen.) She wishes he had never been a policeman. Johnny said that he was willing to take the risks, and Johnny is too. Faith doesn’t want to get involved with those risks again. Johnny points out that he still has to finish high school and get through college before he joins the police force. It will be years before he’ll make detective.

They agree not to talk about that anymore right now. She share a kiss but Faith pulls away so she won’t get into trouble (“No kissing on campus.”) and they hold hands as Faith gives Johnny a tour of the school. As they get back to Baker House, they hear Shelley calling out the window for Faith. It sounds urgent, so they quickly say goodbye and Faith runs up to the room. Shelley is distraught because her new bangle bracelets, purchased in Greenleaf only the day before, are missing.

It’s the crime of the century.

“…Maybe someone borrowed them. None of us were here all afternoon, and it’s possible–”

“Never. If someone borrowed them, they would have left a note. I think there’s a thief in our midst.”

No doubt, but I have one question. How would someone have gotten into their room to borrow them, even if they had left a note? Don’t they lock their door?

When Dana comes in, she asks if anything else is missing. The three girls check their drawers, but nothing else is gone as far as they can tell.

To distract Shelley, Faith invites her down to room 207 to help one of the girls who lives there set up for an after-hours surprise birthday party. Shelley decides to stay behind and watch out for suspicious activity while Dana goes with Faith. One of the party decorators, Cheryl, is late and when she arrives, she says her best blue linen blouse is missing. She believes it was stolen. Dana and Faith share what happened to Shelley. Cheryl wants to go straight to Alison, but first they have to take Casey to the infirmary to have her arm — injured when she fell off a chair while tacking up steamers — checked out.

Alison says they have two options: to call a dorm meeting to discuss the issue or to keep quiet and see what happens. They decide that the meeting wouldn’t do anything but put a temporary stop to the thefts and maybe scare some of the freshmen. Alison has to tell the headmistress, but other than that they’re going to keep it between themselves and the other girls who already know.

You know, I don’t think I agree with that decision. When I was in college, a girl on my floor left her door unlocked and someone stole her textbooks right before finals. After that, we all made SURE we locked our doors whenever we went anywhere, even to the bathroom. I think this group owes it to their innocent dormmates to let them know so they can protect their own belongings. If the thief doesn’t have access, she can’t steal. I really don’t think the freshmen would be that scared. I mean, these girls were brave enough to leave home for boarding school at the age of thirteen or fourteen. Someone who steals accessories is hardly a mass murderer — or a kidnapper.

But in the end, it doesn’t matter. Most of the dorm shows up for the surprise party. One of the girls runs back to her room for her violin so they can sing “Happy birthday,” but when she returns, she blurts out, “It’s gone! It’s gone!”

Her violin has been stolen and now the entire dorm knows there’s a thief on the loose. Another girl reports a missing sweater, bringing the total number of missing items up to four.

News spreads to the other dorms, and that week Miss Allardyce speaks about the issue at the weekly campus meeting. As the girls discuss it afterwards, Shelley says she thinks she knows who it is. There’s only one girl from Baker who wasn’t at the party: Mary Beth. Shelley’s entire swim team thinks so, too, but Dana and Faith don’t want to accuse her without proof. They’re joined by Casey, who says that everyone thinks it’s Mary Beth.

The next day, another girl’s locket goes missing. It’s getting serious now, five stolen items, and still girls are leaving their rooms unlocked and accessible to the thief. Dana decides, to hold a meeting of the girls who had items taken and their roommates, plus a few extras like Casey.

Casey reports that she saw Mary Beth leaving Ellie’s (Locket Girl) room earlier that day. Some of the girls are convinced now that Mary Beth is the thief, but others, like Dana, want more proof. They don’t reach any conclusion about what to do.

I don’t know, maybe it’s just me, but I would take this information to Alison and let her deal with it. Whether or not she’s the thief, Mary Beth has no business going into anyone’s room if the occupants aren’t home.

Johnny takes Faith to the Boston Pops on Saturday. That sounds like a pretty fancy second date for high school students. As they wander around Quincy Market before the concert, Faith spots Millie, who, true to form, has purchased a vase from a vendor and broken it before even leaving his booth. Millie rushes away from Faith before she can even introduce her to Johnny.

The whole student body was busier than ever and talk about the thefts simmered down after several days passed without incident. The girls were more cautious about putting their most precious belongings in inconspicuous places and in closing their drawers and doors.

I’m beginning to think they don’t have locks on their doors. That just doesn’t seem right.

The next Saturday, Dana is alone in the dorm, wandering down the hall, when she hears crying coming from Mary Beth’s room. She knocks on the door and asks if there’s anything she can do to help. Mary Beth lets her in but is reluctant to share any information until Dana presses her. Mary Beth is upset because she hasn’t made a single friend all year and she feels like an outsider. She admits that it’s her own fault for not letting anyone get close to her, but she feels ashamed of something and wants to keep it a secret. She finally tells Dana that her father is in jail for embezzling from his company. She’s recently decided not to visit him in prison anymore – it’s too hard to see him locked up and everything she has to tell him, about her schoolwork, seems so stupid. That day she received a letter back from him asking her to reconsider. She (and her mother) are the most important things to him and the only things keeping him going.

Now Dana is crying. She asks Mary Beth to let her share this information with Faith and Shelley, and says that Faith still needs someone to do those historic homes photos since her other choice has backed out.

Dana, Faith, and Shelley agree that this news explains a lot about Mary Beth, and they start to include her in their activities. Things are looking up for Mary Beth. She starts visiting her father again and decides to be more friendly and open to everyone when she returns to Canby in the fall. But one night she’s in the shower when she overhears two girls talking about the thefts — and accusing her of being the thief. Mary Beth is devastated and asks the girls of 407 if they think she’s guilty too. She has an explanation for being in Ellie’s room that day — she was taking back a library book that the girl had borrowed from her and was overdue.

Dana decides to set a trap and end this once and for all. There’s an all-school assembly the next day. Faith has to attend to take pictures for the paper, but Dana and Shelley hide in their closet. They leave a pair of Shelley’s feather earrings in plain sight on her dresser and the door to their room partly open. It takes a few minutes, but they soon hear someone in the room. They stumble out of the closet but no one is there — and one earring is gone! As Dana goes to the door to look in the hall, Shelley suddenly starts laughing and points to the culprit: Alison’s cat.

Since the cat hasn’t stolen the other items, the thief is still on the loose. It’s now June 1, exactly a year since Mary Beth’s father was sent to prison. She and Faith spend the day in Boston finally taking pictures of those historic homes. When they return to school, Dana shows them a column in the Boston paper: A Year Ago Today.

Melvin Grover, accountant for the Zanbar Corporation for fifteen years, was sentenced to eighteen months in prison for embezzlement.

The whole school has seen it. Grover isn’t that uncommon a last name, and it’s doubtful that anyone at Canby would know Mary Beth’s father’s first name, but apparently someone connected him to Mary Beth.

Dana suggests that they all go to the Oakley Prep carnival to take their minds off it. Dana’s Bret is on the carnival committee, Faith invites Johnny, and Shelley asks Tom to bring a friend for Mary Beth. Everyone has a good time and Ellie even sees them and apologizes for keeping Mary Beth’s library book for so long.

The following day Johnny invites Faith to the beach. He lets her know that he was accepted to the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. That’s super early acceptance. He’s just finishing up his junior year! Faith is upset because he’s know since the day before and didn’t tell her sooner and because she has feelings for him but can’t deal with him becoming a cop.

“I don’t want to be in love with a cop.”

Johnny smiled. “You said you loved me!” He was happy in spite of himself.

“That’s my problem,” Faith said and ran up the path to Baker House.

Dana and Shelley convince Faith to keep a pre-planned date to meet Johnny for ice cream on Friday. She’s not even sure he will show up, but when she arrives, he’s already there with a double cone of maple walnut and pistachio mint waiting for her. She tells him that she does love him but she just can’t be with a cop.

“I guess I understand how you feel but I can’t agree with you, and I sure don’t like it. Faith, the world is full of all kinds of danger. Danger for yourself and people you care about. You can’t avoid it.”

As if on cue, two gunmen enter the ice cream shop!

One, his arms covered with tattoos, guarded the door, which he’d locked. The other, who resembled a giant ferret, stood in the center of the front room and motioned with his gun for the two terrified girls who had been scooping out orders to come out from behind the counter.

A giant ferret! LOLZ. I love this next part, where the book does as all books do and refer to criminals by their looks. This guy gets called Ferret-face in the narration. But even better is the fact that Ferret-face actually calls the other guy “Tattoo” to his face, as if that’s his name.

Johnny calms the frightened customers down and tells Tattoo and Ferret-face to take whatever they want. Faith is terrified but takes note of Johnny’s ability to keep his cool. The gunmen tell the shop owner to call his wife and arrange for her to bring $50,000 in cash, his entire life’s savings, to the shop.

Obviously these guys aren’t exactly geniuses. How likely is it that this ice cream shop owner has that $50,000 in cash just sitting in the bank? Not very. Most of it is probably in investments.

While they wait, the gunmen rob their hostages, getting $6, a pair of silver earrings, and a Timex watch from Faith. When the shop owner’s wife arrives with the money Tattoo and Ferret-face prepare to leave. Before they can get all hostages into the backroom, five policemen burst into the store.

Ferret-face turned around, petrified, and started to make a break for the window nearest him, but two policemen blocked his way and wrestled him to the ground, disarming him in the process. Meanwhile, Tattoo was so bewildered that he dropped his gun and bolted for the door. The first policeman grabbed him and forced his arms behind his back, while another cop clapped his wrists with handcuffs.

The cops tell Johnny that the bank manager got suspicious when the shop owner’s wife made such a large withdrawal and was acting nervous. They followed her to the store and were able to get in when Tattoo left the door unlocked.

Everyone from the shop owner to the other hostages to the police to Faith are impressed by Johnny’s actions in keeping the hostages calm. Faith tells him that while her life was passing before her eyes, she realized that someone has to be a cop and that if that’s Johnny, she can handle it.

Faith is in the darkroom at the school paper when she overhears Millie being scolded for unrolling film before she gets into the darkroom, exposing the whole roll and rendering it useless. Tracy says that Millie can’t do anything right. Millie says she’s good a fooling people and admits that she’s the one who stole from the Baker residents.

Faith exits the darkroom to confront Millie and asks why she would do that. Millie said she did it to show that she could. She wasn’t even going to take the things home with her. She just wanted to do something special. They take Millie to see Alison, who takes her to the headmistress. Miss Allardyce gets Millie into therapy.

Dana, Faith and Shelley share the good news with Mary Beth. No one believes she’s a thief anymore. All is well.

The Cover
Why is there a dance on the cover? There was no dance in this book. Where’s Shelley? I want to see if she’s being portrayed as chubby yet.

Jenna