I didn’t intend to recap two books in a row that featured Buddy Barrett. It just so happened that I started reading this one right after the last one, mainly because I remembered bits and pieces of this one.
Mrs. Pike makes a tuna casserole for Stacey and her mom, figuring that they don’t have time to cook and unpack at the same time. Mallory runs it over and finds Claudia there. They take some stuff upstairs and find a bunch of stuff there. Both girls fall in love with a locked trunk and Mrs. McGill lets them have it. Claudia lets Mallory keep it, since her house is closer.
The triplets help her take it home, but get bored because it’s locked up. It drives everyone crazy, but she doesn’t want to open it because it will ruin the trunk. Eventually she decides to let the triplets break the lock and they find that it’s mainly full of clothes. She does find a diary/journal in the bottom and decides to read through it.
The journal belongs to a 12-year-old girl named Sophie, who once lived in Stacey’s house. Her mom died after having a baby boy and her grandfather Hickman hates on her dad a lot. She explains that a painting of her mom went missing from his house, he blamed his former son-in-law and people in town turned against them. Sophie swears that she and her dad won’t rest until the mystery is solved, making Mallory wonder if the house is haunted.
Buddy enters the picture because he’s having a lot of trouble reading and his mom needs to hire a tutor from the club, so Mallory gets the job. Of course Mrs. Barrett can’t be bothered to help because she’s too busy hanging with friends and still looking for a part-time job. He hates reading, so she shows him some fun reading, like comics and Encyclopedia Brown. Then she tells him about the diary and he wants to see it.
When Buddy reads it, he wants to investigate the trunk. His hand gets caught and when he pulls it out, she finds a hidden area with a bunch of papers tucked inside. The papers are actually a confession from Hickman and it’s the same Hickman from the cemetery (Old Man Hickman). He confesses that he loved the painting, but couldn’t handle seeing his daughter every day. He hired someone to paint over it and then hung it back up in his house. When people asked about it, he claimed it mysteriously disappeared.
Other people started blaming Sophie’s dad and he just kind of went along with it. They figure out that he stuck a bunch of papers in the trunk and then died. His nephew just randomly threw things from the big house into trunks and boxes, then moved them over to the smaller house, which Hickman also owned.
Mallory and Buddy tell Stacey the story and then tell her mom too. They go upstairs and find the original painting, which she finds by seeing a ringed finger under a painting of ships. Mrs. McGill takes the painting to a restorer, who takes off the top layer and they hang the painting back up.
*This is a little picky, but Sophie was writing in 1890 and she was 12. We’re supposed to believe that her mom went 12 years without having kids and then randomly had another? That’s not very plausible.
*What’s up with the single moms in Stoneybrook? Was alimony really that great? Stacey’s mom, Dawn’s mom and Mrs. Barrett all get great houses and have tons of money, without having a job or while working part-time.
*Seriously, Mrs. Barrett is a fucking wreck. She explains that she works from home in the morning so she can spend time with Marnie, but can’t be expected to have time to take care of the kids and help with homework too. What the hell is wrong with her?
*Mallory keeps calling Jessi with updates about the diary, until Mrs. Ramsey says no more calls for the night. I totally remember doing stuff like this with my friends.
*Mallory wants contacts, but can’t have them until she’s 12. I had glasses from third grade on and didn’t even think about contacts until high school!
*Mallory helps Buddy make his own comic book. I thought this idea was so cool that I tried to do it myself when I was a kid. Yeah…that was a little more work than I wanted to do.
*The girls do a séance at Stacey’s house and Kristy wants to be the madam. She dresses up and makes everyone call her Madam Kristin, but then cracks and ruins the whole thing.