The Enid Blyton Society
Five on a Secret Trail
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Book Details...

First edition: 1956
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Illustrator: Eileen A. Soper
Category: Famous Five
Genre: Mystery/Adventure
Type: Novels/Novelettes

On This Page...

Reprint Covers
Review by Terry Gustafson
Further Illustrations


Dustwrapper from the 1st edition, illustrated by Eileen A. Soper

Endpapers from the 1st edition, illustrated by Eileen A. Soper

1st German edition published by Blüchert Verlag, Stuttgart in 1962,
illustrated by Nikolaus Plump with the title Five Friends Suspect a Mystery
Foreign Titles
German: Fünf Freunde wittern ein Geheimnis
French: Le Club des Cinq se Distingue
Dutch: De Vijf en het geheimzinnige spoor
Spanish: Los Cinco tras el pasadizo secreto
Portuguese: Os Cinco na Casa em Ruínas
Italian: Avventure con la Banda dei Cinque
Swedish: Fem följer ett spår
Danish: De fem følger et spor
Finnish: Viisikko Löytää Jäljen
Russian: Taina sapustannowo sleda
Greek: O Muetikoe Zapthe
Icelandic: Fimm á leynistigum

Brief Summary by Poppy Hutchinson: Camping out, alone, in the moorland, near Kirrin Cottage – George and Anne see a series of strange flashing lights, one night from a derelict cottage, nearby. They also become acquainted with a strange young boy, who is involved in a local archaeological dig and when they are reunited with Julian and Dick, who have just returned from France – there is plenty to talk about! The Five gradually become aware of the fact that someone is trying to scare them away from this desolate spot on the Common – but the question is: who and why?

Full Review (This may contain spoilers):

Terry Gustafson's Review
This book has the Five camping out on a nearby common and experiencing the usual disturbances in the form of suspicious/dangerous people and in this case — noises and lights in the night. Looking at the plot of this book I had to conclude that about here (maybe earlier for some fans) a little repetitiveness enters the series. A point can be reached where caves and passages, holes in the ground, secret tunnels, hidden rivers, mysterious mountains and the rest have been covered quite adequately but if the stories are popular and the children want them to go on forever there is not much an author can do but to repeat much of what has happened before!

At the start, the boy-George or the girl-Georgina, is alone with her dog — Timmy. She leaves Kirrin Cottage and goes to stay on the common because Timmy has to wear a cardboard collar to protect one of his ears which was accidentally cut by some barbed wire. The collar of card is quite a good idea if a dog has some damage around the head area because it prevents the animal from scratching at stitches or ripping bandages off. I first read about this medical ploy in a book called Shadow the Sheepdog by the same author and a very similar accident happened to Shadow. Like Timmy, he jumped over a ditch and was injured by a stray piece of barbed wire which did severe damage — not to his ear, but to his eyes. The trouble with Timmy's collar is that people are laughing and commenting about it. The postman thinks it's cruel and the local children find it amusing as does the cook and the milkman and even George's father (Quentin) reacts to it! George can't stand the embarrassment for poor Timmy and if the collar is so comical that it brings guffaws from her normally dour father then it's time to clear out so she makes herself comfortable a few miles away and awaits any cousin that feels like joining her. Anne is the first. She arrives at Kirrin Cottage and goes to stay with George at her camp. Anne's brothers — Dick and Julian, are currently spending a little time in France.

Exploring around, George and Anne discover an abandoned cottage and they also become friendly with a boy who's about thirteen or so and who owns a small mongrel dog named Jet. At first, he and his pet are hiding in the bushes and the boy makes his presence felt when he scares the girls with some bird and animal impressions that seem to come from nowhere. A few of Enid Blyton's characters were quite adept at imitating the creatures of the forest and this lad is yet another. He can imitate cats and horses and hens and ducks and, like George, he is possibly a little unsure of his true gender because Timmy disappears briefly and returns with a blue ribbon tied to his tale. Where do you find a blue hair-ribbon at a moment's notice? The girls eventually find the boy under a gorse bush and learn that he is interested in archaeology and has been digging around in what's left of an old Roman camp across the way. Maybe the ribbon is used for marking things. The boy doesn't want them to visit the area where he's working because he likes to be alone when involved with his hobby and he seems rather strange because later on when they meet up with him on the common he acts as if he isn't the boy with whom the girls originally became acquainted. George and Anne consider that he might be a little batty!

When Anne gets up for a drink of water in the night she spots a strange light flashing inside the derelict cottage. She rushes back and tells George who doesn't believe her and says it was probably a dream. The following evening a storm blows up and the girls opt to take their stuff into the little cottage and spend the night there. At one stage when they look out of the window a lightning flash shows up some figures standing out there in the rain which would be rather scary to anyone bedded down in a dark and lonely dwelling away from the brightness of civilisation. Anne wants to go back to Kirrin Cottage but the boys arrive on the scene next morning having finished their spell on the continent and all thoughts of leaving are forestalled.

Dick and Julian don't make an appearance until chapter eight and I doubt if any other heroes have been so late making an entrance into the story but it adds a little variety and one needs to remember that some variance in the plot is desirable although the options are becoming quite scarce. Despite the familiarity of the story- line, the diehard Famous Five fans can still enjoy themselves by associating with the Kirrins again and sitting with them as they consume boiled ham and other delicious food, play with Timmy, joke with each other and generally get on with their current investigations. Enid Blyton was able to involve the reader so well in her tales that when things became a little slow the company of her more famous characters could be sufficiently interesting in itself to those with reasonably developed imaginations.

The Five visit the archaeological site and the boys are introduced to their batty neighbour who's digging away and finding old coins and various artefacts. He still seems to be pretending that he's a different chap each time the Five come across him! Curious ... but solvable with a little intelligent analysis.

One night when sleeping in the cottage the children's senses are assaulted with mysterious lights and a loud wailing noise which presumably is an attempt to frighten them away. It's not easy to scare such people as the Famous Five from a potential adventure and they stay put although, outwardly, they give the impression of moving out in order to lull any intruders' suspicions. A rather spooky country woman who is portrayed as such in the Soper illustration and who is wearing a shawl and carrying a basket accosts the children at one stage and later on Julian, George and Dick demonstrate a Find-Outers' skill having noticed things about her that seem worthy of comment. The Five keep a watch on the cottage and confirm that there are individuals who are on some kind of a mission and the boys, who hide themselves nearby, witness them probing around for a secret passage. The archaeologist-lad who is camped nearby is then spirited away somewhere and more drama arises. The children search for and find a secret way where an object of great importance is discovered but it's not all plain sailing because in this adventure there are as many as four crooks involved which is almost one for each of the Five.

It might be said that the general level of the story would equate a little (just a little) with a Secret Seven tale insofar as constructive planning is involved but as stated earlier, the dedicated fans have yet another chance to involve themselves with the Famous Five and their day-to-day activities. These illustrations are hidden by default to ensure faster browsing. Loading the illustrations is recommended for high-speed internet users only.