The Enid Blyton Society
The Mystery of the Disappearing Cat
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Book Details...

First edition: 1944
Publisher: Methuen
Illustrator: Joseph Abbey
Category: Five Find-Outers
Genre: Mystery/Adventure
Type: Novels/Novelettes

On This Page...

Reprint Covers
Reviews by David Cook & Robert Houghton
Further Illustrations


Wraparound dustwrapper from the 1950 reprint, illustrated by Joseph Abbey

1st German edition published by Erika Klopp Verlag in 1953,
illustrated by Walter Born with the title Mystery of the Siamese Cat
Foreign Titles
German: Geheimnis eum eine siamesische Katze
French: Le Mystère du chat siamois
Dutch: De Vijf Detectives – Het raadsel van de verdwenen kat
Spanish: Misterio del Gato Desaparecido
Portuguese: O Mistério da Gata Desaparecida
Swedish: Mysteriet med den forsvunna katten
Danish: Mysteriet om den forsvundne kat
Finnish: Kadonneen kissan salaisuus
Icelandic: Dularfulla kattarhvarfið
Czech: Tajemstvi Ztracene Kocky

Brief Summary by Julie Heginbotham: Pip and Bets are pleased when the once empty house next door is now lived in by Lady Candling and her valuable prize winning Siamese Cats. One in particular is very special, and is called Dark Queen. However, they don't like Mr Tupping, the horrid gardener, who is bad-tempered and very unpleasant to Luke, who also works in the garden. Then mysteriously Dark Queen is stolen, and all the clues point to the Find-Outers friend, Luke. They set about trying to find Dark Queen and prove that Luke is innocent, and much to the annoyance of Mr Goon, they find out who the real culprit is.

Full Reviews (These may contain spoilers):

David Cook's Review
This second story is both unique and remarkable in that apart from a visit to a fair it is largely set in two gardens, those of the Hiltons and their new next door neighbour Lady Candling. Gardens of the 1940s were substantially larger than those of present times and as we shall see there is a strong autobiographical slant to this story as much of the areas described in the gardens correspond to descriptions given of 'Green Hedges' by Imogen Smallwood in her childhood memoirs. It also seems likely that the inspiration for this story hinges on the dislike that Enid had for her gardener!

This was Old Tapping part of a family who worked at Green Hedges. His daughter-in-law Frances (a war widow from 1942) was Enid's cook, much valued by Enid for her formidability and efficiency and his grandson Kenneth was a playmate of Imogen's, though four years younger. Kenneth like Imogen was unhappy at Green Hedges and possibly due to the loss of his father allied himself with his grandfather against 'the forceful woman of the house'. Old Tapping annoyed Enid by his intransigence over what he regarded as his domain — the garden.

Imogen explains: —

"Old Tapping was in charge of the main part of the garden. He mowed the big lawns and the grass paths that ran between the vegetable beds. He tended the vegetables and the soft fruit and harvested and pruned the fruit trees. He kept his tools in a wooden shed by the bonfire and compost heap near the bottom of the garden ... My mother and Old Tapping were enemies. I suspect that she inherited him with the garden. He seemed to dislike all of us and eventually he left, dismissed, he later told his grandson Kenneth for taking vegetables home ... Old Tapping then went to work in the large garden that backed onto ours and part of which we later bought. Kenneth remembers escaping ... running all the way to the end of the garden and calling over the fence to his granpa, who would lift him safely over ... According to people I have spoken to he was really quite a nice old man and a wonderful gardener — even if he was most stubbornly possessive."

Unfortunately Enid was not content merely to sack Old Tapping — an act which meant that for many years her garden had a less than perfect appearance — but went on to further malign his character in her creation of the similarly named Mr. Tupping, gardener to Lady Candling.

To again quote Imogen — who is almost becoming my co-writer here (!) —

"Enid makes Mr. Tupping one of her most evil characters. He is a cruel, violent, mendacious thieving man and he believed that Lady Candling's garden was his own."

Indeed another remarkable aspect of this book, which is a second 'whodunnit' is that Mr. Tupping is such a nasty bullying individual that he just has to be the villain of the piece. Enid's ingenuity in this book is proving his guilt!

The events in this second book occur only a few months after those of the first. The scene changes from Easter to the following summer holiday and we learn that all the children apart from Bets go to boarding school. The youngest Find-Outer misses all the other terribly and is especially thrilled when Pip tells her that Fatty's family have decided to move to Peterswood which means that all five Find-Outers (and Dog) can be reunited. Fatty's family has moved to 'The White House' and it seems Enid likes 'coloured' houses as we learn from both the Burnt Cottage and the Spiteful Letters mysteries that Pip and Bets live at 'Red House'. Fatty is as thrilled as Bets at the reunion and full of beams at being top of his class asks Bets if there are any mysteries or problems to be solved as they are still the Find-Outers.

The only news Bets has to impart is that the house next door, empty for two years is now owned and occupied by Lady Candling and her entourage. Bets has noticed a big boy with a cheerful whistle working in the garden there and knows that Lady Candling keeps 'very funny cats'. Once again Enid uses Bets' youthful naivety to explain how different and valuable a Siamese cat is from your average household tabby! She also gives Buster the Scottie amusing thoughts on cats — 'silly useless animals with paws full of nasty pins and needles! Cats were only good for one thing and that was — to chase!'

Straight away Enid sets up situations to introduce all the major characters that appear in the story. Larry goes to the wall and makes the acquaintance of Luke the whistling gardener's boy. Larry asks Luke if he's the gardener and if they can come and see the Siamese cats. Luke replies that the gardener is Mr. Tupping with his hooky nose and bad temper and that they had better visit the cattery the following day when Tupping is out as Tupping behaves as if 'the whole place is his'. An immediate impression is gained plus a foreboding of things to come.

The following day the children visit as planned and meet Miss Harmer the kennel maid and her prize cat Dark Queen with her distinguishing mark of cream hairs on her brown tail. Buster is left at Pip's, but escapes and appears causing uproar. Dark Queen flees in fright with Bets in pursuit and then Tupping appears. Enid works hard at making Tupping abhorrent. He has stone coloured eyes, his straw coloured hair is grey streaked, his facial wrinkles are full of dirt and his hooky nose goes red!

The outcome of this is that Tupping catches Buster and locks him in a shed, hits out at both Fatty and Luke and drives the four elder Find-Outers out of the garden. They retreat not realising Bets is hidden up a tree with Dark Queen. Luckily Luke proves a true friend and at risk of being beaten or sacked by Tupping, helps Bets over the wall, replaces Dark Queen and releases Buster from the shed. The Find-Outers are truly grateful for Luke's help and tell him that they are his friends and will be there for him if he ever needs friends.

The friendship develops enough for Luke to go on walks with the Find-Outers and share his knowledge of country ways. Although not academically bright, Luke proves good with his hands, carving out models and whistles from wood. He encourages Bets with her own small garden and gives her some strawberry runners that were due to be burnt from the Candling garden.

Enid now introduces a final new character, Lady Candling's companion Miss Trimble. She is a tall thin lady of nervous disposition, particularly around Tupping. Even her nose is thin, too thin to hold her pince-nez glasses which continually fall off to Bets' delight. Miss Trimble or Tremble as the children call her was such a distinctive character to Enid that she appears in two further mysteries. Unfortunately she unwittingly causes trouble for Luke and Bets when she lets slip to Tupping about the strawberry runners. In a quite outrageous act Tupping climbs the wall and retrieves the runners from the garden of a frightened Bets. He gets away with this through threatening Luke with prison via his best friend Mr. Goon and with informing Luke's stepfather who also beats the boy and relieves him of half his wages. So for Luke's sake the Find-Outers keep mum.

Enid has now introduced all the characters and set up their relationships. All that is needed now is the mystery which follows shortly. Lady Candling's prize cat Dark Queen disappears. Both Miss Harmer the kennel maid and Tupping are out for the day, the latter with Goon. Dark Queen is seen to be in the cattery up until 4pm, but by 5pm when Tupping and Goon return she has vanished. The only person around during that hour was Luke digging on 'The Long Bed'. Therefore he is Prime Suspect.

Pip witnesses a meeting in the Candling garden of her Ladyship, Miss Trimble, Goon and Tupping where Luke is accused of the crime by the latter two. Only Lady Candling's intervention stops the bullying and Luke is escorted by Goon and Tupping to see his stepfather, who may give them information on Luke's friends. This leaves the Find-Outers a clear run to search for clues. The only real one is a smell of turpentine, but chillingly and predictably a whistle of Luke's is found. The Find-Outers remove this and not for the last time lay false clues. Fatty witnesses the return of Goon and Tupping and in a stroke of genius on Enid's part, Goon announces to the world his Christian name Theophilus. How appropriate that name is for a pompous, conceited, self-important yet intellectually limited individual like Goon! These qualities are soon exhibited when the false clues are discovered.

The Find-Outers interview all possible suspects within the Candling household and draw blank, but soon they have something else on their mind as Luke vanishes. It soon becomes clear that he has most likely run away to join a friend of his called Jake who is with a travelling circus. For the first time in the story Enid lets the children get out of the gardens and then makes a rare continuity slip. All five Find-Outers and Dog attend for tea at the Daykins before cycling to the circus to seek Luke. En route they encounter Goon, who fortuitously has a puncture and then on arrival at the circus Bets is left in charge of the bikes as she is frightened of animals. At no point during this narrative does Enid mention Buster who would have chased Goon and guarded the bikes with Bets. Perhaps Fatty took Buster home and Enid forgot to tell us.

Predictably it is Bets who finds Luke. When Goon arrives and tells Jake about the missing cat something Luke omitted to tell him, Jake tells Luke to go. Luke then turns up at the Hilton's house and Pip and Bets hide him in their summerhouse, which is still being used as the Find-Outers' headquarters, with its loose board still serving as a hiding place for any evidence found. The Find-Outers agree to hide and feed Luke there and typically in character the boy shows his gratitude by doing some gardening.

Talking of characters it is interesting to note that Enid is developing those of the individual Find-Outers. Larry the eldest is still ostensibly the head of the group and effects introductions to other characters, but it is more and more Fatty who naturally comes to the fore. He is first to challenge Tupping and has a wicked wit with Goon. Bets remains the conduit through which much is explained and revealed. Pip as the son of Lady Candling's neighbour comes to the forefront several times and contributes ideas. Daisy also has ideas and is reliable, but remains something of a colourless background character.

From now on some events seem familiar with even a touch of déjà vu. When it seems Goon suspects the Find-Outers are hiding Luke, Fatty contacts Inspector Jenks for advice. The Inspector arranges to meet the children where he first met them in the previous book, by the river for a picnic. Goon cottons on to this and assumes the Find-Outers are meeting Luke. There is an amusing scene when he discovers his mistake. Enid here seems to have forgotten all about Larry being head of the Find-Outers as it is Fatty who baits Goon and explains things to the Inspector. The Inspector decides that 'poor hunted Luke' must be allowed to resume his normal life. Luke is frightened or 'frit' about doing this. This is an unusual phrase that Enid was to bestow on another boy, who was canny if not academic, the shepherd's grandson Yan in Five Go Down to the Sea written nine years later in 1953. It's also another example of how things were filed away in Enid's card index mind to be reused at will.

By lucky chance Dark Queen chooses to reappear at this time and so between them Inspector Jenks and Lady Candling ensure that Luke can return to his former life with no fear of bullying. All seems well until Dark Queen disappears again in what appears to be identical circumstances to the first time. Once again Miss Harmer is out for the day, Dark Queen is observed to be there only to disappear later, when only Luke has been working near the cattery. Once again a whistle of Luke's is placed in the cattery and there is a smell of turpentine. Additionally a small stone is found with a blob of cream coloured paint on it.

The Holmes and Watson team of Fatty and Bets comes to the fore with Fatty requesting ideas from Bets that feed his inspiration. Bets suggests finding where the turpentine bottle is kept and when Luke declares that it is missing there is another moment of déjà vu when again Buster tracks down and digs up evidence the criminal has hidden. It's not shoes this time, though the villain's rubber boots are later located as evidence, but the bottle of turpentine and a tin of creamy paint to match the blob on the stone. Bets' next suggestion to find where the turpentine smell is precisely located in the cattery and the discovery that it is on a cat's tail exactly where Dark Queen's creamy hairs are located leads Fatty to the revelation that the cat's tail was used as a decoy, and Dark Queen could have been removed earlier. This was why Miss Harmer familiar with all the cats had to be absent each time and Enid has had her revenge on Old Tapping!

But it's not quite a complete revenge. When Tupping is revealed as the culprit he 'crumpled up completely. From a harsh, cruel, bad-tempered man he turned into a weeping coward and it was not a pleasant sight.' "Bullies are always cowards" Fatty whispered to Larry "now you can see what he's really like underneath."

Enid must have obviously felt like this about Old Tapping and this message about bullying equating with cowardice was used in other stories notably with Mr. Andrews in Five Go Off to Camp (1948) and Erlick in The Mountain of Adventure (1949). Quite why Enid reiterated this message so frequently is unclear. There is no real evidence that she suffered from this in any way herself unless she felt bullied by her mother's attitude when her father left the family home.

Anyway Enid had her revenge in a most satisfactory way and the manner in which she explained the answer to a most baffling mystery was in a totally unique and original way. The Disappearing Cat is a fine story and a worthy follow up to the Burnt Cottage.

Robert Houghton's Review
The Mystery of The Disappearing Cat is the second in the series. It is surprising that after such a strong start with The Mystery of The Burnt Cottage, that mystery number two doesn't live up to expectations. This story is one of the weakest of the series, although the way in which the crime is committed is rather intriguing (not to say unlikely). But the story itself is curiously un-involving dealing more with the false accusation of their friend Luke (another reoccurring theme) than with the actual mystery.

We meet Lady Candling, Pip and Bet's new neighbour, who features to a lesser extent in some of the later books also. However, Lady C is seemingly used just as a convenient excuse to have the crime occur. It's a wonder she stays in the house actually, for no sooner does she move in than her prize cat is stolen! Obviously Peterswood is not a very good area in which to live, as its crime figures must surely be even higher than Aidensfield's Heartbeat. These illustrations are hidden by default to ensure faster browsing. Loading the illustrations is recommended for high-speed internet users only.