The Enid Blyton Society
The Mystery of the Spiteful Letters
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Book Details...

First edition: 1946
Publisher: Methuen
Illustrator: Joseph Abbey
Category: Five Find-Outers
Genre: Mystery/Adventure
Type: Novels/Novelettes

On This Page...

Reprint Covers
Reviews by Imran Patel & Robert Houghton
Further Illustrations


Wraparound dustwrapper from the 1st edition, illustrated by Joseph Abbey

1st German edition published by Erika Klopp Verlag in 1954,
illustrated by Walter Born with the title Mystery of the Venomous Feather
Foreign Titles
German: Geheimnis um eine giftige Feder
French: Le Mystère des enveloppes mauves
Dutch: De Vijf Detectives – Het raadsel van de boze brieven
Spanish: Misterio de los Anonimos
Portuguese: O Mistério das Cartas Anónimas
Swedish: Mysteriet med de anonyma breven
Finnish: Nimettömien kirjeiden salaisuus
Icelandic: Dularfullu bréfin
Czech: Tajemstvi Anonymnich Dopisu

Brief Summary by Julie Heginbotham: Who could be sending anonymous letters to some of the residents of Peterswood? Who could be so spiteful? Even timid Gladys, Pip and Bets housemaid receives one of these anonymous letters. The Find-Outers set about trying to solve this mystery, and even manage to get to look at some of the letters, and discover they were all posted from the small market town of Sheepsale. It's all just a matter of time now before the children discover who the writer is, but Mr Goon is also close on their heels.

Full Reviews (These may contain spoilers):

Imran Patel's Review
The fourth book in the Five Find-Outers series is a whodunnit but strangely not one of my favourites. It does have lots of humour as Fatty disguises himself as a red-headed boy — the politest there ever was — but the mystery is rather weak — and I was not surprised with the ending, the solution was too clear already — and surprised when the other Find-Outers couldn't figure it out: they are so silly — and...

There are a number of questions left unanswered. For instance, why did the letter-writer put the clues in an unsafe place? Surely he/she would know that someone was bound to find them? Or maybe they thought the person who found them wouldn't be clever enough...clever prediction, eh?

Before I go on about the story, let us recap. The other Find-Outers (by "other" I mean excluding Fatty) receive a telegram from a boy, which says that Fatty is currently in Tippylooloo, solving a mystery. What a name, fresh from Enid's imagination! The boy who delivers the letter is very, very polite to Mr. Goon (who happens to be present) and though he intentionally knocks Mr. Goon off his bicycle, he is oh-so-polite: "I really am sorry, sir. Please don't report me," that Goon says: "Now there's a civil and respectful boy to the Law." (Or words to that effect.) However, he — the telegraph boy — is an admirer of that "famous detective, Mr. Trotteville," and Goon is very much annoyed. (Even the Find-Outers are!) And when they see Mrs. Trotteville, the latter is very confused...

All good fun. At this time this seems a very enjoyable read, even though we don't know what the mystery is going to be. Well, we haven't very long to wait, that's certain!

This mystery contains some rather adult things. Gladys, the Hiltons' maid, has been getting "nonnimus" letters — hence the book's title — "Spiteful Letters." I suppose Enid thought "Anonymous Letters," would be too adult a title, so took on "Spiteful." She made the right decision I think. After all, this is written for children! And anonymous spiteful letters are clearly not the things I would expect in any children's book. Clearly Enid was aiming this book at a target audience of older children; say 10-12. However, I know that plenty of 8-9 year olds read this before: maybe I'm just a little too dubious about things.

The motive for the crimes is extremely weak. Why, it's nothing other than just plain spite! The culprit to me is blindingly obvious. I was screaming at the Find-Outers most of the time! Fancy themselves as a lot of detectives, eh? Tell me...

Once again, Goon hands the main important clues to the Find-Outers, thinking that it's just a prank. Oh, Goon; can't you differentiate between false clues and real clues? However did you become a policeman? I have a feeling that we would all like to know this. Did Goon ever solve a single mystery? I think we should be told.

When Fatty figures it all out and the other Find-Outers don't, I was shaking my head in dismay and annoyance. Why; the dunces! We can forgive Bets, but Pip, Larry and Daisy...? Hmm.

Another annoying thing is this: the Find-Outers have noted that the — err, spiteful letters are postmarked 11.45am on Mondays from Sheepsale (a town near to Peterswood.) They quickly think that the letter-writer must get the 10.15am bus then, to post the letters! Eh? Couldn't there be any other method of transport? Cars? Taxis? Anything? O.K., cars weren't really the norm for transport in the 1940s, but I am sure that they were there anyway. I don't know much about taxis and anything else, but had it to be the 10.15am bus? Hmm. The letter-writer could have posted the letters anytime after Saturday! And some people did have cars! Then...? Naturally the Find-Outers are correct. But oh well...

It might seem that I am overly critical of this book, and while I am in a sense; I found some parts very enjoyable (hey, a Blyton book wouldn't be a Blyton book if it wasn't enjoyable.) It's just that the twist isn't really good. In previous mysteries like the first and second books, we know who the culprit is, but we don't know how they could do it. In this, I just easily guessed. A huge disappointment.

The suspects are as follows: Mrs. Moon, the Hiltons' maid; Mrs Tittle, a spiteful dressmaker; and Old Nosey. They are all crossed out at one point; but to me, it was blindingly obvious as to whose name would be rewritten. And I am not revealing who!

The way the Find-Outers solve the mystery is disappointing too. The clues are planted under a bush (for no reason apparently; and again I have to groan, "We should be told this!"), are taken by Mr. Goon and handed by him to the Find-Outers, and Fatty knows how the culprit did it, as do we, the other Find-Outers don't. Then comes the revelation, which also limps. More than a little weak for me.

All in all, this to me is one of the average titles in the series, although certainly much better than the previous book, The Mystery of the Secret Room. Blyton is again good with her mystery and plot, but still it's not quite perfect. The disguises are great; the fun parts are great; but the mystery isn't perfect. The entire book is solid and shows that Blyton was perfecting her methods. In The Mystery of the Missing Necklace, the next title, Blyton finally brings it all together and the result is an excellent book, being of the high standard we come to expect of the Find-Outers series.

I would rate The Mystery of The Spiteful Letters 8/10, as it is one of the good ones, but not one of the "better" ones.

Robert Houghton's Review
Book four, The Mystery of The Spiteful Letters is the book that marks the transition between books similar in style to the 'Five's' and the 'Secret' series to books more in the style of the 'Barney' stories. Clearly, as the Mystery series progressed Enid was aiming it at older children than when she first began. This is very clear from The Mystery of The Spiteful Letters as it deals with more adult themes, such as blackmail. However, Mrs. Moon, the illiterate letter writer must certainly have been full of spite to so laboriously go through each letter of a children's alphabet book, learning how to write by copying the shapes of the letters in order to spread her accusations! And to read a dictionary just to find the right words, and then to underline them really is going a bit far! It is this one oversimplification that spoils the book, which otherwise is a very mysterious and involving read. These illustrations are hidden by default to ensure faster browsing. Loading the illustrations is recommended for high-speed internet users only.