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The Secret Pact by Mildred A. Wirt

The Secret Pact (1941)

by Mildred A. Wirt

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As usual, there's more than one mystery going on. The first one is a young lady in disguise aboard the same excursion boat that Penny and her chum, Louise, have taken. The second is the attempted murder of an ex-sailor with a curious octopus tattoo on his back (and that's in just the first two chapters).

It so happens that Penny's story about the attempted murder is rejected by her high school paper's editor, Fred Clousky, around the time that Penny learns that the building and machinery for a former rival of her father's paper is sitting idle. The result is 'The Weekly Times,' a real newspaper that Penny, Louise, and some other kids from their school put out -- with a little help from dear old dad. Fred Clousky won the school paper's editorship over Penny by just one vote. Who's green with envy now?

Penny's story about the octopus tattoo leads to her acquaintance with the unpleasant Peter Fenestra, owner of a farm called the Willows that's not far from a four-room cottage Mr. Parker bought for weekend fishing. Fenestra is no farmer. What's in his storm cave that's so important that he keeps the door always locked? It's a quiet spot in 1941, not the more cautious times we live in.

When Fenestra needs a new housekeeper, Penny talks Mrs. Weems into taking the job. If there's a big story behind that storm cave, Penny wants the scoop. Her disregard for her surrogate mother's safety really got on my nerves, which is why I docked the book half a star.

On the other hand, I enjoyed Penny's method of dealing with handsome reporter Jerry Livingston's attempt to flirt with her at the company picnic. Wasn't it lucky that it led them to witnessing another murder attempt?

Yet another mystery subplot is just why the owner and publisher of that former rival of Mr. Parker sold his business. It's not a pretty story.

Penny faces a nasty death twice this time -- once by nature, once by man. Whatever the secret pact of the title is about, it's important enough to warrant an FBI investigation.

My copy is a later printing with a redrawn, plain-paper version of the K.S. Woerner glossy frontispiece. (The original version may be viewed at Project Gutenberg). The redrawn version has lengthened Penny's hair. I think she looks more surprised in the original. ( )
  JalenV | Jun 4, 2012 |
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A BLANKET of fog, thick and damp, swirled about the decks of the excursion steamer, Goodtime, cautiously plying its course down the river.
Walking even faster, the girls hastened along the winding path. The air remained sultry and very still. The sky, Penny noted, had changed to a peculiar yellowish color.
Then, as she watched with increasing alarm, a writhing, twisting, funnel-shaped arm reached down from the boiling clouds, anchoring them to earth. For a moment the entire mass seemed to settle and flatten out.
'Listen!' commanded Penny.
Plainly, they both could hear a sullen, deep-throated roar as the storm moved forward.
'A tornado!' gasped Louise. 'It's coming this way!' (chapter 8)
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