Noel Streatfeild Ellen Lewis Buell - Essay

Ellen Lewis Buell

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

The ten to fourteen year old readers who enjoyed "Circus Shoes" and Noel Streatfeild's earlier books are due for a shock with ["The Secret of the Lodge"]—but it will not be one of disappointment, and Miss Streatfeild's audience will undoubtedly be enlarged by a considerable number of boys, since it pushes deeper into the fields of their interests than did any of the others. Indeed, this tale of a mystery which four children unravel in a remote mansion on the coast of Cornwall is every child's dream of triumph over villainous adults made as convincing as a billboard advertisement.

The Chandler brothers and sisters were not pleased to be shipped off to spend the Summer with their Uncle Murdock, known to them only by hearsay as an extremely unpopular member of the family. Nor was Uncle Murdock, secretary to the deposed dictator of Livia, any happier to see them…. In less than a day the children realized that they were practically prisoners, cut off entirely from the outside world…. This annoyed but did not trouble them until they heard from a gardener's lodge, strictly quarantined for typhoid fever, the unhappy crying of a child. They decided it was time for a secret investigation, and what they found there called for action of the speediest sort, action which will keep any reader galloping from page to page with suspense mixed with admiration for the courage and ingenuity which they exhibited in their various ways.

Like all Miss Streatfeild's characters, these are real boys and girls, terse-spoken, given to family wranglings, but fiercely loyal, and much of the interest depends upon their individual reactions to crisis…. This is an intelligent and timely mystery-adventure story, which avoids the cheaply sensational in an entirely plausible manner.

Ellen Lewis Buell, "On Cornwall's Coast," in The New York Times Book Review (© 1940 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), August 4, 1940, p. 9.