Terrible news! The newspaper reports that a plane has crashed on the deck of the 'Balaska', their Uncle's ship, and injured several passengers. A telegram is delivered that day to inform Lettie Briggs that one of those (minorly) injured was her father. The telegram giving the news is delivered by the plane's pilot's son.
All in a typical day at the Starhurst School for Girls.
The telegram boy ends up getting fired for being slow to return from jobs (his bicycle tires were flat, and then the bicycle got hit by a truck - excuses, excuses). The Dana Girls (and Evelyn Star, before she gets tired and gets out of the mystery) take sympathy on him and want to pump him for more information about his bad pilot of a father.
At the boy's home, they find the house in disarray: "Mother would never leave the house untidy!" Sure enough, there's a crook tossing the place and he almost gets away with a tin box full of cash. Except he runs in a peculiar way, turning in a circle before running off.
There is some doubt as to who actually owns the money as it was obtained dishonestly. The girls are asked to find the real owners and foil some other crimes along the way.
This was ridiculous and fun, but there were two strikes against it. First, there is the black cook at Starhurst, Amanda, who had had a brief cameo in 'By the Light of the Study Lamp', whose man friend resorts to theft to keep her supplied with fancy cologne. Oh man. I've talked enough about that garbage this week. Next! The other, more minor point, but still pointing to some underlying cultural rot, is the character of Lettie Briggs. The girls are constantly thrown together, and when the girls should react with sympathy or admiration with each other, they fall back on snobbery and cold shoulders. When Lettie and Louise are caught in the crossfires of a mad woman accusing them of vandalism (somewhat accurately, but don't let's get into that now) to a policeman. Jean creates a distraction and allows them to make a run for it. Lettie is thrilled, but the Danas impatiently wait for her to leave them alone before getting on with business. Later, at a fancy dress dance where the girls partner the girls as was the custom at a girl's school, Lettie tries fighting off a prowler on the grounds. It's even the frontispiece picture, but no one comments on her efforts except to say she was clearly losing. Written nowadays, the girls would develop a grudging respect for each other at least.
Next: 'The Mystery of the Locked Room'
Previous: 'The Secret at the Hermitage'