Starting with Surprise Island, every Boxcar Children book takes place in a different summer vacation. Yet somehow, these kids haven't gotten any older. That's the REAL mystery here...
The Boxcar Children are visiting Aunt Jane again. Thanks to the uranium mine, life in the local town has boomed. Why, they even have their own town newspaper!
Today's headline? URANIUM FOUND IN URANIUM MINE.
That's the headline most days. It's not a very GOOD newspaper...
As you would expect, the town needs some cheap labor for the mine, so they've shipped in a lot of poor people, including Mike Wood! He appeared in Surprise Island for about two pages. He's basically the same as Benny, except he has bad grammar and fights more often.
Sometimes he's entertaining, and sometimes, he's so annoying, it makes you want to stop reading. In other words, just like Benny.
Mike's family is so poor, that his mother is forced to do laundry for money. She has no free time, ever. Oh, and she just baked four pies for everyone. Sounds like someone with a lot of free time to me...
Mike shows off an old newspaper. He tried get on the front page, by photobombing a story about the mine. But what's this? Mike was cropped out of the photograph! Instead, some other guy is in the picture. Mike gets super angry about a STRANGER stealing his spotlight. Unsurprisingly, the stranger will be the book's culprit, because NO ONE gets away with upsetting Mike.
In Chapter Four, Mike's house burns down. The Boxcar Children love being homeless, so they're happy about this new adventure! They make plans for where Mike is going to live, and they search town. There's an empty building that no one is using, and since the Boxcar Children technically own the entire town, they decide the building will become Mike's new home.
They get a better idea! Mike's mother can install a stove in her new home, and that way, she can live out her dream of making pies all day long! They name the new restaurant "Mike's Mother's Place". We have to name it after Mike, because obviously Mrs. Wood does not have a name of her own. Mike's Mother's Place is instantly successful. She sells about 50 pies per day, for the rest of her life.
Most of the book focuses on the pie restaurant and buying things for the new house. But there's also a MYSTERY. A man in a blue hat starts spreading rumors that Mike burned down his house for fun. Blue Hat Man also...oh, is that the only evidence we have? Okay. Blue Hat Man thought Mike was playing with matches, so HE must be the culprit! And clearly, he's the STRANGER that stole Mike's spot in the newpaper, too, as part of a plot to ruin Mike's life.
Because it's clearly impossible that two different people would mildly inconvenience our hero.
It turns out that entire situation is Mike's fault. One day, he was bragging about how he's a great guy, and how he could have stopped the culprits in the last book. Well, a culprit from that book just happened to be standing around, and he heard this. So he got revenge by burning Mike's house down.
A six-year-old trash-talks you, and you burn their house down? Harsh.
The fire was intended to be a distraction, so the culprit could blow up the uranium mine. We know this, because there are wires behind the mine. Obviously, wires are proof that someone has bombs. Right?
The kids throw a pie party, complete with a documentary about monkeys. While everyone is distracted, the culprit tries to blow up the mine a second time, but he is caught by Mike's dog.
Yeah, Mike's dog is a better detective than Mike. Go figure.
The cover is Mike's dog, digging in the sand. He digs up a blue hat and a can of gasoline, which PROVES that the Blue Hat Man is the culprit! I find it odd that the culprit tried to get rid of all the evidence, besides for the bomb wires. Why would you bury your HAT instead of bomb wires? What makes you think the hat is more suspicious evidence?
This book rewrites the previous book, by saying the culprits discovered the uranium mine by accident. They were living on Aunt Jane's ranch for a long time. I don't think that was an accident. But hey, unlike last book, we actually SEE the culprit this time! At the very end, when he's arrested. He doesn't say anything, but that's better than having an unseen culprit.
I didn't like this book very much, since most of it was about making Mike a new home, and selling pies. The mystery parts were better, but it's still not a good mystery. The solution pretty much boils down to "that one guy was kinda mean once, so he's the culprit". But this book does a way better job of balancing the mystery with the other storyline than the last two books do, and it's mostly entertaining, so I'm gonna be generous with the score.
I give Boxcar Children #5, Mike's Mystery, a 7 out of 10.