Friday, September 16, 2016

A Ted Wilford Mystery, no. 2 - The Locked Safe Mystery

For someone who has never enjoyed reading mystery series with boy protagonists, I readily admit that the Ted Wilford series is holding my interest.  Author Norvil Pallas writes some fairly complicated mysteries, considering the age level at which these books are aimed, but the resolution at the end is always logical, believable, and somewhat obvious once revealed.

This is yet another series that I would highly recommend reading in order, as each story clearly builds from the one before.  The first book in the series found Ted's older brother being offered a job out of town, forcing up to vacate his reporter position with the local newspaper.  In this book, Ronald is already settled into his new job at the big city paper, and not only is Ted filling his shoes as editor at the Forestdale High School Statesman (the school newspaper), but he's also been offered a chance to write some articles now and again for the local newspaper.  Additionally, the young boy that Ted helped in the first book, Tim, has had the surgery necessary to allow him to walk, and school is starting for the new year.  Time clearly moves forward in this book (such as in the Judy Bolton series by Margaret Sutton), and the characters age and change.  And as much as I enjoy the Nancy Drew, Bobbsey Twins, and other ageless series, I have to admit, the fact that the characters grow and mature is a nice change of pace.

In The Locked Safe Mystery, Pallas once again puts Ted into the thick of things.  Ted is put in charge of ticket sales for the fall fundraising event at Forestdale High - but when the event is over, the cash is missing, and the assistant principal has skipped town, Ted feels a responsibility to find out what really happened.  Everyone, including the police, believes the assistant principal absconded with the money, but Ted feels otherwise.  He is determined to prove Mr. Clayton's innocence, and he even enlists the aid of his brother's former competitor, Ken Kutler (who is a reporter for another paper), to help uncover the truth.

What is interesting about this series (so far) is that the lead character, Ted Wilford, is not the one who puts together the clues and solves the mystery; rather, he simply follows along as others make the necessary connections and make the deductions to reveal the solution to the crime.  In this book, while Ted is determined to prove to everyone that Mr. Clayton is innocent, it is actually his brother and Ken Kutler who uncover the final clues that reveal what actually happened the night the money was stolen from the safe. Yes, Ted works hard, and he even sneaks out at night (twice!) to follow up on mysterious phone messages that lead him first to Thunder Mountain, and later to a train station in the dead of night - - and while he continues to seek evidence that will exonerate Mr. Clayton, it isn't until his brother brings Mr. Clayton home and Kutler reveals a secret he has been hiding during the entire story that the truth comes out.  Oddly enough, though, the fact that Ted doesn't actually "solve" the mystery does not at all detract from the enjoyment of the story - in some ways, it leaves the reader feeling a lot like Ted, being along for the ride, hoping desperately that somehow, in some way, Mr. Clayton's innocence will be shown!

Something I noted while reading the book is that the author is either very knowledgeable or has done some great research during his writing of this book.  The football games described in this book are very detailed, in the plays, the type of throws, etc.  And while I am the farthest thing from a football fan and (admittedly) skimmed some of those paragraphs, I have no doubt that readers who love the sport will find those potions of the story entertaining.  What I did find fascinating, though, were the courtroom scenes in chapters 19 and 20 were some of the most accurate portrayals of a courtroom decorum that I have ever read.  Even so-called "legal thrillers" always sensationalize the courtroom action to include unrealistic testimony and attorney tactics; Pallas, on the other hand, gave a very believable and honest depiction of the courtroom.  Pallas portrayed the objections properly, even going so far as to show Ted having to leave the courtroom when the attorneys argued over his cross-examination on the stand!  Having worked for lawyers for more than 20 years now (hard to believe!), I am excited to see such an accurate portrayal.

It goes without saying that, at this point, I am hooked on this series.  I have the next three books that have been reprinted, and I probably need to check on Amazon to see if any more have been reprinted.

RATING:  8 short combinations out of 10 for keeping it real, even in a book of fiction, and appealing to readers from all walks of life!

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