A review of every single fucking Secret Seven book.

All 17 of them.


Like so many children before me, as a child I devoured the Secret Seven series by Enid Blyton.

Now, 30-odd years later, I’m reading them to my five year old daughter. Clearly Enid Blyton was on to something; my little girl is enthralled, and full of plans to start her own secret society.

However I am less enamoured with the books the second time around. It’s fair to say they have not stood the test of time.

By way of refresher, let me now reacquaint you with the plot of every single fucking Secret Seven book.

Chapter one

We join our heroes immediately before the school holidays. They’re restless as they haven’t had a good mystery in ages. The self-appointed leader of the Secret Seven, Peter, calls a meeting anyway. Everyone is to bring some food to eat. They must also wear their ‘SS’ badges (yup, really). Why? Because Peter goddamn said so, that’s why. More on this little pocket dictator later.

Everyone starts arriving for the meeting. Peter’s sister, Janet, has laid out cushions in the shed at the bottom of the garden and generally made like a good little housewife.

The Secret Seven. What’s with all the trench coats?

But wait, what’s this? Secret Seven member Jack has forgotten the password to get into the shed! A minor complication, surely! Nope, there’s a good 500 words to be had in this plot development.

It’s patently obvious to all that a) it’s Jack, and b) no-one gives a shit about their little society anyway. Nonetheless, Peter stubbornly refuses to let Jack in without the password. As a result the poor bastard is left stranded outside, whispering panicky guesses through the closed door. “Lollipop!”, “Churchill!”, “Smuggler!” Finally, Jack stumbles on the right password — much to Peter’s disappointment — and is let in.

Chapter two

Peter takes a roll call. Alongside Janet and Jack we have Colin, George, Barbara and Pam. Remember those last four names, because Enid Blyton didn’t. Deadset, they are the literary equivalent of polystyrene peanuts, called on to occasionally pad out pages until a chapter can limp to its inevitable end.

After everyone is accounted for, the seven reveal the food they have supplied for the meeting. As the weather is so fine, they agree that it’s really too lovely to stay inside and instead set out on a picnic. Jack fumes, having only recently gained entry to the fucking shed.

But the picnic is an absolute belter. There are ginger buns aplenty, chocolate biscuits, home-made lemonade, jam tarts, toffees and a bar of nut chocolate. By the seventeenth book, three of the kids have a full set of dentures. The others have teeth reminiscent of barnacle-encrusted pier pylons.

After the picnic, the Seven play a game of hide-and-seek in a futile attempt to stave off juvenile diabetes. They have more pressing problems however; they are being watched!

Chapter three

But who is watching? Susie, Jack’s sister. Bother that Susie! In the history of storytelling, never has a more stubborn, foolhardy nemesis been committed to print.

Susie is desperate to screw up the plans laid by her brother Jack and the other members of the Secret Seven, and for this reason she is possibly my favourite character. Not a book goes by without her bobbing up. While this annoys everyone, Peter reserves a special level of vitriol for Susie, often uttering things like, “She really is insufferable!” or “I’ve got a good mind to give her a thrashing!” or “Oh, I’d like to slap her!”. Note: these are actual things that Peter actually said about Susie.

After chasing Susie down a lane / off a farm / past the train station, the boys inadvertently witness a vagabond / thief / grumpy gardener / shifty-looking man doing something shifty. Honestly, it doesn’t matter at this stage, Enid is just calling it in.

Peter and Jack are captured by a child trafficking ring. They escape, but still don’t report it to the police.

It is worth pausing for a moment to consider where the Secret Seven live. There are maximum-security prisoners that have stumbled on less crime. Do they live in commission housing or something? Their parents largely ignore them, and they’re left to roam the streets at night. They do belong to a ‘gang’ of sorts. Is the Secret Seven actually a scathing commentary on the ghettoisation and disenfranchisement of British youth in the post-WWII era?

No. The answer is no. It wasn’t a rhetorical question.

Chapter four

Having witnessed this suspicious activity, Peter decides it’s best to call a meeting of the Secret Seven:

Peter: “Call a meeting of the Secret Seven for 10am tomorrow. Janet, be a good girl and write notes to everyone.”

Janet: “Why don’t you just tell us what you saw right now? I mean, we’re all here.”

Peter: “Because fuck you Janet, that’s why. Meeting. 10am. Tomorrow.”

While she writes out five notes by hand, before setting out in the driving rain to deliver them, Janet secretly imagines a future where people — even children — have a personal hand-held electronic device that allows secure, anonymous, instantaneous group communication. <Sigh>.

The Seven gather the following day, resplendent in their SS badges, and are uneventfully admitted to the shed after whispering Peter’s password ‘Heil Hitler’.

Peter prepares an ‘SS’ sign for the shed door.

Peter describes what he saw. Both Enid Blyton and the reader forget that George and Colin also witnessed the crime. Even George and Colin forget.

Unfortunately the Secret Seven don’t have much to go on. The man had two missing fingers, a bald patch and a limp, and dropped an address book with his name and phone number in it. Otherwise, nothing. The Seven are stumped.

Chapter five

It’s time once again for a brief aside while we consider the nature of our leader, Peter. Prone to tantrums, belittling, and bullying, and with no capacity for introspection or compromise, it’s clear his future lies in politics.

Peter lays down the goddamn law.

This is a kid who would shit on your ginger bun and spit in your iced tea just for giggles. And like so many corporate psychopaths before and since, Peter’s appalling treatment of his colleagues is excused by Blyton because he gets results. His treatment of the female members of the Secret Seven is particularly egregious. Barbara and Pam (remember them?) only pop up in the stories when Peter needs to make someone cry — which he does on multiple occasions.

Still, it’s all just a bit of fun isn’t it? Let’s catch a baddy…

Chapter six

…because the cops sure aren’t going to do it for us. At least twice in every book, the Secret Seven consider the merits of calling in the police. And every single time, they decide not to. This represents an appalling lapse in judgement on behalf of our protagonists, who would rather go undercover as street hookers* before they got the cops involved.

On the other hand, if the police were doing their jobs they wouldn’t need a Secret Seven tip-off. Their Frank Drebin-esque level of incompetence is breathtaking. Horse stealing, dog stealing, jewellery heists, missing children — the list of investigative missteps is long, damning, and best read with the Benny Hill theme playing in the background. Certainly Internal Affairs or the Independent Commission Against Corruption would be having a long hard look at the policing practices of the local constabulary.

Chapter seven

A meeting is held. After much deliberation everyone agrees the best course of action is a bit of interviewing for the girls and a bit of hiding in bushes for the boys. Generally this activity is completed with torches at the ready, and a series of elaborate bird call warnings that bring to mind The Three Amigos:

This-tried-and-true investigation technique is rolled out book after book. The local police should seriously consider embedding some of their members to learn the craft.

Alas, their enquiries amount to nothing. As the reader races towards the closing pages it feels as if this particular adventure may be a bridge too far for our heroes.

But wait! Someone has had a brainwave! Okay, let’s not kid ourselves: by ‘someone’ we mean ‘Peter’. The smug little autocrat with a temper has worked out that the girl is actually a boy! The footprints were made by stilts! The thief is a carnie! The prisoner is a horse! Note: Again, as much as I’d like to claim them, these are actual story resolutions.

Everyone marvels at how smart Peter is, particularly Peter. The grumpy gardener is revealed as the culprit, although it has all been a bit of a misunderstanding — he actually has a heart of gold and was doing it to help out his wife / son / sister / horse. The police, initially sheepish about their failure to detect this crime, quickly get annoyed at being called out to another bullshit Secret Seven mystery and go back to the station. Maybe they’re better at their job than we realise.

Six of the Secret Seven listen reverently while Peter briefly recaps his achievements. All’s well that ends well, and we end with three cheers for the Secret Seven — hurrah!

And there you have it. All 17 Secret Seven books, reviewed. You’re welcome.