Melody Lane Series    

The Melody Lane Mystery Stories
by Lilian Garis

Author Lilian Garis The Melody Lane series is a nine book series which was published by Grosset and Dunlap from 1933 to 1940.  Author Lilian Garis was married to Howard Garis, who was also a prevalent author of children's series books.

This series is often criticized by collectors, most often because of the old-fashioned writing style.  However, the main drawback is not the writing style but the fact that the mysteries tend to not be very interesting, and the reader can easily lose interest.  Some of the mysteries are easily explained events from ordinary life which are made to seem much more mysterious because of the characters' failure to communicate with each other.

The main strength of the Melody Lane series is the emphasis on the Great Depression and how it affects Carol Duncan and her other acquaintances.  Other series books feature protagonists who seem to have no money problems and are unaffected by the depression.  This series is much more real-to-life and gives us an interesting window into life during the depression years.  For instance, Carol loses her job playing the organ at the theatre because the new movies have sound.  Another example is when the borer worm infests the dahlia plants, and the farmers are forced to burn the plants in order to kill the worms since pesticides are not yet in use.

Titles in the Melody Lane Series:

  1. The Ghost of Melody Lane, 1933
  2. The Forbidden Trail, 1933
  3. The Tower Secret, 1933
  4. The Wild Warning, 1934
  5. Terror at Moaning Cliff, 1935
  6. The Dragon of the Hills, 1936
  7. The Mystery of Stingyman's Alley, 1938
  8. The Secret of the Kashmir Shawl, 1939
  9. The Hermit of Proud Hill, 1940

My pick for the best volume in this series is The Secret of the Kashmir Shawl, because it contains most of the traditional elements found in girls' series books and is therefore more interesting to read.

Cover Art Gallery

 1. The Ghost of Melody Lane

Carol Duncan has been laid off from her job of playing the organ at the Oakleigh theatre and must find another job so that she can continue to help support the family while her father is out of work.  Carol is dismayed when she learns that her father has impulsively taken the family car to be repainted, not only because of the cost, but because Carol needs the car in order to travel to another theatre to apply for a job.

Carol soon finds herself worrying about Mrs. Becket, her good friend and organ teacher, who has been frightened by strange events at her home.  Mrs. Becket has an accident, and a ghost is seen on her property holding a white rose.  Some of the girls at school have begun spreading rumors, and Carol is afraid that many of the girls will decide to stop taking lessons.
The  Ghost of Melody Lane
Carol also wonders about other seemingly unrelated unusual events.  A strange carpenter who repaired Mrs. Becket's organ is caught lurking near Mrs. Becket's house.  A foreign girl who lives with Mrs. Becket's caretaker and his wife flees whenever anyone tries to speak to her.  Carol is determined to discover what is happening and why.
 2. The Forbidden Trail

Carol Duncan is puzzled when Veronica Flint's eccentric aunt, Marah Splartier, stops her in the street and demands that Carol come to see her.  Reluctantly, Carol goes to see Marah Splartier since the woman will not take no for an answer.  Carol is made very uncomfortable while she visits the Flint home, known as "Splatter Castle," when Aunt Marah orders Carol to save Veronica from the Forbidden Trail.  Later, Veronica requests that Carol pay no attention to whatever her aunt has to say.  Carol does not commit to helping Aunt Marah but does decide to try to help Veronica in whatever way that she can.  Carol knows that Veronica is keeping a secret from everybody and also knows that something is frightening Veronica.
The Forbidden Trail
Carol observes several foreigners in town and that at least one of them seems to be trying to communicate with Veronica.  Meanwhile, Carol learns that Veronica has inherited the cave on the Forbidden Trail from her father, who is missing and presumed dead.  Veronica's father had said that the cave held the secret to a great scientific discovery.  When Carol receives a warning message not to interfere in Veronica's affairs, she knows that something sinister is afoot.  Carol does not understand what is going on, but she knows that the answer to the riddle lies in the cave on the Forbidden Trail.
 3. The Tower Secret

Carol and Thally decide to do everything they can to help a circus family that is down on their luck.  Since they have no place to stay, Carol and Thally get Marah Splartier and Veronica Flint to allow the Kings to stay in their old house Splatter Castle.  Meanwhile, Stella, one of the circus girls, runs away and gets married.

Thally and her family move into their new house which has a mysterious old tower which is supposed to be haunted.  Strange lights come from the tower at night, and Carol and Thally are determined to discover the cause.  One night right after the light flashes from the tower, Stella knocks on the door, claiming to have lost her way.  Stella seems rather shocked to see Carol at the house, so Carol suspects that Stella had some other reason for knocking on the door.

The Tower Secret
Carol wonders if Stella has some connection to the mysterious events at the old tower.  The plot thickens when an unpleasant old farmer tries to convince the Bonds to sell the tower and makes a threat when his offer is refused.  Carol works to uncover the secret of the old tower.
 4. The Wild Warning

Carol's sister Cecy and visiting cousin Betty Blair urge Carol to visit the drug store to see the beautiful girl who runs the cosmetics counter.  When Carol visits the drug store, she becomes friendly with the cosmetics girl, Dianne Forbes.  During Carol's visit, it is discovered that an important registered mail package is missing.  Dianne is the obvious suspect since she is the person in charge of the mail, but a girl named Polly Flinders came into the drug store to buy baby food during the short time Carol was in the drug store.  Dianne feels that Polly Flinders must be the culprit, but Carol does not think that Flinders took the package.  Both Dianne and Carol are determined to discover what did actually happen to the registered package.
The Wild Warning
Flinders seems desperate to earn money for some reason which she will not reveal.  She is afraid of a wild warning which appears in the woods where she is often seen.  Carol begins to suspect the truth when Flinders family reports her missing and tries to find her.
 5. Terror At Moaning Cliff

Carol and Cecy are invited by their Aunt Isabel to stay at her property, Rocky Cliff.  Aunt Isabel has inherited the property but in order to legally claim it she must either rent it or live there herself.  Aunt Isabel has already tried renting the property, but none of the tenants will stay there for any length of time.  Mysterious events have occurred which have frightened the tenants away.  Aunt Isabel does not know what exactly is frightening the tenants, so she asks Carol and Cecy to stay at Rocky Cliff so that they can find out.  Carol, Cecy, and Thally travel to Rocky Cliff to stay at the house.  Once the girls arrive, they try to find out more from the caretaker, Emil Jenson, but either he doesn't know why the tenents left, or he refuses to say.

Terror at Moaning Cliff
During their first night in the house, Carol and Rachel, the housekeeper, hear a strange moaning sound.  During another night, the girls hear howling dogs in the cellar.  They investigate but are unable to discover the source of the strange sounds.  Emil Jenson remains under suspicion as the girls continue to search the house for clues.
 6. The Dragon of the Hills

Carol promises to run her friend Dorothy's tea shop while her friend is away visiting her mother in the hospital.  Carol is immediately plunged into a mystery when a prowler is discovered on the premises in the middle of the night.  Carol learns that a nearby house also had a prowler during the same night, and one of the house's occupants is discovered dead the next morning.  The question is whether the death is due to fright or foul play.

Carol also learns that a valuable fragrance called "The Dragon of the Hills" was stolen recently from a man who had a car accident.  Carol tries to help the man to recover the stolen fragrance, but there are apparently no clues.

The Dragon of the Hills
Carol's investigation is hampered by Jeanette, a flighty girl with romantic ideas who is staying with her at the request of Carol's father.  Carol must divide her attention between searching for the missing fragrance and worrying about Jeanette's erratic behavior.
 7. The Mystery of Stingyman's Alley

Carol and her father have moved to the city so that he can work for the newspaper.  Carol works as a teacher during the day in the nursery which cares for the young children of the poor factory workers.  Carol's job is rewarding but highly stressful since some of the children are rowdy and have poor manners.  Carol is appalled when she learns that the nursery is in danger of being shut down due to lack of funds.  Carol takes a pay cut but knows that it will not help much in sustaining the nursery.

Trouble abounds when one of the boys develops measles and the nursery is put under quarantine. That same night, the mother of a young girl named Penny fails to pick her daughter up and leaves a note for the nursery to care for the girl.
The Mystery of Stingyman's Alley
While Carol searches for the Penny's family, several people who are not Penny's mother try to claim her.  An ad threatening the nursery is taken out in the city paper, demanding that Penny be returned to her family.  Even more puzzling is the note left by Penny's mother which states that Penny has more right to be at the nursery than any of the other children.  Carol struggles to keep Penny safe while she works to unravel the mystery.
 8. The Secret of the Kashmir Shawl

Cecy Duncan returns from boarding school and in spite of Carol's protests she decides to be a working girl during her vacation.  Cecy applies for a job as a companion to an elderly woman, Bessie Benedict.  Cecy receives the position but not without misgivings as Aunt Bessie refuses to explain exactly what the job requires.

Shortly after Cecy accepts the position, Aunt Bessie's Egyptian servant, Malika, threatens Cecy in an attempt to get her to leave.  Aunt Bessie finally confides in Cecy that Malika is trying to get a valuable shawl back that Aunt Bessie bought while traveling in Egypt.  Cecy and Aunt Bessie take a quick trip to the city to avoid Malika's meddling.
The Secret of the Kashmir Shawl
Cecy begins to feel slighted when she learns that the real reason that she was hired was so that she can be a companion to a young girl who will be visiting Aunt Bessie.  Cecy feels that the young girl will take her place.  Cecy is much surprised to discover that the young girl is none other than Polly Flinders, formerly of Melody Lane, and that Polly is now using the name Sylvia.  Polly is being forced to live a lie, and Cecy resolves that she will help Polly find a way out.
 9. The Hermit of Proud Hill

Kay Findley's family lost their first home to a man named Tom Johnson.  Kay wishes to somehow get that home back for her family.  Kay asks Mr. Thorsen, the Hermit of Proud Hill, if he knows where Tom Johnson keeps his papers.  The hermit asks Kay to stay away from Tom Johnson, but she won't listen.

Kay learns that Mr. Thorsen has some connection to a girl named Vivienne, who used to live in the Morgan house.  Kay learns that Vivienne will inherit the Morgan house if she returns before she turns 18.  Vivienne has run away to escape from the cruelty of Tom Morgan, and nobody knows where she is.  Mr. Thorsen receives a message from her but is unable to track her down.

The Hermit of Proud Hill
Kay, with the help of Carol and Cecy, decides to do everything she can to help Mr. Thorsen find Vivienne.  Mr. Thorsen has a key to the Morgan house which he lends to the girls.  They stay at the house hoping to uncover some clues to where Tom Morgan keeps his papers and where Vivienne may have gone.
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