Ciara's Reviews > The Silver Guitar: A Julie Mystery

The Silver Guitar by Kathryn Reiss
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Feb 06, 12

bookshelves: american-girl, kids-books, read-in-2012
Read in January, 2012

this book made no goddamn sense at all. it was almost on the level of a babysitters club mystery, with all the plot contrivances & children jeopardizing their safety for no good reason, without any adults noticing.

so, somehow julie & her family are acquainted with a wealthy couple who seems to love to host auctions. they host an auction to raise money for local school sports programs & it's very successful. julie's mom donates a hand-beaded dress, which is purchased by a hollywood starlet. after the auction, the rich dude who owns the house offers julie, TJ, & a few other people a guided tour of his famous collections. he has all kinds of crap, including abraham lincoln's stovepipe hat (which really ought to be in the smithsonian or something, & not in some rich guy's private collection) & a bunch of guitars that once belonged to famous rock stars. the jewel of the guitar collection is a silver fender stratocaster that once belonged to bobby kendricks. yeah, that's right, i said bobby kendricks. no relation to jimi hendrix...even though bobby kendricks is described as a left-handed player who strung his guitar upside down (just like jimi hendrix), had thick curly hair (also like jimi hendrix), & was known for playing his guitar behind his head & setting it on fire (just like...well, you get the picture). jared said this book should be called julie gets familiar with copyright law. haha. bobby kendricks recently died in a motorcycle accident (which i guess is more child-friendly than choking to death on his own vomit after a drug-fueled bender). TJ is wowed by the guitar. he's a big bobby kendricks fan. when the rich dude's spoiled cat mr. precious takes a shine to TJ, he asks TJ if he'd be interested in cat-sitting while the rich folks are out of town. they'd ask their shiftless teenage nephew, who lives with them while he figures out what he wants to do with his life, to take care of it, but he'd rather hang out with no-goodniks & sponge off his wealthy relatives than make himself useful. TJ agrees to the job, while i wonder why rich people with a spoiled cat don't just pay to put the cat up in a posh kennel while they're traveling, or even take the cat with them. surely they can afford it & it would afford more peace of mind than leaving an 11-year-old in charge, right?

on TJ's first day on the job, he is overcome by a desire to touch bobby kendricks's silver guitar. he has to climb up on a chair to reach it & just as he is taking it off the wall, mr. precious jumps on him & he drops the guitar, breaking the neck. he smuggles the guitar out of the house & into the recently vacated apartment upstairs from julie's place. a couple named the ogilvies used to live there, but they recently moved out. a new family is moving in soon, but for now the place is empty. it's unclear to me how TJ knows that or why he would take the guitar there instead of hiding it at his own house or something. actually, it's unclear to me why he couldn't just be happy with breaking the guitar, but had to steal it as well. he's kind of just making a bad situation worse.

he tells julie he wants to get the guitar fixed before the rich people come back. together they take the guitar to a local shop. the shop manager looks the guitar over & says he can probably fix it for them. then they mention that it once belonged to bobby kendricks. um...WHY would they tell him that? he doesn't need to know that in order to fix the guitar, & if i was the manager, i would wonder why the fuck a couple of 11-year-olds were running around town with a broken collectible guitar worth hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars. the manager becomes very interested when he hears bobby kendricks's name, but then suddenly turns on them & is all, "this guitar did not belong to bobby kendricks. you're a couple of liars & i can't fix the guitar for you." dude. even if the guitar didn't belong to some dead rock star, i don't see why that suddenly means you can't fix it. even if it really was just a crappy knock-off & some kid made up a lie about it to seem cool, that doesn't mean that the guitar might not be valuable to that kid & he might not want to get it fixed. what the fuck?

anyway, julie notices that the guitar is strung right side up, the silver paint is flaking off of it, & that the scratches where it had been set on fire are gone. she realizes the manager is right & it is a knock-off--but then, where's the guitar she & TJ saw just the other day?

really boring hijinks ensue. julie hears weird noises in the empty apartment upstairs from her place. a kid on a skateboard who happened to be in the shop with julie & TJ brought in the broken guitar suddenly keeps popping up all over town. TJ & julie discover that the rich people's housekeeper, who recently asked for time off because her mother was in the hospital, lied & in fact has a dead mother. they also start keeping tabs on the rich people's busybody neighbor (because i know when i commit crimes, i like to continually butt into every detail of the lives of the folks i'm stealing from). they also begin to suspect the shiftless, lazy nephew, especially after julie suspects that he is hiding an accomplice behind the drapes one day.

the shit really hits the fan one day when julie & TJ are supposed to meet up after school. the rich folks are home & TJ has to tell them that he broke the guitar, & that he suspects that it's a fake. but TJ doesn't show up to the meeting spot. instead, the kid on the skateboard cruises over & tells julie that TJ is waiting for her at his (skateboard kid's) house. he also refers to TJ as julie's brother. when he mentions "something silver," julie follows him. when they get back to skateboard kid's house, he stuffs both TJ & julie into the garden shed & bolts the door. he says that "their grandparents" asked him to do it because they have a surprise for TJ. they told skateboard kid that if he basically abducted & imprisoned TJ & julie, they'd give him money, which would go a long way toward him buying himself a guitar. julie & TJ escape out a pet door & bolt to the rich people's house, with skateboard kid in hot pursuit. once there, TJ explains about the broken guitar, & how they figured out that it's a fake. julie says that she thinks some of the other pieces of the collection have also been stolen & replaced with fakes. she leads the gang to lincoln's hat, which is indeed looking very fresh & new, & lacks the authentic hat maker's tag on the inside. just when rich dude is about the blow his fucking top, julie puts the pieces together. the ogilvies are leaving san francisco, they still had a key to their old apartment, they were the official photographers for the auction & hence had access the collection...it all makes sense! (i guess.)

somehow the whole gang catches up with the ogilvies (i think they called the cops), & sure enough, they'd been spiriting away collectible antiques to sell & replacing them with fakes. they were about to take the proceeds & run off to mexico (hey, just like in "hey joe"! except without any murder). they'd been stashing the stuff they stole in a hidey-hole in their former apartment. if you're wondering why the fuck they'd move out of their stolen goods warehouse without leaving town or removing the stolen goods, you're not alone. bit of a plot hole, if you ask me. but the stolen stuff, including the guitar & the top hate, are all recovered & auctioned off to raise money to clean up the bay after a recent oil spill.

there's also a bunch of stuff in here about julie learning that even evil-seeming people are maybe just people who made mistakes or were in the wrong place at the wrong time, but i didn't really get what that had to do with the plot & it was written in a pretty heavy-handed manner.
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