Chris calls this episode “dark and mysterious.” That’s a good description whether you’re coming from the perspective of a kid or an adult. Like so many AIO stories, this one is thrilling for people of all ages. And for a radio show that was just starting off I especially appreciate how Odyssey’s mystery shows were so good right off the bat. Their first official mystery is done wonderfully.
I like that in this episode we learn a little bit more about the history of the town of Odyssey and the building that became Whit’s End. It all starts off in the basement. As we know from the episode Nothing to Fear, the basement of Whit’s End is already seen as a creepy place. But the sudden appearance of a skeleton in a secret room goes way beyond that. I doubt this whole incident did much to improve the basement’s reputation.
A forty-year-old mystery is uncovered that goes back to a 1946 bank robbery. This dates the show in the 1980’s and is a clear indicator that it was still in its early years of production when references to dates were commonplace. Tom’s great-niece Jami, who luckily is new in town, stops by Whit’s End just in time for the story to get exciting. Jami is enthusiastic about the mystery but Tom tells her it isn’t something to be enjoyed, which is ironic considering this is a drama which is supposed to be entertaining.
Because Jami is new to Odyssey this allows Whit to show her around and explain a little about the town, including the interesting fact that Chatwick Hill is an old, wealthy neighborhood and the home of Mr. Fenwick. While it’s only natural to first suspect that Inspector Howards is the criminal because he dismisses reopening the case, one visit to Mr. Fenwick’s haunted mansion and it becomes clear that Fenwick is the one not to be trusted.
Like any classic mystery, the villain explains everything in the end about his plans. I like how Mr. Fenwick’s cane equipped with poison darts was foreshadowed earlier in the show when Whit was describing the African artifacts in Fenwick’s home. Before Fenwick can get away Miss Barfield joins the basement party to tell us she’s phoned the police. First of all, it’s a little convenient that three different people, Howards, Fenwick and Barfield, were all hanging around in shadows in the basement waiting to confront Whit. And secondly, when Fenwick’s plans are foiled he complains about everyone’s “meddling,” which brings to mind the cliché line that every Scooby-Doo villain repeats when they are caught. They always complain about those “meddling kids.”
Despite the cartoonish elements in that climactic scene, that’s not where the story ends. This episode concludes on a somber note as Whit brings back the focus to the theme of greed and the love of money. Throughout the episode the mystery was well developed as we followed Whit’s investigation and it was obvious from the beginning that it wouldn’t have a very happy ending. It wouldn’t have felt right to celebrate solving the mystery like Tom felt like doing. It is more realistic to reflect on the tragedy of the killing of Spencer Barfield instead of minimizing its impact and quickly moving on like an average television crime drama would. This episode gets 5 out of 5 stars.