PBOTD 17th April: Catherine Harris - Riding for Ransom

Riding for Ransom is the third in the Marsham family series (and apologies for not including them thus far - Riding for Ransom makes it in because it's set in the Easter holidays). The Marshams are one of those large chaotic families quite common in pony books, but this family pride themselves on being dashing. This does cause them problems in the first two series, but they're worked out without too much effect on the realism of the plot. Riding for Ransom is different. The youngest son, Timothy, is kidnapped. This it turns out, is because he was mistaken for Simon, the son of the wealthy American family staying with the Marshams.

Blackie, 1960, illus Joan Thompson

So far, so good, but the author's need to maintain the Marsham children's position as dashing above all things leads her into some very odd alleys. I do find with this book the more that I read it, the more blindingly odd it seems. The scene which most makes me goggle is when Mrs Marsham hands the decision on whether or not to go to the police to Simon's father. Here's her justification:

“I still think it’s wrong, horribly wrong,” said Mrs. Marsham, “but it is up to Ensign to do what he thinks fit and we must abide by his decision, because the whole affair is centred around the Baddeleys and not the Marshams. It’s only because of that stupid mistake over Timothy‘s identity that we’re involved at all.”

But he's still your son, I want to yell, and he's just as kidnapped as the other boy, and in just as much danger. Mrs Marsham isn't quite finished. When she finds out the rest of her children have disappeared to rescue Timothy and Simon, she says:

“Aren’t we lucky to have such original children? Oh Roger, wouldn’t it be marvellous if this mission they’ve set out on were a success and they rescued Timothy and Simon and we never had to see another policeman?”

I burst out of the world of the book at that point, completely unable to maintain any belief in it. Of course everything does work out, but I still maintain that in a competition for most unlikely reactions to plot developments, this book has few equals.

Blackie, 1965, cover Harry Green
Riding for Ransom was first published by Blackie in 1960, illustrated by Joan Thompson. It was reprinted in 1965, with a rather more dramatic cover by Harry Green.

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For more on Catherine Harris and her books, she has a page on my website.


bille said…
Roger absent-mindedly patted his
dim-witted spouse and told her to sit in the armchair, right next to
the dogs. It was with a pang of regret that he was, once more,
reminded of his late mother's advice (although the word 'pleas' might
have done more justice to the event) to marry Angela Baker, the
homely, safely non-dashing, daughter of the local curate. He also
(and not for the first time either, it must sadly be said)
contemplated poison, but remained uncertain of the effect this would
have on his offspring and if the despair over the loss of a mother,
albeit a half-witted one, might not outweigh the positive effects of
not being reared by someone whom even the household staff took care
never to leave alone with sharp objects, let alone the china or
Lady's puppies.

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