In this story, the children and Kiki are looking forward to a holiday in the countryside with Mrs. Mannering, and they are delighted when they realize that their holiday cottage is near an old deserted castle. However, they are told from the outset that they are not to go exploring near the castle, because a landslide caused by a thunderstorm many years ago made the road near there dangerous.
As they explore their surroundings, the four children meet and befriend Tassie, a local girl who knows the area well. She develops a special fondness for Philip, to whom she brings a young fox cub; he tames it and names it Button. Bird-lover Jack, meanwhile, notices a pair of eagles soaring overhead, and discovers that they are going into the castle where he guesses they have a nest. The children wonder if and how they can get in to have a look at it, and when they ask Tassie she shows them a slit window that they figure out how to access as an entrance.
Once in, they explore the castle eagerly. Jack discovers where the pair of eagles is nesting and determines that he will set up a ‘hide’, armed with his new camera, so that he can take a good photo of the birds – on their nest, with their young one, etc. The children also notice some unusual things – like a puddle on the kitchen floor, far away from the sink, and a water-pump handle that is too well-used to be in such an old place.
When the children go set up Jack’s hide in the castle (after pre-approving the plan with Mrs. Mannering and buying some supplies), Lucy-Ann makes an arrangement with Jack: he will fly a white shirt from a parapet of the castle, at an appointed time in the evening, as a signal that he’s okay.
Late that night (a long time after he's done this) Jack wakes up to see someone flashing a torch from one of the castle windows. He decides to investigate and looks around a bit, but doesn't find anything out of the ordinary. In the morning he dismisses the whole affair as something that he'd only imagined and resolves not to mention it to the others, who were joining him for the day. However, as they make their way out, Lucy-Ann thanks him for flashing his torch from the window as well as waving his shirt. Since he only did one and not the other, Jack is intrigued and decides to do some more exploring.
That night, he is woken up by an uncomfortable feeling; however he gets up and explores more of the interior of the castle. He discovers a trap door to a secret room and realizes that he is not alone in the castle - there are some men hiding there for a reason he does not know. The next morning he's almost discovered (hint: always pick up your litter) and when the others (minus Tassie) join him he tells them what happened. They decide to leave because it's too dangerous to stay - but not before having 'a squint at that hidden room' because they 'might find something there to tell [them] who uses it and why'. This leads to them into further adventures, as they soon find themselves caught up in something that is bigger than they realized at first.
Overall, this is a brilliant book. Blyton manages to make the old castle come alive really well - especially during a powerful thunderstorm that occurs later - and the sense of danger (which really adds to the atmosphere of the story at various points) is really palpable.
After I finished it, I ranked it as probably my second or third favourite out of the Adventure series, after Valley and possibly Ship (which I need to reread). Philip is my favourite character - in this book and of the series too, generally.
Anyone have any thoughts on the book or the review (or both)?