Don’t miss this exciting, thrill-filled Brady Bunch full-length paperback written especially for Tiger Beat readers by Hollywood mystery writer, Jack Matcha.
I am notoriously bad at solving mysteries. Even as an adult, I’d get to the dénouement of the average Trixie Belden plot and be shocked, shocked at the identity of the crime-perpetrator (Uncle Monty, an imposter? WHA-?)
So, I knew that this was not exactly top-drawer mystery when I had figured out what was going on before the Bradys even left California.
That being said: THERE IS SO MUCH WEIRD GOING ON IN THIS BOOK!
Background: I sort of feel like the Brady Bunch needs no introduction, as by 2016 the aggressively mild-mannered adventures of a pair of widowed parents marrying and merging their respective families has been so incorporated into popular culture that even people who never deliberately watched the show (such as yours truly) can tick off the various plot points, tropes and catch phrases.
I can’t tell you much about “Hollywood mystery writer Jack Matcha”, since he is presumably a ghost writer with only the Brady Bunch series under that name. I guess it would be hoping too much that it is a heretofore-uncovered Donald Westlake side project.
The Plot: We open in the Brady’s familiar groovy split-level, where architect Dad Mike is announcing to his family that they’re all going on a trip to “a really big town”. The Brady children make several unbright guesses about where that might be, before annoying know-it-all Marcia is like “It is totally New York City.”
Her siblings retaliate by mocking her cooking, because she dumped a whole can of garlic powder into the spaghetti sauce, in the form of an interminable number of vampire jokes, paced for the non-existent laff track, and seriously just kill me now.
Greg is super-excited to go to the big “town”:
“It’s a fabulous place,” Greg said “with museums, circuses, major league games. I mean, it’s the greatest.”
Mike explains that they will be staying with his old college roommate, widower Kent Paterson, on Long Island “which is like next door to Manhattan.” Which it is totally not.
“Don’t worry, I’ll enjoy myself. I haven’t seen Kent since we were in college together. We’ll have a lot of things to talk over.”
Right from the start, I am getting a Boys in the Band vibe from Mike and Kent’s relationship.
Jan is sent out to bring her bike in from the front lawn, and she has an encounter with a strange man asking about the Grady family:
He had on a business suit and wore a hat, which was strange, since it seemed hardly anyone in Southern California wore hats.
Clearly, Don Draper never made it back from the Left Coast.
Jan helpfully supplies that they are the Bradys, but he says he must have the wrong street.
Jan mentions the encounter to wisecracking housekeeper Alice, and asks if she knows any Gradys, resulting in the sole line that actually made me laugh:
“Can’t say I have. If there were any, I suppose they’d be known as the Grady Grumps.”
I am easily amused.
It is to be a working vacation for Mike, as he has to complete the plans for the bank he is working on, as well as attending the big architect’s convention. Also having that long overdue conversation with Kent about their love that dare not speak its name…
The Bradys all go out for Chinese food, which allows them all to toss off some casually racist comments, and also for their house to be burgled while they are gone. Not to worry:
“Obviously, our house has been broken into, but nothing seems to be missing.”
“You’ve checked carefully, I suppose?” the officer asked.
“We’ve been over the place twice before you came,” Carol Brady said, “and nothing seems to be missing.”
We wiped down all surfaces and vacuumed all of the fiber evidence TWICE, officer!
Meanwhile, Peter and Jan, the two most expendable Brady children, keep seeing strange men lurking outside their home, but instead of telling a responsible adult (although, honestly, I don’t know who that would be in this equation), they keep it to themselves and keep peering through binoculars at them.
They spot the strange men again at the airport, and even on the plane. They finally tell their parents, but the whole family agrees just to keep an eye on the situation, even after one of them deliberately beans Peter on the head with an attaché case, damaging his camera.
Finally, we get to New York City, where things get weird, as America’s blandest TV family is dropped onto the mean stree-
Ok, I am going to stop using the Mean Streets cliché every time something is set in 1970s New York. Let’s just say they are dropped into a gritty, Scorsese-esque vision of New York, where they proceed to act like the Yahoos they are.
An entire chapter, which I wish I could reproduce in full here, involves the entire family violating every rule of subway etiquette on a rush-hour express train, especially after Jan (Oh, Jan) drops her glasses and she and Peter start crawling around looking for them while the rest of them hold the door open.
Peter immediately fell to his knees and look frantically between the legs of the dozens of people in the subway car. It seemed absolutely impossible to find anything in that mass of moving humanity. The floor was a sea of movement as hundreds of feet whirled around them, sometimes even kicking them
“Hey lady, let go of them doors,” an angry man yelled at Alice.
“Take your hands off,” another yelled at Carol Brady. “What are youse trying to do? I want to get movin’. Come on.”
Peter and Jan, are of course separated from the rest of the family and wind up in Central Park after dark, where I was really hoping they would be killed-by or assimilated-into the Baseball Furies (I was fine with either outcome), but instead are rescued by Irish Cop and his partner, Specifically Black Cop.
Meanwhile Greg has been making goo-goo eyes at Kent’s 16 year old daughter, Darlene, who has been charged with indulging their Yahoo-ness and driving them around Manhattan in a VW mini bus:
Carol watched her eldest son with amusement. She could recognize the tell-tale signs of emotional interest on Greg’s part. He really dug this girl.
Meanwhile Mike has received word to rush the bank plans, so he and Kent are spending a lot of late nights together working to complete them.
“I feel like I could sleep a week, Kent,” Mike whispered to him, “but I couldn’t miss this. Whenever my kids are excited about an outing, it turns me on.”
“Me too,” Kent said. “But I really feel good about last night.”
No Kent- we can’t. We must always remember the children.
Mike and Kent also refuse to join in the singing of showtunes with the rest of the family, which seems like maybe they protest too much. Come on guys, do it like you did on Fire Island!
There are several more tedious encounters with the bad guys. Peter turns over the film in his camera to the cops who send it over the wire to California to see if it matches any wanted criminals.
Like I said, I’m no good at mysteries, but even I figured out that the goons that burgled the Brady compound are in search of Mike’s blueprints for the bank.
After a bold daylight grab by the crooks, the ‘Bunch foils them and they are turned over to the cops, which puts Peter on the front page of the Daily News:
FOURTEEN YEAR OLD BOY FOILS BANK ROBBERY
HIS PHOTOS TRAP CROOKS IN LOS ANGELES
Well, it’s no FORD TO CITY: DROP DEAD.
Sign It Was Written In 1972 Department: The World Trade Center is under construction, but is referred to only as “the towers at the Battery.”
The Best Part About This Book: Clearly the former owner had some latent aggression against Marcia, Marcia, Marcia:
Spring Cleaning Auction Update!
The books are on their way to the winning bidder and the funds raised are on their way to the Dollywood Foundation. Thanks to everyone who checked it out and/or put in a bid! 🙂