The Law Office: A Year of Transition
By Diana McInerney
One of the most interesting groupings of books from the Judy Bolton series are the five books that cover the year that Judy and Peter Dobbs work together in his law office in the town of Roulsville, which is being rebuilt several years after the flood. These books are: The Unfinished House, The Midnight Visitor, The Name on the Bracelet, The Clue in the Patchwork Quilt, and The Mark on the Mirror. They reflect the transition of Judy from Working girl to wife.
Almost a year has passed since Judy graduated from high school when The Unfinished House begins. In the previous book, The Riddle of the Double Ring, Judy had a brief secret engagement to Arthur Farringdon-Pett. Now she has since been to business college and Peter has returned from living in New York. All this action took place 'off stage', apparently during the preceeding winter. Now it is May and Judy has started to work for Peter in his new law office. Arthur is permanently out of her romantic life as he is now engaged to Lorraine Lee.
The Unfinished House has a very interesting plot concerning not only a real estate fraud but also the rebuilding of Judy and Peter's old hometown, which they are involved in. They are also significantly building their own personal relationship as well. As the town grows, they become closer. Peter had, in the past, been jealous of Arthur's attention to Judy. Indeed, he is the only one other than Judy and Arthur who knows about their secret engagement. On the other hand, Judy has had no cause to be jealous of Peter, for he seems to have eyes for no one but Judy.
However, in The Unfinished House, Judy does become quite upset when she thinks that Peter is seeing another girl. True-blue Peter doesn't even know what all the fuss is about because he isn't seeing anyone else. One almost wishes that Peter would really become infatuated with another for awhile, and then rediscover Judy. As it is, the mix-up serves its purpose: we are now aware, and so is Judy, that her romantic feelings for Peter are deepening.
The next book, The Midnight Visitor, again concerns a law case of Peter's. This time he's on the side of Sally Vincent, opposing the always-evil Kay Vincent and her family. Judy, of course, is 'on the case' with him. One of the nicest aspects of their working together is the ride they take to and from the office each day, a round trip of approximately sixty miles. Peter still rents the garage space from Dr. Bolton and it is quite convenient for Judy to ride with him. This time alone together gives them a chance to talk over the day's events and the latest mystery, and also allows them to get to know each other better.
By the time the leaves on the trees have turned red and gold, Peter has proposed to Judy and she has accepted. This happy event occurs in The Name on the Bracelet, one day when the two stop for lunch at Joe's. So the 'office romance' has really blossomed. On a trip to New York, to see her little namesake Judy Irene, Judy loses the stone from Peter's grandmother's diamond ring. He had given it to her as her engagement ring. Judy finally does find it again, but not before she makes the discovery that the stone is not as important as the giver of the stone and what it stands for. Judy is now certain of her love for Peter.
The beginning of The Clue in the Patchwork Quilt is sad and unusual, especially for a series book. It opens on the day of Grandmother Smeed's funeral. We learn that Judy's Grandfather Smeed has also recently died. But these sad events are necessary in the transition of Judy and Peter's lives: Grandmother Smeed leaves her Dry Brook Hollow house to Judy, thus solving the problem of where Judy and Peter will live after their wedding.
The Mark on the Mirror brings us to June, the month of the double wedding of Judy and Peter and Arthur and Lorraine. It is at Judy and Lorraine's shower that the mysterious mirror is delivered to Judy. It is also in this book, with the wedding so close, that Judy wonders why some people have unhappy marriages when all of them must start out thinking that they will be happy. But Judy and Peter feel that they have learned something important from the divorcing Ritters, the unpleasant couple they deal with in this book, and they believe they are ready to begin their own marriage.
This book marks the end of the law office days and, ironically, the end of the complete togetherness of Judy and Peter. Peter gives up his law practice upon their marriage and joins the FBI because he knows that Judy admires Mr.Trent, the FBI man who worked with them on the Ritter case. But in doing so, he and Judy actually see less of each other than when they worked together before their marriage. Peter is often sent away on cases, and when he is at home he is not at liberty to disclose details until the case is closed. So Judy must delve into mysteries, usually the same ones Peter is working on, pretty much on her own.
One almost wishes that the law office days could have gone on for more books. There could have been other mysteries connected with the building of the new town. However, that year they worked together in the law office will always be remembered fondly for bringing to full flower Judy and Peter's romance. That alone is enough to make it a very special time.
The Law Office: A Year of Transition was a prize winning book review by Diana McInerney that was originally published in the now-defunct Judy Bolton Society newsletter. For reprints of the newsletters email Mike DeBaptiste. Reprinted with permission