Write from my Childhood: Clue book series

As well as the Mr. Men and Little Miss books, another series I loved growing up was the Clue books.

Clue is a book series that was published throughout the 1990s based on the board game of the same name. There were 18 books in total.

Each book has an almost-identical format:

  • A prologue delivered by Mr. Boddy, the owner of the mansion where the board game and books are set. The prologue explains away Mr. Boddy’s death at the end of the previous book. The ending of the prologue leads into the beginning of the first self-contained story.
  • Each book (with the exception of the first book) consists of 10 self-contained short stories.
  • Each story (obviously) contains a mystery for the reader to solve, with specific clues and a picture of the Clue checklist at the end of the story given to the reader to assist them. A map of the mansion is also provided at the beginning of the book to further assist the reader.
  • One of the short stories will share the book’s title (e.g. Mystery in the Moonlight’s ninth short story is titled ‘Mystery in the Moonlight’).
  • The last story in each book (and the book itself) ends with the death of Mr. Boddy.

I loved these books growing up for many reasons: I loved the board game (despite not having a detective or sleuth bone in my body), I loved the structure of the mansion (as I child I had many ideas of how it looked – one version of the board game I had when I was a child even had the rooms decorated with furniture – and I loved the idea of secret passageways), and I loved that simple, easily-named characters were brought to life.

I also loved the covers of the books – they were colourful, the patterns resembled the real board game, and I often wondered if the pictures of each character on the back cover were based on real people.

INSERT PICTURES OF FRONT AND BACK COVERS

Similarly to the Mr. Men and Little Miss books, I had a lot (but not the entire series) of Clue books, and sadly as I grew up I gave them away (which I now regret). But last year, I bought three of the books online – Mystery in the Moonlight (book #9), The Dangerous Diamond (book #14), and Footprints in the Fog (book #18 – the last in the series). I actually owned all three of these books as a child. I re-read them and developed a new appreciation for them, now that I’m an adult and a qualified writer.

For one thing I appreciate that Mr. Boddy is self-aware – he is aware that his “six best friends” are dodgy people, but still invites them over to his mansion anyway, and outsmarts them in their attempts to both steal his valuables and kill him. You could argue that his self-awareness begs the question of whether he is gullible and stupid, or cunning, or if he has picked these “six best friends” to toy with them, especially as they are usually subjected to severe (but justifiable and deserved) punishment when he catches them red-handed in their various acts.

The solution to one story on the left, with the next self-contained short story on the right.

I also appreciate the simplicity in each story’s structure – each story starts with a competition or objective being established, a new line on the page with centre-aligned text shows a time jump, and then the action gets underway, followed by the mystery for the reader to solve. The solution is then printed, with an explanation, upside-down on the following page.

I also love that Mr. Boddy isn’t the only person who is ‘murdered’. In Footprints in the Fog, Mr. Green is murdered in the first short story, and in Mystery in the Moonlight, Miss Scarlet is murdered twice, and Mrs Peacock is murdered in the first short story. Although their deaths are explained away in the solution in a similar manner to Mr. Boddy’s many deaths being explained away in each book’s prologue.

Me as Mrs Peacock for Book Week (2000).

As Mr. Boddy addresses the reader in every book, it’s not surprising that I came across a meta reference in Dangerous Diamond in the third short story, Bowling for Dollars, in which Mr. Boddy has his six best friends split in to two teams to play a game of ten-pin bowling, of course they are unmotivated to play until Mr. Boddy promises to give $20,000 to each member of the winning team, which leads to Professor Plum declaring, “bowling is the second greatest game ever invented, after CLUE of course.”

I actually loved the Clue book series so much as a child that I dressed up as Mrs Peacock for Book Week when I was in primary school. My mother bought the blue dress from the local op shop and handmade the rest of the accessories. I was the only person in my year who read the Clue books, so I was pretty pleased with myself that I picked a unique character, which resulted in a unique costume,  that no-one else had thought of or chosen.

Overall, I’d recommend the Clue book series to anyone. I still love the books and the game to this day – I still have the board game, and I have downloaded the app version of Clue onto my iPod. Nothing better than a good mystery!