"It means I scout for you so that you get the hot water for your bath because I get there first and bag the bathroom; and if you want toast, I line up at Matron's door for the right of way to the kitchen fire and the best toasting fork; and if you bathe in the summer I fag your towel to the warming room and dry it if you want to use it next day before it gets washed…"
Despite the loss of the important and irreplaceable cup, the headmistress Miss Price does not wish to contact the police. Instead, on another staff member's suggestion, she hires a private detective – a retired policewoman named Smith who decides to investigate under the questionable disguise of a replacement games mistress named Mrs. Kumquat. But Pam is afraid that the woman may do more harm than good, and with Carol and her capable hooker Glenda helping, Pam mounts an investigation of her own to find the thief and the saboteur.
Review: The Seven Stones Mystery is another solid entry in Mitchell's adventure stories for girls. While the plotting is certainly less complex than those found in her detective stories for adults, the pacing keeps the reader engaged, and there are a few scenes of danger (such as stalking around outside at night to track a criminal who is unafraid to lash out if confronted) that raise the stakes for our intrepid heroine. The details of the machinations involved in maintaining a girls school in the 1940s are very interesting from a historical (and perhaps anthropological) context. It's also admirable that several characters, from staff members to students, are given briefly sketched but specific personalities through their individual traits and moral values. While life at Mannerings as the author presents it still feels idealized and scrubbed up, it also carries enough color and variety to make Pam's efforts to win her games – both as a hockey centre-forward and as an amateur detective – something that the reader can invest in and cheer on as well.
Mitchell dedicates this story to four girls who formed "the Brace Cup team of 1948, with love", and it is pleasing to know that, as an occasional games mistress herself, the prolific author was also an inspiring coach and teacher for the students she worked with. Maintaining the tribute website The Stone House, sometimes I hear from the children of past pupils of Gladys Mitchell, and invariably they confide that their mothers spoke of their instructor fondly, remembering that she would read ghost stories to the class or coach team members in swimming and gymnastics. These interests are woven throughout Mitchell's writing, and her stories featuring Pam Stewart and her companions gave the author an opportunity to create fictional adventures for, and possibly about, the young students she mentored over the years.