The Four Marys are enjoying their Summer holidays, when they find out that St. Elmos has been vandalised. Miss Mitchell had allowed some troubled girls from a reform school to use St. Elmo’s over the summer. Unfortunately the girls decided to wreck the place and one of the girls is now missing. The Marys ring each other and they all agree they should go back to school and help clean up. Miss Mitchell and Creefy along with some other students all work hard to get the school opened quickly again. The Marys are surprised when Veronica and Mabel show up, but of course they are not there to help, they only to see if that they read was true and what a state the school is in. Soon the school is ready for reopening.
Later when the Marys are in town, they see a girl in a school blazer throw a brick through a window of a new building named Dodds. It turns out Dodd is a developer that bought some woodland that used to belong to St. Elmos 20 years ago, not realising some by-laws prevented him from building houses there. But Mabel’s father has discovered there is nothing stopping him building non-residential places, like small factory units. The girls are horrified to hear this, especially when big fences are put up around the wood and lake. Later Cotty and Simpy find Dodd’s hut on fire and a girl with a blazer running away. They raise the alarm in time, before the fire spreads to the wood.
Meanwhile around the school things keep going missing like food, blankets and Creefy is missing a book. The girls tell Miss Creef their suspicions that it may be the runaway delinquent taking these things. Miss Creef agrees though she doesn’t think she took her book because what would a girl like that want with a bird book. Later Raddy notices something suspicious in one of the sheds, she goes to investigate only to be confronted by the missing girl, Ros. She tells Raddy her parents sent her to reform school because of her quick temper and that her and the other girls smashed up S. Elmo’s because they don’t like wealthy people and how the privileged few can buy an education. Raddy tells her that not true and that there are lots of scholarship girls at St. Elmos. They get talking more it turns out Ros is upset at Dodd’s plans disturbing the wildlife and that she took Creefy’s book to confirm that there are rare birds nesting by the lake. Meanwhile the other Marys are beginning to worry about Raddy. They soon find her and Ros gets taken away by the police.
Raddy tells the others about the birds on the lake, but Dodd gets in guard dogs to scare off the birds. Things aren’t looking great until Simpy says something that reminds Raddy of a document she read over the Summer. It turns out one of the conditions of the sale to Dodd is that there is unrestricted access to the Lake for fishing rights on application to the owner. This will lapse after 10 years if there is no application, they find this out the day before its due to lapse. So they save the lake, though Mr Lentham spins it so he looks like the good guy.
I find that these picture story library books, can be rushed at times or not properly edited. The story itself is fine, but some of the art is inconsistent. When we first see a girl throw a brick through Dodd’s window, she has long light hair, later when Raddy meets Ros she has shorter dark hair. Worse than this, is Mabel and Veronica switch hair colours half-ways through the story. Other than that the art is good, and it is fun to see the Marys drawn by a different artist than the usual.
The story itself is a typical Four Marys story, with them saving the school and being the ones to find the missing girl, etc. That’s not a bad thing though, it is a good story and there are some nice moments, like Simpy going after Cotty to comfort her after she gets upset about the lake being filled in and Mabel being nasty about it. I also liked Raddy and Ros talk and thought it was a good choice to have Raddy, the rich girl, talking to Ros, rather than someone like Simpy, a scholarship girl. Also glad it didn’t have Ros completely reform after the talk, but it does have Raddy sympathising with her and telling the others she’s not all bad.
The ending is a bit of a cliche. Just when they are about to lose a conveniently previously forgotten law saves the day. Its also funny that these laws are always just about to go out of date too, just to add a last minute rush and excitement