After another successful mission, and much celebration, the talented writer Miss Bianca resigns from her public post in the Mouse Prisoners’ Aid Society to devote herself to finishing a book of poetry. The P.A.S. throws a water-picnic to celebrate and there is a brass band and dancing.But, while she is dancing on lily pads and well-sprung dance floors, Miss Bianca glimpses a signal from The Turret (1964), a signal from a prisoner who needs rescuing.

And this is no anonymous needy prisoner either, but one of the villainous individuals from a previous mission. Bernard cannot believe that Miss Bianca believes he deserves to be helped; Miss Bianca cannot believe that Bernard (and the rest of the P.A.S.) do not support the prisoner’s right to have the opportunity to reform their bad behavior. When it comes to a vote, the P.A.S. refuses the motion, but Miss Bianca has a heart of “truest steel” so she will act even without their support.

For younger readers, the missions are undoubtedly the main draw, but I adore the world-building, the additional details about the magical Miss Bianca which are supplied in each volume (and Bernard’s growing devotion to her) and the everyday activities which unfold alongside the dramatic events. In The Turret, for instance, the P.A.S. Boy Scout Troop is industriously working to collect badges in important matters like Cat Evasion and Trap Recognition.

In a similar vein, it takes twenty-four members of the Ladies Guild to knit a pair of mittens for the prisoner rescued in Miss Bianca and the Salt Mines (1966): ten undertaking the fingers and thumbs (up to the first knuckle), five on the palms, six on the backs, with the remaining three sewing together the squares (because the size of a mouse’s knitting needles means each square they complete is only a quarter-inch square – so imagine all the squares required for a mitten to fit even the hand of an eight-year-old boy imprisoned in a salt mine).

The rescue is a tiresome venture. The environment is unlike anything the mice have ever experienced: “It was like the stillness in the nursery after a child has cried itself to sleep.” And their exertions take a physical toll as well: “They wheezed like a pair of cracked bellows, Miss Bianca breathed like a breath of spring, but Bernard was as good as a bicycle pump.)”

Perhaps even more disturbing – for the first time in her life, Miss Bianca is referred to as ‘vermin’. By someone who clearly knows nothing of her hand-carved cedar wood furniture and swan-down-filled pillows. And who clearly would never guess that by the time readers meet her again, in Miss Bianca in the Orient (1970), her first slim volume of verse has gone into three editions.

On this mission, Miss Bianca carries an elegant overnight bag made of snail-tortoiseshell, lined with spider-silk and containing all necessities (a fan, a light chiffon scarf, and a flash of eau-de-Cologne). Meanwhile, Bernard has his galoshes and a packet of cough lozenges tied up in a spotted handkerchief which he uses with fondness as it once served as a safety net for Miss Bianca on an adventure in the Black Castle (although she encourages him to replace it with a proper briefcase).

Readers have a more complete picture of the Moot-hall, where the meetings of the P.A.S. are held: a majestic building which was once a claret-cask, with many rows of match-box benches and a platform at one end made of cigar-box cedar wood containing four walnut-shell chairs. Behind the platform hangs a richly-framed painting of a mouse freeing a lion from a net, and nearby is a display case which contains a chart drawn by Miss Bianca for use in the expedition to the Black Castle and other similar trophies.

Another tidbit of Miss Bianca trivia is offered when readers learn that her pedigree extends back to her ancestress Blanche de Port Salut, although her ancestress might disown her upon learning that Miss Bianca has, in an unparalleled moment of frustration, used the word ‘phooey’, a vulgar expression designed to startle her friends into paying particular attention.

There is also a throwaway comment about Bernard’s whiskers which does not go unnoticed: “(Bernard’s whiskers haven’t so far been done justice to: though short, they were remarkably strong.)”

The volume I was most eagerly anticipating was Miss Bianca in the Antarctic (1970) because I was looking for some mouse and penguin teamwork: I was not disappointed.

First though, however, there is the ruse of a second retirement. (As if the world of prisoners could do without our brave rescue personnel!) Still, this time it is not merely about a party but also gifts.

Bernard receives a stamp album for his collection.

Miss Bianca receives a tea-cosy from the Ladies’ Guild, a set of Emerson from the Mouse University Faculties, two dozen jars of jam from the P.A.S. Country-branch and as many pin-cushions from the orphanage, and a rocking-chair of bent matchwood made by the Mouse Arts and Handicrafts Centre (which she tried to view as a pleasure not an insult).

If you have noticed the disparity in gift distribution, you are not alone.

But Miss Bianca is a star. Just listening to her silvery voice is “as good as going to the Opera”.

Anyway, loyal readers will not expect the retirement to stick. Shortly after the ceremony, Nils (who played a role in the first volume’s rescue) appears on the scene to ask for assistance for a man stranded in Antarctica. Nils wears a sea-boot on one leg and his other leg is a wooden leg which “just made him a bit more piratical looking”, but the rescue is beyond his capacity at this time.

The trio discusses their options over beers (and cordial) in Bernard’s apartment. This is the first time Bernard has had Miss Bianca over (propriety, you know) and Nils compliments his beer; everyone else knows that Bernard’s beer is “absolutely first-class” because even the froth emboldened and it was ice cold. (Bernard, a mouse of many talents.)

If you were hoping for details about the penguins, you will have to read the story. It’s hardly a spoiler to share Bernard’s taste in brews. You’d probably already heard about that anyway.

But have you heard the story about Miss Bianca and the Bridesmaid? Stay tuned.