Monday, December 22, 2008

#51: Mystery of the Glowing Eye

This book opens fantastically! And check out the Technicolor, Hitchcock cover...

The book opens...

Nancy: "What did Marty King mean by her remark?"

And what does Nancy mean by that?

Nancy's J-E-A-L-O-U-S of her father's new secretary! Her father dares to mentions to Ms. King a new mystery involving a glowing eye. You traitor, Carson! [/sarcasm] Also, Ned has been kidnapped, and the only clue is a message from him, dropped from a robotic helicopter, which had landed on the Drews' front lawn. There is only one line--Beware of Cyclops! But Mary King, Carson's new secretary, cattily claims she's already solved part of the mystery!

Nancy admits to Bess and George she's jealous. "Jealous!" George exclaims, summing up the character profile that the ghostwriters must have had. "That's one trait you don't have!"

So let's sift it out to the best parts: There's a creepy museum with a glowing eye image in the wall. Burt and Dave hang out in a suspicious house. The gang is mesmerized by hypnotic beams of lights shaped like eyes, with disembodied voices echoing in the room. There is a mysterious experiment by Ned! It's like a Nancy Drew drug trip.

It was a really, really, weird attempt at a "sci-fi" kind of mystery. It was pretty cool, but it concentrated too much on the stupid glowing eye clue. On a 1-10 scale? 6.

And this one mentions computers! Back when the yellow-spine books were written, computers were pretty much restricted to labs\science. I think, but am not sure, a lot of people were kinda suspicious of the "new-fangled invention". Thus my tag, "OMG computers!"

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

#24: The Clue in the Old Album

Nancy and Mr. Drew are listening a famous violinist at the River Heights Art Museum when an elderly woman's purse is snatched. She's crying so much over the music that she doesn't notice at first. Nancy gets into hero mode, stands up and runs after the man. She chases him through the museum and is about to catch him when the man pulls the contents from the purse and throws the empty purse down. Nancy returns the empty purse to 'Mrs. Sutherland', and Nancy also meets her "wild" tween daughter, Rose.

Rose's father is a famous violinist, but somehow he can't be tracked down. He's also a gypsy, which seems to be a mark of shame here. Mrs. S asks for help, and Nancy accepts with the eagerness of a dog being offered a steak. She needs to help the innocent old lady and Rose, who is so "wild" that she speaks boldly and has a high temper! OMG! In a bizarre plot involving dolls, Nancy can find something that will assure money for Rose's future--she just has to find a certain doll. If the doll is found, it could also lead her to Rose's "baby Daddy" :P Nancy also has to deal with a red-haired gypsy named Nitaka, who also wants the doll that furnishes the clue. The titian detective gets in trouble trying to discover gypsy secrets...

  • During a visit a gypsy camp, Ned states doesn't want his fortune read. Ned: "Not me...I'll go into business, prosper, and marry a certain ambitious young lady named--" Nancy interrupts hastily, making the excuse that a violinist is about to play. It is always clear that while Nancy likes Ned as a very close friend, she's not really tolerant of Ned's different feelings!
  • Nancy is very free about speaking disparagingly about the gypsy culture, despite not knowing the much about it. That changes when some girls tease Rose for being part gypsy. Ta-da! Gratuitous "some gypsies are very nice and are great musicians!" comment.
  • Nancy is chasing suspects when a policeman stops her. "Do you know how fast you were going? We've got laws!" Moments later, after Nancy explains (she's all, "I am breaking the laws, but that's okay, because I'm chasing bad people!1!1), the cop asks who she is. Nancy quickly answers, "'Nancy Drew...Carson Drew's daugh--' The policeman waited no more. Like a released rocket he shot down the road." Lolz...not using names, are we, Nan?

Friday, December 5, 2008

#18: The Mystery at the Moss-Covered Mansion

Like a lot of the Nancy Drew books, this tends to wander, but was enjoyable. As a bonus, it is set in my childhood state, Florida. It also centers around the Kennedy Space Center, plotwise. My mom and dad took me and my siblings there. I was seven, it was friggin hot, I was tired, and I didn't give a damn about the rockets. I'm sure I would've enjoyed it in cooler weather.

Anyway, Nancy is helping her father with a legal case (again). Carson doesn't have a Florida license, so he's working with another lawyer in Florida. Their client was falsely accused of sending exploding oranges (!) to the space center. (Let's hope our enemies abroad never read this book--or this post! They just might send the White House a gift of fruit ;).

Nancy goes to Florida and stays at the client's house. The client's foreman and his (the foreman's) wife were supposed to pick up the Drews, but they make a "mistake" and the Drews had to take the taxi to the house. Carson Drew believes the incident is deliberate, because anything disruptive is suspicious.

Par for the script, Bess and George come to Florida, too, as well as Ned, Burt and Dave. (Do the boys ever have time for college?). Well, here's your convenient plot device: the Nickersons (Ned's family) are having a party at their summer home in Florida. I'd have a tag for 'convenient plot device', except that every book has one.

The mystery starts, and soon we have a house where suspicious things happen, a plot to blow up a space launch, and devious plots to harm Nancy (and, inadvertently, Ned). That's a bit crazy, huh?
I don't think I need to mention that it all comes right in the end...but I already did.

  • Nancy and crew get lost in an orange grove but get out by knowing that the roughest side of the tree is north. I've tried this before. I guess it only works when you're freaking out.
  • Bess stops at the edge of a swamp to pick a water lily and almost gets bitten by a gator. Somehow, I found this really funny.
  • The orange packing house catches on fire. Nancy asks what she can do to help, and one worker is all "you're a GIRL! WTF? You can't do anything." This was rewritten in '69 -'71, but I'd love to get the 1941 original to see if the original scene if it is similar (or there at all)*
  • While investigating a house that Mr. Drew might buy (being a Midwest lawyer must pay well!), the gang discovers that it is next to a weird house guarded by wild animals. Of course, they have to investigate, but they also have to get past the guard panther (!), so they drug it by hiding a pill meant for humans in a piece of meat. The huge panther takes the little sleeping pill, drops off in minutes. Uh-huh. But it is Bess' idea, so I have to cheer.
Overall, I'd give it a 5 out of 10...nothing special, but still fun.

*ETA: Thanks to Jennifer, @ the Series Books for Girls Blog, we have a great explanation of the role of sexism and feminism in the original books vs. the condensed\rewritten.

Friday, November 28, 2008

#3: The Bungalow Mystery

Ah, The Bungalow Mystery. This one was a yawn, but I'm determined to recap all 56 books...I'm sure I'll finds something to laugh about.

Nancy and Helen are boating on Twin Lakes. A storm comes up, but they are far from shore! OH NO! As they race for shore, the boat runs into a log and capsizes. Thrown into the water, they are stunned, especially Helen. Nancy won't leave Helen, despite the latter's insistence, but they're also running out of time. She shouts for help, and lo and behold, a girl in a rowboat appears. Later, she tells Nancy and Helen that she walks the shore in a storm, ever since her parents were killed in a boating accident. Nancy and Helen are saved saved saved! The girl's name is Laura Pendleton. As soon as Nancy is out of the risk of hypothermia, Laura asks Nancy to solve a mystery. Because Nancy is totally famous, ya know.

Laura's parents are dead and her guardians are nothing like she expected! It seems that they are only trying to get her valuable jewelry. Nancy is intrigued, of course. While engaging in activities at the lakeside hotel with Helen and Laura, swimming, and otherwise enjoying her leisurely between-mysteries life, Nancy ponders the mystery and runs around helping Hannah Gruen with her broken ankle. It isn't really until the end that anything really happens.

  • Nancy dines at the hotel restaurant one night before she sneaks to Laura's house, where she will look for clues while the guardians are away. Other diners "observe her with interest" because the exciting prospect sleuthing brings an "excited flush to her face", making her even prettier. Even complete strangers notice Nancy's awesomeness! *snorts*
  • Carson Drew is working on an embezzlement case and sends Nancy to visit a few people named in the case to see if they could be involved. I'm sure his superiors wouldn't mind at all that he sent his eighteen-year-old daughter to help on the case. But, as so often happens, this ties into the main plot.
Signing off! I really want to play tennis with Helen and sunbathe at Melrose Lake, but I have to make my bed. :)

Friday, November 21, 2008

#42: The Phantom of Pine Hill

This is one I never read as a kid, and it was hilarious. As in the WHAT??? kind of hilarity. It was one of the most predictable and laughable Nancy Drew mysteries ever. I'll keep this review short and just point out some of the hilarity. It was one of the few Nancy Drew books I (really) disliked and can completely "snark".

  • The culprit was introduced very early and did some very suspicious\silly things, leaving the complete plot obvious to the reader. By the middle of the book I knew most of the solution!
  • There's a sweet elderly lady to be saved! Surprise!
  • Bess flunks another diet :) George quietly sets most of the conclusion to the mystery in motion with little help from Nancy and a lot of help from Bess!
  • Ned dresses up as a Native American chief for an Emerson college parade. Snigger.
  • This one has the classic secret passages. In fact, it's oddly similar The Hidden Staircase.
So it was predictable and boring, but I liked that Nancy had more of a social life in this one. Also, the cousins had a big part in the solving the mystery. So, it was lame, but had its good points.

Check out the cover. Ned in a completely awful Indian costume. Nancy in a dress. A dress? Really? Hiking around to find clues in a dress sounds a like it would be a bit awkward. Oh, well...maybe she's practicing to be elegant for when she goes overseas in The Mystery of the 99 Steps.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

#6: The Secret of Red Gate Farm

Image courtesy: Series Books for Girls

We find our gang, Nancy Drew, Bess Marvin, and George "the girl" Fayne, hurrying to catch a train back to River Heights after a day of shopping. George is chiding Bess for buying a one ounce bottle of "Jade perfume" for an outrageous price. The girls are also wondering why the cantankerous salesgirl almost refused to sell it to them. Of course, only Nancy thinks that there could be more to that odd behavior. Because Bess and George don't have intuition, you know.

Bess uncorks the perfume while riding the train (smart move, Bess!) Consequently, the train jogs and perfume spills on Nancy. Then! A shifty-eyed man passes by, happens to smell it and asks Nancy, "Any word from the Chief?". Then he looks at her and slinks away. Uh-oh.

The scent of the perfume fills the train. A girl, about same age as our three friends, faints; Nancy, George, and Bess rush to revive her. When she recovers, we find out that she is Joanne Byrd. Ms. Byrd has to get off at River Heights, too. Unfortunately, Joanne sick from fainting. Good going, Bess. Anyway, Nancy takes Jo
(her preferred nickname) to the Drews' house.

Jo tells her life story. She is helping her grandma keep her (the grandma's) farm; thus, she is applying for a job as an "office girl" to earn money for the upkeep. Oh, feminists! Note the label, "office girl"! Grandma's farm is in danger of being taken away by the bank. Poor grandma :(.

In a convenient plot device, Jo is realizes that she should've gotten off at
Riverside Heights, where she hopes to get the job. The two towns conveniently have very similar names. Oh, convenient plot device, I love you. :)

Nancy drives Jo to the office in Riverside Heights, where the interview will take place. Nancy goes into the office with Jo to give moral support. Al, the interviewer, is very loud and rude--thus being automatically detected on Nancy's "something's up!" radar. Only "shady people" are loud and rude, you know. But even more oddly, Al is strangely reluctant to interview Jo. But just as Al finally sends Jo into another room for the interview, the phone rings. Al picks it up, writes something on a note and hangs up. His conversation was a bit strange, so while Al interviews Jo in another room, Nancy furtively copies some of the note, which turns out to be some sort of a code. Way to butt into a stranger's business.

Back at home, Nancy quickly decodes the code...because she is amazing! Her father, Carson Drew, the intelligent, revered lawyer, is all "OMG, Nancy, how did you do it? You're a modern day Sherlock Holmes!!11!!!"

Jo tells Nancy, Bess and George that Grandma Byrd is ready to sell her farm because of unsettling, bizarre events on the farm. However, Nancy, with her seemingly limitless pocketbook, boards at the farm, along with Bess and George.

Mrs. Byrd tells Nancy that a
mysterious cult (which seems like a watered down version of the KKK) pays rent on part of the land. She is afraid that this will eventually scare other boarders away or cause trouble.

Things do continue to happen. The girl who sold Bess the perfume is seen applying for a job at Al's office. Her name is Yvonne Wong (fyi). Nancy by chance meets a middle-aged woman near the farm. The woman says she is sneaking away from the cult to deliver a letter. Nancy drives her to town and, of course, asks about her troubles. Though the woman seems nervous at first, she confesses to Nancy that she wants to leave the cult, but is afraid to.

Later on, Nancy and friends watch the o
dd rituals the cult performs in plain view on moonlight nights . Soon after, a very belligerent man tries to force Mrs. Byrd to give up the farm.

Long story short, Nancy and crew end up in a sticky set of scrapes...and get out of it through a series of deductions and coincidences. The cult (two of the members being Al and Yvonne Wong) is just a cover-up for a counterfeiting ring,. The cult does its counterfeiting in a cave near where the rituals are performed.

It turns out that the perfume was a signal among the cult; only the members were supposed to wear it. Looks like Yvonne screwed up. And why would the secret perfume be in sight at the store if its, well, secret?...?

And would you believe, Nancy solves a case that confounded the FBI!
  • While eating at a cafe with Bess and George, a waitress accuses Nancy of using counterfeit money. Nancy protests, but the police aren't convinced. Well, guess what? At the precise moment, a young man named Karl, a is the son of one of the boarders, walks in at the precise moment. He not only vouches for her, but also makes sure they know she's Carson Drew's daughter! Being Carson Drew's daughter is very convenient, although Nancy herself never mentions her dad's name intentionally. It just happens to slip out from time to time ;)
  • Nancy and friends end up trapped in a cave by the weird cult. This is the end, my friend, my only friend, the end! Not. Karl and several policemen arrive at the critical juncture--again! Mrs. Byrd just happened to figure out what the girls were up to and sent Karl out at the right moment! Deus ex machina, anyone?

The Plans for RHF

RHF will have a lot of snark--but it is mostly for nostalgic purposes. There will be homages to the quaintness and excitement of the books as well as comments on my fave charries...

The blue convertible, the freedom, the perfect self-control, the friends who could almost always drop everything to be with Nancy, the visits to exotic places, the open pocketbook, the poise, the looks, the charming and (almost always) safe town...Nancy may have been tied up, threatened, left to starve, lost, etc. several times but she had it GOOD.

Other notes: Books will be reviewed in order read "at my whim", not how they are numbered. I was going to review The Secret of the Old Clock first but I just returned it to the library. Later, when I want another re-read, I'll pick it up again.

Welcome to River Heights Fangirl!

Welcome to River Heights Fangirl. I am not a Nancy Drew purist--I grew up with the yellow-spine, flashlight covers . Though I really loved reading the Applewood book reprints of the original Secret of the Old Clock and The Hidden Staircase, I preferred the faster conclusions, and more modern (though dated now) setting of the yellow hardcovers.

I read many of what are considered the "original" 56 Nancy Drew mystery stories. A full list with links to recaps can be found here or click on the 'Nancy Drew Booklist' tab above.