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 odd 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?