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.