Sunday, February 21, 2010
#26: The Clue of the Leaning Chimney
For fun, I have included the Danish cover for Leaning Chimney, courtesy Series books for Girls.
It was a dark and stormy night...
Nancy is driving (with Bess) on a shortcut on a lonely road when she almost runs over a man. He's fallen, so Nancy goes to help. To her amazement, he rejects assistance, even threatening her. Nancy, mortified that someone could refuse her saintly help, stays. She tries to give him a package he dropped. Nancy could get brained, but doesn't heed the threats until Bess practically drags her back into the car. Nancy did see what was in the package as it was part open: a vase with a dragon pattern. Bess says it sounds A LOT like a vase in her cousin Dick Milton's pottery shop! Bess calls Dick the next day to tell him to check it out. The vase is gone! And dang, the vase was lent to Dick by his friend Mr. Soong, an older Chinese man, who wanted to help Dick attract customers. The vase is very old and worth thousands. Mr. Soong doesn't want Dick to get too upset about the theft, but Dick wants to make up for the loss.
Dick wants to find a legendary pit of fine clay used to make china. He overheard this in a random conversation; this valuable clay could be found near a "leaning chimney".
Nancy goes into Masonville, where Dick heard about the leaning chimney. She drives and looks for the chimney. At the same time. And without getting distracted and getting into an accident. must be quite a feat. And she finds a crooked chimney just before she quits for the day!
Nancy doesn't find the clay, but after she inquires the homeowner, Mrs. Wendell, Mrs. Wendell allows her to explore the attic, although it is being rented out.
When Nancy goes to the attic, she sees a man disappearing into a secret panel in the back! But Nancy can't figure out how to open the panels, and he gets away. The police smash open the compartment--which the man made himself--, and find beautiful, authentic vases. *Gasp*!
Nancy and George look for clues by the lonely road again, but run into suspicious men. This time, Nancy gets away but a George is tied up and the two men disappear. George, able to talk sensibly and stay calm just seconds after being freed from a dire situation, is unharmed. Once again, she suffers no aftereffects from being kidnapped/tied-up/left to die/treated roughly (again and again and again). Of course, Nancy doesn't, either, nor does anyone else affiliated with her.
When the men ran, they dropped a porcelain bowl, a valuable clue. Am I the only one bemused by these strategically placed clues? Meanwhile, Mr. Soong tells Nancy that the symbols on the ceramics found are important; they are the stamps of ancient pottery makers. In addition, Nancy now needs to find Mr. Soong's missing friend, Eng Moy, and his daughter, Lei, who have been missing for five years, ever since Eng Moy went from China to the US to study new pottery methods, to enrich his own pottery business. But...hey never arrived at Mr. Soong's.
Antique porcelain pieces from an in-vogue shop in NYC have been very popular lately, and a rash of thefts begins. On her quest to recover the pieces, Nancy discovers that the pieces are fakes.
And then she finds the real leaning chimney on an old mine and smelter. On some days, the chimney has a weird iron symbol on it. There is a high, impossible-to-enter fence around the building, and a woman who claims she's from an exclusive cult, threatens Nancy and George as they try to get in. The usual antics happen--Nancy is nearly trapped, she is is rescued by George, then Mr. Soong goes with them to explore the weird grounds.
They discover a fake-pottery operation, with Chinese people forced to work, making genuine-looking, fake antique pottery! And among them? Eng Moy and Lei!
Nancy and Mr. Soong hide until they can safely go to Eng Moy and Lei. Lei is despairing about her horrible life. All her and her father's attempts to escape failed. She actually says that their only way to escape is to "end it all!". This is probably the most "graphic" thing I've run across in Nancy Drew.
Mr. Soong and Nancy come out, and try to disguise themselves as workers so they can plan an escape. Mr. Soong and the 'Engs are soon trapped. But our old friend Deus Ex Machina comes along. Nancy manages to escape (climbing over the fence of the complex with a ladder they brought, used, and left on the fence), runs out to the road, and stops a State Trooper vehicle who just happens to be stopping by.
In the end, the workers (who were lured to the illegal pottery operation with promises of a better life) are free. The man who had escaped through the panel in the old house, and was also the same one who ran across the road with the vase in the beginning AND rented the attic is captured. This Mr. Carr was responsible for most of the operation, and had a clever (for a mass-market juvenile book series) plan for stealing antique ceramics to copy, and resell the copies as antiques. A brother was in "cahoots" with him.
I've read almost half the Nancy Drew's, and this is one of the most ridiculous!