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; Nancy goes to help. To her amazement, threatens her. Nancy stays and tries to give him a package the man dropped. She is threatened again but doesn't move until Bess practically drags her back into the car. Nancy did see what was in the package, which fell 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.

Dick wants to find a legendary pit of super-special 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--and finds a crooked chimney. The homeowner lets Nancy explore the attic, and Nancy sees a man exiting the attic through a secret panel. The man gets away, but the police investigate the attic. Behind the panel are priceless vases!

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.
The men dropped a porcelain bowl. Wow, another extraordinarily convenient clue! 

 Oh...and Mr. Soong wants Nancy to find his missing friend, Eng Moy, and Eng Moy's daughter, Lei. They came to the USA so Eng Moy could study new pottery methods...and haven't been seen for five years.

A fake-pottery market suddenly springs up, and just in time Nancy 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 that the place is the site of a forgery operation-- 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 rather grim allusion is unusual in the original Nancy Drew books.

Mr. Soong and Nancy come out, and try to disguise themselves as workers so they can plan an escape. No dice--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 which 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!