Monday, May 31, 2010

#4: The Mystery at Lilac Inn

This was one of the dull ones, but I remembered when I reread it, what a fairly b*tchy character it had. :)

Nancy Drew and Helen Corning are canoeing to Lilac Inn. Along the way, they stop by the riverside backyard of a mutual friend, Doris. Doris is startled. She claims that another friend of theirs told her she saw Nancy a few minutes ago at a drugstore. But that's the least of Nancy's worries when the canoe hits something and capsizes! But there is nothing around that could've caused the boat to flip! Right?

At Lilac Inn, the girls greet Emily Willoughby. Emily is going to marry Dick Farnam and they will take over the inn. Because taking on a small business right after marriage is a great idea! Dick's best man, John, gives Nancy and Helen a tour of the inn. When girls go to the to meet Emily's Aunt Hazel, they overhear her arguing "I can't loan you more money, Maud!"

Maud is the know-it-all social director, who controls Aunt Hazel as if Aunt Hazel was dog. When the Drew house is burglarized (one in many burglaries over the course of the series), Aunt Hazel drives Nancy home and Maud invites herself along. She asks Nancy about Mr. Drew. "I'd love to meet your father. I understand he is a widower." Giggle. Nancy replies that Carson is busy with his job. "I see. No time for a social life," [Maud] said sarcastically. Oh, burn, Nancy!

Nancy's charge plate from Burk's Department Store has been stolen, and she is accused of stealing thousands of dollars of goods there, (turns out, by her double). Luckily, she has vouches for her good name--because she's Nancy Drew, perfect and flawless in every way! Chief McGinnis is always a convenient backup.

For her twenty-first birthday, Emily is inheriting her deceased mother's twenty unset diamonds. Emily tells everyone around her when she'll get them, and that they will have a dinner where Emily will receive the gems. Wise move, Emily.

Bang! As she stares at the sparkly diamonds, the lights go out, and when they come back on, the jewels are gone! Then Nancy finds out there is a sliding panel in one wall and that is how the thief slipped between rooms unnoticed. How original.

Well, a few days later, they find the diamonds and the case on the grounds. But when they are appraised at a jewelry store, it turns out that they are...get ready for it...fakes! Gee, didn't see that coming.

Nancy goes out skin diving in the river (she was going to meet John there, but he doesn't show up) and sees....a shark? But there is no time to think about that. Suddenly a spear almost hits her, landing in the lens of the camera she took with her. When she returns to the inn, John asks her why she didn't come to their meeting place to go to the skin-diving dock together some time ago. John had met another Nancy, who had made this arrangement.

After ghosts, bombs in cottages, and rocks thrown at Nancy's convertible, everyone's pretty edgy. Now they also have a shy, nervous little waitress now. The waitress' name is Jean, and she warns Nancy about Maud. Unfortunately Maud quits after a fight with Helen, before Nancy can question her. It turns out, however, that Maud was just being mean to Nancy because she was jealous, and Maud took her sadness from her husband's death out on Hazel. Aww.

One day, Nancy goes to the river to start solving the mystery regarding the shark and spear. After getting some excellent (and much-too-convenient) leads, Nancy finds Jean near the river! Nancy follows and Jean goes into an old shed. Before Nancy can decide what to do, a miniature sub rises from the river--Nancy's "shark"!

Then all the formulaic stuff happens. Nancy is caught from behind! A cloth is tied over her mouth! She is dragged to the shed! Jean is there, along with another man, the gardener at the inn. The man who caught her, the gardener, and Jean discuss what to do with Nancy, and drag her to the sub! Horrors!

Jean is really actress Gay Moreau. She has been playing as Jean (and Nancy...and an imaginary person, Mary, but it would make this post too long to try to add that part of the plot here) in order to get the jewels. She's also vengeful against Mr. Drew, because he once prosecuted her in a check forgery case.

There is no indication of the real reason for the sub, or for taking Nancy into it it (wouldn't the usual shed tie-up have worked as well?), except as a plot device. Another plot device happens; as "Jean" snidely tells Nancy all about how she and her accomplices worked together to get the diamonds. Their theory is that explaining the plot will torture Nancy, as Nancy now has no power to bring Jean and crew to justice. (But Jean doesn't know she's in a Nancy Drew book! ;)

Then the sub hits a log and a fire starts in the engine!"Jean" and the men flee, leaving Nancy bound. In a very deus ex machina moment (I use this phrase sooo much in these posts), River Heights police in boats come just in time to get Nancy out. Carson was getting worried about Nancy's absence.

When Gay and her accomplices are captured, Gay is wearing her Nancy Drew disguise AND has Nancy's license, causing people to doubt the real Nancy. She almost fools Carson until he gets up close to her (I guess Nancy's and Gay's voices and mannerisms are so similar that they even trick a father!). To prove herself to the police, Nancy grabs Gay and wipes off part of her makeup. All the bad guys/girls arrested and the world is at peace. The diamonds are found in the river (they were in the sub) and the world is at peace.
I never did like this one, but I admit, it is one of the few of the rewritten originals that gets so close to actually having a murder/death. I know this probably isn't one of my better posts, but this was such a choppy plot.
Extra Fun Tidbits, Non-Essential to the Story:
  • A meal served at Lilac Inn: Beef broth, creamed chicken on toast, peas, salad and iced tea. Um...yum? Sounds nice and light. But the beef broth alone sounds odd, and the the name "creamed chicken" just hints of a strange consistency. But it turns out to be this in most recipes online.
  • A great quote from Nancy: "I have a feeling the thief substituted these fakes for the real diamonds." Well, duuuur.