This is one of the craziest ones...a lot of convenient coincides, ridiculous events, even a freaky clan.
The book starts out with Nancy, Bess and George discussing a mystery. Carson Drew's latest case involves Oliver Thurston, an elderly man who is being pushed and threatened to sell his home and private zoo to make room for a company that will build apartments.
Carson Drew was warned that he'll be "jinxed" if he continues with the case. A few minutes into the girls' conversation, the bell rings, yet there is no person or package to be seen.There is, however, a bird on the lawn. The girls look at it and when Hannah comes along, she tells the girls that the bird is a wryneck, a Eurasian bird, and a type of woodpecker. Having (conveniently) studied birds recently, Hannah informs them that the wryneck was often used "in the old country" to jinx people.
Nancy panics. "There might be a bomb in it!" The police come over. Teehee..."Hi, police? There's a stuffed bird on my lawn and it might be a bomb!". But there is no bomb.
The trio of girls goes to Mr. Thurston's farm. Right away they see a man trying to cut open the bird cages! Nancy and George then go after him when he runs. Bess stuffs branches into the hole in one cage and tries to keep the birds in. Nancy and George have no luck, and Rausch, an employee of Mr. Thurston, queries them about the hole. When they prove their innocence, they all go to see Mr. Thurston.
Mr. and Mrs. Thurston are quite pleasant. Mrs. Thurston is superstitious, especially after several "jinxes". There is a Eurasian girl about Nancy, George and Bess's age, boarding with the Thurstons. She is emotionally sensitive, especially when Bess accidentally insults her by asking if wrynecks are really used for jinxes in Eurasia.
Carson finds out that the wryneck was stolen, yet only certain people have a key to the glass case in a university where it resided. Then there is a bomb at the Thurston farm. It was found because Nancy noticed a large pit near the aviary. Suspicious, Nancy throws a stone into it--staying back, of course--and the bomb goes off!
Nancy searches for clues, looks for the wire-cutter dude, and tries to convince the VIPs of the council who are trying to get the Thurston farm that it isn't fair to force the Thurstons to leave.
One night, Mr. Thurston and Ned investigate the mysterious things happening near the aviary. When they seem to be delayed, Nancy goes to the aviary and finds them unconscious.
When Ned and Mr. Thurston recover, Mr. Thurston goes to check on the birds and Ned and Nancy look for clues, following footprints leading away from the aviary and past the Thurston property. Again, they find an easy clue; a new but empty chloroform bottle. It's lucky that the suspicious man just happened to lose it, right?! :)
A few days later, Nancy and a reluctant Ned go to visit the ballet. Ned is disinterested and embarrassed by being at the ballet. But Nancy is trying to get a clue; someone disguised as a "ghost" frightened Mrs. Thurston at the house, and then leaped away very gracefully, as if he\she was a skilled dancer.
There is a high-leaping performer, Boris Brovsky, at the ballet. But after talking to the ballet director and meeting Boris, Nancy doesn't suspect Boris. The director said that an excellent dancer was fired for his unprofessional and suspicious behavior. He is under the stage name Merv Marvel.
Soon after, Ned gets ill from ornithosis picked up from the birds. During one of his confused sleeps, he mutters "Slick Fingers [the main suspect] has this." Nancy thinks he's referring to the ornithosis.
Nancy finds out that a man of Slick Fingers' description had an appointment at an area doctor's office, but he never appeared.
The girls continue to convince (hassle?) the councilmen not to force out Mr. Thurston. Nancy continues to sleuth vigorously. One day Nancy and Ned try to find the head of the company who wants to force the Thurstons out. They are directed to a construction site. While Ned and Nancy wait for the councilman to arrive, they walk along the river and stop near a dam. As they are looking at it, they are pushed into the river! They go down the dam! They save themselves!
All of the sleuthing leads back to the Thurston farm. Someone was trying to poison the birds, but Mr. Thurston saw the man in time to scare him away. Nancy and Ned follow the footprint trail...and find two envelopes, one filled with cash and the other with a "jinx" symbol and an expensive ring! Oh, come now! The way these clues pop up is so dang...stupid.
Merv Marvel eventually captures Nancy while she sleuths at the Thurston property. He warns her not to do anymore sleuthing, and then forces her to dance with him toward "headquarters". Nancy tries to gather more clues by asking cunning questions until they end up at a queer old barn, home of a strange commune.
Everyone is wearing weird costumes, and Merv brings Nancy to the "grand master" so she can be 'baptized' as a witch. The grand master is a con man. But in the nick of time, Ned, Bess, George and a police group arrive. The con dude is arrested.
And soon after, the head of the construction company and several other executives are arrested for fraud and trying to force people out by way of illegitimate behavior.
Again Nancy is a hero; Mrs. Thurston is overcome with gratitude. Nancy has rescued another helpless, elderly woman. :p
- Boris wants Nancy to try dancing with him. Of course, Nancy is an amazing dancer and the ballet director and Boris praise her to the sky. However, Ned is a wee bit jealous seeing Nancy dance with Boris. :)
- Nancy is taking nine little kids to Thurston's zoo, along with Bess and George (she wants to convince people that if the Thurston zoo goes, the kids will be sad. Or something like that.). She puts most of them in the back seat. The kids on the seats hold the other kids on their laps. Yeah, real safe. A police officer stops and is going to ticket Nancy because the car is overcrowded. Nancy innocently claims she didn't know the rule...and besides, they aren't going far. The officer relents. "Evidently you're doing a good deed...and you're not far from the Thurston's...But from now on, no more than six people in a car!" (Not twelve!)
- Also: "Bess and George gasped at the idea that he evidently was accusing Nancy of breaking the law" (see above). No, NOT NANCY! The officer should arrest himself for even thinking about it!