The ante is upped in The Mystery at Lilac Inn:
Far less description of clothing/food and far more DANGER. Nancy's reputation is making her sleuthing more difficult -- the Bad Guys actually try to get rid of her BEFORE she starts meddling. She survives a canoe mishap, is driven off the road, gets a rock thrown at her car, experiences a man-made earthquake, has a spear thrown at her face WHILE SHE'S UNDERWATER, has a bomb detonate in her hotel room and is tied up and left to drown. Also, in a very Lulu-Dark-ian twist, there is someone impersonating her!
Nancy continues to exhibit her seemingly limitless expertise in the realm of water sports. (Heh.) She's excellent at canoeing, is capable of underwater photography and her skin diving skills are so impressive that she got a write-up in the local newspaper. (Which says a lot about the local paper.)
Also: She participates in a wholesome country sing-a-long and plays ping-pong. She knows how to deal with a faint, specific ways of telling identical twins apart and showcases her skills at typewriter identification and analysis. Her knowledge of hidden panels and general first aid come in handy yet again. She knows how to get a car out of a ditch, but luckily, isn't forced to get muddy -- a handsome young police officer happens by just in time. Sometimes, as in the instance of the ditch, her knowledge is even passed on to the reader Kiki-Strike-style.
Nancy's dancing/sparkling/flashing eyes have been replaced by her "fleeting moments":
...Nancy noticed a look of anxiety in Emily's eyes. But the next instant it vanished.
For a fleeting moment Nancy once again detected a worried look in the young woman's eyes.
For a fleeting moment the sleuth detected a hard, calculating look replacing Jean's usually shy expression.
In a move that speaks volumes about the capabilities of the River Heights police force (and about Hannah Gruen, for that matter)... When Hannah Gruen discovers a break-in at the Drew house, does she immediately call the police? Nope. She calls Nancy, the intrepid young sleuth -- who tells her to call the police. Brilliant.
As all of Helen Corning's relatives seem to have had their mysteries solved, we discover that the Drew family has a stable of close "family friends". Close enough that Nancy is invited to be a bridesmaid in an upcoming wedding, but not close enough to ever get mentioned before.
Speaking of Helen Corning -- her friendship with Nancy has turned her into a very suspicious (and nosy!) young lady:
"He didn't even try to help us!" Helen said indignantly. "Do you think maybe he upset our canoe?"
"What a way for a social director to act!" Helen said in disgust. "I wonder why the two women were quarreling about money."
If the suspect is female, The Bad Guy Rudeness Rule no longer always applies. There's a lady in this one who is a mega-bitch, which originally led me to think that she was in cahoots with the BGs -- but she was a red herring. She was dabbling in a bit of free-agent blackmail, though. Of course, The Rudeness Rule still applies to men, as does the Shifty-Eye Factor.
What would Nancy do without her awesome dad? After discovering that Nancy's hotel room has been bombed, you'd think that he might be a tad concerned -- that maybe he might want her to drop the case -- or maybe even stick around -- or, DUH, tell the folks at Lilac Inn to CONTACT THE POLICE...
"Nancy, I wish I could stay here and help you work out this mystery. Unfortunately, I have to return to River Heights and review highly important evidence for a case I'm to try next week."
Then, THEN, forty pages later, she calls Carson to ask him for permission to go skin-diving again. You know, because of the spear-to-the-face incident. So he has no issue with her staying in a hotel where HER ROOM WAS BOMBED, but she's expected to call home if she's going swimming?
The BGs have gone a bit Bond-ish -- when the Big Bad captures Nancy, not only is she told the entire plan, but she's INTRODUCED to the gang. They give her their REAL NAMES. This is the same group that has managed to get their hands on a miniature submarine, engineered a fake earthquake, stolen fifty thousand dollars worth of uncut diamonds and bombed a local hotel. And they still give her their real names. In an IQ test, they'd give Chief McGinnis a run for his money.
While there wasn't actually a girl-fight, I do have high hopes for the future. Nancy TRIPS someone.
Nancy's Loot: a diamond pin shaped like a lilac spray
Next up: The Secret at Shadow Ranch