Nancy Pushed! Almost Falls on Sidewalk!
Light Bulb Stolen!
Vicious Dog Attacks!
Random New Sidekick More Timid than Bess! Hides in Car Trunk to Avoid Detective Work!
Department Store Chase! Elevators Vs. Escalators!
Carson Buys Nancy a New Car! Old One Had Dent!
Nancy Hides Under Bed! Almost Sneezes!
Page One, and I was already at the WHAT?? stage:
The Drews' housekeeper and Nancy paused to look up at a passing airplane. They were startled to hear its engines cut out. As Nancy and Hannah watched in alarm, a wounded bird plummeted down and landed among the flowers.
"A homing pigeon!" Nancy exclaimed, seeing the tiny metal tube attached to its leg. "Maybe the bird's carrying a message!"
"Plummeted down"? Isn't that a little redundant? Do things ever plummet in any other direction? But that wasn't really what struck me about the passage -- it's that yet again, River Heights reminds me of Salem, the setting of Days of Our Lives. (You know -- a tiny, three-cop town in which everyone knows everyone, yet it still somehow houses an international airport, a famous bone specialist and a flower show that stays open until after 9PM.)
The story continues: Within hours of contacting the International Federation of American Homing Pigeon Fanciers (she knew the organization's name -- and possibly the phone number -- off the top of her head), Nancy witnesses what looks like the kidnapping of River Heights' 'famous bone specialist'. Then she hears back from the Federation:
LOCAL REPRESENTATIVE WILL CALL. BIRD NOT REGISTERED. SUSPECT TROUBLE. KEEP MESSAGE SECRET.
Dispatch from The Department of Who Knew?: People from the Pigeon Fanciers Association have credentials.
More story: Coincidentally, Hannah falls down the stairs, requiring a visit to the very same possibly kidnapped Famous Bone Specialist, who still hasn't returned home. Nancy happens to answer his phone while they're waiting (because... that's what you do when you're waiting for a doctor... you answer his phone...), and the message JUST SO HAPPENS to sound a whole lot like the message attached to the homing pigeon's leg. When the apparently un-kidnapped Famous Bone Specialist returns home, he tells Nancy that he needs help in solving a strange mystery, and that "there's nobody with whom I'd rather discuss it than you and your father".
On Carson: What kind of lawyer is Carson Drew, anyway? Wouldn't the books make more sense if he worked as a PI? It turns out that the Famous Bone Specialist had been kidnapped, and that the woman he was brought in to treat was clearly there against her will -- rather than tell the police about it, he wants Carson Drew to handle it? Ten books in, and I still don't get it.
He also continues to be useless when it comes to his only child's safety: Nancy is accosted by a huge guy in a dark parking lot who tells her to tell her father to back off. When she tells Carson about it, he says, "Some crank, I suppose." Yes, Carson. Because NOTHING in your world is EVER connected.
If I ever drove like this with my father, he'd strangle me:
She increased her speed, widening the distance between the two cars, until she approached an intersection where there was a bright overhead light. She swung around, her tires squealing on the asphalt, and stopped short, facing her pursuer.
Yeesh. When it comes to concern for his child, give the man a fake tan, a wig and a flask and he could double for Dina Lohan.
More story: Secondary mystery introduced by Helen Archer (nee Corning) -- her grandparents recently bought a place, but they're afraid of staying there because of "something queer that keeps happening". Turns out that they're being haunted by a burning ring of fire. (Unfortunately, there is no June Carter cameo and no one falls in. That might have helped. This really wasn't one of the Syndicate's stronger offerings.)
Shockingly, the two mysteries turn out to be connected.
Thoughts on sidekicks:
Poor little Johnny. He only ever shows up when an accident is necessary for plot development.
Bess in a nutshell: "I don't know which is harder: to keep on a diet or keep in a secret."
I've realized that poor George just doesn't have much of a personality. She's only really there to be stoic and carry the suitcases. At least Bess gets to eat and whine.
New skills: Nancy is familiar enough with avian anatomy to accurately check a pigeon for broken bones. She also is impressively knowledgeable about homing pigeons in general. She creates 'exquisite' prize-winning flower arrangements, can spot a fake telephone from across the room, knows how to drain the fuel from a plane and recognizes an Electric Fence of Death when she sees one. (Oddly enough, what with all of the traveling they've done and all the time they've spent in rural areas, George the Tomboy has never seen an electric fence before and needs a full How It Works explanation.) She also participates in an impromptu diving competition and proves to be so skilled that she's offered a camp counselor job on the spot. (She declines, because she 'already has a job'. Which is... what? Has her amateur sleuthing become a career?)
Amazing saves: Nancy saves a girl from being run over by a speedboat (but then never attempts to find out who was in the boat) and later saves Bess from rolling off a cliff into a bonfire by performing a flying tackle. She also saves herself by climbing out of an old cistern. (That was actually pretty impressive.)
The first time Nancy cracks a book on-screen?: To figure out the mysterious message she found attached to the homing pigeon, she looks up information about delphinium, larkspur and bluebells. The book doesn't help, though. She cracks the code simply using the power of her huge brain -- while listening to her favorite music program on her clock radio, no less.
Enter the boys: Burt Eddleton is George's "special friend". He's described as husky and blond. Bess' boy is Dave Evans, who is rangy and fair. Nancy, of course, is paired with Ned Nickerson, who is -- of course -- tall and handsome.
8 pages later: BREAKING NEWS: Ned Nickerson is not just a pretty face! He's also a chemistry expert!
More physical characteristics for villain-spotting: If you're looking at a woman, and she's "large and hard-faced", she's a bad 'un.
Suspicious habits: Strutting around, cracking a whip. Harsh laughs. Heavy breathers are bad news. They clearly don't believe in the Not Guilty plea -- upon apprehension, they have a tendency to totally Spill Their Guts.
Accessories: Crappy cars -- broken headlights, dangling license plate, in need of a good wash -- are a good tip-off, too.
My Favorite Part: A bizarre interlude in which Nancy imagines being a Grecian maiden. She says she would pray that her "father's olive groves would bear extra well, that his vines would be loaded with grapes and his nets heavy with fish every morning." It sounded dirty to me. Maybe because it brings to mind Carson Drew, bare-chested and sweaty... among other things. Yick.
Loot: The Eldridge family heirloom that helped Nancy solve the mystery. The Cornings offer to order French crystal earrings in the shape of larkspurs for all three girls. (But not, it should be noted, for their granddaughter. All SHE did was bring Nancy in to solve the mystery.)
Next up: The Clue of the Broken Locket