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.)
This was a good one. Not only a mysterious prisoner in a tower room, but eeeeevil foster parents, a family feud, lots and lots of treasure in secret compartments, a lost child, a kidnapping, the most ridiculous family reunion/reconciliation session EVER, and more:
The frontispiece alone makes it worthwhile. The caption reads: "Mr. Drew reached out to rescue Nancy" and the picture shows Nancy dangling out of a tower window above a falling ladder and Carson heroically catching her. It you look closely at the illustration, it actually looks like Carson Drew has an Amazing Magnet Hand, because his hand isn't gripping Nancy's shoulder at all -- it's just resting on top of it.
Actually, for Carson's Amazing Magnet Hand to work, our girl would have to have an Amazing Bionic Shoulder. I'm okay with believing that, as there weren't any new skills listed.
Basic plot, from page one: "The three friends were headed for a secluded inn called The Sign of the Twisted Candles. The Marvin family and the Faynes were related to a very old man who lived there. Rumors had recently come from neighbors of theirs who had overheard a conversation at the inn that he was virtually a prisoner in the tower of the old-fashioned mansion."
So the Fayne and Marvin adults don't bother to check out the rumors. No, the girls go. The adults in this series -- discounting Carson, of course -- are the most unmotivated people EVER. Yet again, a crime is committed in Hannah Gruen's presence and her solution is to call Nancy (who is out of town) rather than bother calling the (admittedly useless) police. Also, the same security guard gets knocked out at least twice.
The story begins with the girls (big shock coming up) driving through the obligatory terrible storm. They (again, big shock) have to get out and walk when a tree falls across the road. Later, the storm also causes the obligatory disconnected phone call scene.
More ways to spot villains: thin lips, heavy-set, balding, purring voice.
Nancy's excellent undercover skills continue:
When she remained silent, Nancy said, "I'm Nancy Drew. These are my friends Bess Marvin and George Fayne." On purpose she slurred the last names so the girl would not repeat them.
And her impressive ability to read people:
Asa Sidney gave a mirthless laugh. "The only reason I have lived to be a hundred is because I have not died!"
Nancy shuddered a little. Plainly Mr. Sidney was far from happy.
And her excellent sleuthing skills:
The man looked about him, studied the windows of the house carefully, and then began to dig quickly.
"He's going to bury something!" Nancy speculated.
I have to admit, though, the next bit made me want to cheer -- after seeing Mr. Jemitt bury the chest, Nancy sneaks outside, digs the chest up, drags it to her car, brings it to the bank (surviving the obligatory car chase on the way) and deposits it into the vault. Because, you know. You gotta keep yer clues safe.
As gorgeous and unforgettable as Nancy Drew is supposed to be, she sure has a lot of doubles -- when she walks into the tower room, the 100-year-old prisoner thinks she's his dead wife.
A restaurant that has bells on the tables to signal waitstaff? Is that a Before My Time thing, or am I going to the wrong restaurants?
I never thought I'd see the day where the chums split up. Page 22 is the first time Bess and George learn of the feud between Asa Sidney and their families. By page 71, they both hate Nancy because they're convinced that she and her father are trying to bilk them out of an inheritance.
Bess didn't go too food-crazy this time. There was only a cinnamon toast incident, and this (which I loved):
All drained their glasses of fruit punch, Bess looking wistfully at the maraschino cherry which obstinately remained in the bottom of her glass.
Nancy gets physical:
Nancy was in a quandary. She knew her father would never touch the woman. If Mrs. Jemitt was to be forcibly removed from the stairway, she would have to do it!
With the speed of a panther Nancy grabbed Mrs. Jemitt's arms and swung her around out of the way.
Later, Mrs. Jemitt retaliates by attempting to beat Nancy with a hairbrush! Good times.
I, also, find these to be attractive qualities in a person:
"I love old Mr. Sidney. He's so friendless and pathetic."
I'm running out of time here, but seriously. This one is AWESOME.
SWELL with PRIDE as Nancy tells a Postal Inspector WHERE TO GET OFF. (And to contact her lawyer!)
WEEP when she RIPS her DRESS!
GASP as a boy on a sled hits her and BRUISES her LEG!
GNAW your fingernails when she is LOCKED IN! TO A DARK! GYMNASIUM!
FLINCH when Nancy ALMOST gets hit by a rock!
SHRIEK in TERROR when she and Ned are ALMOST run over! (This time, by a car!)
BREATHE a sigh of relief when Nancy escapes DEATH by STAGE CURTAIN!
AND SOB when Nancy is CHLOROFORMED in the bathroom -- sorry, powder room -- of the River Heights airport*!
Okay, I admit it. This volume isn't particularly action-packed.
Nancy never learns -- her do-gooder ways always cause trouble! She invites the poor old mail carrier in for a nice cup of cocoa, and when he leaves, he discovers that his mailbags have been robbed! Not only is Nancy's Mysterious Letter From England missing, but so is a cash-filled letter addressed to her father!
It doesn't take long for Nancy to deduce that the thief is none other than Edgar Nixon, the mailman's brother! She is aided by some friendly busybodies and by young, tricycle-riding Tommy Johnson, who does more in this book towards solving the mystery than Chief McGinnis EVER has.
When Nancy finally sees a picture of her suspect:
As Ira had said, Edgar was handsome, but his eyes were cold as steel and she instantly felt that he was not a person to be trusted.
Yes, very impressive. If you ignore the fact that she's already aware that the man stole the mail. AND that he's a litterbug. AND that he's been harassing his poor old mailman brother.
The Car Chase Scene: How many rickety wooden bridges are there in the River Heights area, anyway? This is the third time (at least) Nancy has been foiled by one.
Nancy's methods: Continue to be fascinating. She has a photograph of the guy and his license plate number, but ultimately, she identifies him by his tacky-ass cuff links.
Nancy's knowledge base: She is very familiar with nautical terms and excellent at interpreting Shakespeare. She also has excellent parallel parking skills.
The Land of Coincidence Unchained: Not a whole lot of detecting is necessary when it comes to tracking down The Other Nancy Drew** -- it turns out that she just happens to be directing a play at Ned's college. And Nancy, Bess and George just happen to be there that same weekend! Hurrah!
Later, when it seems that The Other Nancy Drew has disappeared, our Nancy just happens to run into a girl who was once nannied by TOND. Hurrah!
A collision with a boy on a sled just happens to allow Nancy to read the suspect's mail without opening it -- so she's able to catch him for mail fraud without breaking any laws! Hurrah!
Always keep rewards on hand for young tipsters:
Nancy went to get two small jars of hard candy. She called them her emergency treats for just such occasions.
Just... odd: Interesting weather in River Heights -- it's late enough in the year for a huge blizzard, yet Nancy had the top down in her blue convertible.
Bess and George crack me up (genuinely):
Dave Evans was blond, green-eyed, and of rangy build. He gazed at Bess fondly. "You look stunning in that new suit," he remarked. "I like that fur collar. What is it--squirrel?"
George spoke up. "Yep. She shot it on the way up here."
Yet another wholesome weekend with the Omega Chi Epsilon boys -- after the play and the Big Game and the dance, everyone goes to the chapel service specially arranged for the boys and their dates.
FOOTBALL. I do not read Nancy Drew Mystery Stories to get play-by-play descriptions of college football games. That is all.
Carson Drew's Lack of Concern Continues:
Nancy is almost RUN OVER at Emerson College. Deliberately run over. Yet Carson sees no issue with Nancy, Bess & George gallivanting off to NYC to see the "mystery to its conclusion". He doesn't even offer a lame excuse for not accompanying them. He and Nancy continue their icky flirting.
Sign of the Twisted Candles.
*Yes, OF COURSE they have an airport. Duh.
**You know, the girl for whom the Mysterious Letter From England was actually meant.