An Amateur Sleuth by Any Other Name . . . Wouldn’t be Nancy Drew

A wee while ago, when tra-la-la-la-ing over to Nostalgia-Land, I reviewed three Nancy Drew mysteries.  Yes, I admit I’m kinda hooked because, since then, three more have been happily perused.

Still enjoying the series—but the “classic” ones (read during youth) as opposed to the “newer” ones (revamped in the 70s).  Dear Nancy’s still an effective de-stresser.  <LOL>  And I still kind of wish I could be her.  What a blast it would be to detect and travel all the time.  And who wouldn’t love to have a father like Carson Drew, a gentle soul of gent who encourages his beloved child to do both, and then some?  Find a full-time job and settle down?  Surely you jest?

Mystery of the Moss-Covered Mansion (The Mystery at the Moss-Covered Mansion)

Nancy’s father, a successful and well-respected lawyer, asks his amateur-sleuth daughter to assist proving his friend, Mr. Billington, is innocent—of sending a truck stocked with explosive oranges (!) into Cape Kennedy’s Space Center.  Off to Florida father and daughter fly—with best friends George and Bess gleefully in tow.

The old version has the gals locating a missing heiress, where they chance upon a moss-covered mansion and hear strange sounds coming from the property.  The cast of characters/suspects included gypsies, an old woman, and a withdrawn artist.  In the newer version, we have the somber moss-festooned mansion, but African animals roam the property; an unpleasant trainer keeps the poor creatures in line.  Characters/suspects this time include a surly couple that oversee the Billington estate, an array of orange growers and pickers, and a snarky realtor.

Not a bad read.  But storylines, even minor ones, that deal with caged animals I can do without.  On a brighter note, I did learn a little about oranges (who knew there were so many varieties?).  Despite the determined and dangerous endeavors by “questionable sorts” to undercut the space program, the excitement level isn’t quite there.  My rating is a generous 3 out of 5.

The Secret of the Wooden Lady

This was more the Nancy I remembered from youth.  A thrilling adventure takes place on an old, kind of creepy, clipper ship with lots of fog to provide fun/eerie spookiness.  Add hidden compartments and secret passageways, and a missing figurehead, and you’ve got an exciting YA mystery.  Ah, and let’s not forget the requisite crusty but kind-hearted captain.

Exciting exploits ensue the moment Bess’ home is burgled.  Who would break into the Marvins’ home and thrust dear cowardly Bess into a closet?  What about Captain Easterly and the spectral visits on his hope-to-buy Bonny Scot?  Mr. Drew solicits the help of Nancy, Bess and George and the trio travel to Massachusetts to stay on the ship and discover the truth.  Fire, theft, ransacking, and the aforementioned ghostly visits have the girls searching land and sea for answers to a threesome of mysteries. 

Mystery #1:  What are the motives of these uninvited, nefarious persons?  Mystery #2:  Can Nancy discover the history of the ship to ensure the captain receives a clear title?  Mystery #3:  Where is the original figurehead? Might she be the reason for the mysterious goings on?  Wooden Lady is everything a solid Nancy Drew mystery should be.  It deserves a 5.5 out of 5.

The Mystery of the Brass-Bound Trunk

In the original, Nancy has a few mysteries to solve, including a trunk company’s substandard product.  As memory serves, this was one of my favorites back in the day and I’d read it several times.  In the 70s version, Nancy and best friends Bess and George sail to NYC from the Netherlands (those lucky gals).  A young woman, Nelda, shares their cabin.  When a strange trunk is delivered instead of Nancy’s, a number of people resolve to gain access.  The four women are drawn into a perplexing mystery that involves smuggled jewelry and stolen South African documents. 

Who had set up Nelda to take the fall for a theft?  Why are two enigmatic men using sign language to communicate?  Is a devious and determined jewelry-smuggling gang walking the decks? 

Who doesn’t enjoy a mystery set on the high seas?  It’s a [sea]worthy 4 out of 5. 

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Still Lovin’ Nancy

Not long ago, I reviewed three Nancy Drew mysteries as part of a stopover in Nostalgia-Land.  Another visit—er, post—seemed in order, given I’d read three more of the YA mysteries.

Mom-care is becoming increasingly more challenging and leaving less time for me to do much for myself.  So when Mom is taking a nap, Nancy proves the perfect quick and easy read.  I’m transported back to a quiet childhood time when life was perhaps no less stressful but, somehow, simpler.

The first two are originals from the 60s while the third features a new 70s cover and is “modernized”.  For example, in the old books, Nancy’s titian-haired (brownish-orange) while in the newer ones, she’s reddish-blond.  Male cops no longer rule supreme.  And lo and behold, instead of frequently wearing dresses/frocks, the girls regularly sport jeans.

The Clue of the Dancing Puppet

A mysterious dancing puppet haunts the grounds of an old mansion, where the Footlighters’ playhouse is also located.  Amateur sleuths Nancy, Bess, and George are enlisted to help solve the case and this time we’re whisked away to the world of community theater.  The dancing-puppet mystery has added dimensions: an erratic self-absorbed leading lady and an overly charming (if not cheesy) Shakespearean actor.  Along with Nancy’s searches for clues, two jewel thieves show up on the scene.   Not a bad read; not a great read.  The keep-your-constant-interest component isn’t quite there.  A 3.5 out of 5.

The Clue of the Broken Locket

Interestingly enough, this was first written in 1934.  When I looked at the copyright page, I saw the very early date and had to check it out.  The premise back then: when adopted parents can’t take care of baby twins, Nancy goes searching for the legal birth mother with the help of a broken locket.

The newer version has two lookalike cousins (who, of course, don’t know about each other initially).  There’s a ghostly launch—love those spooky apparitions!—and a mysterious mansion that goes by the great name of Pudding Stone Lodge.  We have some sinister persons who make mystery-solving difficult for Nancy, Bess and George, and there’s record pirating to boot.  The trio certainly have their sleuthing skills put to the test.  Luckily, they have some assistance from their favorite beaus: Ned, Dave, and Burt.  I liked this one a lot.  A definite 4.5 out of 5.

The Clue in the Crumbling Wall

Our young enthusiastic sleuths—Nancy, Bess and George—have a twofold mission this time.  Not only must they endeavor to locate an inheritance concealed in the walls of dilapidated Heath Castle, they have to track down the beneficiary of a will before the proviso expires.  The grounds of the estate have a maze, a multitude of crumbling walls, and a couple of watchdogs (real ones, as well as human ones).  A 4 out of 5.  (In terms of Nancy, I suppose I’m a traditionalist: I prefer the “originals”.  It’s all about revisiting fond memories in Nostalgia-Land.) WPNDuse1

. . . Yeah, still lovin’ [needin’] the escape.

Who Doesn’t Like a Little Inspiration?

A wee while back I posted about Nancy Drew, the amateur sleuth who inspired me to write mysteries.

Feeling nostalgic, I ordered a few of the many I’d read as a kid (gotta love Amazon).  Written in the 50s and 60s by Carolyn Keene, a pseudonym of the various authors that wrote both Nancy Drew mysteries and The Dana Girls mysteries, they were “frolicsome” adventures for the young [aspiring] Sherlock within.

Having read three so far, the ones I recall having been my favorites back then, I thought I’d provide then-and-now reviews.

The Haunted Showboat

The first Nancy Drew read by yours truly had me so riveted, I spent the entire weekend in my bedroom with it.  It took me to New Orleans, which sounded so exotic to a kid living in cold, gray Toronto.  It provided action and excitement, a world where a “girl” could lead an exciting adventurous life, have (and easily make) friends.  She was pretty, smart, and oh so [enviably] likable; with two affable sidekicks, Bess and George, a darling dad and kind housekeeper, life seemed more than perfect.  While solving the mystery with them, I learned a few facts, too.  It was a 5/5.

I have to admit—YA writing style aside—it was still an enjoyable read, save for some politically incorrect words/terms/portrayals.  During the period, using them in books or on TV seemed the norm; today, whoa, not at all acceptable.  Ignorance of the times?  A topic for another post.  A 3/5 (for taking me back to the bayou).

The Clue in the Old Stagecoach

Nancy, Bess and George attend Camp Merriweather where the trio attempt to locate—yup—a clue in an old stagecoach.  In fact, finding it might just help save a town.  They detect while pursuing camp fun and encountering requisite villains—which is somewhat reminiscent of those 60s beach flicks with cute crooning Frankie and perfectly-coiffed Annette.  Must be nice to have moneyed parents that can send you to fun/faraway places.  <LOL>  The trio—with the assistance of their ever-faithful beaus—solve the case with stellar results, natch.  I’d probably have given it a 4/5 back then.

Stagecoach wasn’t quite what I remembered.  Flat and not overly eventful (with some annoying characters), a 1/5 would be about the best I could offer today.

The Moonstone Castle Mystery

This one accompanied me to Germany when my mother and I flew over to attend her mom’s funeral.  It had the same drawing power as Haunted Showboat and I was captivated as the three young women traveled to Deep River to locate a girl missing since childhood.  Yes, there was a moonstone (a gift sent to Nancy by someone unknown) and a mysterious, rundown castle reputed to be haunted.  A sundry of exciting events occurred, including the stealing of our titian-haired detective’s car, a chase or two, and some questionable characters.  Oh, of course, the aforementioned beaus made an appearance again—for that “romantic” component I suppose (but, quite frankly, unnecessary).  It was a 5/5 then and is a 4/5 now.

As an only child with few friends and parents who didn’t much know what to do with a child they’d not planned for (a fact and not stated with malice or regret) the stories provided pure escapism—distant and intriguing places, and opportunities to allow [a burgeoning] imagination to develop.

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What a pleasant diversion these last two weeks have been, an entertaining [if not enlightening] jaunt back in time.  There are a few additional Nancy Drew mysteries to read.  As time permits.  Perhaps there’ll be more reviews, too.  <LOL>

For those penning and/or reading mysteries, happy sleuthing.

The Journey . . . Back

Hey there.  Okay, so I’m finally getting there re “Forever Poi”, which got me to thinking about my next post.  Should it be on marketing?  Promo plans?  Hopes and dreams re the fourth Triple Threat Investigation Agency book and the series?

All sound fine, and I can certainly put pen to paper—er, fingers to keyboard—for any one of them.  The question is: can I [truly] do any marketing or promotion, given what’s happening in my life right now?  Maybe.  If I could survive on two hours of sleep a day.  <LOL>

So, that got me to thinking some more (yeah, it did prove a little taxing on the ol’ gray matter) and that took me back to where it all began—i.e. what got me started loving and writing mysteries.  Nancy Drew.

Remember her?  She was a young detective who resided in River Heights.  Well-to-do, she had a supportive father, who was also a lawyer, and a kindly housekeeper who provided motherly support.  Nancy solved mysteries around the globe with best friends, Bess and George.  The two were cousins, but polar opposites.  While Bess was timid and leaned toward pudgy (the way I remember), George was athletic and, as her name suggested, a tomboy.  Nancy’s beau was Ned Nickerson.  Let’s see if memory prevails.  Dave was Bess’ boyfriend and . . . right, Burt was George’s.

My first Nancy Drew mystery, which will always hold a very fond place in my heart was The Haunted Showboat.  I can still visualize the murky, marshy bayou, hear the birds in the twisting branches and creatures clambering in the foliage, and smell the molding wood and dense vegetation.  . . . What an awesome journey back in time this is turning out to be. NancyDrewuse1

I just took a gander re Showboat and learned it was the 35th book in the series.  Spunky Nancy first appeared in 1930 (who’d have guessed she dated back that far?).  As a bit of FYI trivia, publisher Edward Stratemeyer featured her in a series as a “counterpart” to the Hardy Boys (which I also read, but with less zeal).

Carolyn Keene wrote all the books, but the name was actually a pseudonym for several authors.  “She”, by the by, also penned the Dana Girls mystery series.  Oddly, I never really got into them, though I did regularly play the Dana Girls board game with a friend.  OMG—recall/flashback!  I’d forgotten all about those days.

Thank you, Nancy, for setting me on the path to writing mysteries.  I couldn’t have done it without you.  . . . And thank you, followers, for allowing me to travel back and share a period of my life that was genuinely enjoyable.

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