The Secret of the Old Clock: Nancy Drew Mystery Stories, #1, by Carolyn Keene
I've never been a huge Nancy Drew fan, but I still couldn't pass up my recent once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of lugging home twenty of them in one fell swoop. (Come on! Ten dollars! How could I not?)
So, what with them lying all over our apartment and all, I decided it was time to give old Nancy another go:
- It was pretty funny. Unintentionally funny, granted. But still funny:
"Do you know what became of the notebook, Mrs. Rowen?
"Oh dearie me! There goes my memory again. No, I don't."
- No Ned Nickerson or Bess and George in Book One. Nancy does have a "slim, attractive friend" named Helen Corning, but she's just a plot device to get Nancy up to the Moon Lake area.
- Speaking of plot devices: Nancy's "dark blue convertible" (she got it for her birthday) should win an award. Not only did a perfectly timed malfunction in the motorized convertible top (during an extremely heavy downpour) allow her to coincidentally meet two of the key players in the mystery, but a flat tire later in the story allows us readers to experience the joys of changing a tire—which, of course, Nancy knows how to do. (Okay, the flat tire wasn't a plot device at all. There was no reason for it—which is odd, as most events in the book were there for a specific reason—unless of course, the Stratemeyer Syndicate wanted girls to know that it was cool to change tires, so maybe that bit was about Nancy's character development. Or something. Although, it is specifically mentioned that she doesn't enjoy changing tires. That would probably be too butch.)
- She's not just good at changing tires. Nancy is also generous—she buys groceries for an old lady. And she's an Emma-style meddler—she finds out that a girl wants to sing and tricks her into an audience with a premier operatic voice instructor who just happens to live in River Heights. She may be rich, but she's no snob—she loooooves to help poor people. She has an excellent appetite, can cook, is well-versed in first aid, loves hiking, can repair an outboard motor, is athletic and knows how to use a lever, is very responsible, and maybe most importantly, has fantastic women's intuition.
- All fabulous qualities, but the most useful one seems to be this: Every single person she meets seems to be so bowled over by her charm that they immediately start blathering about all of their troubles—money, romance, hopes, dreams, etc. Some of these people know her for less than five minutes before they start spilling their guts. It's kind of amazing.
- Again with the she may be rich bit—she may be rich, but she's still frugal! After a run in with the bitchy Topham sisters in a department store results in a torn dress, Nancy buys the item at a drastically reduced price. (Nancy explains the practice to the clerk (who for some reason is unaware of the possibility), thus saving the clerk a cut in pay and giving Nancy a discount.)
- Like changing tires, Nancy doesn't enjoy eavesdropping or breaking the law—but she will if she has to! (Speaking of exclamation points, HOLY COW, the St. Syn. loved 'em: "There were tire marks which could belong to Sid's van! They led to the barn!")
- If Nancy and Molly Moon came up against each other in a battle of hypnotism, I don't know who'd win. In a 180-page book, Nancy's eyes "sparkled" twice, "twinkled" once, "danced" twice, and were described as "bright" once. She's not the only one: Fred Mathews has sparkly eyes, too, but his eyes "sparkled boyishly".
- Lastly, you wouldn't think that Nancy has much in common with Gossip Girl and their ilk, but her clothing is described every single time she changes her outfit—no brand names, mind you, but still described: "a simple green linen sports dress with a matching sweater", "dressed in a tan cotton suit", "wearing a yellow sunback dress and jacket"... Rather than including a teaser chapter from the next book (as is pretty common practice now), the St. Synd. managed to work the teaser right into the end of the story:
As Nancy stood looking wistfully at the old clock she little dreamed that in the near future she would be involved in The Hidden Staircase mystery, a far more baffling case than the one she had just solved. But somehow, as Nancy gazed at the timepiece, she sensed that exciting days were soon to come.