I’m really lucky, in that, my local library has the first thirty Nancy Drew books ( sadly, they are the revised editions, so they’re not truly the first ). Due to this good fortune, I will try to review No. 1-30 in order, but after that, it’s whatever I can get my hands on. Shall we begin?
Ghostwriter: Mildred A. Wirt ( later revised by another author)
First Published: 1930
Year My Version Was Published: 1987
May I direct your attention to the cover ? See that girl wearing the all blue outfit ? That’s supposed to be Nancy, and in this book she’s 18, but here she looks like a 25 year-old secretary. With a comb-over. And who walks like that ? Certainly note a seasoned sleuth. If Law & Order: Special Victims Unit has taught me anything it’s that the most effective way to hold a shining flashlight is in your non-dominant hand, above your head and tilted downwards. That way, you won’t blind people with your light. Enough cover judgment! On with the story.
The book begins with Nancy’s friend Helen Corning (later to be replaced by Bess and George) calling the sleuth up and asking her to come investigate her great-grandmother’s seemingly haunted house in Cliffwood. This suggestion makes Nancy orgasm with delight. She has been itching for a mystery ever since earlier that day when she found out where babies come from. Only our slender and attractive heroine has little time to bask in her excited afterglow because after she gets off the phone with Helen, a man named Nathan Gomber comes to the door and starts threatening her father.
Ya see, a nameless railroad company wanted to build a bridge in River Heights for which they’ll need to purchase private properties. Carson Drew and a slew of other suits are hired to make sure the sales go down smoothly and no one sues. I think. Anywho, Gomber represents one such property owner named Willie Wharton who claims that the sale of his home is null and void because someone forged his John Hancock on the deed to his house. I guess instead of taking a simple, legal route, G&W decided to single out a lawyer (who didn’t handle Wharton’s case) to harass.
At dinner, Carson brushes off the threats and calls Gomber a “…blowhard.” Ain’t that a little racey for these books? Mr. Drew goes onto say that on Monday, he’ll be heading to Chicago, where he guesses Wharton is hiding, and make him verify the sale. How is this o.k.? Doesn’t Carson have other work he should be doing so he won’t get fired? Wouldn’t the company have just reported this to the police and have them handle it? Oh, yeah. Nancy also asks permission to visit Helen’s relatives in Clifford, to which the answer is yes. To take her mind off everything, she has a date that night. A word about that later.
Both Carson and Nancy visit the bridge construction site and are nearly killed by a runaway truck, which Nancy takes as the life threat Gomber made. Upon examination, the two find a man’s footprints leading away from the drivers side of the truck. Nancy theorizes that Willie Wharton released the trucks brakes, and since it was parked on a hill, he obvs. planned to steamroll both of them. Nancy gets home to find her housekeeper has slaved away all day to make she and her father dinner, but bitch doesn’t even say ‘thank you.’ And the housekeeper, Hannah, freaks when she hears their story. Gawd, that bit was boring.
On Monday, Nancy, who seems to have completely shaken off the trauma off almost getting swiss-cheesed, drives to Helen’s great-grandmother’s estate, Twin Elms. On the way, Helen tells Nancy she’s engaged to this guy naed Jim whom I don’t think she’s ever met in person before, they’ve just exchanged letters. This must be the incredibly convenient reason Helen is never seen or heard from again after the third book-too busy with the wife-ry. After the two girls arrive at said destination, Nancy is immediately taken by the house’s beauty.
The old Colonial home came into view. Helen said it had been built in 1785 and had been given it’s name because of the two elm trees which stood on opposite ends of the long building [Really? No kidding]… The mansion was or red brick and nearly all the walls were covered in ivy [something that’s terrible for the overall soundness of the house, mind you]. There was a ten-foot porch with tall white pillars at the huge front door.
Yeeeah… I love how the Drew’s house is indiscript, but a setting that only shows up for one book gets the royal treatment.
Helen’s Aunt Rosemary greets the girls and introduces them to her mother, Miss Flora. Because she’ll be turning five soon. The women then explain that every night, an unseen person comes into the house and messes with their old lady stuff, even thought they always lock all the doors and windows before they go to bed. Aunt Rosemary did try calling the police, but they didn’t buy her “ghost” theory (neither do I. Finally, cops I can relate to!). Miss Flora also tells Nancy that her pearl necklace has gone missing since this morning. Since nobody had left the house since then, Nancy thinks the thief might still be inside. But an intensive search turns up nothing.
Nancy and Helen go outside and look on the ground under Miss Flora’s window, because the theif might have escaped through there and left footprints. That doesn’t pan out either. Only Nancy won’t give up so she walks the perimeter of the house and decides that the thief covered up the prints he left. Because, she has a really open mind like that. But the crawling ivy isn’t disturbed at all, something it would be if the thief had scaled it. The girls test a few more possible routes and come up with nothing before they call it a day. Back at the Elms a bunch of weird shit happens, which are, frankly, to boring to pen for you.
Nathan Gomber makes his second appearance, trying to buy Twin Elms from Miss Flora, who won’t sell her property (kinda like Wharton). He then gives all the ladies some sob story about how this house was a treasured part of his childhood, blah-dy, blah-dy, blah…Needless to say, Nancy don’t buy it. Gomber ( who, from henceforth, shall be known as ‘Goober’) leaves in a huff ‘n’ stuff, which gives Nancy times to call her dad, who is due home from Chi-town. Carson, however, can’t be found. He seemed to have gotten as far back home as the River Heights train station, then vanished. Nancy thinks he hailed a cab whose driver kidnapped him.
With nothing more to do in The R.H., Ms. Drew goes back to Twin Elms and finds a secret ‘listening post’ in the attic. This is how the ghost has so-far outsmarted the older women and Nancy, he’s been privy to their every conversation by wa of the listening post! So they all decide from now on, if anyone has an epiphany ’bout the haunting, they’ll write it down on a notepad. Why not just stake out the listening post and catch the ghost red-handed? Nancy sure has the cajones for it.
Our slim-derful sleuth also learns, from Helen, about a “twin” estate that rests a scant five minutes from Twin Elms. According to H.C., no one’s lived there for years and the place is empty, yet on the market to be sold. Nanc manages to swindle a key out of the real estate agent handling the property and goes exploring. She finds trapdoor on the first floor, which leads to….A HIDDEN STAIRCASE that connects to a tunnel that goes straight to Twin Elms. And for an unknown reason, They find Willie Wharton down there, too. Wharton spills the beans about Goober being behind everything. Acting on a tip from the girls, the Cliffwood police find Goober, who takes them to a hidden cave where Carson has been kept for days. The end.
Picks ‘n’ Nitpicks
- To take Nancy & Co.’s mind off their ghost problem, Aunt Rosemary suggests they put on some authentic colonial getup she just happened to have in the attic and dance the minuet. Nancy gets a pale green silk ballgown with panniers, which are things that a woman wore under her skirt to make her hips look bigger. Kinda like reverse Spanx. The dress also has, we are reminded, a tiny waist. Nancy jokes that she will have to hold her breath to fit into it, but of course we know she so skinny it won’t matter at all. Helen tries on a purple man’s suit. It’s made of velvet with knee britches and the waistciat had silk ruffles, And it’s monumentally fugly.
- Despite her thin physique, Nancy eats three course meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
- As I mentioned above, Nancy has a date in this book. He’s a boy named Dirk, and Wirt makes a point of writing that “He doesn’t like to be kept waiting.” What a charmer. Really.
- I’ve noticed you can always tell good guys and bad guys apart by that simple fact that they either like or loathe Nancy.
Ho-o-o ‘kay. That one was a breeze to read and a bitch to type out. Next time, The Bungalow Mystery!