Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Book #18: The Mystery at the Moss-Covered Mansion

by Guest Reviewer Maren Lane!

Nancy and the Case of the supreme free-loaders!

So while Kate may be the extreme blogging queen I, her sister Maren, have managed to weasel myself into doing some random Nancy Drew reviews since I also have a long running love of the series. One that does not appear to be going away at any age – a fact which is just alright with me!

Now onto the douche-baggery! 

This installation, akin to several of it’s predecessors, opens with Carson Drew getting 
invited to stay at the home of his client in Florida while working on his case! So, naturally Nancy, Bess and George get to come along right? Also, this time Hannah Gruen actually gets to come along for the fun too! And coincidentally –of course! – Ned Nickerson’s family just HAPPENS to have a house along the same Florida river. WHAT A SMALL WORLD 
NANCY LIVES IN! Which means Ned, Burt, and Dave will all be there as well! The whole gang has come to Florida and the mystery hasn't even begun yet.

Very quickly Nancy and the gang are already suspicious (even Carson!) of the supposed couple living and working in the house of their host and, since Mr. Billington isn't there, the couple, Antin and Tina, take it upon themselves to be lame right from the get go. 

OH? Did I mention that this house is attached to an orange grove? And that this orange grove mysteriously was responsible for a case of exploding oranges (what?!) being sent to the space center? Which is why we’re all in Florida in the first place really....but seriously...EXPLODING ORANGES?! 

Nancy and the girls visit Ned’s mother (oh la la!) in a boat down the river, which OF COURSE, Nancy knows exactly how to operate despite it being a fancy foreign speedboat. 
Another point in the “Nancy is secretly an android column.” They all then go poking about the surrounding houses since Mrs. Nickerson wants to show Nancy a house a block 
away that her father should buy. How much does a small town lawyer make exactly? I feel like not even Perry Mason is this well off....oh well. While looking at a dilapidated mansion covered with moss (could it be the titular mansion?!) they hear a scream. However since they don’t hear it a second time they shrug it off....because that’s what I do when I 
hear a blood-curdling scream....mental note: if getting attacked make sure to scream repeatedly!

Meanwhile, back at the house, Antin and Tina continue to eat the food Hannah prepares for the Drews and co. all the while leaving their dirty dishes for her to clean up. Um when did they hire Hannah? I think they didn’t, the ass-hats! 

Carson gets an urgent call to return to River Heights immediately and, while coming back from driving him to the airport, Bess almost gets eaten by an alligator! Wow this book just got exciting! OK--in reality it only snapped at her hand a little but WHATEVER! 

Later that night (1789 heh heh) Nancy receives a call from a frantic Patrick Croft, who used to work at the space center, saying that he is being threatened for helping her and, in the midst of the phone cal,l has his home invaded and he is attacked while Nancy is on the phone with him! 

Wow excitement! Lifetime movie anyone? 

Nancy rushes over to help investigate and relays her story to a policeman who refers to her as an average person who may have witnessed a crime. 

UM MR. POLICEMAN THIS IS NANCY FRIKKIN' DREW! YOU SHOULD KNOW WHO SHE IS! I mean she has solved more mysteries this year alone already then you probably have in your whole career!

Is anyone else wondering why this book is called Moss Covered Mansion yet? Because seriously we have only glimpsed it once and it’s been like 60 pages....

STILL later that night...George overhears a mysterious phone call coming from the orange packing house! When they confront the free-loader Antin he grabs Nancy and shakes her so heard she thinks “her head will snap off!”

Does that count as an additional head injury? (NOTE FROM KATE: YES, A "HALF" HEAD INJURY)

After accusations are made on all sides, Tina and Antin say they are moving to a motel until the Drews and co leave. Heh heh, problem of the free-loaders solved.

OR IS IT?!

Nope. They changed their minds pretty quick. At least this time Tina (who is supposed to be the house keeper) says she thinks that MAYBE she can help with SOME housework...ugh....

Back to the house Mrs. Nickerson thinks Carson should buy... Except first they need to get hassled by the Realtor who, for some reason, (underhanded ones perhaps Nancy??) he does not want Nancy to even look at the property. Hmm this guy seems shifty. Especially with a name like Mr. Scarlet. He’s either a villain or a lost character from Clue. 
Oh well, since when does Nancy Drew take no for an answer? 

Never that’s when!

Once at the house, near the titular moss-covered mansion (oh yay!) they hear the scream again! Nancy and George wish to investigate – Bess’ only response is that she would never want to live next door to something so gross....uhh, OK Bess. 

LIONS AND TIGERS AND BEARS, OH MY!

OK not really, but it looks like the moss-covered mansion is actually home to several wild animals! Including a black leopard, hence the loud screaming! Looks like the Drews' possible neighbor is a circus animal trainer...OR IS IT A FRONT???

I’ll give you a hint. It is. 

It looks like the girls are not the only ones paying a visit to the mansion, Mr. Scarlett is pulling in as they are sneaking out! Hmm I knew that guy was shifty. 

Back at the mansion – OMG THE ORANGE GROVE IS ON FIRE! Possibly from an explosion, at the very least deliberately set! After helping put out the fire, (oh, Nancy!) Mr. Scarlett comes threateningly demanding the key to the house Nancy was looking at back! Could you be any shiftier, Mr. Scarlett?

Nancy and George continue on to pick up Carson and the Billingtons at the airport, but when they arrive they learn the plane's landing gear isn't coming down! Oh no! Carson’s plane is coming in for a crash landing!!

OK now that he’s safe Nancy can go back to the mystery. Not the moss-covered mansion of course, but the exploding oranges! Turns out Mr. Billington has his own doppleganger! And this somehow leads to Nancy getting to go back to the moss-covered mansion. Could they be tied together somehow?? Now Nancy really can investigate and see if the 
animal training is a front for something!

Remember my hint? It is

While inside, a stack of furniture in the basement falls on Nancy and knocks her out! And we have our head injury for the book. Naturally, Nancy gets blamed for the stack falling and they are kicked out of the house. Rude! Well of course that furniture was stacked weird. It was hiding a steel door! Duh!

I’m pretty sure there are explosives in there, guys. But whatever. 

Oh yay--the boys are finally showing up!  Just in time for parties and helping solve the final bit of the mystery! The group takes the motorboat back to the house for sale and what do they find? OH MY! It’s flooded! How could that have happened?? Ok Ned, that’s cool. Make a flying kick at the kitchen window to break in to stop the pipe. No need for theatrics or anything....Good thing the front door key wasn't left on the lawn by the intruder who burst the pipe or anything. Oh wait....

It’s also interesting that, while all intelligent, the group as a whole isn't super observant. Because, in the midst of stopping the flooding, they didn't notice their boat being stolen less than 30 ft away. Wow. 

So instead of working on that lets go back to the space station and work on the ORIGINAL mystery! Oh hey bearded guys? You seem nice and oh you want to take our picture...oh wait....is that tear gas! What the heck!!!! Who puts tear gas in a camera! OH WAIT! Maybe villains....Yup they also found the fake beards later. Any surprise that the beards were fake?

Nope? Me either. 

Now Nancy has gotten tear-gassed...goodness what wont happen to her in this book??

Let’s follow the gang the next morning! That seems smart! 4 people?! Oh my it’s Mr. Scarlett (well duh with a name like that), the crazy animal trainer’s son, the mysterious Max Iverson people keep mentioning, and Antin! Ok time to call the cops and let them know about Antin.

Any surprise at those? Nope? Moving on.

In the midst of chasing down one of the gang members Bess decides she is hungry so they decide to take a quick break for lunch. Umm really?! Right now? You were literally just chasing a dude in your car then on foot through the space station. Is now really the time for that hamburger Bess??

Action time! Going back to the Billington house, the gang discovers Antin and Tina being taken away in handcuffs as well as a cop following carrying an armful of explosives! Woa! 

Ok lets keep solving more mystery aspects. Back to the Webster house! Leopard attack! Fortin, the animal trainer, shows trying to stop the leopard from attacking them after it got loose. Ned embraces his inner Indiana Jones and cracks the whip and the creature while Burt and Dave wave their arms about like ghosts to confuse it (what?). Oh well, 
it works and definitely confuses the leopard. Fortin comes and manages to get the leopard in a cage in his truck to take back next door to the moss covered mansion and Nancy and Ned take advantage of the opportunity and hide on the roof on the van to sneak back inside the basement! Ninja skills to the test!

Remember the steel door? Yeah it hid some kind of crazy tech lab. It has a beam that can destroy a moving target in midair. Um woa!!! And it’s trained at the shuttle launching from the space center in 2 days! Turns out the exploding oranges were just the first attempt to blow up the shuttle. 

Told you it was a front. 

Nancy and Ned hide because the rest of the un-arrested gang is coming down the stairs to the basement talking loudly about their plans to blow up the shuttle and the astronauts inside it! Mr. Scarlett is whining (there’s always a whiner) and Fortin seems to be the true mastermind. 

Escape? Nope Nancy and Ned get captured and are going to be thrown into a pool of boiling water! This thing isn’t here for animals or anything--apparently Fortin had it specially built to throw intruders and snoopers into. Wow, overkill and crazy much??

Luckily, Bess, George, Burt, and Dave got back to Carson Drew in time and they called the FBI who then come rushing in along with the NSA to stop the bad guys! But not before Fortin tries to sick his wild animals on the NSA. Bad move dude. 

Ha ha! More villains thwarted!

Wow, this one was a crazy roller coaster of action! I may be biased as it is one of my favorites – but upon this re-read it definitely holds up to it’s previously set standards. It’s not perfect because there is almost a little too much going back and forth from mystery to mystery and you almost feel like you’re being rubber banded around at times. However it still comes in strong at a 4 ½ mags from me!

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Head injury count: 1 (and a half)--7 1/2 total
Explosions: 1 (5 total)

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Book #17: The Mystery of the Brass-Bound Trunk (1940 Edition)

Nancy vs. The Misplaced Luggage  ...oooohhhhh!

Not to give too much away, but this original edition is just about as thrilling as it sounds.  Before I start the summary, though, I want to make a brief clarification.  This is the 1940 original edition, so a few of the core plot points directly relate to the original edition of The Clue of the Tapping Heels.  In that original version of tapping heels, the older woman they help out is named Miss Purdy.  She is also a cat lover, and gives Nancy one of her prize Angora cats at the beginning of The Mystery of the Brass-Bound Trunk as she has moved to Buenos Aires which is (in a Nancy Drew Mystery Story-esque coincidence) exactly where Nancy, Bess and George are sailing to with a group of college-age girls.

Starting off with some drama, a mother of one of the girls from the upcoming trip, Ms. Joslin, drops by the Drews to announce that no daughter of hers will be sailing with that impudent, man's-work-doing Nancy Drew!  A relentless chore of a woman, Ms. Joslin is described as both "shrewd" and having "sharp, dark eyes," which tells me that she will either be a thorn in Nancy's side to rival the likes of Mortimer Bartescue, or that she will be the villain.

(Villain, by the by.)

Either way, she insists that her daughter, Nestrelda Darlington (she named her child Nestrelda?  VILLAIN.) is of high moral character and cannot be mixing with the likes of Nancy Drew.  Nancy, who always seems to suffer fools (although not gladly) offers to withdraw from the school group, but secures a ticket for herself and her friends on the ship anyway.  

Meanwhile, Carson Drew asks Nancy for a favor: his client Mr. Trenton wants Nancy to talk some sense into his daughter Doris (who is, by the same ludicrous coincidence, traveling to Buenos Aires on the same ship.  Seriously, guys.  Was the world that much smaller in 1940 or do we have a highly localized disturbance in the space-time continuum?).  Doris Trenton doesn't want to marry the son of her father's partner and is therefore OUT OF CONTROL!  Nancy seems irritated at having to take on a girly girl's errand, but does so to pacify her father.

Nancy, Bess and George are just on their way onto the ship, gossiping about what a bitch they think Nestrelda will be, when they realize that Nancy's trunk has been switched with another girl bearing the initials "N.D."  

You think it could be Nestrelda Darlington, guys?

A-DOIIIIIII

Anyhoo, much comical trunk swapping ensues on their journey, and attempts on the trunk continue when the girls arrive in Buenos Aires.  The whole book is pretty much like: "Is that the right trunk?  Where is the trunk!  The trunk has a secret drawer.  The TRUNK the TRUNK!"

As it turns out, Nestrelda is a really nice girl despite her wildebeest of a mother and she helps them solve the mystery of the constant trunk theft.  Unfortunately, Nancy realizes that Ms. Joslin was using her daughter's trunk to smuggle fine jewelry. Orphaned, Nestrelda is left to languish in South America, as her mother and stepfather are no-good thieves.  

Poor Treldy :(

And, just to sum up the lame Doris Trenton story-line: the girl seems adamant that does not love him but eventually "comes to her senses" and marries Henry Washburn.  Laaaaammme.  Although, I guess relevant to the times.  I'll tell you this: I will not be at all surprised if I see the names "Trenton" and "Washburn" over at the Divorce Court.  Which I guess is just "court."

This one was good in parts but just too ludicrous  in others--the trunk-swapping, Doris-Henry-Nestrelda love triangle, and the fact that somehow Ms. Purdy and Ms. Joplin are half sisters in particular.  It felt like they went back in and added these plot points to make the story tie together more but it ended up making it tie together in a way that just wasn't believable.  

Also...NESTRELDA?!

3 out of 5 mags 

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Head Injury Count: 1 (6 total)

Book #16: The Clue of the Tapping Heels (1969 Edition)

RIVER HEIGHTS: CRIMINAL SUSPICIONS

[clang clang!]

Hannah Gruen: Nancy, I called on you as soon as I heard!  There's a phantom tapper in old Miss Carter's house.  He seems to only tap at night--the strangest patterns you've ever heard...

Carson Drew: I'm sorry, a phantom peeper?

Hannah: No, tapper.  You know, someone who wears tap shoes and...

Carson: Nevermind, I'm already bored. Later, suckers.

Nancy Drew: I'm intrigued, Hannah.  Let me call Bess and George and we'll find the culprit.  NOBODY taps on my watch!

[clang clang!]

Miss Carter: Oh, girls, I'm so happy you came to help me find this mysterious tapper.  And I have one more mystery for you.  Several of my prize-winning Persian cats have been stolen.

George Fayne: You know, judging from our past mysteries, the cat thief and the tapper are probably connected...

Bess Marvin: Nobody likes a spoiler, George.

Nancy: I agree.  Let's come up with a profile, and speak one at a time in a circle as if we've rehearsed who says each line beforehand.

George: Got it.  So, judging from the patterns of the tapping, I think we're looking for a highly intelligent unsub.  The tapping might even be a code he's challenging us to break.

Bess: He gets off on the thrill that he might get caught--I think we're looking for a younger man--late teens to early 30's.

Nancy: He targets older ladies with twelve or more cats.  I think we're looking for a perp with a history of sexual deviance and mental instability.

George: [shakes head]: Sick bastard...

Nancy: What we really need is to decode his messages.  With the spaces and long-and-short patterns, I'm thinking Morse Code.

Bess: But surely Morse Code isn't among your already android-like abilities...

Nancy:  Morse Code is part of my program--er, I mean I do know it.  Listening to the miscreant tapper now, I would say he's tapping the code..."Try and catch me!"

George: Um, since he's tapping now, and he's in the house we're in...shouldn't we, you know, just go through all the rooms and catch him?

Bess: Shut up, George.  Eat a sandwich.

Nancy: Bess is right.  We're only 50 pages into this mystery.  I think our objective should be to listen and rush to the source of the tapping only after the man has escaped.

Bess: Makes sense.

George: So what do we do?

Nancy:  We wait.

[clang clang!]

Ned Nickerson: So, Nancy, let me get this straight.  You're sleeping on a cot in the garage of a woman who has both cat thieves and phantom tappers invading every night?

Nancy:  That's right.  We even found a secret room with a diary.  It would seem that the tapper's name is Gus Woonton, a problem-child all grown up.

Ned:  Heh.  Problem Child was a great movie.

Nancy [sharply]:  Ned, that movie won't be out for another 20 years.  Focus!

Ned:  Okay.  Well, it seems like if this guy is hiding out in a secret room that you've already found you'll probably be able to catch him fast.

Nancy:  Not too fast, though.  I still have a catnapping subplot and an angry neighbor to deal with.

Ned: Angry neighbor?

Nancy [dismissively]: Yeah, some guy named Bunce.  I'm sure he has something to do with all of this, but I can't think about that until the last 15 pages.

Ned [under his breath]: Time to pull out the big guns.

[clang clang!]

Nancy: Alright, with the help of Bess, George, Ned, Burt and Dave, we finally caught the tapper!

The Tapper: You're way too smart to be a girl.

Bess: Uh, Hell-O tapper.  Wake up and smell the women's liberation.  Woman are equal to men, sir!

The Tapper: Um, men don't admit that until [date unknown]. 

George: Either way, we got ya suckaaaahhh!

The Tapper: That's true.  But BTW, I didn't steal those cats or do any of that other stuff.  Just the tapping.

Nancy [again, dismissively]: Yeah, it was that angry neighbor, Bunce.  We're on top of it, tapper.  Now all you need to worry about is what color jumpsuit you'll be wearing in prison.

The Tapper: You haven't heard the last of me, Nancy Drew!

[clang clang!]

Nancy sits alone at her desk. Ominous music is heard.

Chief McGuinness [with serious face]: Nancy...

Nancy [looking concerned]:  What is it, Chief?

Chief McGuinness: That tapper, Gus Woonton?  He hung himself in his call last night.

Nancy [looking nauseated]: My God.

[clang clang!]

***************THE END*******************

Alright, so that's not quite how it really ends.  But that's how it would end in River Heights: Criminal Suspicions.
You got the basic gist: Nancy is called in to find a mysterious tapper.  There is a total a-hole of a neighbor with a funny name so we know he will be guilty somehow.  There's also a long-lost love subplot that I didn't feel like really fit with River Heights: Criminal Suspicions.  Miss Carter is an aging dancer and her old dance partner has been searching for her for lo this many years.  Bess plays matchmaker and we get our requisite "awwwwww" moment.

This one was pretty good--not great.  I give it 3 1/2 out of 5 mags.


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Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Book #15: The "Haunted" Bridge (1972 Edition)

Notice what I did there?  With the sarcastic quotation marks?

Yeah, not a real haunting...YET AGAIN.  You know, I've never read Nancy Drew Ghost Stories but I can't imagine how you could get out of that one without a real ghost of some kind.  Hmmmmm...maybe I shall have to add that special edition to my review pile...

In any event, this book was amazing.  It starts out with Nancy losing her golf ball in the woods.  Her caddy refuses to retrieve it because of the "ghost" (that's right, I'm sticking with the sarcastic quotation marks) that haunts an old rickety bridge over the ravine.  Several people have seen a flowy figure and heard moaning and even screaming past the bridge.

Dude.  If I were a ghost (or even a "ghost") I would SO not waste my time haunting an old rickety bridge.  I'm going to haunt somewhere awesome like the catacombs, where people are already frightened and you could just push them right over the edge.  Or I might wander around haunting various hotels and B&B's that aren't doing so well financially so they could re-market as part of Haunted America.  Just because I'm dead doesn't mean I'm not a nice person...

So, Nancy's weenie of a caddy refuses to get the ball and they head back to the hotel to put in their final scores.  Evidently, even as she missed a stroke, Nancy has one of the highest scores and qualifies for the ladies' golf tournament.  Of course.  Because Nancy can do anything.  While Nancy, Bess and George are heading back to their hotel room, they run into the obsequious name-dropping metrosexual Mortimer Bartescue.

Alright, his name is actually Martin Bartescue in the re-write but I just like the way Mortimer Bartescue rolls off the tongue.

Mortimer Bartescue just can't get enough of Nancy.  He loooooves her.  Of course, even if Ned wasn't in the picture, Nancy seems to barely restrain herself from puking whenever ole' Barty's around.  Unfortunately, the slimy braggart seems hell bent on being her shadow.  Also, when Carson Drew asks Nancy to help on a case involving a ring of jewel thieves, Mortimer Bartescue seems to be connected in some strange way to one of the suspects (he met her in Europe where he beat the King of Prussia at raquetball...or possibly when he was letting the Prime Minister win at bocce ball.  All I remember is Nancy's face twisting in disgust).

Hmmmm.  Funny name?  Check.  Somehow everywhere all the time?  Check.  Holding some connection with the suspects?  CHECK.  Could Mortimer Bartesque be one of the villains?!

Nope.  No spoilers this time.

While pursuing the jewel thieves, Nancy also keeps an eye on Mortimer Bartescue who, at one point, gets so forward that she falls backwards off of a balcony to avoid his advances.  Yikes.  What will Ned think?  In true Ned fashion, when Nancy tells him about the incident he mutters something about wanting to break ole' Barty's face, but inevitably defers to Nancy when he finds out the man is a possible suspect.

Meanwhile, even after spraining her wrist due to the busy hands of Mortimer Bartescue, is advancing in the golf tournament.  That's right.  Not only is Nancy a semi-pro, she can do it all with an injury.  Makes sense.  Ooohhh.  Theory:  COULD NANCY DREW BE AN ANDROID?  More on that later...

Nancy eventually debunks the "haunted" bridge when out looking for her golf ball again--when she crosses the bridge she realizes that the flowy figure is a scarecrow and the moaning was trees.  But what could the screaming be?  Oh, it just turns out to be this old guy's pet MOUNTAIN LION.  (Seriously?!  Regular cats are moody enough!)  When Nancy tries to talk to him, he runs away with his gun and accidentally shoots himself in the head.  Kinda.  It's just a flesh wound.  But still!

As it turns out, the old man is acquainted with the woman that Nancy's father suspects of being part of the jewel thief ring, Margaret Judson.  We find out that Miss Judson has an Olympic-level human interest story: all of her inheritance was lost after a fire and she was suspected of arson.  She had to run away and break off her engagement to a local professor.  Awwww...a sad story.  Could she really be a criminal?

NO SPOILERS FOR YOU!

So, Nancy leaves Ned, Burt and Dave to take care of the man, Joe Haley and goes off gallivanting on her own to find Margaret Judson and her fiance.  All the while, Mortimer Bartescue seems to be leading her on a wild goose chase with fake notes and mysterious codes, until she is more certain than ever that he's involved somehow in the jewelry ring.

In the end, Nancy finds Margaret Judson and proves her innocence.  She even manages to locate the girl's lost inheritance and reunite her with her fiance.  And win the golf tournament with a sprained wrist.  Because Nancy Drew is an androi...ermm...perfect.

Mortimer Bartescue, surprisingly, has nothing to do with the crime!  He's just an obnoxious tool with too much time on his hands, who heard that Nancy was a detective and wanted to outwit her.  And...he kind of did.  Nancy was completely fooled into thinking he was guilty, and so was I.

This has got to be a 5/5 mags.  It really does have everything, from fake hauntings to espionage to love stories.

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DATA (FROM STAR TREK: TNG)
*NOT EASILY HURT/REBOUNDS WELL FROM INJURY
*GOOD AT EVERYTHING 
*EXCELLENT DEDUCTIVE REASONING
*SAVES THE DAY CONSTANTLY
*CLUELESS WHEN IT COMES TO HUMAN EMOTION

NANCY DREW
*NOT EASILY HURT/REBOUNDS WELL FROM INJURY
*GOOD AT EVERYTHING 
*EXCELLENT DEDUCTIVE REASONING
*SAVES THE DAY CONSTANTLY
*CLUELESS WHEN IT COMES TO HER FRIENDS' EMOTIONS (NED'S JEALOUSY, BESS'S FRIGHT, GEORGE'S IRRITATION)

COINCIDENCE?  YOU DECIDE.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Book #14: The Whispering Statue (1937 and 1970 comparison review)

1937 Original Edition

This is one of the important "character introduction" titles as, in The Whispering Statue, we get to meet Nancy's dog, Togo.  Nancy, Bess and George are off at the park when a stray dog begins to follow them.  They try and lose him (because, in truth, Togo is kind of a douchebag) but to no avail.  Togo gets into all sorts of trouble, trampling flowers, sniffing crotches, and finally stealing a woman's purse and dumping it in the pond.  Seriously, a real douchebag of a dog.  Unfortunately, the woman whose bag he stole was supposed to give a speech and her notes were ruined even after Nancy had the bag fished out of the pond. 

 Yes, that's right.  Togo is as destructive as Chandler Bing looking for porn on the web.  

Anyhoo, Nancy helps the woman, Mrs. Owen, recreate her speech and the woman is very grateful.  When Nancy mentions that she will be vacationing in Sea Cliff, Mrs. Owen mentions an old estate that has a marble statue that resembles Nancy.  Because this woman is randomly connected to Sea Cliff, of course, which is on the New England coast.  Everybody knows everybody everywhere in these books.  

When Nancy, Bess and George head to Sea Cliff for their "vacation" (it's never a real vacation with Nancy, to Bess and George's chagrin), Togo somehow escapes the Drew home and follows them there.  More destruction and crotch sniffing ensues.

A brief aside: Since people seem so fond of pet pictures on the internet ("Awwww, a dog spooning a cat.  Precious!" ...etc.)  I think I will post a pictorial series called: "Your pet is a huge douchebag."  I'm sure it will be WILDLY unpopular.

While the girls are en route to Sea Cliff, they overhear a young man clearly trying to swindle an older lady who has very obvious wads of cash stuffed in her coat (revealed earlier by Togo the Ginormous Douchebag).  Nancy tries to warn the old lady but is harshly rebuffed, and the sleazy younger man walks off with her when they reach their destination.

While in Sea Cliff, Nancy and company find the old estate with the whispering statue, which does indeed look like Nancy.  Doppelganger #2!  She discovers that the estate belonged to the recently deceased Mr. Conger, who had a long-lost daughter who ran away.  Nancy keeps an eye on the old house, which is about to crumble into the sea due to loose ground and storms, but also manages to get mixed up in the affairs of Carson Drew's client, Mr. Owen. 

Wait, Mr. OWEN?  Like Mrs. Owen from the beginning of the book?!  Guys...do you think there will be a connection?  

Yep, there totally is.

As it turns out, Mr. Owen was told that his wife was killed twenty years ago.  Similarly, Mrs. Owen was told that her husband died.  The elderly couple is reunited (and it feels so gooooood!), but Nancy can't shake the feeling that there is another piece missing from the puzzle.

She keeps returning to the estate, at one point met by an incredible racially stereotyped Italian contractor who might as well be named Mario or Luigi.  Anyhow, Mario or Luigi has a monkey named Jocko who runs off into the estate, where Nancy follows.  She overhears the evil man from the train, named Joe Mitza, plotting to steal Fanny Morse's money (the old woman from the train).  Nancy follows every lead until she discovers that Joe Mitza is planning to con Fanny Morse, while also instructing Mario or Luigi to steal all of the marble statues from the old estate and sell them.

But, just as I think it's going to be a boring wrap-up to a lighter mystery, we find out that Fanny Morse has known Joe Mitza's plan all along.  She is really Bernice Conger, the runaway daughter of Mr. Conger and confidence woman!  She was also married to Mr. Owen's no-good business partner and told both Owens that their spouses were dead.  She also gave up a son all those years ago...JOE MITZA!  You see--it's all connected!

Alright, so it's not exactly the Keyser Soze reveal, but it was pretty nice.  I give this one 4 1/2 out of 5 mags, with a little taken away for some repetition and godawful stereotyping, but some added for the twist ending. Oh, and the monkey.  Monkeys will always get you a little extra.

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Nancy Doppelganger Count: 1 (2 total)

1970 Revised Edition

So, up until this point, I've been squarely in favor of the re-writes over the original editions.  The original editions tend to be longer, more ludicrous, and with more uncomfortable racisms.  However, in this case the original story was not only completely different, but far better than the re-write.

In the 1970 edition, Nancy is called on by a Mrs. Merriam, who suspects that she is not receiving the proper cut for the art she is selling through a dealer.  Somehow, the crooks in this book know that Mrs. Merriam is going to the Drews and bust into the house within the first 5 pages, attacking Bess, George, Hannah, and Carson while Nancy hides the older Mrs. Merriam upstairs.

This is where my issues begin.  First of all, aren't' these thieves just calling attention to the shady nature of their business by sending thugs to attack people who try and reveal them?  Second of all, if these thieves are aware of Nancy Drew's reputation, don't they know that busting into her home will only put her on their trail?

Thirdly (and perhaps most importantly), what in the hell makes burglars and thieves think that wearing a small black mask with eye-holes will somehow conceal their identities?  We're not talking about a ski mask--just a simple raccoon-style burglar's mask.  We can see your eyes, dudes.  Do you really  think that covering up the top of your cheeks and the bottom of your forehead is going to stymie police artists?  Get real, guys.

Of course, Nancy takes the case, but Carson Drew suggests she work in disguise, as a young dark-haired girl named Debbie Lynbrook.  That way she can work undercover with the art dealer that might be cheating Mrs. Merriam.  This is another point of issue for me.  Nancy, disguised as Debbie Lynbrook (in self-tanner and a dark wig), is still traveling with and constantly followed by Bess, George, and Ned.  If the crooks know Nancy Drew, why wouldn't they assume this strange new girl is Nancy Drew in disguise?

They don't discover it, however, and that's when this book basically turns into an episode of Smallville to me.  Time after time, Nancy is almost discovered as the girl detective she is, but it doesn't come out until the very end, at which point you kind of feel like these criminals are too stupid to live.  

Oh, yeah.  And there's a whispering statue I guess.  It's about as important as the broken locket in #11.

Also, while Togo appears in this novel, they pull a Shadow Ranch Rewrite and make it seem like he's been there all along.  In this one, he's a cute little obedient dog.  Where's Togo the Ginormous Douchebag?  I think we all missed him.

This one was a bit of a snoozer.  Even the explosion was kind of boring.  I give this one 2 1/2  out of  5 mags.

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Doppelganger Count: 1 (2 total)
Explosions: 1 (4 total)





Thursday, November 21, 2013

Book #13: "The Mystery of the Ivory Charm" (1936 Edition)

In mini-summary, Nancy kidnaps a young Indian boy from the circus and becomes embroiled in geopolitical intrigue when she realizes that the boy in question is the true ruler of India.

Sounds pretty exciting, doesn't it?!

Meh.

Unfortunately, that's all I can say.  Meh.  Most of the 215-page story feels like it's just stalling the conclusion.  This is a problem I've had with several of the original editions.  Too many times Nancy is forced, for pages on end to play what Carson Drew refers to as "the waiting game."

To which I, of course, say: "The waiting game sucks--let's play Hungry Hungry Hippos!"

The story starts with Nancy witnessing the brutal abuse of a young Indian boy named Coya.  Strangely, the boy is being whipped mercilessly because he is not properly whipping the Circus' elephant, Tom.  (A brief side note: I just can't take elephant abuse.  I mean, I can't deal with animal torture of any kind, but for some reason elephant abuse just tears me up inside ever since I watched this history special on Coney Island and saw that video of Topsy being electrocuted).   Anyhoo, Nancy is, like me, not a fan of child or elephant abuse, so she intervenes.  The man, named Rai, explains that Coya is his son.  Nancy procures the titular Ivory Charm for reasons too stupid to summarize, and ends up sort-of kidnapping Coya--all in a day's work for a girl detective.

Alright, she doesn't seriously kidnap him, but she might as well have.  The young boy runs away (for the obvious reason that he doesn't enjoy daily whippings), and Nancy pays his fee for the train and brings him home with her.  All the while, Coya is referred to as being a "little brown boy" and essentially acts as the Drew's servant.  Oh, quaint racisms.  I expected you to be in full force, and I was not proven wrong.  The book basically boils Hinduism and Indian culture down to a bunch of ludicrous superstitions.  Not cool.

Then, the secondary villain is introduced, an American woman named Anita Allison who seems obsessed with mysticism and is the seeming ringleader of a plot to abduct and kill Coya, who has no idea of his royal birth, to ensure another leader's spot on the throne.

Again, this may sound interesting.  But I assure you it is NOT.  The villains are caricatured and snooze-worthy and the book has more false endings than Return of the King without having any of the raw awesomeness or Samwise Gamgees I would require.

There are a few good scenes, but most end up ridiculous with the more interesting plot points gravely underutilized.  For example, Nancy goes to an Emerson dance with Ned and meets up with one of his fraternity brothers, Basha, only to discover that Basha (also Indian) somehow knows Rai.  Yeah.  Because all people from India know each other when one is a college sophomore and the other is a TRAVELING CIRCUS PERFORMER.  That makes sense.  In another example, Nancy is sent to Washington D.C., summoned to the White House by the first lady herself, but they only spend one short paragraph describing her LUNCH AT THE FRAKKING PRESIDENT'S HOUSE.  That's right.  One paragraph.  When they spend page after page describing what Nancy does while she's waiting for her next clue to appear.

Then there is a ridiculous ending that is, once again, too stupid to summarize.  Nancy finds Coya after Rai kidnaps him again from the Drew house and restores him to his rightful place on the throne.  Yayyyy...

Meh.

This one gets 1 out of 5 mags

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Monday, November 18, 2013

Book #12: The Message in the Hollow Oak

Buried treasure!
Jealousy!
Abduction!
Skeletons!
Creepy perverts!
Towboat disasters!
A bitchy character that's not a villain but we all get to relish in hating her anyway!

Alright, guys.  I don't want to get ahead of myself but...this is officially my second 5/5 mags.  It was...GLORIOUS.

The plot starts out with Nancy getting a mysterious call from her Aunt Eloise in New York.  Eloise's friend, Boyce Osborne, is a private detective and has been trying to discover the mystery of a centuries-old buried treasure.  A french explorer, named Pere Francois, has left clues on various oak trees in the area with arrows pointing to the titular hollow oak.  Of course, it's been so long that some of the clues have been destroyed or removed.   The detective needs to return to his clients but wants Nancy to finish the case.  The only glitch is that Nancy will have to stay with a group of college archaeology students and help out with their dig.  Because Nancy is OF COURSE skilled in archaeology, she quickly accepts and flies out to rural Illinois to start her search.  Nancy soon meets up with her group, including Julie Anne (super-smart friend of Ned's) Art (future foil of Ned), Bob (the soon-to-be-abducted!), Theresa (group leader), and Claire Warwick (uppity know-it-all beeyotch).

Oh wait!  I forgot something important.  On the flight to Illinois, Nancy had this epic creeper as her seatmate.  Clearly a man in his thirties/forties, he keeps winking at her and attempting to go through her purse.  Um, gross, dude.  Nancy is barely out of high-school.  Is this grotesque debauchee simply your average airplane pervert who forgot his copy of "Barely Legal" in checked luggage?  Spoiler alert: NO.  He's totally the villain.  Boyce Osborne had warned Nancy that a man named Kit Kadle was also after the treasure.  He's skilled in the art of disguise a'la' The List of Adrian Messenger and definitely ready to get Nancy out of the way.

As Nancy tries to avoid Kadle and seek out the clues to find the treasure, she gets help from her group--especially Art, who clearly wants to major in Nancy Drew instead of archaeology.  Of course, Nancy doesn't help matters by ignoring the problem and continuing to ask Art to drive her into town on his motorcycle.  Way to send mixed signals, Nancy.  Poor Art is devastated when it is announced that Ned, Burt, Dave, Bess and George are flying in to help Nancy solve the remainder of the mystery, which is very quickly realized by Ned when he arrives.  Oh, and Ned is not happy.  Bess tries to solve the problem by getting Art to pay attention to Ned's friend Julie Anne, but ends up just making everything and everyone more awkward.

Even with the overt sexual tensions afoot, the group manages to sift through a series of obstacles--one of the boys, Bob Snell is kidnapped by Kadle, George is almost crushed in a towboat disaster, and they all have to deal with the aforementioned uppity know-it-all beeyotch Claire Warwick.  She's one of those girls who feels the need to correct everyone, but with misinformation.  I mean, my dear husband is an over-corrector, but at least he's RIGHT.  Claire Warwick is constantly spouting off at the mouth about how she heard the Hopi Indians might have beheaded their young as a sacrifice to crystal-skulled aliens or something.  It might not have been that bad, but if the History Channel had existed back in 1972, I would have thought she was just regurgitating one of their terribly inaccurate specials.

Could Native Americans actually be the aliens that put us on this planet?  This crude photo-shopped image of an alien in a native headdress is proof positive that the answer is...maybe?  OR YES!

Heh heh.  The History Channel blows.  Anyhoo, with the help of her friends, Nancy manages to track down the treasure, find Bob Snell, and trap the nefarious Kit Kadle.  With NO help from Nancy, Bess is finally able to direct Art's attention to the much more actually and emotionally available Julie Anne.

Awkwardness canceled!  Mystery solved!  Yaaayyyy!

5/5 mags

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N.D. Head Injury Count: 1 (5 total)








Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Book #11: The Clue of the Broken Locket

Or, here is a list of other titles that would be more relevant:
The Clue in the Iron Bird
The Mystery at Misty Lake
The Secret of Pudding Stone Lodge

Yes, there is a broken locket, and the picture on the front cover depicts the discovery of said locket, but the locket itself doesn't really prove to be that huge of a clue, or an important part of the story.  

While we're finding bones to pick with the covers, by the by, this is the first cover that shows Nancy, Bess and George and--guess what?--Bess looks like she weighs EXACTLY the same as the other two girls.  So, either she's got maybe 3-4 lbs. on Nancy and George, or the illustrators didn't want a chubby girl befouling the Nancy Drew book covers.  Honestly, either way I'm kind of offended.  If she only weighs a couple of pounds more than the slender Nancy and George, then why do they give her such a hard time?  And, if it's the latter--I mean come ON.  Just make her more "average" sized on the book cover.  It wouldn't have killed them to put a girl with curves on the cover.  May times throughout the novels, Bess is described in narration as "prone to being overweight" or as plus-sized.  So just make her look that way!  I mean, despite these apparently unseemly extra pounds, she still bags more dudes than any other girl in the book.  Okay.  [Releases breath.]  Rant over.

Despite my issues with the cover, this one is really awesome.  In fact, it might be my second 5/5.  I'm having trouble deciding, so I'll let you know by the end of the review.  The basic story starts with Carson Drew asking Nancy, Bess and George to go out to a summer resort in Maryland called Misty Lake to meet up with a girl who was set to stay at one of the cabins.  The man who was set to meet this girl with the key had decreed that he would never set foot near the cabin again, due to semi-nightly apparitions of a ghostly turn-of-the-century raft that appeared on the lake, seemingly the spirits of those who drowned in a tragic accident in the early 1900's.  Dude, they should just re-market the resort as a ghost experience.  I would be all OVER that.  Anyway so it looks like we've got an honest-to-goodness HAUNTING!  Oh, yeah!!!

Except, no.  Nancy is convinced that the images are being projected somehow.  Splugh.  I was hoping for a haunting but...Nancy is always right.  Anyhow, the girls arrive at the cabin and see a red-headed girl.  Assuming this is the girl they are set to meet, they greet her, but she runs away screaming something about how they can't take her babies.  Whoosh.  Crazytown: Population, this girl.  But then a girl who looks nearly identical to the baby crazy nutjob shows up.  Her name is Cecily and she is trying to find a clue to a long-lost family treasure so that she can marry her budding rock-star boyfriend Niko VanDyke (who is apparently the 1966 Justin Beiber). Ooooohh.  We may not have a haunting, but it looks like we have a doppelganger!

Cecily says that the clue to her family's fortune may be hidden in a place on the lake called "Pudding Stone Lodge" in an iron bird.  When Nancy and the girls investigate, they find an odd family of acrobats named the Driscolls (including two young twins who may very well be the "babies" in question).  While one of the brothers in the family yell at Nancy and co. and tell them never to return, the other brother is super-unctuous and insists they come whenever they please.  The solicitous brother goes so far as to buy an iron bird in town and claim they found the heirloom, but Nancy has of course remembered that she saw the fake bird for sale in the General Store.  Nothing gets by Nancy Drew.

When she goes back into town to question the locals about the Driscolls and about the strange other red-haired girl, she discovers another mystery.  It looks like the latest record by Cecily's fiance, Niko Van Dyke, is being pirated and sold throughout the state!  Are the Driscolls perhaps acrobats AND kidnappers AND pirates?  Spoiler alert: YES.

After many reconnaissance missions to Pudding Stone Lodge, Nancy and the girls (including Cecily) discover that someone is being held prisoner there, likely Cecily's double.  They alert the police but are thwarted when the Driscolls trick the dull-witted Misty Lake police officers into thinking everything is a-ok.  Not to be outdone, Nancy sneaks back in and finds proof that the Driscolls and their gang are responsible for the pirating business, the projected images of the ghostly launch to scare away snoopers, and, as it turns out, the kidnapping of the two young twins.  The "babies" actually belong to the imprisoned doppelganger, a cousin of Cecily's named Susan Wayne.  She and her husband were victims of a hit and run while camping with the children and the perpetrators (this book's requisite total a-holes, the Driscolls) took off AND helped themselves to the dying couple's children.  Nancy is captured with Susan, but not for long as she brought backup: Bess, George, Ned, Burt, Dave and Justin Beib--er, Niko Van Dyke all show up with the totally useless Misty Lake PD.  Fortunately, their guns and handcuffs aren't useless, and the Driscolls and their gang are arrested, spouting many Scooby-Doo like expletives about Nancy being a "no-good snooping kid" and such.

Susan has her children back, Cecily has a new family member and, after a search, both find the lost family treasure.  Yayyyy!  Oh yeah, and at one point they find a locket and I totally forget about it.  Yayyyyy!

Alright, this one comes close.  I really want to give it 4 3/4 mags because it's so close to perfect.  But I admit the action of them going back and forth to the Pudding Stone Lodge gets a bit tired for, like, a microsecond.  Well, since it's my blog, I guess I can give it whatever score I please.  4 3/4 out of 5 mags it is!

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Book #10: The Password to Larkspur Lane (1933) and Password to Larkspur Lane (1966)--comparison review

1933 Review

This one is great.  You wouldn't think that a Nancy Drew mystery where the main plot is carrier pigeons and elderly people could be exciting, but it really is action-packed.

Nancy Drew is engaging in one of her thousand talents--horticulture--when she sees a pigeon fall from the sky, seemingly struck by a low-flying plane.  Upon realizing that this is no ordinary rat with wings, but a carrier pigeon, Nancy decides to nurse it back to health and figure out who the pigeon was carrying a message to.  The message the pigeon was carrying says: "Blue Bells now Singing Horses," hinting at the password to what we will soon know as Larkspur Lane.  Soon thereafter, she sees a neighbor and family friend, Dr. Spires, pushed into an unmarked black car.  When she calls on him later to see if he is still missing, she discovers she has yet another mystery brewing.  Dr. Spires has been returned, but was kidnapped in order to treat an elderly woman at a reclusive estate.  The good doctor was able to slip a bracelet off of the apparent prisoner, Nancy's only clue in finding out about these shenanigans.  

Meanwhile, back on the Drew homestead, Hannah takes a nasty fall and a housekeeper must be sent to replace her for a few weeks.  Unfortunately, they send the WORST PERSON EVER.  Effie is scattered, clumsy, and constantly talking about an imaginary boyfriend that drives an ice truck (the ice truck killer?!).  It's pretty obvious that she will be a thorn in Nancy's side, a theory proven when Effie lets the mysterious pigeon escape and Nancy has to break about seven laws to follow the bird to its homing location.  All the while, Effie is sobbing and babbling like a godforsaken loon, and I really want to physically slap the book, but Nancy does my work for me by practically biting the girl's head off during their chase.  At one point Effie, already crying, says "Oh, I could just cry!" and Nancy basically says: "Yeah, well DON'T.  Shut your frikkin' pie-hole, Effie."  Or at least that's what I imagine she says.  It was basically the sentiment.  

I admit, even though I am one who prefers the 1960's re-writes, I like this impatient bitchy Nancy.  Nancy discovers a connection between the old woman imprisoned in the estate and the carrier pigeons--they are both going to a mansion on Larkspur Lane.  At this point, the gang of ne'er do wells, including a disbarred lawyer and enemy of Carson Drew, Adam Thorne, are after Nancy.  She can't step outside her home without being accosted, or having her purse stolen.  It soon becomes evident that she needs to get the F out of D, so they say.  Carson Drew has the solution--he was going to buy Nancy a new car anyway (really?!  how rich is a single father?  I feel like this is her third new car...) so they pull a fast one on the gang by slipping Nancy out in an unfamiliar car.  

She goes off to stay with the Cornings at Sylvan Lake, one of the many lakeside cabins the Corning family seem to own.  In the older edition, Helen Corning is not about to be married, but is dating a "deeply tanned" friend of Ned Nickerson's named Buck Rodman.  I admit this and the introduction of Buck Rodman in Nancy's Mysterious Letter had me a bit confused and thinking that Helen Corning was having a cheap affair with some Muskoka Shore Guido.  Anyhoo, The girls and their dates decide to take a load off by hitting the beach, but Nancy of course manages to find more clues to the mystery.  She saves a little girl from drowning (add lifeguarding and CPR to her list of skills) and discovers that the girl's mother is named Eldridge and is a relative of the missing elderly woman at Larkspur Lane.  Nancy and Helen head over to Larkspur Lane and discover that, along with the woman Dr. Spires treated, there are several more elderly people being held against their will, seemingly part of a plot to steal their money.  Nancy makes contact with the elder Mrs. Eldridge and promises to come back.

Nancy and Helen decide to go undercover, with Helen pretending to be a nurse and Nancy pretending to be an old widow.  They manage to pull the old switcharoo, getting Mrs. Eldridge out with Helen, but Nancy ends up trapped by Adam Thorne and his gang of miscreants.  They shove Nancy in an old subterranean cistern but, since she is basically MacGyver, she climbs her way out.  The gang are about to escape in a small plane (the same one, incidentally, that hit the pigeon and started all of this craziness) but Nancy pulls a John MacLane and sets the fuel gage on fire. 

That's right, Nancy Drew SETS HER ENEMIES ON FIRE.  Don't mess with this bitch.

The slightly charred criminals are taken into custody, Mrs. Eldridge is reunited with her family, and the pigeons are set free--free to take a dump on the nice buildings of River Heights and eat discarded food.  Awwwwww.

This one is pretty awesome.  I took off a mag because it's a bit slower generally--there are several of those scenes that annoy me where Nancy is interrupted from her detective work but too polite to just peace out.  I added another half a mag because Nancy Drew SETS HER ENEMIES ON FIRE.  Kick-ass.  This one gets 4 1/2 mags out of 5.

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1966 Review

This plot unfolds in a pretty similar fashion, but with an added mystery at Sylvan Lake with the Cornings.  Nancy Drew is asked by the Cornings to investigate a recurring apparition--a ring of blue fire that appears a distance from the cabin.  There is also the matter of the Corning's groundskeeper, Morgan, who seems unwillingly connected to Adam Thorne and the gang of swindlers.  In this book, Adam Thorne is not a disbarred lawyer but an ex-con who was put away by Carson Drew.

In addition, Bess and George play a far bigger role in this book, and Helen Corning is now married to Jim Archer (thus, she is now Helen Archer).  During the climax, Nancy drains the fuel from the plane's fuselage but does NOT set her enemies on fire.  Booooooo!

This one is similarly great.  The action moves quickly and the addition of Bess and George make for a lighter read during the lead-up to the climax.  I took away a half mag, due to Nancy not SETTING HER ENEMIES ON FIRE.  I really did miss that.  So, another 4 1/2 out of 5, but for different reasons.

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Points for the 1933 version
*Nancy is kind of a bitch--in the most delightful way
*Nancy SETS HER ENEMIES ON FIRE
*I get to make fun of Buck Rodman

Points for 1966 version
*The pacing is far better
*At least 60% fewer annoying interruptions
*Bess and George
*No racial slurs



Monday, October 28, 2013

Book #9: The Sign of the Twisted Candles

A.K.A. "Daddy's Dyin'...Who's Got the Will?" starring Nancy Drew!

Alright, so it's possible that references to poorly received comedies from the 1990's are not relevant.  But seriously.  It's "Daddy's Dyin'...Who's Got the Will?" starring Nancy Drew.

This one starts out with Nancy, Bess and George traveling to visit an Inn called "Sign of the Twisted Candles," owned by an elderly relative of the Marvin and Fayne family but operated by two other douchebags.  Ooops.  Gave that one away.  But, spoiler alerts aside, it's pretty obvious from the get-go that the married couple operating the inn, Mr. and Mrs. Jemmit, are total d-bags.  While lunching at the inn, Nancy, Bess and George overhear a young waitress named Carol all in a tizzy because she has been forbidden from bringing lunch to Asa Sidney.  Being that Bess and George are relatives of the elderly Mr. Sidney, Nancy insists on taking the tray of food for her.

As it turns out, old man Sidney is turning 100 that very day, and doesn't feel like he has a friend in the world other than Carol Whipple, the teen-aged waitress who works at the inn under the almost Disney-esque foster parent villainy of the Jemmits.  Apparently, his actual family members have never really visited until now that he's over a hundred and will probably die soon.  Yikes.  Bess and George's great uncle and grandfather are apparently the worst offenders in this circling-vultures scenario.

Old Man Sidney's Dyin'!  Who's Got the Will?

Of course, Asa Sidney ends up hastily changing his will with the aid of Carson Drew, and dies the very next day.  This leads into the "family feud" plot, wherein Bess and George stop talking to Nancy because their parents have clearly told them that Nancy and her father underhandedly convinced Asa Sidney to change his will and disinherit them.

Unfortunately, this is the part where the book loses me for a while.  The plot itself is great--with twists and turns and villains hiding around every corner.  But the behavior of Bess and George just didn't make sense to me.  Yes, friends fight, and Bess, George and Nancy often do, but this is different and wildly out of character.  For one, if George thought that Nancy was doing something wrong, she would flat-out confront her about it, whereas in Book #9 she hides in her house and refuses to speak to Nancy.  Yeah, that's not the George Fayne I know and love.  Bess, similarly, coldly snubs Nancy.  That's SO not Bess.  She might burst into tears and storm out, but the stone-cold bitch thing just isn't Bess.  Later in the book, they make up and admit that they had been convinced by their great-uncle that the Drews were up to no good, but I can't help but think that they could have handled the "friendship crisis" a lot better in this book.

The last chunk of the book is non-stop excitement.  Nancy and Ned have a date...with danger! Nancy get's her fourth head injury (awwwwww).  Nancy is drugged, finds a snake in a box, and ends up being dangled from a windowpane like a guy that owes money to the mob.  Whoosh!

In the end, the Jemmits are arrested and it is discovered that Carol Whipple, Asa Sidney's only friend, is also his biological great-grandniece--a fact that he was too ashamed to tell her, as he felt he had not given his own wife and children the love they needed.  Soon, both sides of the family calm down about the will...but then start a fight about who will foster Carol.  Awwww.  Just like "Daddy's Dyin'...Who's Got the Will?"  Blood is thicker than water...

This is a very good one, but I can't help but be left with a sour taste in my mouth due to the out-of-character behavior of Bess and George.  This one might have been a 4 1/2 or 5, but I'm landing on 4/5 mags.

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Head Injury Count: 1 (4 total)