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?!


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.  Todd Chavez: "HoooorrraaaayyyYYY?"

Not so much.  This is probably the most racist one in the whole bunch and not only is the story underwhelming but the overwhelming stereotyping just gave me Chrissy Teigen cringe face like the WHOLE time.

.5/5  Yep.  That won't happen often.


Monday, November 18, 2013

Book #12: The Message in the Hollow Oak

The Nancy Drew Project: Nancy Drew reviews by a pop-culture obsessed and F-bomb dropping madwoman: Book #12: The Message in the Hollow Oak

Buried treasure!
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 might be my second 5/5 mags. It is…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 asshole).
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? Is he this guy?
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
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. It’s a crush so incredibly obvious that you kind of want to grab Nancy and remind her that people exist within mysteries and that they matter.
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!
The History Channel blows. Also, this whole shebang is SUPER problematic in reference to Native people, which is not surprising given that Nancy Drew often has this issue of pigeonholing and stereotyping. 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!
Buuuuuutttt….still the cringe worthy racism, so…
4/5 mags

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
*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