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)