Friday, May 30, 2014

Book #36: The Secret of the Golden Pavilion

That's right,'s time for a spinoff.  You fell in love with hard-boiled Nancy Drew in River Heights: Criminal Suspicions.  Now get ready to dig even deeper into the dark underbelly of this idyllic Midwestern town in River Heights: Gangland Style.



Nancy Drew sits in a private helicopter, petting her dog, Togo.  Evidently, when your dog wins first prize at a dog show, they take you home in a helicopter.

Nancy Drew: [peering out the window]  Oh look, it's our house, Togo.  Wait...what's that?  Some kind of ruffian trying to break in?  Chauffeur, fly closer please!

Pilot: Ma'am, I'm a certified pilot, not a chauffeur.  Also, we can't just "fly closer" to a suburban neighborhood.  That's how helicopters fly into houses.  Also, why in the hell did I take this job escorting the dog show winner in a frikkin' helicopter?!

Nancy: [rolls eyes]  Whatever.  I'll take those binoculars.  Wait--it is!!  Someone is breaking into our house!  And with such an interesting ladder...

Pilot: What could be interesting about a ladder?

Nancy: Chauffeur?

Pilot: [clenches teeth] Yes, ma'am?

Nancy: My father is an important lawyer.  I will now have to insist that you shut your pie-hole.

Pilot: Yes, ma'am.


Carson Drew: Nancy, I want you to meet Mr. Sakamaki.  He has a mystery for us.

Mr. Sakamaki: Yes, it is most intriguing.  I recently inherited my grandfather's estate in Hawaii but another family has come forward to claim the inheritance.  They are loud, pasty white and fat American types.

Carson: [nodding] That does sound like Americans...

Mr. Sakamaki: Well, it doesn't end there.  Not only are these albino fatties trying to claim my estate, there's also been some mysterious damage done to our legendary golden pavilion.

Carson:  Hey, Nancy!  That's the title!  It's titular!

Nancy:  Hmmmm...I don't know.  We sort of already have a fascinating mystery going.  I call it "The Case of the Collapsible Ladder."

Mrs. Sakamaki: With this mystery, you get to go to Hawaii.

Nancy:  Sold!


Chief McGuinness: So, it looks like the man who rented the collapsible ladder to break into your house fits the description of the leader in an international gang called the Double Scorps.  We would have never figured that out if it wasn't for the strangely-apt description you and several townspeople gave of the man and his unusual tic.  Who would have thought so many people would remember the way a man played around with his hands?

Nancy: [laughing]  Well, it was quite unusual, Chief.  These criminals, with their swarthy looks, weird birthmarks, signature tattoos, and idiosyncrasies.  Frakkin' amateurs is what they are.  Am I right?

Chief McGuinness:  [chortling] Signature tattoos--that's my bread and butter right there.

Nancy: Isn't that the truth?  Well, I'm off to learn some more about Hawaiian characters and legends.

Chief McGuinness: That's right!  Nancy, what on earth are you still doing here?  It's been seventy pages! Shouldn't you be already be in Hawaii by now?

Nancy: I just need to lock down a few details before I go, Chief.  So far I'm not quite sure that the international gang will follow me to the islands yet.

Chief McGuinness: You know they always do.

Nancy:  [shakes head]  Frakkin' amateurs...


Bess Marvin: Oh, what a frightful journey!  But here we are in beautiful Hawaii.  Now it's time for some fun in the--

Nancy: Not so fast, Bess.  We have a gang to catch.  Someone's still hacking away at the beautiful golden pavilion on the Sakamaki estate.  And I spotted a ghostly figure dancing there last night.

Ned: But not an actual ghost, right?

Nancy: [laughing]  Of course not a ghost.  It's never a ghost.

Ned: Right.

Nancy: Maybe if I take over the role of the ghostly dancer, we can draw out the gang and catch them in the act...

George: Wait, the gang?  I thought we were looking for the chunky inheritance thieves Mr. Sakamaki told us about.

Nancy:  George, what have we learned after all these [year]?

George: [sighs] Of course.  They're all in it together.  You know, even on a good day, these fools couldn't hit their ass with both hands.

Ned: What?

George: Forget it, Ned.  it's Chinatown.


Nancy:  Well, we did it!  We brought down the gang.

Ned:  And found a treasure!

George:  And I just kneed this guy in the balls.

Gang leader:  OW!

Bess:  And I just found this ham!

Nancy: [smiling]  Looks like it's time to celebrate. GANGLAND STYLE!


Sinister music plays as we pan over River Heights.  Nancy and her friends are stepping off a small airplane when Carson Drew approaches, hat in hand.

Carson: [tears in his eyes]  Nancy...

Nancy:  What is it, Dad?

Carson:  It's the collapsible ladder company.  With all the bad press, and the gang, I'm afraid [chokes out sob].

Nancy: no!  Don't tell me...

Carson:  The patent didn't go through.



Alright, I potentially had a bit too much fun with that.  But, for some odd reason, that ladder was really memorable.

This one was good, but I admit not as great as I remember.  As mentioned earlier, a good 70-80 pages go by without Nancy and friends heading to Hawaii and I did get a bit antsy.  Once our sleuths get to Hawaii, the story really does pick up but I'd say the story tops out at 3 1/2 out of 5 mags.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Book #35: The Haunted Showboat

Nancy vs. car thieves, bombs, pissy Mortimer Bartesque-esque fops, and...the horrors of the Bayou!

The Haunted Showboat has two very important distinctions: One, it is the first book in the original series that isn't revised (the remainder of the "yellow" series--up to 56 or 64 sepending on who you ask--does not have revisions) and also, it's likely the best mystery.

I know I've already made such claims with Tolling Bell and will make such claims again with my first-read Nancy Drew and fave The Secret of Shady Glen. least so far I have to say this is my favorite actual mystery.  I won't be able to give it a full score, despite my love of the story, because reviewing these books while medium-woke keeps me from doing so, and the book is LADEN with predictable racisms surrounding New Orleans and Voudon culture. Like SO many stereotypes that my face was just frozen in that Chrissy Teigen cringe GIF for whole scenes.

Our mystery starts off quickly with Bess teasing a trip to New Orleans for her cousin Donna Mae's wedding and a possible mystery aboard a showboat.  I really do love when the mystery is kind of handed to Nancy as the thin plot devices that have led her into others are getting a bit hard to believe.  The girls decide to head off to Louisiana on a road trip in Nancy's little convertible, but before they can...NANCY'S CAR IS STOLEN!!!

Alright, that didn't need to be in all caps, but there you have it.  For all of five minutes the girls think their trip is ruined, but then Carson Drew shows up like a really, really rich knight in shining armor (the armor is so shiny because he's so rich) and presents a brand new convertible.  because he was thinking of getting her one anyway.

Wow.  It's really a wonder Nancy Drew didn't turn out a stupid, spoiled princess with all the cars her father buys her.  I'm pretty sure this is her fifth new car.  Anyhoo, they head out on the road in the brand new car but are plagued throughout the entire road trip by the car thief, who Bess originally spots when she recognizes an ink stain in the back seat of Nancy's stolen car.  Every time the girls set off again, something goes wrong with the car.  The rear housing falls out, and the girls find a bomb strapped under the car.

I'm sorry, but what kind of thief steals a car and then uses the STOLEN CAR to continue terrorizing the victim of his crime?  Well, the kind of thief that only stole the car in the first place to keep Nancy from going to New Orleans, but we'll get back to that later.  Even with that, though, it's pretty moronic for the guy to use Nancy's vehicle to stalk her.  Lamesauce.  (The thief is lamesauce, not this mystery so far, which is amazeballs).

After several more incidents in this cat-and-mouse game (at one point, the thief somehow leads them up an icy path where a telephone pole is downed and sparks are flying everywhere.  Then, I'm pretty sure he causes a blizzard, which leads me to the only safe (and conservative) conclusion: the car thief is Saruman.

So, the girls end up taking the path to Moria--er, I mean the longer path and finally arrive in New Orleans. When they get to Bess and George's cousin's estate, however, they find that their formerly sweet and laid back cuz is now a high-maintenance bratzilla (that's right, I just created a word.  If the genuises over at Burritozilla can do it so can I).  They get the whole story behind Donna Mae's wedding: apparently she had been engaged to a super-nice local boy named Charles Bartlome but ditched him unceremoniously when the aforementioned fop, Alex Upgrove came along.  Alex Upgrove, though Oxford educated, is apparently not as attractive and thrice as annoying as Charles Bartlome and nobody knows what in the hell Donna Mae is thinking.  Nevertheless, her parents are throwing an elaborate wedding party aboard a showboat where the bride and groom dress up like a prince and princess.  The only problem?  A serious of strange noises, mysterious calliope music and ghostly sightings...

Is this starting to sound like a reality show to anyone?  My Big Fat Bayou Wedding?  Runaway Bratzilla?  The Real Belles of New Orleans?  Pimp my Showboat?  Wait, I've got one more in me... World's Deadliest Showboat Hauntings?

Nancy, as always, agrees to take the case, but is foiled at almost every turn by Donna Mae, who wants everything focused on her, and Alex Upgrove, whose nosiness about the mystery is starting to make the girls suspect that he might be involved in the alleged "haunting." That's right, folks.  All hauntings are now in sarcastic quotation marks.  My faith has been shattered.

Finally, Nancy is able to slip away and find time to check out the showboat, aided by Donna Mae's ex Charles Bartlome.  He's been working to restore the boat for Donna Mae's parents (a glutton for punishment, apparently) and offers up two of his best friends to accompany the girls to the haunted boat.  Nancy accepts their platonic invitation, as she's used to there being three friendly, non-sexually aggressive men to escort them whenever Ned and co. aren't around.  Donna Mae, of course, blows her figurative top as she's already pissed off by Alex Upgrove's strange obsession with Nancy and the mystery.  She calls Ned, Burt and Dave at Emerson, making it seem like Nancy and the girls are involved in sleazy New Orleans affairs (it is home to pirates, drunks and whores; tacky over-priced souvenir stores, if you believe the musical).

Completely unruffled, Nancy is pleased when the boys show up, diffusing any possible hurt feelings or tension, which somehow makes Donna Mae even madder.  Wow.  Does this girl belong in Sweet Valley or what?  In any event, the arrival of Ned finally makes Alex back off a bit from his needling, obsequious behavior towards Nancy.  The men are all relieved that their girls haven't strayed, but that relief doesn't last long, as they are recruited to play the part of jesters and clowns in Donna Mae and Alex's ludicrous wedding performance.  Nancy, Bess and George all laugh at them mercilessly.

Meanwhile, Nancy solves at least half of the bayou mystery.  The ghostly figures seen on board were apparently an elderly man, Mr. de la Verne who has been taking his ill twin sister to the boat to relive old times.  It's a sweet storyline, and one that leads us to the ultimate reveal when the girls look through Mr. de la Verne's old Oxford yearbooks (do they have yearbooks in college?) and discover that the man posing as upper-class Alex Upgrove is a fake!  Just as they glean this bit of information, the girls see a face at the window--It's faux Alex! (Fauxlix?)  The girls soon get the rest of the story--Fauxlix and Nancy's car thief stalker are in cahoots and have been "haunting" the boat by playing music and making strange noises to detract from their own search for a long-lost treasure.

BRIEF ASIDE: Do you think all the treasures have been found at this point in time?  Probably.  It makes me sad to think of all these criminals stooping to boring-old armed robbery because there are no more vague leads to long-lost treasures.

Anyway, the action ties up with Nancy, Ned and the gang tracking down Fauxlix trying to escape with the treasure using the famous New Orleans Mardis Gras parade as a cover (why he didn't just blow out of town I don't fully understand but whatever).

They tell Donna Mae the truth about her good-for-nothing fiancee and she quickly pales, realizing she gave up a great man (Charles Bartlome) for nothing and has also been a spoiled, ridiculous douchebag.  Undeservedly, she starts seeing Charles again and they soon announce their re-engagement.  Bess and George are happy to have their cousin back and not the insufferable chore of a girl we've been dealing with for the entire book, but I kind of wish she would end up alone.  Am I becoming less of a romantic?

Well, my newfound apathy regarding happy endings for complete a-holes aside, this was really a great mystery.  Note I said mystery. I can't praise the book as whole because of the really cringe-worthy representation.  And while William Shatner might scoff at this, I cannot in good faith review these books without pointing out the elements that could legitimately would kids. If I can't say that these things are wrong, what the hell am I doing reviewing these children's books?  Other than having a ball swearing about them, that is?

This one would ABSOLUTELY get 5/5 mags but I take away a full mag and a half for racism, add a bonus half mag for it being hands down the best actual mystery in the bunch, and thus it is 4 out of 5 mags.

Less-than-quaint racisms: Um, yikes.  Lots.
Head injuries: 0 (14 total)
New Cars: like a million...probably 5

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Book # 34: The Hidden Window Mystery (Original Edition)

This thriller starts with an intriguing and original mystery.  A blundering local postman, who has been working the neighborhood "forever" is accused by a nasty neighbor of losing or perhaps stealing an important (and perhaps mysterious letter).

Where do I start with this innovative plot?  A postman accused!  A mysterious letter!  It's....wait.  Wait just a minute.

It's the exact beginning plot of Nancy's Mysterious Letter.  And what the hell happened to Ira Dixon?  I know he was set to retire, but this Mr. Ritter has allegedly been there "forever."  What the hell?
Well, fear not, chums.  This isn't the only mystery.  In fact, there seem to be about one gazillion packed into 200 pages.

Mystery #1: The Strange Case of the Derivative Storyline

First, the postman is accused of stealing a hundred dollar bill that was supposedly mailed to Mrs. Dondo, a gossipy new neighbor who claims her brother, Alonzo Rugby (VILLAIN!), sent her the cash in the mail. Who sends cash in the mail?  First mistake.  Also, Mrs. Dondo is what Eric Cartman would refer to as a "Super King Kamehameha Beeyotch."  She proceeds to run around the neighborhood spreading rumors about Nancy (for a while insinuating she took the money) and generally assassinating the character of poor Ira Dix--er, Mr. Ritter.

Look out, Mrs. Dondo.  Nancy Drew does not take kindly to those who mess with local postmen, apparently.

Mystery #2: The Hidden Window Mystery

In what seems to be a total diversion from this initial crisis, Nancy reads about an English man's plea to find an old stained glass window featuring a knight with a peacock symbol.  A thin lead causes Nancy to arrange a trip to Charlottesville, VA to meet with an artist who specializes in stained glass windows.  In a remarkable (yet I will not remark on it) coincidence, Nancy's cousin Susan Carr lives there with her husband.  The girls arrange to stay with the Carrs and head off.

In an idiotic move, the villains (who Nancy doesn't even know about at this point) send our girl detective a fake telegram from Cousin Sue saying that they are not welcome any more and should not travel to Charlottesville.  Of course, this only piques Nancy's interest, and she, Bess and George arrange for a hotel with their endless supply of travel money.

Mystery #3: The Mystery of the Masked Man

The girls have only just arrived in Charlottesville when they hear a news report on the radio that announces a bad car accident.  The report lists none other than Susan Carr as a victim of the accident!  The news report then goes on to describe Cousin Sue's vehicle, make and model and announce which hospital she was taken to.  Good going, news.  I would SO want you on the case if I was in a car accident that was clearly not accidental.  Why don't you let us in on some good local knife sales and give us the room number too?  Morons.  Anyway, Nancy and co. dash to the local hospital, where they discover that Susan was run off the road by a man in a mask.  When the girls question her about the strangely brusque telegram, Susan says she has no idea what they are talking about.

Way to jump the gun, villains.

Mystery #4: The Screaming Peacocks of Cumberland Manor

When Susan and the girls head back to the Carr estate, Susan's husband Cliff announces that he has yet another mystery for the girls to solve.  I must point out that even George rolls her eyes at this point and says: "Not another one!"  I feel that, George.  But buckle up.  There are more mysteries ahead.

Anyhoo, this neighborhood case involves some mysterious circumstances surrounding Cumberland Manor, which an older man named Mr. Honsho bought a few years back.  Since the man moved in, he has refused to open the grounds of his estate for the famed annual garden show.  In fact, he put a high wall around the property and doesn't want to chat with any of his neighbors.  Not to mention the fact that strange screeching noises come from the house every night.

Okay, first of all (I've said it before and I'll say it again)...first world problems.  He won't open his house for a garden show?  Boo-frikkin'-hoo.  The Carrs seem nice, but they're starting to sound a lot like the 1%.  Also, this Mr. Honsho sounds like my kind of guy.  Likes his privacy?  Check. Refuses to engage in inane chatting?  Check.  Strange noises coming from the house at night?  Well, check but don't get too excited.  I just have a really loud laugh and the nighttime is when I watch Brooklyn 99.

Despite the ridiculousness that is this "mystery," Nancy accepts.  When she and the girls try to visit, they are turned away by a young cowboy-looking groundskeeper (A cowboy?  In Charlottesville?).  They wander down the road a bit farther and see a beautiful but creepy looking estate bordering the Cumberland property called "Ivy Hall."  Could it be another mystery?  Confusingly, yes.

Back to Mystery #2: The Hidden Window Mystery

Nancy tracks down the stained glass window artist, Mr. Bradshaw and worms her way into taking lessons from him so that she can scope out his studio.  Unsurprisingly, Nancy is a natural at stained glass window making.  And why not?  She certainly picked up Pennsylvania Dutch pretty fast.

Nancy sees from a magazine clipping that Mr. Bradshaw has also read about the reward and search for the hidden window--could he be the one trying to keep her off the case?

Eh, I don't know, guys.  He doesn't have a very interesting name.  And he's not described as wiry, shrewd, dark or piercing.  Something doesn't add up...

Oh, wait, his assistant is Alonzo Rugby, the "dark," "small eyed" and strangely named brother of King Kamehameha Beeyotch Mrs. Dondo.  Suddenly it all makes sense. You know, these books make me wonder how much the police are taking tips in racial profiling from Nancy Drew...  Anyhoo. For a while, Nancy is able to pick up clues and ward off Rugby, but eventually Mr. Bradshaw accuses her of snooping (justifiably) and she is asked to leave the studio.

This apparently causes a problem for the Carrs, who are now losing dinner party guests as the Bradshaws have shunned them.  More first-world problems.

Mystery #5: The Clue in Ivy Hall

A friend of the Carr's, Sheila Patterson (and her daughter Annette) corner Nancy at the Carr's dinner party.  They have another mystery for the girls to solve.  At this point, I become concerned that George's eyes will roll right out of her head.  Mrs. Patterson, an actress, recently purchased the creepy-looking Ivy Hall but is now afraid that it is...HAUNTED!

Sheila just doesn't know what to do!  If she sells the estate, she may not get a good price and might not even be able to (gulp) keep her servants.  Oh no!

Another thing--not only have the Pattersons been hearing strange noises from their house, but they have also heard the odd shrieking.  One night, Sheila saw a peacock wandering around the Ivy Hall grounds and is certain that it's a bad omen (apparently there is an actual theater superstition about peacock feathers and disasters on the set).

After several stakeouts of Ivy Hall and an ingenious scheme to smoke out the ne'er-do-well, Nancy figured out that Luke, the cowboy-looking groundskeeper from Cumberland Manor is behind the "haunting."  A poor ranch hand, Luke read about the hidden window in the same magazine and thought that it might be in Ivy Hall due to the estate's rich history.  At first, the creepy sounds he made were accidental--just banging around in the attic and walls--but then he realized that if the ladies thought the house was haunted he could have free reign to look around.  In the end, Luke made some mistakes but isn't our real bad guy.  Annette, Sheila's daughter even pities him enough to let him take her out on a date.  Bess warns her that "pity is akin to love" and that she'd better watch out.  Truer words have never been spoken, Bess.

Of course, Luke was right about the location of the hidden window...

Mysteries #1-5 Conclusion

In a fairly quick wrap-up, Nancy and the gang locate the hidden window just in time to expose Alonzo Rugby, who, along with his King Kamehameha Beeyotch of a sister Mrs. Dondo, was already trying to sell a cheap copy of the stained-glass masterpiece to its seeker.  Nancy exposes him, reveals the real hidden window and saves the day...

...and I have whiplash from the sheer volume of mysteries.  I really did like parts of this (especially the Ivy Hall plotline) but I felt the whole story was just too diffuse.

Mags: 3 out of 5
Number of times I hate rich people: [tugs collar nervously]