Friday, August 22, 2014

Book # 37: The Clue in the Old Stagecoach

Nancy vs. No-Good Thieves…and Fuzzy Lumpkins?!
Our next book finds Nancy, Bess and George hiking up a steep hill, on the way to investigate their next mystery. Of course, Bess (our resident “shopping is exercise!” advocate), is already complaining that they shouldn’t take on any case that involves such a drastic elevation change. Unsurprisingly, her suggestion falls on deaf ears.
The girls are visiting Mrs. Strook, who lives in a village near a camp that the girls are visiting on their neverending summer. The kindly old woman, unlike our usual charity case, is living well, but wants the girls to help unearth clues to an old family treasure that could provide the money to build a new school in Francisville. Apparently, Mrs. Strook has a great uncle named Abner Langstreet who hid a vital clue to the treasure in an old stagecoach.
Pretty much from the moment Nancy agrees to solve the mystery, she is beset by a nosy couple named Ross and Audrey Monteith, a surly libertarian named Judd Hillary (think more Fuzzy Lumpkins and less Gary Johnson…in fact, that’s Judd Hillary’s name now) and a pack of mysterious thieves who make off with the old stagecoach as soon as she has it.
The Monteiths, a couple in their 30’s, are this book’s Mortimer Bartescue. They are arrogant, obsequious, insufferable buttinskies (yes, I need all those adjectives!) who insist not only on talking to Nancy and her friends every chance they get, but eavesdropping on every conversation. First of all, I have to point out that, as a woman in my thirties, if I showed up at a summer camp and inserted myself into the activities of teenagers, I’m sure it would go a lot worse than it did for the Monteiths. At least Nancy and her crew simply ignored them and made up polite excuses at first.
As the book progresses, however, Nancy just says “screw manners” and starts ditching them. And, honestly, I don’t blame her. Of course, just as in some of the earlier books, we are left to puzzle over if they are simply an annoyance (like Bartescue) or part of the larger crime ring (think fake Prince Michael). In this case, they are totally guilty.
While in Francisville, Nancy is also accosted by Fuzzy Lumpkins. He basically accuses her of ruining the town and creating more taxes for the townspeople.
Uh, what? How, we are forced to wonder, is that even possible? Who goes around accusing random people of putting “city folk ideas” into the local townspeople’s heads, raising taxes and limiting hard-working Americans’ right to bear arms and kick the ass of…oh, wait. He’s this guy:
Yep. That all makes sense now. Nancy is unsure as to whether he is just afflicted with those pesky bonnet bees, or if he is also part of the criminal ring trying to keep her from the treasure. However, I am sure. Guilty.
While Nancy dodges the Monteiths and Judd Hillary, she, Bess and George also find time for some tennis and water ballet. The girls sign up for a comedic clown-themed water performance and I am torn between delighted anticipation and cold fear at the thought of clowns chasing me down like sharks in the water. During this story, the girls are being “escorted” by three other boys (whose names I refuse to remember because they aren’t Ned, Burt and Dave). While I totally get that these other boys are more of a “group hang” scenario, I still get enraged at the idea of Ned being replaced. Could be leftover PTSD from the Nancy Drew Files. In any event, Ned, Burt and Dave do show up in the home stretch to help out and I am placated.
In the end, Nancy and the gang are able to track down the clue in some letters left at a local farm. They dig up the old stagecoach (despite a botched poisoning attempt by the Monteiths) and find the treasure. A classic line is uttered at the end, when the Monteiths, Fuzzy Lumpkins, and two other local toughs are brought in on theft and attempted murder charges. As the bad guys are led away, Bess sighs and says: “Oh, why can’t people be honest?”
Um, because there would be no books, Bess. And River Heights would be filled with normal, boring citizens instead of embezzling sailors.
But, seriously. How cute is Bess?
This one was very good. It was well-paced and didn’t try to fit too many mysteries into one case like some of the books do. However, the end was a bit rushed, and where the hell was that clown water ballet? My fear has passed and now I want it! Ah, well.
4/5 Mags
Head injuries: 1 (15 total)

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