Thursday, October 16, 2014

Book #42: The Phantom of Pine Hill...FEATURING GUEST REVIEWER, MAREN LANE!


 Hey there everyone, Maren here J So I have the joy of reviewing the only book that can compete for #1 against Clue in the Diary. The Phantom of Pine Hill. The reasons for loving this book are numerous and, if you don’t agree, well you’re just wrong. Ok no everyone can think whatever they want, but since I’M writing this I can say what I want, heh heh.

First off, literally on the first page, we already have a Ned Nickerson saves the day moment! The girls have come to visit the three boys during a week of Emerson fun. Now I hardcore love Ned Nickerson, and I mean that truly, I may have judged every date I've ever had against him and unsurprisingly my husband is actually pretty close. What was I saying? Oh yeah Ned already saves the day, which just shows how much he’s going to be in this one, which makes for a happy Maren.

Ok seriously enough Ned distractions. The titular phantom “resides” at John Rorick’s (also known as Uncle John) mansion. Nancy, Bess and George stay with him following a motel mishap and get to stay there for the week rent free, so long as they help catch the phantom! Woohoo excitement J Luckily we do not have to wait long for the phantom to make his first strike! Within the first ten pages Nancy returns to the house to change her party dress after a waiter named Fred Jenkins spills punch on hers, and discovers that her pearl necklace has disappeared!! Later that night Nancy does what she always does and hears a creaking in the dark house and decides to investigate...ALONE!! Because she legitimately thinks that’s a better idea. I mean, I understand not bringing Bess since she sometimes can’t stop talking, but, hey, why not George!? At least she came to her senses and didn’t go outside when she saw a fleeting light in the woods. Good move, Nance. Later that morning after breakfast we get introduced to mystery #2! Uncle John’s ancestor who came to this country in the 1700 had a young French bride. When they had a daughter, Abigail, the French family sent a chest of gifts. Which got lost in a steamship (the Lily Belle) accident. In the river like 50ft from the house. Are we dealing with sunken treasure!? (ummm the answer is always yes.)

Hmmm I wonder if the two mysteries might SOMEHOW be connected. Anyway it can’t be all work and no play. The girls go to the Emerson crew race, because OF COURSE, Ned is on the crew team. Isn’t he just perfect? Ned and Nancy have a quick impromptu picnic before the race, and who is lurking about, but Fred Jenkins. Hmmmm 2 instances of seeing this guy in 3 chapters? Yeah he’s got more involvement! Crew race happens, Emerson wins (DUH) and it’s all very exciting. Ned and Nancy decide to take a romantic canoe ride....over to the site of the Lily Belle sinking. Hmmm Nancy I believe you have ulterior motives here...not just trying to get alone time with Ned! Although gotta love how he puts on his professors cap and explains the history of the phrase “two bits.” But wait, what’s this? A motorboat is trying to run them down!! Accident #1.

What is Nancy’s solution? To go alone into the woods to search for the motorboat captains accomplice. Always with going alone into the woods right Nance? Only creepy thing to happen, however is a piece of paper that floats down on her from above that is blank except for two perfect thumbprints. UMMM HOW IS THAT NOT CREEPY AND ALSO JUST PLAIN WEIRD? Ok thank god for Bess who bluntly just declares how creepy that is later on.

Ok time for the Emerson dance. Nancy get’s all pretty, and her beauty causes Fred Jenkins (him again?) to drop a vase of flowers he’s carrying. Like he actually tells her she shouldn’t be so beautiful because he got distracted by it which caused him to drop the vase. While she waits for Bess and George, Nancy gives the adorable housekeeper, Mrs. Holeman a lesson on how to look for clues to how an intruder could get into the padlocked library. However, after 5 minutes Mrs. Holeman declares that since Nancy has found no hollow spots in the walls then it must be a spook. Like a ghost. Is it ever actually a ghost though? I’m thinking no. Nancy does go in to the library and find that some of the hidden money she had discovered the day before has gone missing. DUDE THIS LIBRARY IS PADLOCKED! HOW IS HE GETTING IN! Ooooooh maybe it is a ghost. Ok no just kidding it’s never a ghost.

Mrs Holeman has to go out of town suddenly. Uncle John has already gone away for a few days. You know what that means. Nancy, Bess and George in a haunted creepy house all alone. MWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. Which means Nancy and Ned (oooh la la) are going to do a stakeout in the locked library all night to see if the phantom shows his or herself. Well sadly, the only shenanigans that occur overnight are actually a prank played by Bess and George. Also there’s a later moment where George teases Bess about her weight. Something no Nancy Drew would be complete without. Poor Bess L And there’s a moment with the Chief of police who decides Nancy isn’t a flighty bimbo; he actually admits that he thought she had mislaid her pearl necklace and just got excited over nothing. What a jerk. Also Fred Jenkins is being nosy again. But that’s no surprise. Ok random interlude stuff over and Bess finds a clue! Go Bess!

Wow I really need to be less wordy in my reviews. I’m not even halfway through the book yet. Ok I may need to edit for the rest.

Maybe.

What?--I love Nancy Drew!

Don’t judge me!! You don’t know Maren.

Wow ok panic moment over. Back to the big Emerson pageant. Now, if you look at the cover you may wonder, “Hmmm why is Ned wearing an Indian costume?” Well here’s your answer. Because he plays one in the big pageant. Heh heh that what his big surprise. Indigenous Peoples Ned actually goes so far as to swoop up Nancy and kidnap her and take her to “treasure spot.” This ends up being the spot where the main Pine of Pine Hill is said to be the site of a buried treasure! Sadly, not the Lilly Belle treasure. BTW Burt is dressed as a fully bearded captain and Dave plays what appears to be Noah on his ark....

The crew all goes back to Uncle John’s only to discover that the locked library in the locked house has been torn to shreds!! Cue Twilight zone music. (now tell me you didn’t just hum that in your head!) Ok off to the dance (another one!? Geez where do the girls get all their frocks....pretty sure Target and TJ Maxx didn’t exist yet) And at the dance a big announcement is made! Ned has been made fraternity president! Seriously is there anything wrong with him? Long nose hair? An awkward mole? SOMETHING?

The happiness form the night is semi dampened when the girls return to Uncle John’s to find a threatening note from the phantom. It’s quite terrifying. Especially since, in the note, the phantom refers to himself in the third person. Woooooooooooo scary. This prompts Nancy to begin a search of the house again to find hidden panels. Because in this type of scenario there are ALWAYS hidden panels. And sure enough she finds one! Unfortunately she tugs on it too hard and it falls on her hitting her hard, causing her to black out. Accident #2, Blackout/Head Injury#1.

A day or so later, after she recovers, the three go digging at an old Indian village site which is no longer actually there. Bess screams and what has she found? A HUMAN SKULL. Gross. Poor Bess...again.  They go investigate some caves in the area and see someone spying on them.  When going to investigate, George and Nancy are standing closeish to the edge when the ground under them gives away and they slide/roll/fall down the hill! Accident #3. Bess runs down to check on them and manages to get a glimpse of who she thinks is the spy.

Hmmm I wonder who it is? Is it Fred Jenkins perhaps? I’m thinking its Fred Jenkins.

Yup it’s Fred Jenkins. Told you.

Back at the house Nancy asks for some info on Fred from Mrs. Holman. Hmmm he’s a loner who lives with his dad. Sounds ripe for being a Nancy Drew culprit to me. Nancy investigates a little more then it’s time for evening festivities with the boys. The evening is marred a little though when Nancy’s car is stolen! Seriously so much happens in this one! And it’s stolen from Uncle John’s house, not like a public lot. Hmmm looks like Fred Jenkins stole it. Under the pretense of washing it. Fat chance! Hah!

Well it’s a new day and you know what that means? Time to investigate the library again. After finding some clues involving freshly mown grass (Hermione would love it) there doesn’t seem to be much else out of place. EXCEPT THE PRICELESS COIN COLLECTION! Seriously there was a coin in there worth 7500 bucks. And that was in 1965......oh man that’s a pretty penny (heh heh). But there’s also still the question of how the phantom is getting in and out of this room.

Nancy and Ned go off on a scuba adventure to try and find the Lily Belle. Meanwhile, back at the house, Bess, George, Burt and Dave decide to do a little investigating of their own. They do all they can to find a way in and out of that library. Which ends with Dave disappearing headfirst down the chimney. Accident #4.

Nevermind that at the same moment Nancy and Ned are diving and Nancy gets her oxygen hose tangled and she can’t breathe underwater. (Does that count as Accident #5? Maybe 4.5 it’s a smaller mishap easily and swiftly rectified) After their diving adventure gives them no solid clues they drive home, taking a detour by Fred Jenkins house. Who should they see but Fred’s father, WHO IS ALSO THE OTHER MAN THEY’VE BEEN SEEING IN THE WOODS?! Ooooh a father/son duo. I like it. Nancy and Ned totally break the law and investigate the Jenkins house after the two men have left and find nothing, although Ned does come up with an amusing rhyme. They do, however, find a key making machine (seriously who other than criminals has one of THOSE just lying around at home) which explains how Fred was able to take Nancy’s car!

Going back to the house leads to yet another investigation of the library. This time it is to discover the last of the hidden money has been stolen. Nancy is fed up and determined. This time she is finally successful. In the dining room, with a nail file (she killed Colonel Mustard), she finds a lever that opens a secret passage! Huzzuh!! George is the first to investigate and hidden in the passage is the missing coin collection. Score 1 for George!

We are winding down and you know what that means? Time for a stakeout! The girls hide in the library when a man in stocking feet and gloves comes in. They watch him steal some costume jewelry and Nancy bursts out to confront him. He sprays her with something that knocks her out. Oops. Knockout #2. He does the same to George who has come to Nancy’s aid. Bess who is still hiding almost panics but comes to her senses and shouts and the guy and before he has a chance to spray her she throws a heavy book at him!! Woohoo way to go Bess! Bad guy loses his balance and falls hitting his head. Bad guy taken down by Bess. Yet another reason to love this particular book so much. But it’s not over for her. While the three others lay unconscious Bess calls the cops. As she waits for their arrival Fred comes in the house. OH NO! What does Bess do best? She flirts with him as a distraction. Dude Bess totally saves the day in this one I love it J She even tempts him with cake and everything. Just in time for the cops to show up and chase him down and arrest him. Suckaaaaaaa!

Turns out Fred and his father WERE looking for clues to the missing treasure lost on the Lily Belle. (like we didn’t see that one coming) Fred also admits that he and his father had stolen the coins and the money and Nancy’s pearl necklace. And golly Pa Jenkins admired Nancy’s grit so much he was going to tell her where everything was. Wow, what a nice thief!

Now it wouldn’t be a proper Nancy Drew conclusion without the miraculous discovery of the treasure! Struck by genius Nancy and the gang go to an old stump near the Indian village site and dig up and old tree stump! Woohoo there’s all the treasure! Trunks filled with gold coins as well as the missing Rorick chest were indeed buried underneath. Yaaay happy ending!!

Man I forgot how much I love this one....

Soooo many accidents and head injuries....gotta love it! 5/5 mags.

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Head Injuries: 2 (20 total)

Accidents: 4.5 (Infinity total)

Monday, October 13, 2014

Book #41: The Clue of the Whistling Bagpipes


RIVER HEIGHTS CRIMINAL SUSPICIONS: INTERNATIONAL VILLAINS UNIT

[CLANG CLANG!]

Villainous Sailor: Alright, IVU team.  I heard from our central unit in River Heights that Nancy Drew is heading out on some kind of trip to Scotland.  We need our best men on this NOW.

Random dark and shifty dude: But that's where we have our sheep thieving ring!  Noooooo!

Shrewd-Looking Man #5: Can I say something?

Villainous Sailor: Only if it's not some terrible advice about not drawing attention to ourselves by leaving the Drew girl alone.

Shrewd-Looking Man #5: Shutting up now.

Villainous Sailor: Listen, gang.  The sheep thieving ring isn't our only problem.  Nancy Drew is taking the trip to track down a family heirloom we stole.

Shrewd-Looking Man #5: Can't we just mail it back or something?

Villainous Sailor: (rolls eyes)  No, we can't just mail it back.  Don't you know there's a narrative structure we have to follow?  Attack the girl in her home, do something to her car, send a threatening note or make a call, follow her on her trip, and then cause a series of easy to escape accidents.  Is that so difficult?!

Shrewd-Looking Man #5: (sighs) No, sir.

Random dark and shifty dude: So what's our first move?

Villainous Sailor:  Something different.  Something she'd never suspect...

Random dark and shifty dude: A conspicuous car crash?

Villainous Sailor: That's the ticket!

Shrewd-Looking Man #5: I'm gettin' too old for this shit...

[CLANG CLANG!]


Okay, I can't keep up a whole entry in Criminal Suspicions IVU without sacrificing our heroine's perspective so back to the normal review.  Despite the fact that pretty much all the Nancy Drew international mysteries follow this predictable theme, I have forgiven this one for one very good reason.  Which I will explain later.

Our mystery starts out in River Heights as Carson tells Nancy of a priceless family heirloom (and her inheritance) that has gone missing.  Nancy's great-grandmother, whom she has never met, insists it must have been stolen.  Nancy quickly agrees to take the case (doesn't hurt that the prize is a priceless heirloom) and the Drews are going to Scotland!

But wait.  Bess shows up, saying that she's been given two tickets to any destination in Europe as she's won an international photo prize for a picture she took of Nancy.  Herein lies the snag that makes the usually ludicrous villain commute between far-off lands and a Podunk suburb of Chicago seem a bit more realistic.  The picture, which depicts Nancy with a magnifying glass and accompanies an article about her girl detective skills, is a surefire way to alert any criminals keeping their ear to the ground that she might be coming to bust up their gang.

Despite being a little irritated at a clueless Bess, who has probably blown her cover until the next major disaster, Nancy tells her to give the spare ticket to George so they can both accompany her to Scotland to find the missing brooch.  The widely-circulated article brings something to this particular story that we haven't really seen before, which is Nancy suffering the negative effects of her celebrity.  Her and her father's notoriety has mostly been used to get Nancy and her friends out of a jam when they are framed for a crime or scoffed at in disbelief.  But, in this case, Nancy is immediately inundated by fans, hoping to get the autograph of  the famous girl detective.  She gives out her signature to a few children for fun, but worries when one of the kids sells her autograph to a smarmy looking dude in the crowd.  She tries to protest but he says, I kid you not, "Thanks, baby!" and shuffles off.  Will we see this man again?  My vote's YES.

Meanwhile, as Nancy prepares for her trip, several not-so-bizarre incidents befall her.  Her car is crashed into, she receives a threatening note about any car she's in being destined for an accident, and she receives a bomb threat.  Needless to say, the trip to Scotland sees some white knuckles among our group.  However, Nancy, Bess, George and Carson safely land.

Before setting out to the more rural area where her great-grandmother, Lady Douglas, lives, the girls do some sightseeing.  This is one of the best devices of the international mysteries for kids, as the cultural information is generally quite expansive and interesting.  This book proves to be no exception.  The tour guide/chauffeur tells the girls tales of kings, war and bloodshed, not to mention a few obscure Scottish jokes.  He does so in a written Scottish brogue, with all the canna's and dinna's you could ask for.  Despite Bess's objections when the stories get too bloody, I personally was pretty riveted.

On their trip, Nancy and the girls even learn about the history of bagpipes, at which point Nancy attempts to play.  Now, if any regular person were attempting to play the bagpipes for the first time, they would sound a lot like Ross from Friends sputtering out "Celebration" while their friends looked on in abject horror.  Not Nancy, of course.  No one can believe how great she is!  She could go pro! Everyone is awestruck, but they don't know as I do that Nancy is an android.

Before the girls head to the countryside, Nancy connects with Ned, who has just returned from a school trip to South America.  BRIEF ASIDE: WTF?!  What is this guy studying, ambassadorship? He was just in frakking Hong Kong!!!  Anyway, she asks him to look into who wrote the accompanying article in the magazine that has brought her all this celebrity since Bess had no idea.  He discovers that the writer is a man she doesn't even know.  Hmmmm...a villain?

Nancy, et. al head off to see Lady Douglas when they realize they are being followed.  Nancy thinks he looks vaguely familiar, which I can easily attribute to the fact that, from his description, he is Groundskeeper Willie.  Before you tell me I'm being Scot-ist, he was red-haired and bearded with "crazy red side-whiskers" and a kilt.  Um, that's Willie.  With an air of caution, Nancy and the girls meet up with a guide, Fiona, and head across a loch to the small village near her great-grandmother.

After a heartwarming first meeting, Nancy and her great-grandmother become fast friends.  Lady Douglas explains that the heirloom, a beautiful brooch, was basically there one day and gone the next.  Nancy sets out to search the area, discovering that there has also been a rash of sheep thefts across rural Scotland.  It would appear that the pelts are being sold through underground dealers, leaving the local farmers impoverished.

Throughout the investigation, however, Nancy becomes more and more frustrated as people keep identifying her as the girl detective they've all been reading about.  It seems she's always a few steps behind the criminals while the article is out.  Another snag reveals itself when the police try to arrest Nancy because a forger has been using her signature (from the autographs) to write bad checks.  The officers soon realize Nancy is not this kind of girl, however, and soon agree to help with the case.

Nancy soon realizes that the sheep thefts are being carried out after the signal of a particular bagpipe tune being played over the hills and schemes to play the tune herself.  Newly a bagpipe prodigy (apparently) Nancy is able to catch the thieves with the help of her great-grandmother's staff, Fiona, the police and Bess and George.   As it turns out, Groundskeeper Willie is actually the smarmy guy who bought her autograph in a Groundskeeper Willie costume.  He shouts: "No Scotchtoberfest?  Ya used me Skinner!  Ya uuuuused me!" and is led off to prison with the rest of the sheep-stealing clan.  It would appear that the criminals' inability to not steal Nancy's heirloom is really what led to their downfall.  And, of course, that these criminals are idiots.

I hadn't read this one in a long time and wow did it hold up.  It had great action, was rich in historical info, used Ned, George and Bess, and offered up the interesting twist of Nancy struggling to do her work under a spotlight.  I give this one 5/5 mags.


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