Monday, October 13, 2014
Book #41: The Clue of the Whistling Bagpipes
RIVER HEIGHTS CRIMINAL SUSPICIONS: INTERNATIONAL VILLAINS UNIT
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...
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.