Friday, September 6, 2013

The Secret of the Old Clock

The Secret of the Old Clock is the first book in the iconic Nancy Drew Mystery Stories, written by various authors under the pseudonym Carolyn Keene.  Nancy Drew has been a favorite of girls for decades, and her popularity has remained strong to this day, as is evidenced by the many revivals of book series, film adaptations, and even video games.  I even just found out that there is an annual Nancy Drew convention!  You can bet your ass that is a convention I would cosplay at, like...24/7.

Anyway.  So the point here is that I'm sure Nancy Drew needs no introduction, and maybe it's as "pointless" to review books from this franchise as it is to review such modern-day classics as Harry Potter.  But here it is.

Nancy Drew is an 18-year-old  (or 16-year-old, depending on how old your edition is) girl in the midwestern USA and the only child of star lawyer, Carson Drew.  They live in the small-ish town of River Heights, with their housekeeper, Hannah Gruen.  Nancy's mother passed away when Nancy was still very young, and Hannah became like a mother to her.  I haven't read any of these books (except for The Secret of the Old Clock, of course) for years, but I seem to remember Hannah not doing much besides cook.  But that is beside the point.  Nancy is pretty and bright, with a strong sense of personal responsibility and an unswerving sense of right and wrong.  She is quick-thinking and a little sassy, but always friendly and willing to lend a hand wherever one might be needed.  Nancy might get herself into situations at times where you, the reader, are thinking to yourself "what in the hell were you thinking, Nancy Drew, don't you know any better???"  But she never panics - she talks herself calmly and rationally through any predicament, and finds a way out.  A stark contrast to many other female characters of her time, Nancy Drew does not need a man to save her.  HELL no.  She puts on her fabulous outfits and gets in her fancy convertible and she gets shit done.  I mean, in the first chapter of Secret of the Old Clock alone, Nancy SAVES A CHILD'S LIFE.

And the action and suspense just picks up momentum from there.  I mean, yeah, this book was written originally in 1930, then revamped in 1959, so it is a little tame and predictable, and Nancy has some very Mary Sue-like qualities about her, in that she is basically Perfection Incarnate.  She is caring and thoughtful and makes fast friends with everyone (except thieves and rude people, of course, in which case WATCH OUT because she will drive down the highway or across town to report you to the police or the state troopers, even if it means she might be a little late for dinner).  She is beautiful and always very fashionably dressed.  She always knows just what to do in any situation, and always comes out on top.  And even though she is so awesome and everyone always acknowledges how freaking awesome she is, she is always very modest about it.

Regardless, Nancy Drew is an excellent role model for young girls, because even though she does exhibit all these ideally feminine qualities, she has a brilliant and rational mind and is not afraid to speak her mind when necessary.  She has a lot of good sense, and is an overall genuinely nice person.
This is all made crystal clear in The Secret of the Old Clock; some local New Money jerks, the Topham family, have come into an inheritance from their eccentric relative, Josiah Crowley.  The rumor mill is open for business in River Heights about this, because everyone apparently thought Josiah would have left all his money and stuff to his other relatives, who were actually decent people and who are all very hard-working but practically destitute (this book was written during the Great Depression, but this sort of thing is the only indication of any kind of economic troubles, since Nancy and her dad seem to be quite well-off, what with her having all the fashions and a sweet car that she drives all over the place all the time and going to camp for a week at the last minute).

Anyway, so Nancy finds out about all this when she saves a little girl who nearly gets hit by a moving van, and the child's elderly aunts give her the whole sob story and then some.  So of course Nancy goes home and tells her dad all about it, and since he's the Best Lawyer in the World, and so rich he can just pick up pro bono cases to satisfy his daughter's Do-Good whims, they begin work immediately.  Which means Nancy goes out sleuthing and getting kidnapped and stuff while her dad just goes to lunch with lawyer friends and has Nancy run errands in other towns where she conveniently gets huge leads.

But despite Nancy being an ace amateur detective, she does make some stupid moves, like when she goes to the Topham's lake house without telling anyone where she's going, so if something were to go wrong, she has basically just totally screwed herself unless she gets incredibly lucky.  To her unending credit, though, she realizes this was stupid for herself when it turns out she might not be alone at the house.  I also LOL'd when Nancy and her father have to wait FOREVER at the trust company while they wait for a photocopy to be made.  That isn't really related to anything, but still.  It's so far removed from technology today that it was pretty funny.  And let me tell you right now that this clock that is mentioned in the spend pretty much half the book waiting for it to make an appearance.  So the title kind of takes away a bit of the mystery there, since you go into it thinking that probably this will they're all looking for is in an old clock someplace.

I don't really want to go into detail, since it's such an easy book to figure out, and such a quick read, but I really enjoyed diving back into Nancy Drew, and can't wait to read the rest of the series, especially the books I never got to read when I was younger (there are a lot of them, okay).



Grosset & Dunlap

Series Info:  What came before this book?  What's next?
Nancy Drew Mystery Stories
* The Secret of the Old Clock (Book 1)
- The Hidden Staircase (Book 2)
- The Bungalow Mystery (Book 3)

Film Adaptations:
Nancy Drew (1995)
Nancy Drew (2002)
Nancy Drew (2007)

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Better World Books


Click to see my progress on the challenges this book applied to!


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