By the Light of the Study Lamp by Carolyn Keene

By the Light of the Study Lamp


Goodreads: By the Light of the Study Lamp
Series: Dana Girls #1
Source: Library
Published: 1934


Jean and Louise Dana receive an antique study lamp from their uncle Ned, as a gift for their return to Starhurst boarding school. But, soon after its arrival, the lamp is stolen! The two attempt to track it down, but it seems like more than one person is interested in the lamp. Could it be more valuable than they had supposed?

Star Divider


The Dana Girls was a serialized mystery series that began in 1934 in an attempt to replicate the success of the Nancy Drew books and the Hardy Boys. Written by some of the same ghostwriters who worked on those popular series, the Dana girls featured sisters who solved mysteries at their boarding school. However, the books never took off in the same way. Despite this, By the Light of the Study Lamp possesses many of the same charms as the Nancy Drew books: strong female leads, plenty of action and excitement, and a gripping mystery that can only be solved by our teenage heroines.

Jean and Louise Dana will appeal to fans of Nancy Drew, as they seem similar in many ways. Though orphaned, they are wealthy like Nancy, attending a fancy boarding school, and they are very popular with the teens in their town and the girls at their school. They also possess the charm that comes with being wealthy, beautiful, and young, making friends easily with strangers and earning the trust of everyone they know. While they have an ongoing feud with a mean girl at school, they are able to prank her back, and receive admiration for it, rather than being viewed as petty and mean themselves. Like Nancy, they get away with a lot that they probably should not, like borrowing a stranger’s car and sneaking out of school to solve their case.

The book, with its idealized view of white upper class young women, and its stereotyped depictions of just about everyone else, is undoubtedly a product of its time. However, if readers accept this, they will find that it has plenty of excitement to keep them engaged. Much like the Nancy Drew books, pretty much every chapter has some sort of crash or scream or nearly fatal accident to keep things interesting–even if the bloodcurdling scream ultimately turns out to be something funny rather than dangerous. But all this keeps the book fast-paced, meaning readers keep turning the pages.

The mystery, too, is engaging, even if readers will be able to predict its outcome. It is a relatively safe mystery, one suitable for children, that, again like Nancy Drew, ultimately ends up being two mysteries in one–two separate cases that end up being connected and resolved together. This time, the mysteries involve an antique study lamp gifted to the Dana girls, and the loss of a fellow student’s inheritance, which threatens her ability to keep attending boarding school. Could the inheritance be connected to the study lamp? If you read serialized mysteries at all, you already know the answer.

By the Light of the Study Lamp is a delightful period mystery sure to appeal to fans of Nancy Drew. It has similar protagonists, as well as a similar structure and writing style. Often, finding readalikes can be difficult. But, since both series are a product of the same publisher and some of the same team, the Dana Girls mysteries really are as close to a new Nancy Drew experience as one can get probably get.

4 stars

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