Reading Through Nancy Drew (Books 31-40)

Reading Through Nancy Drew Books 31 to 40

I have loved Nancy Drew for years, but will rereading the original 56 yellow spine books* hold up to my memories? Join me as I find out! Read part one here, read part two here, and read part three here.

*I’m rereading the revised editions for this series, because they are more accessible and what most contemporary readers are familiar with, but you can check out my comparison reviews for The Secret of Shadow Ranch and The Mystery of the Ivory Charm if you are interested in reviews for the unrevised versions.

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Book 31: The Ringmaster’s Secret

The Ringmaster's Secret

Nancy receives a bracelet, once the possession of a famous aerialist, from her Aunt Eloise, leading her to go undercover in a traveling circus. There, she finds Lolita, the adopted daughter of the ringmaster–but Lolita’s mother, the previous owner of the bracelet, is rumored to still be alive. Although Nancy has solved a circus mystery before, she gets more involved in this one, actually joining as a trick rider. The plot is fast paced and exciting, and stood out to me mainly for its increased violence–Nancy is strangled with a whip, a man is beaten and left for dead, and Nancy narrowly avoids an acid attack. The solution to the mystery is obvious, but at least the book provides plenty of thrills along the way.

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Book 32: The Scarlet Slipper Mystery

The Scarlet Slipper Mystery

Well, I have never not understood a Nancy Drew book–but I certainly did not understand this one. Nancy meets a brother and sister who are running (they think) from the enemies of the Centrovian underground, of which their parents were a part. Their case is mixed up with that of another Centrovian man, who seems to suspect the Fontaines of being smugglers, as well as with the case of a group of actual jewel smugglers. Some of the bad guys may or may not be associated with Centrovia, or maybe they just see a chance to make money from the Centrovian occupiers, and a few of them may have been double crossing both sides. I don’t actually know. I was lost. Too many characters and too many crimes.

Ned Note: Ned pretends Nancy is his wife in order to trick a bad guy–and Nancy gets mad! Apparently there actually are limits to the lies one can tell in order to solve a case–and Ned just crossed one.

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Book 33: The Witch Tree Symbol

The Witch Tree Symbol

A stolen furniture case leads Nancy to Pennsylvania Amish country, where she is convinced an ex-convict is posing as Amish to hide his loot. Since Nancy knows the culprit from the start, there is not much mystery here, just a convoluted path to her locating the man before he can sell the furniture and get away. The book seems primarily interested in talking about Amish culture in a sort of superficial way–Nancy attends a dance and a quilting party, witnesses a barn raising, and eats an incredible amount of food. Mostly I was curious as to how a new Amish man could show up in town, and have no one know where he lives–not even a general direction. No one finds it odd that he does not attend any church services or go to market or speak to any of his neighbors? No, they are too busy being convinced that Nancy is a witch for…some reason. The story is not great, but the book could be part of an interesting scholarly project on Americans’ fascination with the Amish, and their depictions in literature.

Ned Note: Poor Ned. This is the third time that he’s indirectly suggested marriage to Nancy and had her pretend not to understand.

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Book 34: The Hidden Window

The Hidden Window Mystery

Wow! Where do I even start? This is one of the few volumes I do not remember reading as a child, and…there’s a lot. Nancy heads to Charlottesville, Virginia, in an attempt to find a missing stained glass window for an English nobleman. Her case gets tangled up with her new neighbor–a nasty woman who first accuses the postman and then Nancy of stealing made-up mail–as well as with the mystery of why a new homeowner who will not let people view his grounds during Garden Week (because this is a super pressing issue, obviously) and with the mystery of a semi-hysterical actress who believes her new house is haunted. While, we’re at it, someone steals the girls’ lingerie because one can never have too many crimes in a mystery novel, apparently. Nancy does a lot of sightseeing so readers can feel like they learned something about the Founding Fathers. The slave quarters on the place where Nancy is staying are treated as a historical curiosity. Shrieking peacocks terrorize the neighborhood. I’m not entirely sure what I just read, but it was a whirlwind.

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Book 35: The Haunted Showboat

The Haunted Showboat

It’s starting to feel a lot like ghostwriter Harriet Stratemeyer Adams really loved the Old South. This book has a somewhat uninteresting mystery featuring a showboat that Bess’s cousin wants to have towed up the bayou so it can be restored and the theatre used to put on a production for his daughter’s engagement announcement. However, the showboat is allegedly haunted and no one will go near it. Most of the action is incidental to this, though. And the racist stereotypes are so terrible it’s amazing that I’ve seen so few reviewers mention them.

Ned Note: Ned flies down on a whim to celebrate Mardi Gras with Nancy. Why not? I guess his family has endless cash, too.

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Book 36: The Secret of the Golden Pavilion

The Secret of the Golden Pavilion

Nancy Drew capitalizes on Hawaii’s admission as a state to the U.S. by setting the girl sleuth’s latest case there. The author loses no time in having Nancy tell Hannah (and, apparently, the readers) that she ought to take this opportunity to learn more about the newest state. Numerous descriptions are given of food, dance, costume, and folklore. Nancy travels around a few of the islands, visiting volcanoes, skin diving, and learning about the local wildlife. Also, there’s a mystery buried somewhere in the middle of this travel book. It’s not a very interesting one.

Ned Note: Because it has students from Emerson on it, Ned’s plane makes the news for experiencing some difficultly while conveniently on its way to Hawaii, where Nancy’s latest case is set. No one explains why what appears to be some easily fixed mechanical trouble gets picked up by the news and reported on relentlessly. Is Ned really that great at football? Is he national news? I’m so confused.

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Book 37: The Clue in the Old Stagecoach

The Clue in the Old Stagecoach

This is another one of those mysteries where Nancy knows the villains from the start, but spends most of her time attempting to follow them around and catch them in the act. Also, she’s on vacation with Bess and George, so they play an awful lot of tennis, and end up by auditioning for a water ballet (as one does while on vacation). The mystery is so weak that the writer desperately tries to keep reader interest with increasingly unbelievable scenarios, like having a loose circus bear threaten to attack Nancy and her friends while they are driving to a farm. The rest of the page length is created by dropping a lot of knowledge about old-timey stage coaches, evidently to educate the reader. This is decidedly not one of the strongest installments in the series.

Ned Note: Nancy dates another boy, Rick, while on vacation. Rick conveniently leaves before Ned arrives. No one tells Ned about Rick.

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Book 38: The Mystery of the Fire Dragon

The Mystery of the Fire Dragon

I don’t even know what to think about this book. Nancy’s Aunt Eloise calls her to New York City to solve the disappearance of her Chinese neighbor, Chi Che Soong. Nancy mentions that she always carries her birth certificate around because it’s good to be prepared. George dresses up as Chi Che in an effort to find her kidnappers. The group all travels to Hong Kong in the end, where Ned Nickerson conveniently happens to be attending college. Lots of firecrackers go off. And, as usual, Nancy and George keep teasing Bess for eating too much–even though Bess only ever seems to eat exactly what Nancy and George are also eating! (Sometimes she has a second piece of dessert, but who wouldn’t?) Did anything in this book make sense? Not really.

Ned Note: Is this the first time ever Ned has travelled somewhere without Burt and Dave?!

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Book 39: The Clue of the Dancing Puppet

The Clue of the Dancing Puppet

This is classic Nancy Drew! Nancy arrives at an old estate turned theatre to uncover the mystery of a dancing puppet that appears at night on the lawn. Along the way, she encounters an overly dramatic leading actress, a Shakespeare enthusiast who will not stop quoting the Bard, and an array of dastardly villains. She gets to explore dusty attics, search for secret passageways, and break out her magnifying glass–all while trying to save the production from disaster. This book is high point among these later installments–aside from the constant insistence that Bess can only appear in the play if she loses weight. I’m starting to think that maybe some of the earlier revised books may have taken out a lot of the fat shaming, since it seems to be increasing in the later books.

Ned Note: Ned takes a last minute flight to watch Nancy perform in a play. He flies back again, with Dave and Burt, on the same day. I often wonder how much his summer camp counselor job pays.

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Book 40: The Moonstone Castle Mystery

The Moonstone Castle Mystery

Nancy receives a moonstone in the mail from an unnamed individual–right before traveling to stay at a location that used to be known as Moonstone Valley! She starts work on a missing persons case, but soon finds herself entangled in the mystery of an abandoned castle, that just might be the meeting place for a gang of crooks. A creepy castle, a swim across a moat, another stolen car, and yet another boat crash make this one feel like classic Nancy Drew.

10 thoughts on “Reading Through Nancy Drew (Books 31-40)

  1. Hannah says:

    Wow! Nice job Krysta! Reading all the way up to book 40 sounds like a large job… great reviews 😀

    Also, here is a link to a daily word game I think you and Brianna would like! If you’ve heard of the viral game Wordle, this is a spinoff of that game themed on Lord of the Rings!
    https://digitaltolkien.github.io/vue-wordle/

    Like

  2. kamifurr says:

    Wow! Once upon a time, I attempted to read all the Nancy Drew books, but I only made it to about 7 before I quit. I kinda want to tackle it again after I finish reading all the Newbery books.

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      They’re kind of a nice comfort read because they’re so formulaic and Nancy escapes every danger within fives pages or so. XD

      I haven’t tried to read all the Newbery books, so you’re ahead of me there!

      Like

  3. Bargain Sleuth Book Reviews says:

    I began re-reading my Nancy’s when the pandemic began. I read the Original Text, then the Revised Text, plus the new series, the Diaries, and blogged about each one. I got really burned out and stopped for about six months and just picked up The Ringmaster’s Secret the other day to get back on the horse, so to speak. I’m reading the OTs because I had never read them before. I am not, however, re-reading the RTs because I don’t want to get burned out again and intend to read all 175 of the original Mysteries series. Can’t wait for your next Nancy Drew post!

    Liked by 1 person

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