Sunday, August 17, 2014

Book Review: The Secret of the Old Clock by Carolyn Keene (Nancy Drew #1)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Good story
Cons: Lacking supporting characters, Nancy a bit too sweet at the beginning
The Bottom Line:
Nancy’s mystery
Solving career begins here
Still entertaining

The Start of Nancy’s Career

Since I reread the first Hardy Boys book a couple weeks ago, I decided it was time to revisit The Secret of the Old Clock, Nancy Drew’s first adventure.  Again, I had no real recollection of the book, but I know I had read it.  I was pleasantly surprised at how well it held up.

Nancy Drew is driving home from delivering some papers for her father, attorney Carson Drew, when she witnesses a little girl almost get hit by a car.  When she stops to make sure the girl is okay, she meets the girl’s two great-aunts, who tell her about an inheritance they thought they were going to get to help raise their grandniece.  However, their benefactor left all of his money to the Tophams, a family that Nancy unfortunately knows well since she went to school with the two daughters.

However, Nancy wonders if their might have been a more recent will.  As she meets other supposed heirs, her desire to find the truth intensifies.  Can she track down the will?  Does a later one even exist?

Like the first Hardy Boys book, this one certainly had dated elements, mostly Nancy’s choice of clothes.   Yes, even this guy knew enough to know that a teenage girl today wouldn’t wear a dress every day.  There’s also the fact that the characters act like the $100K inheritance would set them up for life when divided out among the heirs.  Finally, there are a few dated terms.  Still, I think most kids today would get into the adventure and enjoy it.

The biggest surprise to me was the lack of supporting characters.  This book is pretty much Nancy all the time.  Bess and George are nowhere to be seen.  I remembered that boyfriend Ned Nickerson didn’t show up for a few books, but I thought Nancy’s two best friends were around from the beginning.  There’s no boyfriend mentioned at all, and one friend does appear for a few chapters, but that’s all.  Instead, this book is all Nancy with a little bit from Carson and their housekeeper Hannah Gruen.

Not that this is a bad thing.  I did get annoyed with Nancy constantly thinking or talking to herself, but since she had no one else, it made sense.  And she is a very strong character who definitely drives the plot forward.  In fact, she solves the case herself with her dad only stepping in on the legal matters.  In that regard, she fairs better than Frank and Joe do in their first case.  She can come across as a bit too sweet, especially in the first few chapters, but by the end I really liked her.

The story does stall out once or twice, most noticeably for me in a chapter set at a department store.  Still, every scene does advance the plot by showing us character or presenting a setback.  There is quite an exciting sub-plot involving thieves that does tie in to the main story.

I will admit I found the writing simpler than I remembered, but then again I was a kid the last time I read the book.  I breezed through it in a couple of hours, and I’m sure that kids will only stumble over a few dated terms as they race to find the solution.

The fact that Nancy Drew’s adventures (in several incarnations) are still in print is a testament to the staying power of the character.  If you have a middle grade reader, don’t hesitate to introduce them to The Secret of the Old Clock.

This review is part of this week's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday.

No comments:

Post a Comment