Sunday, October 18, 2015

Book Review: The Hidden Staircase by Carolyn Keene (Nancy Drew #2)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Interesting story and good characters
Cons: A few weaknesses, but still enjoyable
The Bottom Line:
Haunting in mansion
Can Nancy figure out how?
Still fun mystery

How Is the Ghost Haunting the Mansion?

I first read The Hidden Staircase, the second Nancy Drew book, on Christmas Eve.  I can remember getting caught up in the story and the hours flying by, which was a good thing since I didn’t know if I could wait until Christmas Morning to open presents and needed the distraction.  I didn’t remember much about the plot before sitting down to reread it, but I found it just as diverting the second time around.

Nancy Drew is thrilled when her friend Helen Corning calls offering her a new mystery to solve.  It seems that the house her great aunt and great grandmother live in has suddenly become haunted.  They are hearing strange sounds and things are moving across the room when their backs are turned.  Helen wants Nancy to help her figure out what is happening, and Nancy is only too happy to go.

Only before she can even leave, Nancy gets a visitor who claims that her father, lawyer Carson Drew, is in danger.  Suddenly, Nancy is torn, but Carson insists he is quite safe and Nancy should go help her friend.  Is Carson safe?  Can Nancy figure out who is haunting the house, and why?

The title of the book might be considered a spoiler, but Nancy is very quick to conclude that there must be a hidden passage way of some kind in the house, and she spends much of the book trying to locate it.  While she is doing that, we get some more spooky incidents.  They are very mild by haunted house story standards, but they are still fun.  Meanwhile, the sub-plot with Carson heats up and causes some issues as well.  Everything comes together for a good climax.  It’s a little anti-climactic in some ways, but it does resolve everything.

Those most familiar with the series will be surprised to learn that Nancy’s usual sidekicks aren’t around yet.  Nancy does go on a brief date near the beginning of the book, but we never even meet the guy.  Instead of Bess and George helping her solve the mystery, Helen is a quite capable assistant.

I was surprised to find the characters stronger than I remembered in this book.  Oh, they aren’t the fully fleshed out characters in the majority of the novels I read, but they are decent for a middle grade novel.  They certainly made me care about the outcome of the case.

Likewise, the writing was smoother than what I remembered from the first in the series.  Yes, there is lots of telling and summarizing action, but it got the job done and kept me engaged in the story.  In fact, it was only when I was skimming a page at random that I really noticed some of the issues with the writing.

It’s easy to sit here and nitpick the flaws, but on the whole, I found rereading The Hidden Staircase to be a fun experience.  There is a reason that Nancy Drew has been such a popular character for so many years, and you’ll find it here.

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


  1. I have very fond memories of Nancy Drew, but I haven't tried rereading them as an adult. It's nice to hear that they stand up to rereading!

    1. They aren't quite as good as I remember them, but they are still quite enjoyable.


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