Sunday, June 3, 2018

Book Review: The Mystery at Lilac Inn by Carolyn Keene (Nancy Drew #4)

Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Page turning mystery…
Cons: …That is a little overly convoluted
The Bottom Line:
Nancy helps a friend
Overly convoluted
Kids will still enjoy

Helping a Friend in Need

While I read many Nancy Drew books when I was a kid (and before I discovered Trixie Belden), I’m confident I never read The Mystery at Lilac Inn.  How do I know this?  I just read it and none of it seemed at all familiar.  As a result, I don’t have nostalgia to draw from when looking at it.

This book finds Nancy and her friend Helen (in Helen’s last appearance in the series), traveling up river just a bit to visit their friend Emily.  They are both going to be bridesmaids in Emily’s wedding, and this trip will give them a chance to plan the wedding as well as see the inn that Emily and her fiancé have just purchased.

Even before they arrive, strange things start to happen.  Their canoe is capsized mid river, but they have no idea why.  When they arrive at the inn, they learn that some strange things have been happening there.  Oh, and someone is impersonating Nancy Drew back in River Heights.  Can Nancy figure out what is going on?

Since I had never read this book before, I got caught up in the mystery.  There is a lot happening here.  In fact, there is almost too much happening.  Even when I give the series latitude for coincidence, I still find this one a little hard to swallow.  And you know it’s bad when it takes the villain monologuing at the end for the better part of a chapter to explain everything.  Still, things do come to a satisfactory conclusion; this is a Nancy Drew book after all.  And I found myself turning pages as quickly as I could to figure out just what the heck was going on.

We still haven’t met Nancy’s usual friends Bess and George.  As a result, Nancy seems to spend a great deal of the book sleuthing on her own.  Or maybe Bess and George aren’t as involved as I remember them being either.  Either way, Nancy is pretty much the star here.  The characters, even Nancy, are on the shallow side, but we still care enough to become invested in the story.

One thing I roll my eyes at in this series (and the Hardy Boys) is when the characters have a new skill they need for this book.  In this case, Nancy has just aced a skin diving class, and it turns out to be a very good thing.

Like the others, there are elements in the story that are dated.  The only one that mightreally  trip up today’s kids is Nancy’s missing charge plate.  That one even threw me.

While The Mystery at Lilac Inn has a few problems, it is still a fun read that will keep sleuths of all ages engrossed in the story.


  1. This was one of my favorites though I do agree about the overly convoluted part. Turner Classic Movies just played a bunch of the Nancy Drew movies from the 1930s and Nancy Drew, Detective is based on this story which made me very happy!

    1. I have never seen any of the movies from the 1930's, but I've always been curious to. Interesting that they used this book as a basis for one of the films.

  2. I can't remember the story but do remember this was one I owned and enjoyed (over and over, as I did all the ND stories.) I haven't read any since my childhood; I ought to see if I still enjoy them. Maybe after I (re)read the Judy Bolton series...

    1. I bought several of the Judy Bolton books years ago, but I never got around to reading them. Way too many books so little time, right?

    2. What I really liked about the Judy Bolton books was that the characters aged normally, instead of staying perpetually the same age as in many of the other MG/YA mystery series of the period. Judy graduates from high school, Peter becomes a lawyer and then an FBI agent (or possibly the other way 'round; I don't remember for sure); various characters get married as the series progresses, including Judy and Peter, eventually. It made the characters more believable and realistic, even when the mysteries were a little far-fetched.

  3. Always learned something new when I read one of these books. In this case, I found out lilacs are also called blue bells.

    Helen and her husband show up much later in the series. I believe the book was The Invisible Intruder when the whole gang solves several mysteries.

    1. Really? I have never read Invisible Intruder, but now I really want to to see Helen again and meet her husband. We have yet to do so. She's not Bess and George, but I really did like her.

  4. where to buy the spanish argentina 1965 version?