Monday, March 24, 2014

Review: The Secret of the Old Clock by Carolyn Keene

The Secret of the Old Clock (Nancy Drew Mystery Stories #1)
By: Carolyn Keene
Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap
ISBN: 978-0-448-47969-9


When I stumbled upon the news that Grosset & Dunlap was re-issuing the first four Nancy Drew novels with absolutely gorgeous new artwork, deliciously evocative of the teenage sleuth's 1930s origins, I couldn't resist the temptation to revisit this childhood favorite to see if her charm has stood the test of time. And happily, she does. From the opening chapter, which finds Nancy driving her beloved blue convertible (I seriously mourn the transformation of roadster to convertible, though I suppose that update was inevitable), saving a child's life, and hearing the first rumors of the fabulously wealthy Josiah Crowley's lost will, I was once again hooked and within these pages transported to River Heights and the side of a friendly, unassuming girl with a knack for crime-solving and a passion for justice.

Growing up, I remember Nancy Drew being one of the first heroines I desperately wanted to be -- not only was her life one never-ending series of adventures, but she was pretty, capable, and above all wickedly smart. And her dreamy boyfriend Ned didn't hurt, either. *wink* However, within the pages of The Secret of the Old Clock we've yet to meet Ned, or Nancy's stalwart chums Bess and George. This novel sets the tone of Nancy's adventures by introducing her charmed life as the beloved daughter of lawyer Carson Drew, who always managed to balance his parental concern for Nancy's safety with a remarkable latitude and encouragement for her unorthodox passion and independent streak, and beloved housekeeper Hannah, who I always rather imagined to be the female version of Alfred from the Batman mythology. :)

While these books may be formulaic, I can't really complain as The Secret of the Old Clock is arguably something of a gold standard for this type of fiction. Nancy is smart, capable, and passionate about helping those less fortunate than herself, all admirable traits that have helped this perpetually youthful sleuth endure for over eight decades. With crisp, clear prose, a nicely-plotted mystery, and loads of atmosphere, Nancy's first mystery is every bit the charming page-turner now as when I first discovered it over twenty (gulp!) years ago. However, with the benefit of adulthood and the knowledge the internet has provided about the series, I think I perhaps appreciate the longevity of these stories even more. When I was a kid, before I learned that Carolyn Keene was a pseudonym, I thought she was a GENIUS -- now, I appreciate what it took to craft and perfect this winning formula even more. Long live Nancy!

About the book:

A special treat for Nancy Drew fans, and any reader who's new to the series! We're releasing a stunning new edition of an old favorite: The Secret of the Old Clock, the first book in the incredibly popular, long-running series. It's the same exciting mystery that readers have fallen in love with for more than 80 years—Nancy Drew has to help Mr. Crowly's friends find his missing will, before the evil Topham family steals his full inheritance. Now with a brand-new look, this is an edition that collectors won't want to miss!


And now, a brief history of The Secret of the Old Clock covers! Because HELLO, they are ALL AWESOME.


Patti said...

Oh, how exciting! I have been a Nancy Drew gal for over 40 years! I own nearly all the books in the series (I have since passed them on to my daughter, who has them boxed up and hopes to pass them on to a daughter of her own one day).

The bottom cover is the one I own, but I have to say, the top one is my absolute fave. I love the 30's fashions.

Kristin said...

I own the first two Nancy Drew books, but I've yet to read them or any from the series! I really need to change that. :)

My copy is the middle one at the bottom, but the new one at the top sure is gorgeous.

Unknown said...

@Patti - That is SO cool! Between the copies I accumulated as a kid and my mom's, we probably have about 15-20 of the original 56 stories. I think the 30s and 50s covers are my favorite, though those yellow hardbacks have become iconic too. And I love how this new release hearkens back to the 30s styles with fresh colors and design!

@Kristin - OMG! Read girl, READ!! :) Love that you're collecting some of those vintage editions too. :)

Kaye Dacus said...

Gorgeous new cover!

The version I had was the yellow hard cover---the image at the bottom of the post. I had forty or more ND books growing up. Probably never should have gotten rid of them.

Unknown said...

@Kaye - Oh cool! That yellow hardback is one of the first books I remember owning. I just adored that thing. :)

Traxy said...

Here's another Nancy Drew fan! I started reading them when I was about 10 or so, as we had a whole box in the loft that my sisters had been given some years earlier, and then I was given some more. I still remember playing Nancy, Bess and George. (I was usually Bess, seeing as how I was the chubby one.) We even had a period where we tried writing our own stories. Good times!

In Swedish, though, Nancy was for some reason given the name Kitty. All the other names seem to be intact, so I don't know what that one was changed. When the 100th book came out (it harks back to the same clock as in the very first book), a friend and I each won a copy from the local bookstore. :)

Here's the cover I remember: :)

JaneGS said...

I was a huge fan of Nancy too! Love the covers and now I'm nostalgic enough to want to reread some of my favorites. My daughters never really warmed to Nancy the way I did--could be they had so many other book choices.