The Secret of the Old Clock by Carolyn Keene (1930) This is the first of the Nancy Drew Mystery Stories, and it introduces the girl detective and her world as she attempts to find the missing will of a recently deceased man in order to help the rightful heirs. As with the Hardy Boys “author” F.W. Dixon, Carolyn Keene is a pseudonym, and 23 early Nancy Drew books were written by Mildred Wirt Benson. Also, as with the Hardy Boys, the early books went under a wholesale revision process, starting in the late 1950s, in order to update them for a new audience. I haven't read enough of the original text vs. revised text Nancy Drew books (as I have with the Hardy Boys) to have an opinion about which I prefer, though based on this one, I perceive the earlier incarnation of Nancy, like the Hardys, as bolder and more anti-authoritarian than her revised version. Adults, particularly the social climbing antagonists and small town police, are portrayed as buffoons. You hear about the offensive racial stereotypes in the older books, and until this one, I'd really encountered much besides the derision, somewhat, of the servant class, but there is an entire chapter here with a comically portrayed “negro” watchman who had been lulled away from his post by the criminals and alcohol. Nancy scolds the man, but then shows some compassion, too—though is clearly disapproving. Much of this story is fairly dull, with Nancy mulling over possibilities and the mystery mentally, but when there is action, as with Nancy's run-in with some hardened criminals, it puts her in real danger and is quite harrowing.
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