Nancy Drew Mystery books first premiered in 1930 and were full of period charm, as well as full of stereotypes and guns and unreliable police officers. In the 1960’s and 1970’s, the first 34 volumes of Nancy Drew books were updated with revisions or completely rewritten. This is a review of both editions of The Sign of the Twisted Candles.
I’m not sure why it took me a while to get through this particular volume of Original Text Nancy Drew because overall, I thought The Sign of the Twisted Candles was good. Once again, Nancy and her friends Bess and George are caught in a rain storm on a dirt road, so they stop at a dilapidated inn called The Sign of the Twisted Candles. You know right away that the baddies are the keepers of the house, the Semitts, and Sadie, their foster child, has been wronged her whole life. Then there’s old Asa Sidney, the 100-year old man living in a tower on the third floor, a very rich recluse who actually owns the place and hired Sadie’s wards to run the place.
There’s a lot of quaint 1930’s dialogue in here, including one of my favorite passages: “Isn’t it wonderful to think of the history Mr. Sidney has lived through?” Nancy mused. “He can remember when there were slaves. He has seen the kerosene lamp replace the candle, the gas light take place of oil lamps. And now electric lights are found even in isolated farmhouses.” I’m not sure how a youth of today could wrap their head around the fact that many rural places during Nancy’s time were still without electricity.
Mr. Drew helps out quite a bit in this volume, as he helps Asa Sidney write up a new will and is named the executor. The banker, Mr. Hill, declares that Nancy is so smart she should come work at the bank, and she’d be an officer within two years.
Because of the will of Asa Sidney, Bess and George turn their back on Nancy for most of the book, as their mothers are related to Sidney and think they deserve more of an inheritance than they got. But by the end of the book, the young ladies have come to their senses and are once again Nancy’s best friends.
Nancy gets knocked out with something that must have been chloroform and tied up, and Sadie is kidnapped. Will Nancy find her in time? Of course she does, because she’s Nancy Drew.
The Revised Text (RT) of The Sign of the Twisted Candles is the same story as the Original Text (OT), some parts just revised, other parts completely rewritten. Sadie becomes Carol (although later it is revealed her original name is Sadie), the Semitts are now the Jemitts, and Bess and George know Asa Sidney is a distant relative at the start of the story, as opposed to finding out later. Ned also makes an appearance instead of a cameo in the OT.
I know I’m in the minority here, but I usually like the RT’s better than the OT’s. The story is better crafted, with no loose ends at the conclusion of the story. Sure, the writing is tighter and there’s more action because there are 30 less pages, but that keeps the story moving along. There’s more sleuthing involved, rather than just stumbling along and finding clues. The other thing I liked about the RT is that the crooks are actually caught being crooked, more than once in this book, instead of just being suspected of wrong doing. There’s no question who the bad guys are in this version of the book.
In both versions, Carson Drew is not merely a shadow figure in the stories, he’s there to conduct business at several junctures which was nice to see. Too often in books he’s called away to another state, leaving Nancy on her own with only Hannah around to worry about her.
So far, this is my favorite Nancy Drew volume as I re-read my childhood favorites.
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