This review is for the OT (Original Text) Nancy Drew, copyright 1937, and the 1970 RT (Revised Text). This is the first time I’ve read the original version of The Whispering Statue, and the story is completely different from the RT (Revised Text).
As with most Nancy Drew books, Nancy and her chums meet a series of people, this time across the country, who are all connected to the main mystery she stumbles upon at the beginning. And as usual, there are several different subplots.
OT The Whispering Statue introduces Togo, Nancy Drew’s sometimes dog. I say sometimes because he doesn’t appear in all the books. Really, someone like Nancy, who travels all over the place to solve mysteries, should not own a pet to be left in the care of others so much. And I remember Togo being much better behaved. In this introduction, Togo is mischievous and runs off with a Mrs. Owen’s purse. Nancy helps recover the purse and Mrs. Owens says Nancy looks just like a statue she had seen at Sea Cliff on the Atlantic coast some years before. Sea Cliff, you say? Why, at the beginning of the story, Nancy, her dad, and Bess and George are planning their trip to Sea Cliff themselves because of a case Carson Drew is working on. Coincidence? Of course, because this is a Nancy Drew novel.
On the train to Sea Cliff, Nancy briefly meets a woman named Miss Morse who, after having her coat tugged at by Togo, seems to be carrying a large sum of money with her. A shifty man named Joe Mitza is on the same train and sidles up to Miss Morse, showing great interest in her. Nancy thinks Mitza is going to defraud Miss Morse of her money.
Mr. Drew’s client’s name is Mr. Owens, who was defrauded by a former partner in business named Wormrath. Even thought the name Owens is pretty common, Nancy thinks Mr. Owen and Mrs. Owen could be related. This is a familiar trope of Nancy Drew novels.
After saving a young man from drowning in the ocean, the girls pal around with him. He knows where the Whispering Statue Nancy is looking for is located, and takes them there. The Old Estate, also called the Conger estate, has been closed for years following the death of the owner, who left his estate to his estranged daughter, who left when she was 18 and has not been seen again. Years of storms have deteriorated the estate, and it could topple into the sea at any time.
A stereotyped foreigner with broken English and a pet monkey has his eye on the statues and says he has permission to take them. Nancy and gang chase him off the estate.
Of course, in typical Nancy Drew book fashion, the Owens turn out to be long lost husband and wife, each thinking each other was dead. Mr. Owen nearly dies from the shock.
Nancy has been trying to warn Miss Morse about Joe Mitza and his attempts to defraud her. She’s hard to locate, and when Nancy finds her, she’s told to mind her own business. Miss Morse turns out to be Bernice Conger, the estranged daughter of the Old Estate owner, and Joe Mitza is her son.
And of course, Miss Morse/Bernice Conger is married to Wormrath.
After the big reveal on a stormy night at the Conger estate, Mitza leaves and Nancy and Bernice Conger are left in the house. And of course, because it has been eluded to repeatedly throughout the book, the estate soon tumbles into the sea with Nancy and Bernice Conger inside. Luckily, Bess and George had gotten sick of waiting for Nancy outside the estate and thought she was kidnapped, so they call Mr. Drew, who hurries to the Conger Estate in time to see it floating on the ocean. The coast guard is called and Nancy and Bernice are saved. The amazing thing is that Nancy, having earlier met an older man who said the original owner Conger promised him a model ship that took months to build, saves this item from the sinking house as she’s being rescued from the sea!
There’s just so much random stuff in the OT The Whispering Statue, but I like that all the plot holes in the book are fixed by the end, something Mildred Wirt Benson had trouble doing in earlier volumes. My favorite line in the book is “Bosh! I don’t believe in such tommyrot.” Truly an example of 1930’s children’s books writings at their best.
At the beginning of the RT The Whispering Statue, Mrs. Merriam arrives at the Drew home at the behest of Carson Drew to tell Nancy about a mystery she wants solved. She has suspicions about a Mr. Basswood, who is selling rare and collectible books for her. She claims Basswood has stopped paying her, saying the books just weren’t selling anymore.
Suddenly, both the front and back doorbells ring at the same time that the phone rings. Nancy answers the phone, and Hannah answers the back door, Carson Drew the front. Masked men force their way into the home. Carson Drew fights off his man, and with Hannah knocked to the ground by her assailant, here comes trusty George and her judo to attack that man. The men get away but the masks are left behind. Nancy’s caller had warned her that Mrs. Merriam needs to keep quiet about her concerns with the antique shop.
It is at this time that Nancy learns of another mystery in Waterford about a “whispering statue” that’s gone missing from the Yacht Club, which used to be an estate. The statue is said to be of the former owner’s Italian wife, who bears a striking resemblance to Nancy. And I have to laugh at the cover art of the marble statue, made years earlier, with the 1960’s “flip” hairdo that was so popular on Nancy Drew books of the time.
It is decided that Nancy will go to the town of Waterford in disguise, and Bess and George will travel with her, despite the fact that the villains know Nancy has two friends. And when “Debbie Lynbrook” arrives at the airport in Waterford, two men attempt to kidnap the three girls but they get away. When the girls register at the hotel, only Nancy puts down a different name, and all the girls stupidly put River Heights as their home town.
Somehow, even though Nancy, Bess and George had to fly to Waterford, Ned, Burt and George are able to drive down to the town on the weekend. The story sort of lost me during the times when the chums went sailing, because I know nothing about sailing or boating and had no idea what certain terms meant, like tacking and jib. And it seemed every time Nancy was in a boat, another boat attacked her and her companions, whether it was Bess and George, Ned, or the nice guy from the Yacht Club in charge of all the boats, Dick.
“Debbie” gets a job at the antique shop and seems to be a better seller than Basswood or his assistant. She picks up valuable clues while eavesdropping, and wonders why Basswood keeps her out of the office.
A statue is found, and it looks like Nancy, but it turns out to be a reproduction. The maker’s initials are on the base, which gives Nancy a good clue in tracking down the bad guys.
One day while at work, there’s an earthquake, or what everyone assumes is an earthquake, and paintings fall off the wall and statues fall over, a couple of them breaking, proving they aren’t real marble. What’s so amazing is that within a couple minutes of the quake, Nancy turns on the radio to hear the breaking news that the tremor was actually an underground gas main break and explosion. Years before social media, Nancy visits a town with instant news!
It’s really weird; Mr. Basswood does not trust “Debbie” but because she’s so good at selling stuff, he lets her have the key to the store. So naturally, the girls investigate the shop after hours. They’re picking their way through the storage room when a familiar man arrives, one of the men who attacked them previously. So in order to hide, the girls pose behind empty portrait frames, and I’m so glad the illustrators drew the scene, because it is so ridiculous, but they forgot to put Nancy in her wig. Of course, the plan doesn’t work but the girls get away from the bad guy, once again by George using her judo skills.
Ned visits again, this time without Burt and Dave, and he visits the antique shop and pretends to not know Nancy. Pre-arranged by Nancy, Ned asks for a couple of books that Mrs. Merriam gave Basswood that would net her $10 each if sold. Mr. Basswood’s commission would be $7. Ned is told that each book would be $28, proof that Basswood is a cheat.
As with all the Nancy Drew books, George has to fat-shame Bess every time she suggests getting something to eat. George was always a favorite of mine growing up because I had the same looks as her: short dark hair, athletic build, kind of clumsy, always seems to stick her foot in her mouth. But the relentless teasing of Bess’s weight really grates on me as an adult.
Nancy tracks down the bad guy who made the reproduction of the whispering statue, and who should turn up at his shop but Basswood. Of course they are in cahoots with each other! I wouldn’t expect any less from a Nancy Drew book. Through more sleuthing, the original statue is found about 20 miles from Waterford, and the owner is appalled that she should own stolen goods and has no problem giving it up.
As the clues pile up and Nancy and her chums gather more evidence, Nancy is actually kidnapped by being thrown into a statue mould. She realizes the mould has holes in it because she can breathe, although not easily, and realizes how the original statue could “whisper.” Luckily, Ned and the girls’ new pal Dick figured Nancy could use backup and after discovering Nancy is missing, they know just what vehicle to look for and where to find her.
The RT of The Whispering Statue was good, but not great. Having Nancy in disguise made for an interesting plot twist, but I thought the original was better.
For more information about my favorite sleuth, check out Jenn Fisher’s Unofficial Nancy Drew website, which has a wealth of information.
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