I’m chugging along reading both the Original Text and Revised Text of the Nancy Drew Mystery stories. This week’s book, The Clue in the Crumbling Wall (Amazon) (AbeBooks), was first written in 1945, and was revised in 1973. There were no major re-writes for this story, as there were for several of the early volumes.
“A sprawling estate was willed to a dancer who has vanished several years earlier. During their investigation at Heath Castle, Nancy, Bess and George realize that its crumbling walls contain a secret, but what is it? They search for clues in the neglected gardens of the vast estate, hoping to find a lead to the missing woman. Danger lurks in a castle tower and throughout the vine-tangled grounds as Nancy exposes a sinister plot to defraud the dancer of her inheritance.”
The Clue in the Crumbling Wall is dated, no matter what version you read. I mean, who ever heard of a door-to-door clam salesman? Maybe there still are some in small coastal towns, but I doubt it. And in the OT, a big deal is made out of finding a pearl and how valuable it could be. Freshwater pearls have never been that valuable, otherwise my very poor grandmother never would have had several strings of them. In the RT, it’s mentioned that the pearls aren’t worth that much.
The mystery, surrounding a missing dancer (she left on vacation to parts unknown and never returned) and a man who bequeathed his estate to a woman who had already been missing for five years at the time of his death (the will was made after her disappearance, which is another oddity: why would you leave property to someone who disappeared?) leads Nancy and her chums to Heath Castle, which is very much run down in the past five years since Walter Heath’s death. The vegetation is overgrown and the walls are falling apart. But as Nancy, Bess and George discover, the walls aren’t succumbing to normal wear and tear, suspicious men are chipping away at the walls, searching for something.
The missing woman’s inheritance is being mismanaged by a shady lawyer who is the executor of the estate. There’s also a mystery of a missing dye process that Walter Heath was working on but no one knew if he ever perfected it. Oh, and Nancy has to find the missing woman in three weeks, or the estate will be turned into a park (OT) or sold and monies given to charities (RT). It’s not a mystery why the missing dancer hadn’t been looked for before as her younger sister is very poor and can not afford a detectives. Good thing Nancy works for free! Besides, the estate lawyer kept telling the sister that he hired people to look for the missing woman, but the sister suspects that’s not true.
It wouldn’t be a Nancy Drew book unless she was knocked out, which happens when there’s an explosion in Heath’s old button-making factory. Bess is also knocked out when the girls’ rented boat is rammed by another boat. In the RT, there’s an attempted kidnapping, and Hannah is bound and gagged.
In both versions, there’s a female police officer, which I was happy to see. The description of her in the OT, however, was laughable. “Lieutenant Masters was a charming woman; not the least masculine despite her businesslike manner.” So, apparently, if you’re a female police officer in the 1940’s, generally speaking you’re on the more masculine side according to the author. Lt. Masters plays a role in Nancy’s mysteries and I for one was happy to see another smart female portrayed. It was only a few books prior that the police were portrayed in a positive light; before that they were seen as useless and bumbling, and refused to believe Nancy or take her seriously.
The ladies try exploring the Heath estate several times. Guard dogs have been put at the estate, and while Nancy and George charm the beasts, they raise a racket when a very scared Bess tries to approach, so she decides to stay in the car. In something that could only happen to George, while exploring the grounds, she slips and falls into something like a man-made pond. There’s an old tool shed nearby so Nancy suggests George strip down and Nancy will dry her clothes by laying them on rocks in the sun. Then Nancy decides to do some exploring and leaves George in the shed.
Nancy ends up getting locked into one of the towers by the bad guys. Bess is left fuming and George sees a kid run off with her clothes. In the OT, Bess eventually rescues George with a raincoat; George’s shoes were luckily left behind. In the RT, Bess finds George’s pants and gives her the sweater she was wearing because she has a blouse underneath. Nancy is able to sneak out of the tower when a man enters and leaves the door open.
Meanwhile, Nancy drives to nearby towns with her father in search of the elusive missing woman. They pick up some clues and drive to another nearby town where Nancy hits a dead end. But not long later, Carson Drew finds a lead and the next thing you know, Nancy and her dad are heading to another town about 1/2 an hour away to find the missing woman. Except she’s not there. Her employees say a government man took her away for not paying taxes. Nancy and her dad just know that can’t possibly be true: the missing woman has been kidnapped!
While this is happening, a woman who looks enough like the missing dancer appears, courtesy the shady executor of the estate. She’s a married South American woman with dark hair and large feet. This is an important clue, because the missing dancer had tiny feet. In the OT, the sister doesn’t really confirm or deny that the woman is an imposter until after Nancy and she leave the woman. In the RT, she outright comes out and says “You’re not my sister!”
The ending of the book changes a little between the OT and the RT, with Nancy and various helpers getting locked up in the cellar of the castle with the missing woman, whom they had just found. Luckily, the police had been informed where they were going and are able to rescue everyone. The crooked lawyer and his henchman are arrested, and the missing woman is reunited with her sister.
As Nancy learned through her investigations, the dancer was hit by a car on her way to her vacation and was left disabled. In the OT, she’s in a wheelchair, but in the RT, she’s just described as “lame.” She didn’t want anyone to see her and pity her, so she took some money and bought a produce farm in the OT, and in the RT, she buys a flower gardening shop. The crooked lawyer stole pretty much all the assets of the estate, but Nancy’s discoveries lead to the reopening of the factory behind the castle. In both versions, the former dancer, her sister and her daughter plan to live on the estate and welcome handicapped children to enjoy the grounds. In the RT, a year passes before Nancy and the gang return to see all the work done on the estate.
The Clue in the Crumbling Wall was just the right amount of mystery and sleuthing for me. Both versions were good. The names were changed for several characters between the OT and the RT, but the story, for the most part, remains the same. Just the ending is changed up a little, and I think I preferred the RT’s ending a little better because it made more sense.
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