The Clue of the Leaning Chimney (Nancy Drew Mystery Stories #26) by Carolyn Keene

My Nancy Drew fatigue continues, although the reading of this week’s book didn’t take long at all. To save my sanity, I decided that I am only going to read the Original Text (OT) and skip over the Revised Texts (RT) until I get to a volume where the story is completely different. I read the RTs repeatedly growing up, and about 5 years ago I read the first 70 of the books again, so reading them again just seems like such a chore after reading the OTs. I’ve never read the OTs before, so to me, that’s the more important version to read right now.

“A rare and valuable Chinese vase is stolen from a pottery shop which leads Nancy, Bess, and George on the trail of thieves. Along the way they search for a leaning chimney and missing pottery experts.”

In The Clue of the Leaning Chimney (OT) (Amazon) (Abebooks) Bess’s cousin Dick Milton, who runs a pottery shop, has a borrowed valuable Chinese vase to display in the shop’s window. Nancy, of course, has literally run into a man crossing the road at night during a storm. When she gets out to help him, she notices a package he has and it’s ripped open slightly. It turns out that what’s in that package is that same vase Bess was telling Nancy about. Cousin Dick of course asks Nancy to help find the missing vase, as well as a kaolin clay pit that is reportedly in the area. It’s reportedly the best type of clay to make pottery. In order to find it, Nancy needs to find a leaning chimney. And we’re off on another mystery.

There appears to be a number of similar thefts of Chinese pottery that may or may not be connected (of course they are! This is a Nancy Drew book, after all). There’s also the mysterious disappearance of a Chinese pottery expert and his daughter that Nancy has been tasked to find.

Considering the OTs usually have issues with racial insensitivity, the utmost respect of the Chinese culture is given by Nancy and her friends, with some lessons on written characters and ceramics. That doesn’t mean there aren’t some cringe-worthy moments, like on page 163 when Nancy is interviewing a post office clerk:

“The clerk shook his head decisively. ‘The man I talked to,’ he said, ‘was Chinese.’

‘Chinese!’ she exclaimed. ‘Are you sure?’

‘Sure I’m sure!’ the clerk retorted. ‘I guess I can tell a Chinese when I see one!’

‘What did he look like?’ Nancy persisted.

The clerk stared at her helplessly. ‘Why, uh–like a Chinaman!’ he replied.”

I did double check and this passage is still in the RT, which was updated in 1967.

Something I also noticed in this book is that unlike the Nancy Drew Diaries, where Nancy seems to be constantly full of self-doubt and fearful, “Nancy felt a wave of panic, but she swiftly steeled her nerves. Now was the time for cool, analytical reasoning, she told herself firmly; not a surrender to sudden fears.” That is the Nancy Drew I remember.

Overall, the mysteries are good, and the solutions aren’t as convoluted as some Nancy Drew books. This is a solid entry in the series.

Once again, with the original cover art, Bess is depicted as having brown hair. This happened with the last book, The Ghost of Blackwood Hall as well. And Bess and George are in dresses, when it is clearly stated in the book that they were doing yard work and wearing jeans when Nancy picked them up to go investigate the leaning chimney. Also, Nancy’s long locks have been cut, and her hair is no longer golden blonde, but closer to the titian color that was later adopted. On the RT’s cover of The Clue of the Leaning Chimney, (AbeBooks) (Amazon) Nancy’s hair looks like it’s dark blonde, not strawberry-blonde. No wonder there’s been confusion over the years about Nancy’s hair!

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