I’m over the Nancy Drew “fatigue” I had for the past few months, but now I’m running into the problem of actually having time to read the books. Luckily, I was able to breeze through The Clue of the Velvet Mask a couple of weeks ago.
From the publisher: “A masquerade party quickly turns into a mystery when Nancy and Ned spy an enigmatic man in a black cloak and an exotic woman in a glittering Javenese costume. Are they members of the gang of wily thieves who sneak into parties hosted by wealthy citizens to rob jewels and painting treasures? Why is the owner of the black velvet hooded mask Ned found during the party desperate to retrieve it? To find the answers, Nancy and George switch identities. George soon discovers that it can be both exciting and dangerous to masquerade as Nancy Drew! This book is the original text. “
I read the Original Text of Velvet Mask since I had not read the OT’s before. This was Mildred Wirt Benson’s last Nancy Drew books, after creating and writing most of the earlier volumes. The mystery is simple enough: Nancy is trying to find thieves who keep hitting major social events like masquerade balls and weddings at rich people’s homes. The events all happen to be run by Lightner Entertainment Company, and Mr. Lightner has asked Mr. Drew to represent him in case people start suing him because of the thefts. Nancy and Ned happen to attend a masquerade ball and almost thwart a theft. They are unsuccessful but grab a piece of evidence: a hooded velvet mask.
Nancy meets Linda Seeley, a young lady about her age, who works for Lightner Entertainment Company. After talking to her, Nancy is convinced she is innocent of any wrongdoing, but suspects another shady employee, Mr. Tombar, whose movements are suspicious.
In a surprising plot twist, George impersonates Nancy and gets kidnapped, and is so frightened, she behaves very differently than the usual can-do attitude of Nancy’s spunky friend. Throughout the story, George behaves so unlike her character I had to wonder why the book was written that way. It certainly was an unusual plot device. Normally Bess or Hannah are the ones who are frightened for Nancy and don’t want her to take chances, but they don’t get hysterical about it. Luckily, towards the end of the story, George snaps out of it and even aids in the case.
The mystery isn’t so much who the thieves are, as Nancy has her eye on Mr. Tombar from the start, but who his accomplices are. It’s amazing how ineffective the police are in this volume. It harkens back to the earliest volumes of the series when the police are inept and don’t take Nancy seriously. Now, at least, they let her do her investigating, but are still inept.
I also have to mention that River Heights seems to be full of mansions with all these parties being held at the homes of the upper crust of society. Of course, Nancy lives in a 3-story home, so she travels in the same circles. And just as often, we hear about abandoned old houses in or near River Heights. Certainly a posh area to live, indeed.
I have to say that the original cover art has always been a favorite of mine. My best friend when I was growing up had her mom’s Nancy Drew books and Velvet Mask was one of them. I wondered why the cover was different than the book in the school library, where I got all my volumes, but it was several years before I learned about OT and RT texts. I like the RT cover art as well, the hooded mask is positively spooky!
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