It’s time to jump back on the horse, so-to-speak, and continue my reading of my beloved Nancy Drew books. At the beginning of my journey when the pandemic first hit, I was reading the Original Texts (OT) and then the Revised Text (RT), plus sprinkling in the new Nancy Drew Diaries series. I got majorly burned out doing that, so I set Nancy aside for six months and am happy to say I’m back reviewing the books. I hope to have one review a week, but we’ll see how it goes.
“Nancy is given a beautiful gold bracelet with a missing charm. When she learns the unusual story behind the jewelry, she sets out to solve the fascinating mystery. The bracelet had been presented to a former circus performer by a queen who loved horses. For some reason the performer had to sell the bracelet, but would not reveal her identity. Clues lead Nancy to Sims’ Circus, where she meets Lolita, an unhappy young aerialist who has a horse charm wrought exactly like those on Nancy’s bracelet. The young detective searches for the original owner of the bracelet, bringing much joy to the pretty circus performer.”
The Ringmaster’s Secret (OT) (Abebooks) and RT (Amazon) (AbeBooks) are roughly the same book with some minor revisions. And can I just say, Nancy really takes a beating in this book! She’s knocked out or strangled THREE times! There’s a long-running joke about Nancy getting knocked out within the series book community, and it even makes it way into the current Diaries’ series. But Nancy is never worse for the wear, and of course, recovers quickly.
George is also knocked out at one point and she and Nancy are kidnapped. Nancy is also thrown into a hungry lion’s cage. Have no fear, Ned comes to the rescue and has his hand clawed. At an airport, Nancy’s bag is stolen briefly and when she opens it, acid fumes temporarily blind her. Really, the danger Nancy and her friends put themselves in!
As I read the book, I wondered why I had liked it so much as a kid. I loved horses, and Nancy practicing stunt riding must have held some appeal. After just a few weeks of practice, Nancy is so good at stunt riding that the circus that’s in town asks her to fill in for a rider with a broken ankle. But even as a child, I was not a fan of circuses. I went once and felt terrible for the animals having to walk aimless around in circles. So that couldn’t be what enthralled me as a child. Maybe it’s just because Nancy is so adept at whatever she wants to do, and I was a virtual clutz. At one point, she uses ventriloquist trick to throw her voice. Is there anything Nancy can’t do?
Maybe I loved the book because Nancy, as usual, can do pretty much whatever she wants. At the beginning of the story, it’s mentioned that her father, Carson Drew, the lawyer, would be out of town for a while. And at one point in the story, Nancy feels she needs to ask her dad’s permission to fill in at the circus, she has no idea where he is or what city he is in! When they finally connect with each other, they decide at the last minute to hop a plane to London! There’s quite a bit of traveling in the story, so maybe that’s what held the appeal to me. We never went anywhere when I was growing up, other than our grandparents’ house in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, about 3 1/2 hours away. As a family of 9 on a teacher’s salary, vacations were out of the question.
As with most Nancy Drew books, you really have to suspend disbelief in order to get through The Ringmaster’s Secret. The fact that Aunt Eloise sends Nancy a charm bracelet with horses on it, saying it might have belonged to a famous aerialist, who used to work for the very circus that comes to River Heights, whose daughter, Lolita, works for the circus as an aerialist and has a charm that matches Nancy’s bracelet, that Lolita’s fiance’, Pietro, a clown in the circus, has a father who used to work with Lolita’s mother and believes he saw her a few years ago when Lolita thought she was dead… you just have to go with the flow of the story and roll with it. The bad guys nearly have signs over their heads saying “I’m guilty,” but it’s all in good fun for a Nancy Drew mystery.
Overall, this is a solid entry in the canon of Nancy Drew Mysteries. It’s got lots of sleuthing, action and adventure, and a very good, if predictable ending.
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