It’s time once again to take a look to the past and my love of the Nancy Drew Mysteries. I grew up with the Revised Text (RT), so as I read the books again, I’m concentrating on the Original Text (OT), which I’d never read before. The Scarlet Slipper Mystery OT (AbeBooks) RT (Amazon) (AbeBooks) was first published in 1954.
“Nancy meets Helene and Henri Fontaine, refugees from Centrovia who own a dancing school in River Heights. Strange circumstances have brought the brother and sister to the United States. When they receive an anonymous note threatening their lives, Nancy offers to help. Encountering numerous puzzles during her investigation, Nancy wonders if the Fontaines are involved with the Centrovian underground. Are they being threatened by their own countrymen? Is a series of paintings by Henri Fontaine being used for a sinister purpose? What is the significance of the scarlet ballet slippers that had once belonged to their mother? The girl detective faces grave danger while looking for answers to these intriguing and intricate questions. This book is the original text.”
There’s foreign intrigue in this volume of Nancy Drew Mysteries. The fictional European country of Centrovia is at the heart of the book. There was a revolution eight years ago and many people fled, while others worked in the resistance. In fact, throughout the book so many Centrovians are popping up in River Heights you really have to suspend disbelief. There’s even the case of cousins who hadn’t seen each other in ten years both ending up in River Heights, and Nancy has met both of them. And so many of the Centrovians have aliases, it’s hard to keep track of them all.
In terms of peril, Nancy is pushed down a flight of stairs and twists her ankle, but that doesn’t prevent her from traipsing around the next day with George. Later, she’s kidnapped and stuffed into Ned’s green sports car, bound and gagged and left in the woods near a farmhouse where the suspected bad guys are holing up. When Nancy is rescued by Ned and a policeman, he suggests going into town to eat something since it is hours after dinnertime, but Nancy says her appearance is such that she wouldn’t want to be seen in town, so she suggests going back to the farmhouse of the suspected bad guys and eating the food they left behind! And that’s just what they do. Really?
Later, back at the farmhouse, Nancy and the gang are investigating when the Fontaines show up out of nowhere, having previously been kidnapped. No explanation of how they escaped is given. Then, Bess smells kerosene and wonders what the policeman patrolling the property could be doing with it; she asks Nancy about it but she just shrugs it off. A little while later the smell of kerosene gets stronger, but again, no one thinks anything of it. All the while, I’m screaming in my head, “Nancy, you’re smarter than that! Go investigate.” But they don’t and are surprised when they find themselves stuck in the house on the second floor while it’s on fire. Even a less astute kid would have to scratch their heads at that one.
At one point in the mystery, Nancy finds a knife on the third floor of her house, in a room where the Fontaines stayed, and the letter R is carved into it. Then it says that Nancy and Ned discussed what the R could mean. For an hour! Nancy just doesn’t come off as smart at all in this volume, although she is still good at ballet dancing, despite not having practiced in many years. She’s asked to take someone’s place when they drop out of a performance, and she helps teach little kids at the Fontaine’s dance school.
Overall, there’s too many coincidences, too many Centrovians, too many aliases, and too many times when Nancy is stumped for this to be a good mystery.
I’m not a fan of the original artwork and prefer the RT’s cover much more. It should be noted that for the first time in the OTs since the glossy illustrations were featured in the first several volumes, there were internal illustrations in this book, which I hadn’t seen before in an OT. I’m not sure if they only started when the series when to Picture Cover PC format, or if they were also in the dust-jacketed version since I only have the PCs.
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