#TheMysteryoftheFireDragon #NancyDrewMysteries #38 #CarolynKeene #SeriesBooks #NancyDrew #BookReview

“Eloise Drew asks her niece to investigate the disappearance of her neighbor, a young university student. In New York, Nancy, Bess and George are drawn into the intrigue and danger of a smuggling ring. Nancy plans a clever ruse: George is disguised as the missing Chinese girl! The girl detective is also suspicious of an unpleasant bookstore owner and his loud, overbearing female customer. A series of clues lead the girls to Hong Kong. Ned, who is studying in Hong Kong, joins them. The amateur detectives follow more clues to the international smuggling ring.”

The Mystery of the Fire Dragon (Amazon) has a special place in my heart as a collector. When I was collecting the matte PC books back in the early 1990’s to complete my collection, I stumbled upon a pristine dust-jacketed copy of The Mystery of the Fire Dragon. It was $8 at an antique mall in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. I bought it, not knowing how rare the dust-jacketed version was; in fact, it was the first dust jacket I owned of Nancy Drew. But I’ve never been one to focus on first editions or even dust jacketed versions–my focus was collecting the cover art only, regardless. And I preferred the matte PC because that’s what I grew up with. So when the opportunity to sell the book came up (I was a poor college student, after all) several years later, I parted with the book at a hefty profit. I have no regrets.

I always enjoyed the books when Nancy went to visit her Aunt Eloise in New York, as is the case in this book. And she has a Chinese-themed mystery, although it really doesn’t have anything to do with a fire dragon. After Nancy and the girls spend some time in New York looking for a missing Chinese girl, including George impersonating her to try and find the bad guys (apparently no one noticed how tall George was compared to the Chinese girl, Chi Che) they head to Hong Kong, where Ned just happens to be studying this semester, of course. This is a Nancy Drew mystery after all, where coincidences are rampant.

In terms of peril, Bess is kidnapped in New York but returned after several hours. A flower pot is thrown at Nance and hits her on the head and knocks her unconscious. In Hong Kong, Nancy mistakes a Chinese girl as Chi Che (feeding into the stereotype that all Chinese look alike. I mean, if Nancy can’t tell the girls apart, who can?) and is kidnapped on a plane. She just so happens to have a lipstick in her pocket and, with her hands tied behind her back, writes SOS on the window of the plane, then shuts the curtains. But on the next page, as rescue planes near, “She watched fascinated as one plane dived in front to slow them down, another swooped below, and the third above.” How could she do that with the curtains closed? On the following page, she opens the curtains. ??!

A short while later, Nancy is kidnapped yet again and shoved onto a Chinese junk which just so happens to have the missing Chi Che on board. The two are untied because they are offshore, and the girls make a daring getaway, diving overboard and swimming to another boat which brings them on shore.

Food doesn’t play a huge part in this book, as it does in some Nancy Drew books, but I’m definitely curious about the bacon and cucumber soup they were served. I’ve never heard of that combination, and while I like both foods separately, I can’t imagine combining them!

There’s a bit of travelogue in this book, where it is explained that Hong Kong, at the time, was a British crown colony. I still remember the day in the late 1990’s when I was working at a TV news station and watching the feed from Hong Kong when the British had a ceremony giving the colony back to the Chinese.

Overall, a good, but not excellent book in the series. I especially like the colorful artwork of the cover.

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