“At the Van Pelt estate, home of a local acting troupe called the Footlighters, a mysterious dancing puppet haunts the grounds. From the moment Nancy, Bess, and George arrive at the mansion, the dancing puppet mystery is further complicated by the Footlighters’ temperamental leading lady and a Shakespearean actor. Nancy’s search of the mansion’s dark, musty attic for clues to the weird mystery and an encounter with two jewel theft suspects add perplexing angles to the puzzle.”
Oh, my. The Clue of the Dancing Puppet (Amazon) has never been one of my favorite Nancy Drew Mysteries. Even for a Nancy Drew book, the plot is pretty thin. Nancy, Bess and George head to the outskirts of River Heights to a mansion with a converted barn to help find out what’s behind a mysterious life-size dancing puppet that appears at night across the grounds of the estate. Bess is already there, trying out as a member of the amateur acting group, and Nancy and George sign up to work behind the scenes so they can do some sleuthing.
There’s a lot of drama with an actress named Tammi (I never could deal with drama girls), and there’s an older Shakespearean actor named Emmet Calhoun, who everyone calls “Cally old boy,” which is really weird. Not Cally, not old boy, but Cally old boy. Every. Single. Time. He likes to quote Shakespeare, like King Richard III. “‘My conscience hath a thousand several tongues, And every tongue brings in a several tale, And every tale condemns me for a villain!’ ” So I guess the book is good at introducing Shakespeare to the younger set.
Of course, Nancy, in all her free time, learns the part of the lead actress, just in case, and is in fact called upon to perform when Tammi, gets laryngitis. And despite the fact that she’s asked to perform at the last minute, George still has time to call Ned, Burt, and Dave, who FLY IN for the performance that night, and then, just a quickly, take a return flight to Emerson College. !!??She performs so well she’s written up in the paper the next day.
There’s more than normal fat-shaming of Bess in this volume, which ticked me off even as a kid because she’s never drawn as plump, so I just never understood what the writers were talking about. Bess talks about “reducing” for a role, watches something on TV instead of having dessert with everyone else, and George scolds her when she pulls out a jar of mayonnaise. Give the girl a break already!
The mystery doesn’t really break open until the last two chapters. Apparently some random bad dudes are looking for a lost puppet because there was once a set of four of them in the attic of the Van Pelt estate. An accompanying journal says one of the puppets contains “a secret that will make the finder wealthy,”. which turns out to be aluminum fuel cell technology, something cost prohibitive when the secret was hidden, but now fairly cheap to make because the price of aluminum is next to nothing.
In terms of peril, Nancy is knocked on the head by a cannon ball that was dropped on her (seriously!), and all three girls are knocked out when Nancy’s car is rammed from behind. As usual, the garage she takes the car to can make the necessary bodywork “in about an hour.”
For more information about my favorite sleuth, check out Jenn Fisher’s Unofficial Nancy Drew website, which has a wealth of information.
For more information on series books, Jennifer White has a fabulous website that you can visit by clicking here.
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