“Lovely young Carla Ponce, a resident of Peru, invites Nancy, Bess and George to visit her and solve a mystery that promises to lead to a fabulous treasure. A clue is carved on an intriguing wooden plaque belonging to Carla’s family. When a notorious gang headed by El Gato steals the priceless relic, Nancy quickly recovers the old plaque. Through clever deductions, perseverance, and dangerous adventures, Nancy and her friends help to capture a ring of vicious smugglers and make an astounding archaeological discovery.”
The Clue in the Crossword Cipher (Amazon) (AbeBooks) has got to be one of my favorite Nancy Drew Mysteries so far. There’s so much to like, and there’s also so much crazy stuff going on, you can’t believe it. There’s a lot of WTH going on!
It’s time for another travelogue, this time to the country of Peru. Nancy’s friend Carla is visiting River Heights and has to return to Peru, but as she prepares to do so, she asks Nancy for help solving a family mystery. There’s an old plaque that’s been passed down through the family for 300 years, but the meanings of the carvings have been lost. Carla wants Nancy to solve the mystery, and with her father’s permission, and a phone call to Bess and George, it’s off to South America. But before they can even leave, the plaque falls into the Muskoka River and Nancy must dive in to save it.
Also before she leaves town, Ned stops by to say goodbye and good luck and kisses Nancy! I do believe this is the first time that’s happened in a book. I recall him trying to hold her hand or a hug, but a kiss! That’s huge in the Nancy Drew Mysteries world.
Besides all the history and local culture that’s surreptitiously sprinkled throughout the book, there’s a lot of peril for Nancy and the gang. She sits on an ox and a boy cracks it on it’s haunches and it takes off with Nancy on board. Luckily, George’s quick thinking gets the ox to stop. A man throws a rock at Nancy. “the rock whizzed overhead and hit a tree with a resounding thud. The next moment it ricocheted and struck Nancy a stinging blow on the back. Stunned, she teetered for a moment, then toppled over!” Luckily, she’s not knocked unconscious but is a little off. Later, someone throws roofing material at Nancy and she has to jump to safety. Later still, this same man throws a homemade bomb at Nancy in an attempt to kill her.
And those things pale in comparison when Nancy and the gang are flying to “the Argentine” to look for clues and the door of the plane opens right as Nancy is walking past, so she’s almost sucked out of the plane. Somehow some of the men manage to save her, despite the fact that they’re almost sucked out as well. Then the door comes loose and hits the fuselage, yet somehow the plane, with zero air pressure and a damaged fuselage, manages to fly all the way back to Peru at a lower altitude and lands safely. WTH? I won’t even mention the EARTHQUAKE they experience. Seriously.
The bad guys turn out to be smugglers who are smuggling quinine in hollowed out utensil handles, made from a wood that is illegal to cut down. There’s absolutely no reason for the smugglers to come after Nancy, other than the fact that she’s trying to solve the mystery of the old plaque.
One thing I did not like about this book is that the fat shaming of Bess hits an all-time low. It’s almost non-stop as meals are a frequent topic. George is absolutely relentless, it’s my least favorite trait of my favorite character. It’s absolute B.S. that Bess gets called out for her weight when she sits on alpaca and a man says they won’t carry a load over 100 lbs. Well, I’m sure George and Nancy are both over 100 pounds, so the alpaca wouldn’t have moved for them, either.
Of course, Nancy and the gang use the plaque to find a treasure box with gold statues in it including one of a monkey. I absolutely love the artwork for this volume because I would have had a hard time visualizing the marks on the plaque.
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