“While vacationing at Camp Merriweather near Francisville, Mrs. Strook, an elderly citizen, asks Nancy to find an old stagecoach her great-uncle had hidden. This stagecoach may contain a valuable treasure that would benefit the town that needs funding to build a new school.”
In The Clue in the Old Stagecoach, we find our favorite sleuth and her best friends staying at Camp Merriweather, which is near the town of Francisville (no clue how far away that is from River Heights). There’s an elderly lady named Mrs. Strook from Francisville who hears that Nancy is a bit of an amateur detective and asks her to help locate her great-uncle’s old stagecoach. Inside this stagecoach is something very valuable, and it was meant to be left to the town of Francisville. The town is rapidly growing, and there’s much need for a new school for the many children coming to town with their parents, but some long-time residents hate the prospect of growth and change. Judd Hillary is a loud mouth who acts a little shifty, too. “I’m here to tell you,” he cried out, “that I don’t want all these city folks movin’ in and ruinin’ our countryside! Water pipes, electric lights, and now a new school that’s goin’ to cost a mint o’ money to us taxpayers! I won’t have it, I tell you!” Mrs. Strook hopes that whatever is found is valuable enough to help the town build the school.
Shocking but true: Nancy is dating someone from the camp! Rick Larabee is attentive and kind, but he can’t hold a candle to Ned. “But, Nancy, what are you going to do about Rick?” Nancy pretended to look worried, then said, “Some situations just solve themselves.” Conveniently, just when Ned, Burt and Dave are about to arrive to help Nancy with her mystery, Rick’s father becomes ill and he and his chums (who were dating Bess and George) pack up and leave. Whew! That was a close call, Nancy.
Another anomaly: Nancy’s hair is described as having a “hint of titian”. Several books back, because of the artwork submitted, Nancy went from a blond to a titian-haired redhead. Nowadays she’s described as a “strawberry blonde”.
There are a couple of meddlesome camp-goers names Audrey and Ross Monteith. They’re constantly snooping around on the girls and are just plain old obnoxious. They’re comic relief, but they’re also involved with the mystery, too. It’s too bad that Bess and George dressed up like the Monteiths and imitated them for Nancy to cheer her up, because I felt that part kind of rude. Don’t sink to their level, ladies!
There’s something thrown in clumsily that doesn’t make any sense at the time, about Mrs. Strook collecting old and new stamps, that seems out of place, but it’s made clear as the story winds up.
There’s a bad guy who can be distinguished by a scar on his left wrist. Several times people have noticed him because of it. Well, that’s just about the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. Who goes around looking at a person’s wrist for identification? I have a scar on my right wrist from a childhood accident with a rusty nail, and I can guarantee you, no one has ever even asked me about it!
In terms of peril, “An overeager man stumbled into Bess and knocked her off balance. Unable to steady herself, the astonished girl tumbled headlong into the sluiceway! Bess cried out and tried to grab the wooden side, but the rushing water was too powerful. She was swept along toward the turning blades of the great water wheel!” Then there’s the rock that punctures a hole in Nancy’s gas tank, leaving them on empty on an old country path (road seems too generous of a word), and a bear appears! Eagle-eyed Nancy spots a collar on him and realizes he’s tame and in fact, a few minutes later his keeper comes to get him and helps the girls out with the car.
Also, Nancy gets knocked out taking a heavy box out from the rafters above her and it hits her head, and later, the gang of six get sprayed with sleeping gas and are knocked unconscious, even though they are out in the open. The bad guys must have really sprayed a lot in order for the sleuths to get knocked out. What about the wind, I ask myself as an adult? But as a kid, I ate it up.
It turns out the valuables from the old stagecoach are just a clue to where they’re being kept: in the cornerstone of some building. Behind the cornerstone are some really old uncancelled stamps in a block. They’re worth a small fortune, so of course, they can be sold and the school built.
Despite the fact that the girls are trying to solve a mystery, there’s plenty of swimming and tennis playing and eating at tearooms and having “molded vegetable salad”. Yeesh, I’ve seen pictures of these salads in my mom’s old cookbooks. No thank you!
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