From Goodreads: “Nancy, Bess and George explore a peculiar house with its fantastically crooked staircase. A bizarre serpent picture, an unpredictable robot, a broken bridge over flaming water and a hidden room with poisoned portraits are among the unusual discoveries found on this strange property. The missing owner, an elusive swindler, is wanted by the police. Nancy is determined to solve the mystery of the weird house and discover its secrets.”
The Crooked Banister (Amazon) (AbeBooks) has got to be one of the weirdest Nancy Drew Mysteries, certainly the most implausible so far of the cannon. It’s been a while since I read it, but took some notes.
The “crooked Banister” is in fact a man, who embraces his name and builds a house with no straight angles, more like a castle, with a moat that can be set on fire, too. Really. As a kid, I thought that was cool, but as an adult, all I kept thinking was “This house has no resale value.”
While the idea of robots doing household chores is not surprising in the 21st century because of products like Amazon Alexa and the Roomba vacuum, it was quite a stretch for the 1970’s. The robot in this book can do super amazing things like turn on a lamp with it’s mechanical fingers, and sense danger and squeeze Nancy so hard that she blacks out. It’s commands are given via cassette tapes, which dates the book, and not plausible back then, either.
The bad guys know where Nancy and her dad are staying and set fires in their rooms. Weirdly enough, the fire is contained to their rooms and doesn’t spread.
What’s the deal with paintings which have poisoned nails embedded in them, holding $1000 bills? (Another element that dates the story: the U.S. Treasury stopped circulation of $1000 bills years ago.)
Not surprisingly, Ned, Burt and Dave have some time off from selling insurance and instead of going to the company picnic, they visit the girls in order to help solve the mystery.
There’s a bit about Bess ordering a lot of food, and George doesn’t say anything because they’re around other people. Nancy surmises that George only makes her fat jokes when the girls are alone. Yet Nancy has never stood up for Bess all the times that George gives her grief.
This is the first book where the bad guy dies, albeit off screen as it were, and no justice is served at the end. A rather unsatisfying end to a Nancy Drew mystery, but still worth a read because of it’s weirdness.
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