In a response to a friend’s call for help, Nancy’s father, a lawyer, asks her to travel to mysterious Crocodile Island with her friends Bess and George to study the reptiles and try to uncover a group of suspected poachers.
Upon their arrival in Florida, the girls are kidnapped but cleverly escape to pursue their detective work. Dangers mount as they cope with reptiles, enemy boats, and exciting chases after the men who are responsible for a sinister racket that involves many unsuspecting victims. In the end, Nancy makes a bold move to untangle the mass of clues. She and Ned become imprisoned in the enemy’s submarine and are held for ransom!”
Mystery of Crocodile Island (Amazon) was written shortly before “my” era of Nancy Drew, but I didn’t read it until I was older because my grade school only had the first 54 books in the series. While I liked the story, it is weak in several parts.
First off, it’s ludicrous that George goes to a shop to buy a fake crocodile and instead is given a real, baby crocodile. The coincidence that the owner of the shop owns a real croc suspends disbelief. “You see, I have a license to keep Crocky as a pet and have agreed to keep it in suitable surroundings and never to abuse it, kill it, or sell its hide.”
It always amazes me at how easily Nancy and her dad, or Nancy and the girls, are overheard or their plans are discovered. As soon as the girls arrive in Florida, they are kidnapped and locked inside a large house. Luckily Nancy is an expert at getting out of a jam, and soon escape. “Who do you think our kidnappers are?” Bess asked. “They must be connected with the Crocodile Ecology Company,” Nancy replied. “I wonder if they own that house.” George said. “I doubt it. They wouldn’t be foolish enough to imprison us in their own home. If we got away, it would be too easy to trace them.”
Nancy called the operator and asked to speak to the police department. When a sergeant answered, she explained the girls’ predicament and asked if someone could come and help them. “Right away, miss,” he replied, and within ten minutes a squad car pulled up with two officers in it. One jumped out and walked up to them. “You say you were kidnapped and escaped?” he said. “That’s right,” Nancy told him and explained exactly what had happened. “We’re on our way to visit Mr. and Mrs. Henry Cosgrove, but we don’t know how to find the place.” Ever resourceful Nancy gets the police to help her find the Cosgrove house. Why not use a telephone book and a taxi?
Throughout Mystery of Crocodile Island, there are tiny info dumps of facts about various things like the differences between crocodiles and alligators, or information about submarines. Because of course there’s a submarine in this story, and Nancy and Ned are caught while investigating it and are briefly held hostage.
I’m not sure the page number as I was reading it on the Kindle, but 86% into the story, “At once the couples paired off to exchange kisses.” Wow. PDAs and some physical contact between the guys and ladies. After all, it was the late 1970’s, but you never would have seen that in earlier books. Nancy was nothing if not asexual, even though Ned was her “special friend” for a million years.
The weird thing about this book is that Nancy and the gang know there’s something shady going on, but they don’t know what until the end of the book. They know there’s smuggling going on, but they don’t know what is being smuggled. And when you find out what it is, you’ll be as underwhelmed as I was when I found out. Even as a kid, it was anti-climactic.
Two parts of this story do not fit the canon. First, Nancy says she’s never been to the Florida Keys, which was wrong. She visited in The Clue of the Black Keys (Nancy Drew Mysteries #28) by Carolyn Keene. Second, it’s revealed that George’s real name is Georgia, which is B.S. It was explained in an earlier volume that her name was just plain George. I dislike continuity errors because kids will pick up on it, too.
Overall, this travelogue story doesn’t quite hold a candle to the older mysteries, but it passes the time nicely. Definitely one of the weaker Nancy Drew books out there, and I certainly wouldn’t use this volume to introduce Nancy to someone.
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