When Nancy searches through the knapsack of an amnesia victim, she finds an unusual ring. Before long, she is caught up in a second assignment from a beautiful harpist. Nancy’s discoveries reveal an important connection between the hospital patient, the harpist, and enemies from abroad.
The Swami’s Ring (Amazon US) (Amazon UK) (AbeBooks)
On the one hand, I adore the Nancy Drew books that came out under the Wanderer imprint in the early 1980’s because that’s the timeframe of when I was knee-deep in Nancy Drew fever. On the other hand, after re-reading some of these books, I wonder if my interest in Nancy didn’t start to wane not just because I was growing up, but because these volumes lack the intrigue of the original volumes.
There are several mysteries going on, not just two that end up tying together, and maybe that’s the problem. Nancy’s working on 3 different mysteries. One involves a young man who was brought to the hospital with a head injury and no memory of who he is or how he got to the bottom of a cliff, where he was found unconscious. Of course, the hospital staff calls him “Cliff.” Apparently, the summer before, Nancy took classes on being a candy striper so she signs up to volunteer at the hospital and get to know Cliff better to try and solve the mystery of his identification. One clue is a ring that he has in his possession; it’s unusual-looking, and Nancy thinks it’s the key to the mystery.
Carson Drew is facing scrutiny for some of his dealings. “The Jansen Music Theater Company was scheduled to perform at the Castleton Theater, but Jansen canceled out on Castleton in favor of River Heights. The town council of Castleton thinks I’m responsible for the last-minute switch.” Mr. Drew interrupted himself, laughing nervously. “It just isn’t true, but I can’t seem to convince anyone, including the mayor of River Heights!” “But he’s your friend, Dad.” Mr. Drew doesn’t want Nancy to worry about his troubles, but she does, anyway.
One of the musicians from the Jansen Company, Angela Pruitt, has a mystery to solve. ““Miss Pruett has been trying to find her sister for several days,” Mr. Drew revealed. “It seems she went on some sort of spiritual retreat last weekend, but never returned.” “Where was the retreat being held?” Nancy inquired. “Somewhere in the hills outside of River Heights,” the harpist replied. “I don’t know exactly. Phyllis is very interested in Transcendental Meditation.” Nancy and Ned try to find the retreat and get a little too close to the truth. They’re drugged and tied up in different locations, but both eventually break free of their bonds.
Meanwhile, Cliff’s rings is stolen when Bess and Geroge are investigating, and then Cliff himself disappears from the Drew home, where he’d been staying following his discharge from the hospital. The only good thing about Cliff disappearing is that Ned stops acting out of character. Before Cliff vanished, Ned was whining about doing detective work and jealous of Cliff. It was written in a way that was so unlike Ned, I had no idea where that came from!
Nancy and Ned are getting closer to finding out more about Cliff’s ring and why so many people are interested in it. They stumble upon the Flannerys, who are clearly up to no good. Nancy gets captured, and when she’s tied up she keeps asking questions, so the wife shoves a roll into Nancy’s mouth to shut her up! “Nancy bit into it angrily, gulping down part of it. The rest broke off, dribbling crumbs on the floor. “Was that good?” the woman sneered. “Here, have another piece.” She took a larger chunk of bread this time and stuffed it in Nancy’s mouth.” What is that all about? Just gag her. I don’t know if that was meant for comedic effect, but it’s so out-of-place.
The tying up of all the mystery threads was quite convoluted, with Cliff (Randy) and Angela Pruitt’s sister, Phyllis, being rescued from the retreat, the recovery of the ring. I thought the writing was trying too hard, and the story didn’t gel. Too much going on, too many things that weren’t the norm in terms of behavior (at one point, Mr. Drew tackles someone and gets in a rage).
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