Nancy learns that the brother and sister are from Centrovia, as is approximately half the population of River Heights. Centrovia is an obscure country in Europe that recently had a revolution, and many people fled the country. For some unknown reason, they all ended up in River Heights, where they are seen walking on the sidewalks, driving past Nancy's house, and generally creating spectacles of themselves all over town.
As you can tell, I had problems with the plot of this book. I could hardly keep up with all of the Centrovians that kept showing up constantly. Even some long-lost relatives from Centrovia discovered each other in River Heights. How incredible that they all chose to live in the same city!
The Centrovians are not all that is wrong with this story. Early in the story, Mr. Drew asks the U.S. government if Nancy may continue to work on the case from her end. Henri and Helene's parents were working to rise against the new Centrovian government before they were killed. This is a delicate international situation. Of course, the U.S. government is fine with Nancy taking control in River Heights; the FBI is clearly not needed here. Seriously.
Henri and Helene go into hiding at the Drew home, while Nancy and her friends keep their school running. The scarlet slippers once owned by Helene's mother are stolen from the dance studio, and Helene is devastated. Exactly why did she leave them there? The Fontaines had vanished, and leaving the slippers in the studio would accomplish nothing, except allow them to be stolen. I guess that's why.
In both texts, Nancy and Ned ponder the meaning of an R on an artist's palette knife. From page 74 of the revised text:
For nearly an hour Nancy and Ned talked about the possible meaning of the R on the artist's palette knife. Both were sure it had special significance.You think? Let's see... I bet it stands for the man's name, and they discuss this for an hour?
12 paintings that Henri painted of Helene were imported into the United States. Nancy seeks the paintings because she suspects that something might have been smuggled into the country inside the paintings. Since River Heights is teeming with Centrovians, it should come as no surprise that one of the paintings is found in River Heights, and another one is found 200 miles away. Quite frankly, I was shocked that all 12 paintings were not quickly found in River Heights and in the possession of a bunch of Centrovians.
On page 122 of the revised text, Nancy is talking to a man on the phone believed to be Mr. Koff. Nancy tells Hannah, who replies that he can't be Mr. Koff because Mr. Koff just drove by the house. What are the chances? By the way, the man on the phone turns out to be another Centrovian!
I couldn't keep up with the villains. I was dreadfully confused as I finished the revised text. I tried to become less confused as I read the original text, so I made note of the names. The villains are Red Buzby, Raymond Bull, Tomas Renee, Raoul Amien who is also David Judson, Pierre Duparc, and someone named Warte. Buzby and Bull might be the same person, but I got confused again when reading the original text. The story has too many villains, and too many of them use multiple aliases, thus confusing the situation even more.
Lots of other things are wrong with this story, like how Nancy and Ned are stupidly tricked at the farmhouse. Nancy seems uncharacteristically dumb in that scene.
Raoul Amien and his confederates use Raoul's passport number as a means of identifying themselves to each other. A passport number? Really?
In one scene, Nancy's ankle is injured, so she rides with George as George goes into the hotels to make inquiries. The text mentions that Nancy's ankle has begun hurting, then Nancy decides to go into the last place with George, even though her ankle is now hurting. Huh? Of course, this is the place where they receive information.
Lots of stupid things occur in this story, but the kerosene scene might just take the prize. Nancy, Bess, and George find Koff's briefcase containing letters in the barn. They leave the barn and notice that Officer Donovan has disappeared. The officer is supposed to be guarding the farmhouse. On page 160 of the revised text:
"Phew! What a strong odor of kerosene!" Bess said. "What would that policeman be doing with kerosene?"What?! Nancy, the officer has disappeared, and you can smell kerosene. Think, girl!
Nancy shrugged. She was too interested in getting at the letters to care.
So, the girls go into the farmhouse and then upstairs to spread out the letters on a bed. The girls spend quite awhile in the bedroom, where Nancy makes a phone call and then Henri and Helene randomly show up. I guess they ignored the kerosene as well. On page 162 of the revised text:
As Henri began to talk, Bess went to close the door. The odor of kerosene was very strong now. Again she wondered what Officer Donovan was doing with it.A long discussion follows, then finally, on page 166, smoke seeps into the bedroom. The young people suddenly realize what the odor of kerosene means! Someone has set the farmhouse on fire!
Goodness. I enjoyed this story as a child, but it does not hold up to what I remember of it. Both the original text and revised text versions are equally bad, and both versions are a mess.