The manner in which the book begins is not a good sign of what will follow. Ned plays a guessing game with Nancy, starting with exclaiming, "Au! Au! Au!" Even Nancy expresses exasperation, which is nothing compared to how I, as the reader, felt.
The villain, Fleetfoot Joe, has a name that is too similar to Swahili Joe from The Spider Sapphire Mystery. Both names sound catchy, but a different name should have been used in this book. How about Fleetfoot Jack? Or Fleetfoot Bob? Perhaps not.
The villains get right down to business, attacking Mrs. Wabash on page 3. Togo is taken away by one of the villains on page 18, and the villains wiretap the Drew home on page 31.
On page 40, we learn that Nancy owns a guitar, which just seems kind of random to me.
Nancy decides to make a fake copy of the one petroglyph tablet that was not stolen. The boys bring Nancy a slab of rock that is presumably the same dimensions as the tablet. How convenient! Nancy uses modern chipping tools to reproduce the carvings from the original tablet. Since Nancy is excellent at everything, she does so perfectly. Last, Nancy just happens to know what substances to mix together to use to age the tablet. After 30 minutes, she rubs off the paste and then waxes the imitation tablet.
From page 41, "The original and new tablets were compared, and it was agreed that anyone except an expert on artifacts would be fooled by the substitution." Wow.
On pages 87 and 88, the young people giggle about the names they keep hearing while in a hotel, names like Shirley Rainbow and Rosemary Bluebird. A big deal is made about how these names must be those of famous people who are there incognito. Maybe it's just me, but if I were famous and at a hotel, I'd just pick an ordinary name to uselike maybe the one I actually have, Jennifer White. A name like mine would draw far less attention than a name like Rosemary Bluebird.
On page 92, Nancy invites Wanna Antler (Okay, so this must be a fake name, right?) to join the archaeological expedition. The next thing we know, Miss Antler is "leading the way to the spot where she thought they should make camp and work." Miss Antler is now in charge?
On page 98, Nancy knows all sorts of different Spanish dialects. She correctly guesses which dialect is spoken by the Mexicans and is able to speak fluently with them. Amazing!
The young people come up with this stupid code to use when they want to speak privately but are afraid of eavesdroppers. They make up some nonsense statement, and the others can figure out the real meaning by using the third word in each sentence. Ned uses this code on page 114.
"Run, because you should be in the shade. Desert sunburns are deadly. Any person being caught here is a target. Be on watch for sunstroke."Um, okay. Nancy has to take a moment to figure out the message, which is "You are being watch." She then runs after Ned, who tells her that Fleetfoot Joe was watching them (Is it bad that I almost typed Swahili Joe?). Wouldn't it be easier and more to the point for Ned to just yell, "Run!" and then take off? I'm sure Nancy would follow him, wouldn't she?
But the worst is yet to come on pages 140 and 141. The young people take a skeleton that had been excavated and jiggle it around, making it dance. Later, they use the skeleton to scare the other people on the camp. Not only is this disrespectful of the dead, but they are running the risk of damaging important archaeological evidence. I don't recall having an opinion of this scene as a child, but each time since then, I have been appalled.
On page 155, Nancy is foolhardy to get inside a car with people she doesn't know. It works out fine, but I couldn't help thinking, "What if they had kidnapped her?"
I could mention lots more stuff, like Swahili Joe...er...Fleetfoot Joe hiding the tablets among a bunch of rocks in the desert where Nancy and her friends can find them. However, I will stop here.
As I read The Secret of the Forgotten City, I felt about the same way I felt when reading The Spider Sapphire Mystery. So much about this story is either highly annoying or stupid. I recall greatly enjoying this story as a child, but it does not hold up to my memories.