Today, April 28, 2014, is the 84th anniversary of the publication of the first three Nancy Drew books on April 28, 1930.
Now that I have finished reading and reviewing Nancy Drew #57-175, I went through my reviews and compiled a list of the titles that I enjoyed the most. If you are someone who has never read the Nancy Drew Digest series and are interested in trying a few, these are the books to try first, unless of course you wish to read every single one of them in order. I do not recommend that, since I found most of #57-78 to almost impossible to enjoy.
While I believe that most titles on this list would be enjoyed by most people, the one exception is #58, The Flying Saucer Mystery. It is one of those titles that is either dearly loved or strongly hated. My impression is that more people hate it than love it, and I happen to be one of the people who loves it.
These are very good books, for what they are. They aren't the same as reading Nancy Drew #1-56, but they are still very good modern Nancy Drew books.
58. The Flying Saucer Mystery
70. The Broken Anchor
73. Enemy Match
75. The Emerald-Eyed Cat Mystery
85. The Secret of Shady Glen
86. The Mystery of Misty Canyon
94. The Picture-Perfect Mystery
97. The Mystery at Magnolia Mansion
101. The Mystery of the Missing Millionairess
104. The Mystery of the Jade Tiger
105. The Clue in the Antique Trunk
116. The Case of the Twin Teddy Bears
117. Mystery on the Menu
121. The Fortune-Teller’s Secret
126. The Riddle in the Rare Book
127. The Case of the Dangerous Solution
128. The Treasure in the Royal Tower
130. The Sign of the Falcon
131. The Hidden Inheritance
132. The Fox Hunt Mystery
134. The Secret of the Forgotten Cave
136. The Wedding Day Mystery
138. The Legend of the Lost Gold
139. The Secret of Candlelight Inn
140. The Door-to-Door Deception
141. The Wild Cat Crime
146. The Ghost of the Lantern Lady
150. Mystery at Moorsea Manor
151. The Chocolate-Covered Contest
152. The Key in the Satin Pocket
153. Whispers in the Fog
154. The Legend of the Emerald Lady
162. The Case of the Lost Song
163. The Clues Challenge
165. The Crime Lab Case
166. The Case of the Creative Crime
167. Mystery by Moonlight
168. The Bike Tour Mystery
169. The Mistletoe Mystery
174. A Taste of Danger
Considering all of the titles in the series, here are my general thoughts.
These are the last of the Stratemeyer Syndicate books. They have the same setup as #1-56 with the core group of Nancy, Bess, George, Ned, Burt, and Dave present in some of the books. Unfortunately, the books have many problems. A number of them have very complicated plots that are hard to follow and have far too many characters. I found most of them to be unbearable. However, some people enjoy them because they have the same premise as the original 56 titles and because the Stratemeyer Syndicate was involved.
These are the early books created in their entirety by Simon and Schuster. The books are very formula-driven and extremely consistent, much more so than #57-78. Burt and Dave are no longer present, and Ned shows up sometimes. Nancy often travels with only one of her friends, either Bess or George, but sometimes both of them. The setup with Nancy appearing with just some of her friends is continued all the way through to #175. This is a solidly good group of books, although not outstanding.
The story creators get lazy and begin relying heavily on sabotage as the main part of the plot. 15 out of these 26 books deal with sabotage. It gets boring. Even though most books have good stories, the sameness of the plots is tiring. During these books, I began to feel the way I felt around #80 in the Nancy Drew Files series when I read the entire Files series from #1-124 rapidly in consecutive order. It's not a good feeling.
The series partially moves away from sabotage, although that plot is still used fairly often. The stories aren't much different, but since the plots are more varied, the books are more interesting.
In #144, Bess becomes a computer genius, a title that she keeps all the way through to #175. In this group of books, we begin to see more inconsistency. Either the authors were less informed about the premise of the series, or the editors were getting sloppy. Perhaps both.
This is a surprisingly outstanding group of books, perhaps the best group of books in the Nancy Drew Digest series. My supposition is that the people at Simon and Schuster were trying very hard to improve the series and gain new traction. And then...
... they dropped the ball. During this time, Simon and Schuster was developing the Nancy Drew Girl Detective series. It appears that they put forth a minimal amount of effort in this series while developing the other series. Several of these books were written very poorly and come across as rough drafts. Nancy's age changes back and forth between 17 and 18 for no reason during these books. Ned suddenly has blond hair in the very last book. Someone wasn't doing their job.
Are the Nancy Drew Digest books worth reading? Yes. Are they the same as classic Nancy Drew? No. Many people read and enjoy these books, while others do not. I enjoyed the vast majority of them, and I consider them to be an important part of my collection.