Friday, July 6, 2012

Nancy Drew #25 The Ghost of Blackwood Hall

In Nancy Drew #25, The Ghost of Blackwood Hall, Nancy is asked to discover what happened to Mrs. Putney's jewels. It turns out that Mrs. Putney is highly superstitious and that her late husband's spirit has been visiting her. Her husband's spirit told her to bury her jewels in a field. When Mrs. Putney retrieved them, she learned that fakes had been substituted for the real jewels. Nancy also learns that a number of local girls have been visited by spirits or have attended séances.

As I began reading this book, I was annoyed by how stupid much of the plot is. Nancy is called on the case because Mrs. Putney has been warned to tell no man or woman about her problem. Since Nancy is a girl, she can be told. This kind of nonsense sets the tone for the entire book.

Not helping is the fact that various plot elements remind me of other Nancy Drew books. Mrs. Putney's superstitious nature makes me think of Miss Allison in Ivory Charm. The fake jewel substitution is much like the substitution that occurs in Lilac Inn. The girls leaving money in a tree reminds me of the Lonely Hearts club in Mysterious Letter in which women send money through the mail. The stock swindle is like the stock swindle in Tolling Bell. These similarities kept jarring me out of the story and were part of the reason I did not enjoy much of this book.

The villains tell the victims to leave money in a tree in the middle of the woods. The villains then hide in another tree and use a collapsible rod to extract the money that was left in the tree. How seriously stupid is that? Wouldn't it have been easier just to have the victims mail the money to a post office box?

Later in the book on page 101 of the revised text, "Of one thing she was fairly certain. The old tree in the woods was no longer being used as a post office. Instead, the racketeers were instructing their clients to use the regular mails." Well, duh. Why didn't they do that in the first place?

Not only that, but the scene with the rod is stupid. On page 44 of the revised text, "George was astonished to see a strange sight. Though no wind was blowing, a leafless branch of the tree behind the walnut seemed to bend slowly downward." I am picturing a limb being used to retrieve the money. No, it is a collapsible rod. Would that really look like a limb? It seems to me that George would see a rod. Oh well, what do I know?

Nancy and Ned head through the woods to investigate Blackwood Hall and encounter... quicksand! They nearly die. The quicksand is so random and stupid. After the quicksand, I actually enjoyed the rest of the story since from that point on, the text did not jump around so much from event to event.

At one point in the story, Nancy and Ned work to help Sadie Green, who is one of the gullible young ladies. Nancy and Ned conduct a fake séance to force Sadie back into her senses. They tell Sadie to trust nobody unless that person writes or speaks his name backwards.
"Should Mrs. Egan approach you again, saying 'I am Mrs. Egan,' then beware! But should she say 'I am Mrs. Nage,' then you will know that she is to be trusted, even as you trust the spirit of Elias Perkins."
Nancy has Ned phone Sadie to see if Sadie is following instructions. Ned says, "This is Drawoh speaking." He has to prompt Sadie into remembering the backwards name thing. Sadie thinks and says that she does not know him. I can think of at least three different ways "Drawoh" might be pronounced, and in each of them, the "h" is silent. How would Sadie figure out the original name just by sound? I am not convinced that this would work as well as the text presents it.

Some of the illustrations in the revised text are a bit off. The illustration on page 79 shows the scene in which Nancy pulls Ned out of the quicksand. After Ned has been freed, the text states that the two young people are "[c]overed with mud and shaken by their unfortunate experience" and that "their one desire was to get into clean clothes." Then why does Nancy look so clean in the illustration? From the text, I get the impression that she is covered with mud up to her chest. Hmm.

The illustration on page 120 shows George throwing a rock. My problem is that George looks an awful lot like a boy. Not only that, but her head seems rather large.

One little oddity that caught my eye appears in both texts. On page 8 of the original text, Nancy finds a scrap of paper in the woods. The paper has an advertisement stating "Beautiful lights, $10.00" on one side and "No assistants" on the other side. Nancy slips the paper in her purse not sure that it means anything. I do not believe that the paper is ever mentioned again, so it must not have meant anything. What is odd is that these books usually never mention something unless it is important.

The scene that begins on page 125 of the revised text is more confusing than in the original text. Bess, George, and Hannah find Nancy knocked unconscious in the woods. She awakens and is asked what happened. Nancy replies, "I don't know what happened." Immediately after Nancy's remark appears the following text.
On the ground near the spot where the cabin road crossed another dirt road, she had found the familiar Three Branch insigne.

This time, a tiny arrow had been added. Without stopping to summon George, Nancy had hurried along the trail until she came upon another arrow.
And this passage continues for an entire page until the text resumes with the conversation between Nancy and the others. I think it would have helped to have prefaced this passage with something like "Nancy told the others that" and then related the events. But then, Nancy had just stated that she did not remember what happened, which makes the passage about what happened make no sense whatsoever.

Of significance, in the original text, the passage relating what happened to Nancy appears in the proper position before Nancy is knocked out and four pages before the others find her. The placement of this passage in the revised text after Nancy is found by the others creates some momentary confusion until the reader realizes what the passage means.

Since I personally found the superstitious behavior of Mrs. Putney and the young women to be annoying, I did not enjoy the first half of either text at all. As already stated, I enjoyed the story much more once I read past the quicksand scene. The second half of the book reads better than the first half. This is equally true for both texts.

The revised text is nearly equally as good as the original text. Since the original text contains slightly more information, I consider it to be a slightly better story. However, I did not greatly enjoy either text.


Wecanhavedejawu said...

I used to love the Nancy Drew Series. I'm reading the first book of a new series called Cameo and I love it :)

Kansas Mad Man said...

I, too, was annoyed with many elements of the book. Mrs. Putney is FAR from cooperative or grateful for Nancy's work AFTER she hires her in the first place! And the fact that all the duped, superstitious girls are "working class," made me angry UNLESS a villain who worked at the same company (they worked at various jobs) would have been involved to recruit them. This makes high school or less educated females seem foolish and gullible. The quicksand's quick resolution is also a bit surprising. Certain elements of this book, like the organ and the hidden passage, were used for an episode of Scooby Doo. No kidding, down to the ghost looking a lot like the one on the revised cover. The point that made me laugh aloud was the climax---Nancy is trapped with a toxic substance. . . and quickly stuffs her sleeve in the neck of the bottle. No panicking here, although she does fall asleep. . .
By the way, just how many weird mansions and houses exist in the area surrounding River Heights? There is a continuity error created by the trip to New Orleans: Nancy has been there in this book, but not ten years later in Showboat.

The cover of this book is very attractive. Despite the fact that George has brown instead of black hair, and Bess has brown hair, its one of my very favorites of all time.