Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Nancy Drew #48 The Crooked Banister

In Nancy Drew #48, The Crooked Banister, Carson Drew's client, Mrs. Melody, has been swindled by Rawley Banister, who has since disappeared.  Mr. Drew, Mrs. Melody, and Nancy travel to Mountainville.  They become acquainted with Rawley's sister, Mrs. Carrier, who turns out to be an old school friend of Mrs. Melody.  Mrs. Carrier doesn't think Rawley is ever coming back since he sent her the key to his house.  The visitors learn that Rawley calls himself the Crooked Banister. 

On page 11, Mrs. Melody and the Drews return to their hotel to find their rooms on fire.  Mr. Drew had copies of the documents that provide proof against Rawley in his room, and Mrs. Melody had the originals in her room.  How stupid to have both the originals and the copies with them!  And why was it necessary to bring the documents with them?

On page 28, Clyde Mead pushes himself on Nancy.  He reminds me of that pest, Bartescue, from The Haunted Bridge.

On page 71, Nancy suspects that the robot had something to do with the disappearance of Dave and Bess.  It seems to me that turning the robot on, while keeping back at a safe distance, might provide some useful information.  Instead, Nancy locks the robot up in the closet.  Next, the young people wander around trying to figure out what happened.

Nancy discovers a trap door, which cannot be opened.  Finally, four pages later, Nancy decides to get the robot out of the closet and replay the command tape in the robot.  Bingo!  The robot opens the trap door.

The young people discover a drop of six feet to an earthen floor.  On page 76, Nancy and Ned give "sighs of relief.  It was unlikely that Bess and Dave could have been injured by falling through the trap door!"  Apparently, a drop of six feet is nothing.  I disagree.  Bess and Dave easily could have been hurt. 

I notice pointless passages in these later books that seem designed to take up space.  On page 97, Mrs. Carrier asks the girls to guess who visited her.
"Guess who was here this morning?"

"Your brother, Thomas?" Bess questioned.

"No.  Guess again."

"My dad?" Nancy asked.

"No.  Give another guess."

George spoke up.  "Ned and Burt and Dave?"

Mrs. Carrier shook her head and Nancy said, "I give up."

"So do I," said Bess and George.

"Well, you're in for a big surprise.  Mr. Clyde Mead came to call."
Stop!  How about beginning with "You won't believe who visited me!" and then telling them.  Oh, but that would have taken up less space and would have been more to the point.

As I have revisited these books, many of them do not hold up to my past memories.  This story is one that I recall enjoying in the past, but I don't recall having any special feelings about it.  Upon this reading, my liking of the book doubled or tripled.  I love, love, love it!  And I know exactly why I like it so much better. 

This book is just like a Nancy Drew game from Her Interactive.  I have played all 28 of the Nancy Drew games, and the events of this book unfold just like the events of one of the games.  Everything that happens in Rawley's crazy house is just like what would happen in the games.

The Nancy Drew games have plot devices like stairs that play notes of music.  Guess what?  This book has stairs that play notes of music.  Awesome!

This book has lots of things that could have come right out of a Nancy Drew game, including a moat that sometimes catches fire, a drawbridge that disappears, a robot that attacks people, secret rooms, secret passages, a revolving bookcase, paintings covered with poisoned black paint, and hidden money.

The Nancy Drew games always have strange clues in which Nancy is supposed to find some object.  This book also has that.  Nancy finds two such messages, Hunt for the Skeleton's Bracelet and Find the Silver Armor Mask.  This book could have been based on a Nancy Drew game, yet the book came decades before any of the games!  This book delivers!

Most of these higher-numbered Nancy Drew books are wholly implausible with events that make little sense.  While on the surface this book seems crazy, it is fully plausible.

By everyone's description of Rawley, we know that he has mental problems of some nature.  People who suffer from mental illness do strange things.  Rawley's crazy house is exactly the sort of place that could be created by an insane or eccentric person.  Putting poisoned black paint on his relatives' portraits?  Sure!  Having a robot that attacks people?  Makes perfect sense!

I also like that Rawley never appears in the story.  This is also similar to the games, which often feature characters mentioned by name only or heard only during phone calls.

Nancy receives a warning phone call from a man claiming to be Thomas Banister, Rawley's brother.  Since Thomas did not make the call, we can conclude that Rawley must have been the caller.  However, we really do not know.  Anyone could have made that call, which adds to the mystery.  Rawley comes across as sinister and mysterious since he is never present.  Rawley's absence makes him larger than life.

An important point brought up in this book is that family members get blamed when a relative does something bad.  Mrs. Carrier and Thomas Banister are deeply embarrassed and upset about what their brother has done.  They are harassed by Rawley's victims.

I have seen over and over that when someone commits a crime, the family is unjustly blamed.  I see it in online comments in news stories about people who have committed crimes.  Many people blame the family, asking why they didn't stop the person.  They blame the parents, the spouse, the children.  People are responsible for their own actions, not for the actions of all of their relatives.  When a family member commits a crime, the family is not to blame.

I like everything about this book.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Nancy Drew #47 The Mysterious Mannequin

In Nancy Drew #47, The Mysterious Mannequin, Carson Drew receives a Turkish rug in the mail.  Mr. Drew suspects that a past Turkish client, Farouk Tahmasp, might be responsible.  Farouk was accused of smuggling rugs into the country and hired Mr. Drew to represent him.  Farouk disappeared before the case went to trial.

Nancy deduces that the rug has a hidden message from Farouk, so Mr. Drew assigns her the task of finding it.  Nancy spots a message asking Mr. Drew to find Farouk's mannequin and bring it to him.  Nancy recalls that Farouk ran a rug shop years ago and that he had a mannequin in the window.  She begins searching for the mannequin.

The message in the rug reminds me of The Clue in the Old Album, which also had a message hidden in a rug. 

On page 38, Nancy dives into a river to save a boy.  The owner of a nearby restaurant dries Nancy's clothes, and then the girls head on their way.  Shortly after leaving, Nancy decides to call on the realtor who owns the property that Farouk leased for his rug shop.

The man on duty is described as a "smart-alecky young man" who smirks at Nancy.  The man is rude, and Nancy dislikes him.  The entire time I read this passage, I kept thinking about how Nancy had just gone swimming in a river.  I doubt that her hair looked that great.  Nothing is ever mentioned about Nancy's appearance, so the reader has to assume that she looks well-groomed.  Regardless, I couldn't help but I wonder how Nancy's hair would have looked.  The man could have been smirking about Nancy's hair.

We have a rather convenient coincidence on page 64.  Nancy has just chased after a man who drops his wallet.  She finds a letter inside, and the letter is written in Greek.  When the police arrive, one of them is conveniently of Greek descent and can read the letter.  My exact reaction as I read the scene was, "Give me a break!"

We have another convenient coincidence on page 81.  Nancy and her friends are checking a mannequin that is in a hotel to see whether it could have come from Farouk's shop.  The mannequin has nothing to do with Farouk, but while Nancy is in the lobby, she spots a pile of magazines.  One of the magazines has an article about Turkish rugs.  It gets better.  The article about Turkish rugs contains a picture of Farouk's mannequin.  What are the chances?!  Of all the rug shops in America, one with a picture of Farouk's mannequin is randomly on a table in a random hotel more than two years after Farouk's shop closed.  Wow!

Every Nancy Drew book has to have at least one extremely stupid remark.  Nancy returns home to discover that the Turkish rug is downstairs instead of hidden in Nancy's closet.  On page 114, Nancy makes her insightful remark.

Prepare yourself.

"But how did he know where we had hidden the rug?"

Oh, dear.

Nancy, I thought you were better than that!  All the man had to do was search the house!  He didn't have to know where the rug was hidden!  You were gone for a long time with Ned and even had lunch while you were away.  The man had lots of time to search the house!

On page 129, Nancy and Aisha go for a drive.  We know from a later passage that Nancy learned what happened to the mannequin during that drive.  On page 175, Aisha states that Nancy "figured it out some time ago and spoke to me about it one day when we went for a drive.  I admitted she was right and asked that she keep the secret until we had Farouk's permission to reveal it."  Nancy definitely learned the solution to the mystery on page 129.

This makes Nancy's question to Haw-Haw on page 137 rather strange.  Nancy asks Haw-Haw, "Have you any idea where Farouk put the mannequin when he left?"  Nancy has already gone for the drive with Aisha on page 129, so she already knows what happened to the mannequin.  She has no reason to ask Haw-Haw about it.  The reader doesn't know at this point, so nothing seems strange.  But after reading the entire book, the sequence of events is off.  Nancy's drive with Aisha should have been between pages 137 and 175 instead of before page 137.

The Mysterious Mannequin is an enjoyable mystery.  I found very little wrong with it, and the story holds together well upon multiple readings.  While the book does have some amazing coincidences, it is not stupid like many of the higher-numbered Nancy Drew books.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Series Book Questions Winter 2013

I have rewritten the questions in order not to quote directly from private messages.

What would be the total price including shipping for one copy of each of your Nancy Drew Applewood editions?

I get this type of question at least once or twice per year.  I strongly suspect that what the prospective buyer wishes to know is not what the question appears to ask.  These questions seldom, if ever, result in a sale. 

The buyer appears to want to know what the total would be for a number of books including shipping.  The question is strange since all the buyer needs to do is add the books to the shopping cart, which will total the cost of the books.  Upon entering a zip code, the buyer will also see the shipping charge in the shopping cart as well.  So why ask this question?

I believe that what the buyer means to ask is how good of a deal I will give them if they purchase a bunch of books.  They want a steep discount, but they don't come out and say it.  Don't play word games; say what you mean.  I am probably not going to give a steep discount or any discount beyond the 12% off coupon, but at least be open about what you really want.

One time several years ago, I couldn't help myself and politely replied that the buyer could add the prices of the books together and then add $3.95 plus $0.40 for each additional book.  This most recent time, I told the buyer about my 12% off coupon code that can be seen on all item pages.  I told the buyer that the discount would be quite nice if the coupon were applied.  I also mentioned the combined shipping of $3.95 plus $0.40 for each additional books.  Not surprisingly, I never heard back.

Do you combine shipping?  If so, how much do you charge?

I get this question at least once every couple of months.  Some buyers don't know where the information can be found, so they ask.  I have noticed that, similar to the previous question, only a small percent of these people ever make a purchase, probably around 33% of them.

I received this question around six weeks ago on eBay.  I replied that I do combine shipping and gave the amount for each additional book.  The buyer never made a purchase.  On eBay, I am not surprised when buyers ask about combined shipping.  eBay, in its quest to make it harder and harder for buyers to find information, forces buyers to click on a tab to view the combined shipping rates.

Most sellers price Nancy Drew picture cover editions way too high.  The prices are too high for books that were printed in great quantity.  I have collected boys' series books for years, and I am finding that everything is different for girls' series books.  The boys' series books sell for much lower prices, while the sellers of girls' series books practice price gouging.  Can you recommend sellers who can help me build a set of picture cover books in uniform condition at a reasonable price?

I included this question for two reasons: to answer the question and to address the issue of price gouging.

To answer the question asked, I suggested that the buyer check eBay and look for sets of books coming out of estates.  Often, those sets are in superior condition and sell for lower prices. 

I focus primarily on girls' series books, so I am not as aware of pricing of boys' books.  I have observed that Hardy Boys prices tend to be much lower than Nancy Drew prices.  If this buyer has been buying Hardy Boys picture cover books, then he would have quite a shock when trying to acquire Nancy Drew picture cover books.

The Nancy Drew picture cover editions are currently in high demand.  I have raised my prices due to the extreme demand on certain books.  I have had certain cover art variants sell consistently within 24 to 48 hours of listing the book until I began raising the prices.  Even then, those same books are hard to keep in stock and tend to sell within a few weeks.  I will not sell a book for $4 when people are willing to pay $10 to $15 for it, even if Farah's Guide says that the book is worth $4.  The book is worth $10 to $15 if that is what buyers are willing to pay.

The picture cover books are worth more than the dust-jacketed editions, in the current market.  Most Nancy Drew books in dust jacket sell for below the Farah's Guide values.  Most Nancy Drew books in picture cover editions sell for above the Farah's Guide values.  Anyone who is currently building a set of the Nancy Drew picture cover editions will have to pay a lot for certain books due to the demand.

I mentioned this topic on my Facebook page, and some good points were brought up.  One person stated that women tend to be more nostalgic than men and are more likely to purchase books for children and grandchildren.  That could be a reason why the girls' books are in higher demand. 

I wonder about crossover interest.  A number of men collect the girls' series books.  Are there as many women collecting boys' books as men collecting girls' books?  If not, then that could be why the boys' books sell for lower prices.  I collect most all girls' series books, but I only collect some boys' books.  Most boys' books are not that interesting to me.  I like the way the girls' books are written better.

Some recent auctions for Argentine editions of Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys books were quite interesting, because the Hardy Boys books went unsold, while each Nancy Drew auction had a bidding war.  The Argentine editions are very hard to find.

Click on the image to see a larger version.  These auction results provide evidence that currently, people are more interested in girls' books than in boys' books.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Nancy Drew #46 The Invisible Intruder

In Nancy Drew #46, The Invisible Intruder, Nancy is invited by Helen Corning Archer and her husband, Jim, to go on a ghost hunting trip with them and three other married couples.  Nancy was invited because Helen and the other couples decided that they needed a sleuth with them to help solve the mysteries.  Bess, George, Ned, Burt, and Dave are invited to go as well.  This means that a total of 14 people will go on the ghost hunting trip.

Their first stop will be Pine Grove Camp on Lake Sevanee, where a self-propelling canoe appears on the lake.  The second location is Madam Tarantella's prophecy hut.  People hear thunder during séances, although no storms are in the area.  The third visit will be to the Red Barn Guesthouse, where at night, a phantom horse appears with its ghost rider chasing after it.  Fourth, the ghost hunters will stop at a mountaintop inn that was once an old fort.  People often see the ghosts of prisoners.  The final stop will be at the home of a skull and shell collector which has an "invisible intruder" visit each night.

This is an interesting mystery that would have been even better if all of the extra couples had not been invited.  They have no purpose, other than cluttering up the setting.  In fact, every single mysterious event is witnessed by Nancy's core group of six.  Occasionally, one or more of the other couples are present, but typically, Nancy's core group of six gets all the action.  It gets funny as this happens over and over throughout the book. Here are a couple of examples.

On page 9, Ned suggests that "he and Nancy, Bess, George, Burt, and Dave go swimming off the dock of Pine Grove Camp."  Soon after the young people begin swimming, the ghost canoe appears.  At supper, the other couples hear about the excitement.

Later in the story, the ghost hunters arrive at the Red Barn Guesthouse.  Right after the group arrives, a banging sound comes from the attic.  Rather than have 14 people go up to the attic, everyone agrees that only Nancy's group will go.  It seems that Helen and Jim miscalculated by having Nancy and her friends along.  They wanted Nancy to help them.  Instead, Nancy gets all of the excitement, and the other couples have no part in the mystery.

This book opens like so many other Nancy Drew books:  Nancy gets warned by the villains!  On page 3, Nancy receives a warning by phone.  I thought it was strange that the villains already knew Nancy would be on the case.  Nancy thinks it is strange as well, but then she decides that someone must have been near the fence while she was discussing the ghost hunting trip with her father in the backyard.  That makes sense, but then... how did the villains know that they needed to be eavesdropping on Nancy?

This story is full of the stupidity that is present in all of the higher-numbered Nancy Drew books.  On page 14, the couples are gathered around the fireplace when the front door opens and a large gust of air enters, scattering papers and sparks everywhere.  The couples chase after a man who has a large bellows under his arm.  This just seems stupid, kind of like when a man strapped peacock feet to his shoes in The Hidden Window Mystery.

On page 34, Ned is captured underwater by a huge octopus.  Seriously.  It turns out that the villain was carrying a rubber octopus and somehow managed to drag Ned away underwater while at the same time dragging the rubber octopus along as well.  Another theory given by the young people is that the man may have been inside the rubber octopus.  Um, okay. Wouldn't he have had trouble swimming?

On page 46, Mrs. Tarpey tells the young people about the theft of a shell collection and how many of the shells are valuable.  She then recites a bunch of historic information about specific rare shells.  I am surprised that Mrs. Tarpey knows all of this and can recite it perfectly for Nancy and her friends.

I don't understand why the thunder at the medium's hut is considered ghostly.  Had Nancy and her friends ever heard of a tape recorder or record player? 

On page 60, Bess is told by the medium that she will soon apply for a license for her own wedding.  Bess begins crying as though this is the worst news ever.  She is very concerned because Dave has to finish college first.  Well, Bess, if you are that upset about the idea of marriage, just dump Dave and then you won't have to worry about messing up his future plans.  

On page 69, Nancy finds a telegram in with Madame Tarantella's papers.  The telegram reads, "RARE.  MEDIUM.  WELL DONE."  Nancy deduces that the message is a code.  She thinks that "medium" means Madame Tarantella, that she did a "rare" bit of work, and that her work was "well done."

I have a better idea.  LAME.  IDIOTIC.  STUPID.  Really, did someone watch too many stupid cartoons and then create these plots?

On page 74, an attorney named Mr. Kittredge comes for Madame Tarantella's papers.  Helen shows Nancy a shell that she found that might have come out of Madame Tarantella's box.  Mr. Kittredge just happens to know all about the shell and tells the girls its nickname and scientific name.  He tells them where the shell can be found and about its value.  How convenient that everyone Nancy meets knows all about shells!

On page 98, Ned calls Nancy to tell her about his abduction and everything that has happened.  It is not until page 107 after several more events that Ned finally tells Nancy about a piece of paper he found in the kidnappers' car.  The paper said, "Force sale red barn."  I find it odd that Ned left out that one important piece of information until later.

The ghost hunters take turns watching for the phantom horse overnight.  Do you want to guess when the horse finally appears?  While Nancy's group is watching!  I am so shocked! 

On page 169, Nancy, Ned, Helen, and Jim are locked inside a cage with the skeleton of a dinosaur.  Ned escapes, and Nancy devises a plan to trick the villain.  She has Helen and Jim hide behind the skeleton.  Jim ducks out and back behind the skeleton.  He takes off his coat, messes up his hair, and appears briefly as Ned.  The villain falls for it.  This just proves how stupid all of these villains are.

Shells are mentioned all through the story.  The final stop at the skull and shell collector is mentioned at the start of the story, but Nancy never thinks about that as they find shells everywhere they go. Really, Nancy, shells are everywhere.  Think, girl!

But then... why exactly do the villains carry shells with them and accidentally drop them everywhere?  Oh, I know... it is a way of giving Nancy a trail of clues, except she never ties that trail to the skull and shell collector's house.  

The Invisible Intruder has a lot of problems, but I have always enjoyed it.  I like the idea of journeying from one haunted place to another in order to discover the source of the various haunts.  The book has some obvious flaws, but they have never prevented me from enjoying the story.  Far too many people go on the ghost hunting trip, and nearly everything of interest occurs whenever Nancy's core group of six is present.  The story would have been better if Jim and Helen were the only couple in addition to Nancy's group.  The remaining couples are hardly ever mentioned, so their presence just adds unnecessary clutter to the story.  Take out the other couples and make some of the events less stupid, and The Invisible Intruder could have been an outstanding Nancy Drew mystery.