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.


Unknown said...

I have to agree with Jennifer's review of this book. It's one of my favourite Nancy Drew books although I know many fans adult dislike it.

All the weird stuff (criminal activity, unusual behaviour) is plausible because Rawley Banister is mentally ill (undisclosed illness). It is somewhat unusual to see a person living with mental illness in a series book. It is very unusual in these type of novels not to meet the criminal at the end of the story and have him brought to justice.

Also, the story takes place in and near River Heights which is my favourite locale for the Nancy Drew mysteries. Generally, I'm not very fond of the novels in which she travels to foreign countries because they generally read like travelogues and less emphasis is placed on the mysteries.

I know many adult fans dislike the cover art (from various discussions on NDS), but this is one of my favourite covers. When it was first published in 1971, the cover truly resonated with me (I was age appropriate for the book then!). I loved how pretty Nancy looked with her reddish-blond natural flip hairstyle, large blue eyes, and that her dress and necklace exactly matched the cover background. And this fuschia shade was such a cool, awesome, modern colour (at least it was in 1971!)

M. LeRoy said...

Can you please suggest where I can get Perry Pierce & Doris Force books?

Jennifer White said...

You have several options. eBay has a few without jackets that are cheap. Someone has the complete set of Doris Force with dust jackets on Bonanza. Follow the link and enter the series name in the upper right corner search box. You can also search on the Advanced Book Exchange where some books from both series are for sale.