Remember ever so long ago, when I posted about starting Nancy Drew reviews? After buying about 30 of the books for less than $1 a piece, I figured it was time to get started!
Nancy, Bess, and George are Italy on an Emerson College retreat. Bess can't stop thinking about how great it would be if Ned, Burt, and Dave, their "special friends", were there. Nancy then comes in with a grim look on her face and announces that the boys came to surprise them and landed in jail. Though she called her dad back in Riverside for help, he hasn't gotten back to her yet.
While on a gondola ride, they hear a loud crashing sound and run off to investigate. They discover that someone broke into a fancy crystal place and left the door open. Though they don't find anything, the gondola driver suspects them of robbing the place and even considers going to the police.
Later that same night, there is a knock at the door. Nancy uses her rudimentary Italian skills to decipher something about the cops and worries that they came to arrest them. It's actually just night clerk coming to find out what happened earlier. He doesn't really suspect them but does recommend that they talk to the cops themselves. They do just that when they go to see Ned.
Ned tells the girls that they got caught at the border and their bags were inspected. The police found a glass sculpture of a horse with gold hooves. As they carried it around, it eventually started falling apart. Even though they have no physical evidence, they have a bunch of circumstantial evidence that they claim can prove they stole the horse.
Nancy only found out what happened because someone delivered a note to her hotel room and signed it DD. The girls and Antonio, a random Italian student they meet, stop for coffee and to talk about what happened. He tells them all about these gorgeous horse sculptures in the city and how no one knows where the horses came from but there are a lot of theories.
Though Bess assumes the note is from royalty (no idea why), Nancy goes through the phone book and looks for someone with the same initials. It turns out that the note really did come from royalty, a duchess. They meet with the duchess, who reveals that she wants to hire Nancy for a job. Her nephew went missing and she needs help finding him. Apparently, the duchess is friends with a professor at Emerson, and when she told him what happened, he immediately told her about the famous detective in her city. Nancy finally agrees to look for Filippo, the missing nephew.
After some more discussion, the duchess reveals that someone sent her a note with a picture of a winged lion on it that stated unless she revealed the secret of her family's glass making business, her nephew was dead. She tells the girls that it's the symbol of the Evangelist Saint Mark, who has a monument in town. The duchess also tells them that the horse found in Ned's suitcase was the last piece her nephew ever made but that she has no clue how it got there. She also uses her political connections to get the boys released.
Bess takes a nap while Nancy and George go to investigate the monument and church of the saint. Someone grabs them from behind, drags them into a hidden room, and ties them up. When Bess wakes up, the night clerk tells her where they went and offers to take her there. He then drags her into the same secret room and ties her up too.
The guys get out of jail and can't find the girls anywhere. The night clerk tells them that the girls went to Lido, a nearby party spot, and insinuates that they went to find new escorts. One the way there, by gondola of course, someone standing on the bridge throws something at them that hits the water. Dave dives in but finds nothing. Somehow, the guys all decide that it was some type of bomb.
Ned and the guys get there just in time to see Nancy and the girls entering a night club. Dave decides that this means they deliberately left them behind and uses it as an excuse to flirt with other girls. Poor George (sad face). Ned eventually finds the other group of girls and discovers that they aren't his girls. His girls are still tied up but found ways to start working through the ropes and discovered a hidden door.
Someone steals Ned's wallet so he has no money left, and the guys wind up spending the night and sleeping outside because they can't get back. Ned calls the hotel the next day and gets a message from "Nancy" that seems weird. Not only did she sign the note with her full name, but the note was way too formal to be from a girlfriend. They wander around town for awhile and come across some winged lion glass statues that are signed Filippo and look almost exactly like the sculpture found in Ned's suitcase. When they get back to the hotel, they find that someone broke into their room and ransacked Ned's stuff. The boys decide to move to a new hotel but leave word that they actually went home.
After escaping from the room, the girls find some workers to help them and call the cops. The police drag them to the station and don't really seem to believe their story but let them go anyway. They get back to the hotel and learn the boys left, but then Ned calls and arranges to meet them. While at dinner, they run into the girls from before, which leads Bess to say they plan on leaving for home the next day and warning Dave not to look at other gals.
Nancy receives word that the duchess needs her help and rushes all over town trying to find her. She eventually winds up at her house, where her butler doesn't want to let Nancy inside. Once she gets in, she finds signs of a struggle. Ned wonders if someone kidnapped the duchess, but before they can talk too much, they see the night clerk in the background and see this black cat that they spotted before. The hotel told them that the night clerk was on vacation, so they can't figure out why he's there.
Following a hunch, she follows the cat up to an apartment and meets an older woman who is actually the night clerk's sister. She doesn't really want to talk to Nancy but does reveal that her brother is on vacation and swears she hasn't seem him all week. Nancy finds a picture of the woman and her family when they were all younger and sees a young man who looks just like the duchess. The woman says that was her brother's friend.
Ned and Nancy go to a glass shop where she sees the duchess for just a brief moment before the woman disappears. They then see another woman who looks like a younger version of the duchess before heading back to the hotel. The duchess then calls and asks Nancy for help, telling her to come to the glass shop where they just were.
They all makeup Nancy to look like an older woman before she heads off with Ned. The rest of the group run across Carson, Nancy's father, who just got there. He's been working on a big case with a client who is a glass maker. The man got wrapped up in a bad crowd, and his Italian lawyer did nothing to help him. It turns out that he's supposed to meet his client at the same shop where Nancy just went.
Nancy and Ned find the duchess unconscious and then get captured by the bad guys. Just as they're about to kill them, Carson and the gang show up with all the cops in tow. The duchess then shows up too. The explanation is so convoluted that I'm not sure I get it, but I'll try to explain it.
Basically, one glass company kidnapped Filippo and threatened his family if he didn't make pieces just for them. They then tried to kill his family anyway so they could take over the whole company. Filippo shows up at the end with a winged lion glass piece he inscribed to Nancy. She says she can't take something so valuable, and he laughs it off because he can make dozens more.
Not too bad for my first Nancy Drew book in 15 years or so! I look forward to doing some of the 90s books I loved so much as a teen.