Friday, August 7, 2015

The Nancy Drew Files #53: Trail of Lies (1990)


Carson Drew is taking George and Nancy to visit his best friend and former classmate Henry Wilcox in Alaska. Bess would go too, but she's on vacation in Florida. Not long after arriving, they find the perfect gift to bring her: a tiny little puffin carved out of stone. John, Henry's driver/friend, picks them up at the airport and takes them back to the house where they meet Henry's son Steve. He instantly develops the hots for George but keeps making rude comments and acting hostile around Nancy. He then introduces them to his best friend Craig, who trains sled dogs. Craig tells them that Steve is planning on entering some big race and that this competitor named Lindsay wants to cream him. Before he can go any further, there's a knock at the door. It's the police looking for Henry.

Nancy gets her first clue that something is wrong when she sees John having a whispered conversation on the phone that he stops when he sees her. At dinner that night, Henry tells them that the police got a tip about carved elephant ivory on one of his boats. Apparently, they can sell carved walrus ivory, but someone used his boats to import real ivory and pass it off as Alaskan ivory. I'm pretty sure the real thing would be worth more on the black market but whatever.

Steven invites George to come with him to Northern Lights, the hippest club in the area, and Craig invites Nancy. Not long after they get there, the infamous Lindsay makes an appearance with her best friend Amanda. Amanda is super hostile, which Lindsay tells them is because Steve dated and dumped her pretty harshly. Amanda then announces that he will pay for what he did to her before storming off.

Since Henry gave Nancy permission to check out his shipment, she heads to the ship. The police tell her that someone imported a crate of carved ivory puffins inside a shipment of green beans. She then checks out another shipment the police already looks at and finds a bunch of carved bears hidden inside. Someone abruptly turns off the lights, knocks her down, and runs off. A guard finds her pretty quickly but swears there was no one else anywhere nearby.

Nancy and George then go out with the guys again to practice with the dogs. Steve continues acting really rude to Nancy while flirting with George. Craig offers to take Nancy back to the house and explains to her that he really wanted to give Steve and George some alone time. He also reveals that Amanda kind of hates dogs and that Lindsay is so protective of the sled dogs that she made everyone make a bunch of changes as to how they treated the animals.

George later gets Nancy alone and wants to talk about Steve and how he clearly dislikes her. Nancy tries to blow it off until they overhear Steve screaming to Craig about how he doesn't want Nancy there because she will ruin everything. He at least has the decency to look embarrassed when they catch him before saying good night and running away.

The next day, Nancy ramps up her investigation. She meets with Amanda, who is a bookkeeper at Henry's company, and goes over the records, which leads to her discovering that the carvings came from Seattle. She then runs into Lindsay and goes to lunch with her. They do a little shopping, and Nancy finds one of the carved bears in a store. After buying it, she takes it to a local shop, where the man reveals that he just saw Amanda that morning, and he tells her that it's a fake Alaskan stamp on the bottom and that it's clearly elephant ivory. When she tells the store where she bought it, the owner is all shocked and agrees to give her the name of her supplier.

Nancy and George go to the trials for the upcoming dog sled race. Steve once again acts hostile towards Nancy but helps them find a spot to watch the race. Everything goes fine until Lindsay gets out in front. She loses control of the her dogs, and they come running full speed right towards Nancy and George. Lindsay gets the dogs stopped but claims she heard someone crack a whip nearby and that the loud noise spooked the dogs.

Nancy begins suspecting John is behind everything when she sees him sneaking around. He acts really pissy and tells her that he just wants to see Steve win but denies doing anything. John also tells her that his kid brother had a gambling problem and stole money from his boss. No one in town would hire John because of what his brother did, so he moved to a new city. He's now worried that Henry will find out what happened and fire him too. Geez, it's now like he's his brother or anything.

Steve winds up winning the race, but George starts doubting him after finding a whip hidden in his sled. He denies using it and says that Nancy will probably accuse him of being the illegal importer too. When they get back to his house, his dad doesn't really seem to care that he won, and Steve claims that nothing matters until he wins the big race. Nancy then gets two more pieces of evidence. John tells her that he found a firecracker on the track, which explains the noise Lindsay heard, and the police captain found out that the person who sold some of the imported items traveled via dogsled.

The next day, Nancy has another run in with Steve while he's feeding his dogs. He tells her he hasn't seen George, but then he and Craig say she went to see Lindsay. Nancy heads over there and talks with Lindsay but George is nowhere to be seen. She does encounter Amanda and tells her that she thinks she's the importer and working with Steve. Amanda finally opens up about how she's been having money problems. She sold off everything of value she had and even took out some advances on her paycheck, but she obviously didn't break the law. She even sold her portion of her family's cabin to her brother Craig. After going back to the Wilcox house, Nancy sees something in a bag of dog food and realizes she knows who the importer is.

Nancy rushes inside and tells Steve that Craig did it and shows him the carved bear she found in the dog food. Craig is the one who always feeds the dogs and probably dropped it. They figure out that he took George to his family cabin with Steve's dogs, which he was supposedly taking out for a run. They borrow Lindsay's dogs and get there just in time to see George dead on the ground.

Okay, so she's actually just passed out. She opens her eyes just long enough to tell them to check the dog food before passing out again. Craig shows up with a gun and forces them into the cabin. When Steve fights back, he smacks him upside the head with the gun and lunges towards Nancy. Steve suddenly jumps up and knocks Craig out. He then tells Nancy to take one set of the dogs and get George back and he'll wait with Craig.

Instead, Craig overpowers him and comes after Nancy. They wind up on a section of the trail just large enough for one sled, but he keeps trying to pass her. A rabbit darts out of the woods, which scares him, and he loses control of the sled and crashes into a tree, causing a bunch of snow to fall on top of him. She gets back and finds everyone waiting anxiously for her.

In the end, the cops go out in the woods and find/arrest Craig. Steve finds his way back home, and he and his dad make up. He admits that he was jealous of Nancy because his dad kept telling him stories Carson told him. Amanda tells them about her money problems and how she had to sell her grandfather's ring. Nancy tells Henry how Amanda helped her put all the clues together and her family's cabin. Henry arranges for the buyer to sell the ring to him so Amanda can get it back. Steven then asks Nancy if she wants to race his dogs in the big race, and she laughingly tells him that she's had enough of dogs for a long time.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

The Baby-Sitters Club Mystery #17: Dawn and the Halloween Mystery


Even though Dawn spent something like six Halloween seasons in Stoneybrook before moving to California for "six" months, she's in California for Halloween. While out shopping with Carol, she stops to buy some mousse and arrives back at the car before Carol. Dawn also swings by Ellie's Variety Shop to get paint for Jeff's monster costume. Ellie chides her about now dressing up for Halloween, but Dawn says she's too old for that kind of thing.

She hears someone scream and sees a guy in High-Fly sneakers and a clown mask go running by. Turns out he just robbed the convenience store, so she has to go to the police station as a witness. Even though there was just robbery, the town imposes a curfew for all kids and decides that if anything else happens, the town will cancel Halloween. The We Luv Kids Club decides to plan a backup Halloween party for the kids.

Dawn also goes to sit for Ryan and Erick. I swear that I do not remember the writer spelling his name this way in other books. Their mom, Cynthia, asks Dawn if she would mind sitting for their new neighbor Timmy too. His parents are going through a divorce and he's having a hard time. She offers to pay her extra too. Dawn thinks that he's a little shy and withdrawn too.

Dawn and Sunny decide to investigate and find out where the mask the robber wore came from. Ellie doesn't sell clown masks, but the Halloween Store in town does. The clerk tells them they only sold a few of those masks and helpfully gives them a list of people. They weed everyone out except for the last suspect. All they know is that it's a teenage guy who plays soccer. They do find one guy they suspect, but he winds up being a good Samaritan named Tom who helps old ladies across the street and picks up trash.

While sitting for Ryan and Erick again, Timmy seems really down and admits that he isn't looking forward to Halloween. He only has $3 to buy/make a costume and he misses his mom who always helped him before. Dawn takes the boys to Ellie's, and Ellie herself helps him make up an alien costume. The other two go as Elvis and a roll of Life Savers. Timmy's dad loves his new costume, but Dawn isn't sure what to think of him because he acts mean to a dog.

The other girls come up with their costumes, including Sunny dressing up as Santa, but Dawn still doesn't have a costume. Since she saw a bumper sticker for a hot dog place on the robber's car, the girls all head to the hot dog stand. They find no proof, learn that the bumper stickers are free for everyone, and see some woman they suspect is an undercover cop.

While getting things ready for the party, the girls hear over the radio about another robbery. That means Halloween really is canceled and the kids can't go trick or treating. Dawn heads over to the boys' house for a sitting job and notices something strange at Timmy's house. She sees the same car she saw during the robbery in his garage and Fly High sneaker prints in the yard.

Dawn rushes to tell Cynthia, who then calls the cops. Luckily, Timmy is out of town and doesn't know what's going on. They don't really have enough evidence to investigate and pretty much just ignore the whole thing. That all changes when Dawn sees a woman with blond hair dressed in black in Timmy's yard on a later date. Cynthia calls the cops again and this time, they actually do something.

Turns out that it was Evelyn, Timmy's mom. She is the same woman from the hot dog stand they thought was a cop. Evelyn admits that she robbed the place because she needed more money to pay for stuff for Timmy. She didn't really feel guilty either because she worked at the hot dog place and they didn't pay her enough. The cops take her away, and everyone once again agrees not to say anything to Timmy.

Dawn sits for Clover and Daffodil and takes them trick or treating. They then go to the Halloween party and meet up with everyone. Dawn pulls out some random Pippi Longstocking costume that she had as a kid, and she ends up winning a prize for the best last minute costume. She gives a big speech about how she loved the costume as a kid and loves it even more now.

The other story involves the DeWitt and Barrett kids. Their parents take them on a mystery trip when Jessi sits and show them a house that they want to buy in another town. None of the kids seem too happy, and the Barrett kids break down to Mallory about how they don't want to leave Stoneybrook. She convinces them to actually tell their mom.

The adults then agree to keep looking for a new house. Everything they find is either too small or too expensive. They eventually find a house by accident that the kids love but the adults still think is too small. Even though they say that they'll put in an offer on it, it ends on one of those notes where you wonder what really will happen.

*Dawn says she always thought adults shouldn't wear neon sunglasses. Bitch, this was 1994 and everyone wore neon sunglasses. She also kind of complains about Carol wearing ripped jeans and an MTV tee shirt. She would so hate the way I dress!

*According to Dawn, Richard drives a Chevy Cavelier. That is so not the type of car I pictured Mary Anne's dad driving.

*While at the Halloween store, Dawn tells Sunny that the clerk liked her (Sunny). Given that they describe him as a high school junior or senior and she is in eighth grade, that's pretty gross.

*We naturally get a bunch of comments about how disgusting hot dogs are, which really annoys me. Plus, considering the way Dawn talks about how everyone in California eats so healthy and just like her, it's funny how busy the place is.

*It's kind of nice to see adults who don't constantly bend over and do whatever a teen girl tells them. The California cops seem more professional than the ones in Stoneybrook.

*The DeWitt/Barrett story annoys me. They keep going to open houses and showings and then freaking out over the price. Isn't that something you should look at before going to an open house? Also, Franklin complains that the yard in the last house is too small and worries that the kids will have to share rooms. Did he really expect to find a house with seven bedrooms?

*Are they really hurting for money anyway? They both have big houses that they can sell, and it always seemed like Franklin had a lot of cash. Suddenly, they're freaking out over how all houses in Stoneybrook cost too much.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Nancy Drew Mystery Stories #65: Mystery of the Winged Lion (1982)


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.