Friday, November 20, 2015

The Nancy Drew Files #109: Love Notes (1995)

Nancy and Bess are off on the most exciting vacation ever. Nah, I'm just messing with you. They're actually staying with a friend of Carson, Nancy's dad, and going to a music festival. Not something cool like Woodstock, but a symphony festival with a pianist competition. Thrills and chills, right?

The day after arriving, they decide that horseback riding seems fun and stop by the first stable they see. Conveniently, it's also Keiko and Ted, two of the three remaining competitors are riding. They meet up, Ted instantly falls for Ms. Drew, and they decide to go riding together.

While away from the pack, they hear a scream and rush to find Keiko laying on the ground and holding her arm. She tells them that she accidentally fell off her horse, and Ted agrees to rush and find a doctor. The doctor says she sprained her wrist but needs medical attention, so Ted takes her into town. Nancy find proof that someone placed burrs under the saddle to aggravate the horse and that someone deliberately cut through the saddle too. She even gets proof that someone brought those burrs with them because they aren't native to Massachusetts. Lucky bastards, those things hurt!

Turns out that Keiko's injury looked way worse than it really was and that she can compete that night again. This seems to upset both Maura and Jean-Claude, two of the other competitors. They were eliminated earlier, but both have a chance to come back if one of the other finalists can't perform. We also get to meet Andrew, the third finalist who keeps trying to get them to try some mushroom salad he made form mushrooms he foraged himself. No surprise, he winds up poisoned by the mushrooms. Since he claims he didn't pick poison mushrooms, Nancy becomes convinced that someone wanted to eliminate him after failing with Keiko.

That doesn't stop our little group from heading out on a sailboat with Ted though. Jean-Claude claims that he can barely swim and knows nothing about sailing, so he remains behind. While out on the water, another boat comes racing towards them and almost causes a huge crash. Jean-Claude was the one driving the boat and admits that he had more experience than he said but claims it was just an accident.

Nancy then hears that Maura got food poisoning at a competition in Europe the previous year. The finalists that year were her and Jean-Claude, and both Ted and Keiko were eliminated early. Maura is so busy practicing that she doesn't want to talk to him. Given that she's not in the competition, that's a little strange. Nancy heads over to Ted's room and finds that someone broke in right before she finds him laying on the ground with a head wound. He tells her that someone hit him over the head with a metronome before taking off.

Ted looks around and realizes the only thing missing are the scores he received from the judges. They give each pianist their scores, and the pianists then write down their own notes. He claims it's the most important thing to him and the only way he can better his performance. Nancy then hears that one of the judges suspiciously dropped out of the competition at the last minute.

After stopping by for a chat with her dad's friend, Mrs. Wheeler, she and Bess do a little shopping. They overhear someone talking about Grace Hammel, the new judge, and how it will make Ted happy. When they get closer, they discover Maura and her friend Abby. The two girls tell them that Craig Lucas, the judge who dropped out, was judging a competition where Ted finished last and that the younger pianist believed the judge had it out for him. Also, that Grace is close friends with Ted's teacher. Nancy later gets a phone call for the local police department telling her that Maura's fingerprints were on the metronome.

Since she doesn't really have proof of anything, Nancy and Bess head out to dinner with Mrs. Wheeler. She invites a special guest without telling the, Craig Lucas. Lucas seems reserved at dinner and changes the subject every time Nancy brings up the competition. His ears do pick up when he hears she's a detective though. After dinner, he tells her that the reason he dropped out is because someone blackmailed him!

He takes her up to his private office and shows her a note he got in the mail. Someone threatened to take one of his scores public if he didn't drop out. Lucas then tells her that his former teacher, some famous composer up there with Cole Porter, gave him three themes to use as he wished. He turned those themes into super popular songs that made him a fortune. Someone broke in, stole them, and then threatened him.

Before he can tell her more, there's a knock at the door. In steps his replacement, Grace Hammel. Grace just learned about the weird accidents and freaks out a little before basically leaving. There's really no point to her scene. Lucas asks Nancy to help him find out who blackmailed him and who keeps trying to hurt the competitors.

Nancy gets home in time to learn that Ted was just there and invited she and Bess to come to a nightclub with him. They change clothes and head out, but Nancy sees a hazard sign in the middle of the road, swerves to hit it, and almost crashes the car. Another car coming from the opposite direction stops and Alexander climbs out. He tells them that he came down that same road an hour before and the sign wasn't there. Nancy suspects it was Ted but still meets him at the club. I miss Ned.

Ted tells her that he didn't see the sign and suggests they dance instead of talk. He winds up kissing her on the lips, which seems to freak her out. Nancy runs to get a soda and sees Alexander at the club. Man, that guy moves fast. She also finds him sitting and chatting with Grace.

Our intrepid girl detective gets close enough to hear them talking about Ted and what sounds like Grace agreeing to vote for Alexander before the music gets too loud. She winds up back at their table to find that Bess talked with Maura and she has an alibi for all the events. Nancy then finds a drink at the table, which Bess assumes is one Ted brought for her. After drinking the glass, Nancy passes out in the middle of the dance floor.

When she wakes up, Ted wants to keep dancing and doesn't realize anything is wrong until she tells him what happened. She and Bess leave, and she's somehow fine the next morning. So fine that she wants to keep investigating. After going through Maura's room, she heads to Ted's room and finds the stolen score there. Someone grabs her from behind, and when she turns around, she finds Ted in front of her.

Cut to Nancy and Bess chilling and chatting about what happened. Ted heard rumors about Lucas, broke in, and stole the score before blackmailing him. He thought he could never win with Lucas as a judge. He also tried to eliminate the others because he thought that he would do better against Maura and Jean-Claude, and he poisoned Maura the year before because he just plain didn't like her.

They go to the competition and find out that Grace withdrew after Nancy told the panel what she overheard. She convinced Alexander that she would help him win if he agreed to become a teacher at his school. Maura thinks she has the competition in the bag, but when the results come in, Keiko actually wins. And now I know way too much about piano competitions!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The Nancy Drew Files #5: Hit and Run Holiday (1986)

Nancy, George, and Bess are off to Fort Lauderdale for spring break. Bess can't wait to hit the beach and check out the hot guys, but Nancy promised her friend Kim's mom that she would check on the girl. Kim was supposed to come home the week before but called at the last minute to say she wanted to stay an extra week. And the hotel actually had a room for her during the busiest time of the year?

Bess and George immediately head to the beach, while Nancy goes to Kim's room. She hears her talking to someone on the phone in a panic and agreeing to meet them right away. Kim rushes out of her room, sees Nancy, and agrees to talk to her later, much later before rushing off. Nancy runs to follow her, loses her sandal, and when she catches up, she sees a car come out of nowhere and hit Kim head on.

Though there were lots of people around, everyone swears they saw nothing. The cops who arrive say it's because most of them are illegal aliens and too afraid to come forward. She also sees a guy with dark hair staring intently at Kim who runs away once she notices him. While riding to the hospital with her friend, Kim mumbles something about Rosita before passing out.

Kim's mom comes down to Florida, and Nancy visits Kim's room. Someone catches her trying to break in and lets himself in with a key, claiming he's a maintenance man. When she comes back later, the room is completely ransacked. The only thing she finds is a strip of photo booth photographs that show Kim with a dark haired woman she assumes is Rosita. When someone sneaks into the room, she hides herself in the closet, and as he leaves, she realizes it's the dark haired guy from the street before.

After finally catching up to her friends, she finds Bess infatuated with a hot blond named Dirk. He and Bess seem in luv until he hears Nancy talking about Kim. He suddenly announces that he's a mystery buff and that he wants to help her. After ditching Bess and claiming he has something that can help her, he cons Nancy into wind surfing with him the next day. Needless to say, Bess is less than happy.

Once the next day arrives, Nancy learns that Dirk knows absolutely nothing and just wanted to spend some time with her. Even though she's initially made at him, she still takes a wind surfing lesson, which ends when one of the poles hits her in the head. While bobbing in the water and waiting for him to come back with the boat, a woman in a larger boat stops and picks her up. The woman is Lila, Dirk's boss in a party boat company.

Nancy eventually finds out that the dark haired guy is a lifeguard named Ricardo. He acts super cold around her every time they meet, and after he hooks up with Bess, he takes off running when he sees Nancy. She later discovers him with the dark haired woman from the pictures and gives chase. The woman isn't Rosita, she's a woman named Maria who is an illegal alien. Kim met her through Ricardo and agreed to let this complete stranger live in her hotel room.

As the investigation heats up, Maria goes missing and Ricardo winds up dead with his body washing up on the beach. Nancy gets too close and winds up getting hit over the head for the 900th time. She waked up tied to the pier on the beach with the tide coming in and the water getting higher. A little struggling leads to her slipping the binds on her feet, and she uses the pier to break the binds on her hands.

She's so tired and sore that when she gets back to the hotel, she passes out in Bess's bed. The other girls are shocked when they see her appearance and agree to help her with anything she needs. Then George lets it slip that the name of Lila's boat is the Rosita and Nancy puts it all together. Lila's family owns a citrus grove, which the book never mentioned before. She helps immigrants sneak into the country on her boat and then forces them to work in the grove or she'll call the cops on them. They also find out that Kim woke up in the hospital and that she somehow disappeared.

The girls dress up in disguises and sneak onto the boat to look for Kim and Maria. Luckily, Lila planned a huge party on a nearby island, which makes things easier. One of Lila's guys grabs Nancy, drags her downstairs, and gives her to Lila, who takes her to a hidden room and tosses her inside. There, she finds Bess, George, Kim, and Maria waiting for her.

Dirk then shows up with a gun, and Bess throws herself at him, whining about how much she likes him and how they should run away together. Nancy figures out it's a trick, kicks the gun out of his hands, and slams his head into a wall until he passes out. Oh my. When the boat reaches the island, they make their escape but some of Lila's guys give chase.

The girls split up, and Nancy ends up with one of the largest guys chasing her across the beach. Dirk suddenly shows up, knocks the guy out, and helps her find the other girls. They manage to take one of the smaller boats that Lila used to transport passengers from the Rosita to the island. Dirk then reveals that he is an undercover cop investigating Lila on suspicion of smuggling people into the country. He wanted to tell Nancy but wasn't sure he could trust her.

Lila uses the larger and faster boat to catch up with them, and one of her goons starts shooting. Dirk shoots back, but can't drive and shoot at the same time, so he gives the wheel to Nancy. Lila keeps maneuvering the boat to stop them from getting close to the shore. Nancy gets the brilliant idea to drive over a sandbar, which sends the boat flying through the air past Lila's boat. Lila then gets stuck on the sandbar herself.

Wrap up time! Dirk arrests Lila and her goons. Kim's mom suddenly has connections in Florida and has a friend who agrees to sponsor Maria to let her stay in the country. We never learn what happens to all the other immigrants. Dirk gets close to Nancy and eventually kisses her, only for her to remind him that they left a bunch of college kids on the island the night before. The book ends with him rushing off to help them.

*Nancy mentions at the very beginning that she's oh so happy with Ned, but then kisses Dirk back at the end. Bad girl!

*Bess who is always described as slightly overweight, even in this book, wears a tiny hot pink bikini at one point and a red string bikini later. All the guys in town keep drooling over her and following her around too.

*Nancy steps on a man of war, which causes her foot to swell up on the beach. Ricardo sees and completely ignores her. Pretty sure he'd lose his job over that. The doctor then gives her a magic salve, and she's back to normal the next day without even a limp.

*Ricardo kept running away from her because he was worried she'd find out about his secret. He was an immigrant using a fake ID card. Kim and Ricardo also had a short romance.

*Dirk ditches Bess for Nancy in the beginning but later comes back and starts seeing Bess again. In the end, he kisses Nancy and once again ignores Bess.

*I know I read this book as a kid because I totally remember the cover! It kind of makes me sad that if they ever bring these books up to the modern day, they'll make her super skinny. She's actually a little muscular/athletic on this cover.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Nancy Drew on Campus #13: Campus Exposures

Man, after reading this book, I have no clue why I thought they were so good as a teenager.

Nancy is running around campus when she sees Ned, which completely shocks her. See, this is the series where they decided to break up Ned and Nancy, so she has no idea why he's on her campus. Turns out that it's just some guy named Terry who looks a whole lot like Ned. He's the head of the film society on campus, and after she goes to a screening they host, he invites her to come back for a screening of the cult film Road to Nowhere. The son of the lead actress, one of the actors, and the DP will all be there too.

The thing I strongly dislike about this book is that there are like 900 characters all with their own stories. George is now dating some guy named Will, and everyone thinks they are perfect together. She starts getting sick of him and worrying that they seem like an old married couple, even though they've only dated for a few months.

Stephanie is a spoiled brat but somehow friends with all our girls. Her new step-mother convinces her dad that Stephanie has too much financial support. He lets her keep one credit card and then cuts her off. When she runs up that one card, she has to get a job in a department store, which leads to her whining all the time. She's also really mean to Pam, the one girl she knows who really works there, and is obsessed with some random guy who works as a stocker.

There's also this chick named Ginny and her boyfriend, who just found out that his band got a record deal. He keeps telling her how all their dreams have now come true and how they'll be oh so happy together. I give it to the first tour before they break up. Bess is also worried about her roommate Leslie because the girl went from super studious to a complete mess after getting a boyfriend and won't even study for finals.

We also have Eileen who is somehow gorgeous, smart, and generally perfect but can't find a guy. The other girls convince her to let them set her up on a blind date for the big fraternity/sorority dance, and Bess's boyfriend finds her the perfect guy in the form of a football player named Emmett. Eileen has a run in with a jock in the school gym who naturally turns out to be Emmett. Needless to say, their blind date is a disaster.

Now, back to Nancy! She shows up to the screening and finds out that it's one of those movies where people dress up like the characters, know all the words, and bring their own props. What makes it really odd is that it sounds like a depressing musical and not a fun movie. After the film, she learns that the head producer killed himself after having an affair with the lead actress and that she later disappeared. Some people think she killed him and made it look like a suicide after he dumped her. She also meets Sean, the son of the actress.

Sean tells her that his mom skipped town when he was a baby and left him with his dad. He tried to find her over the years and tracked her as far as Chicago before she disappeared again. Conveniently, Nancy has a journalism assignment to do an article on Mrs. Vanderbrock, a wealthy maven in town. The woman agreed to the interview until she realized it was about her and then practically slammed the door in Nancy's face. Every time she tries to schedule a new interview, the woman shoots her down.

While looking at pictures of Sean's mom, Nancy notices some similarities between her and Mrs. Vanderbrock. She does a little research and finds out that the woman met and married her husband in Chicago but there is nothing about her before then. Nancy goes to Sean, they go the woman's house, and the butler refuses to let them enter when he hears who is with her.

We also get to hear about this guy Jake from her journalism class and how he thinks Nancy is the most beautiful woman on campus. Even though they had plans to go to a skating party together, she stands him up and he learns that she made plans to go to the same party with Terry and Sean because she forgot about their plans. That doesn't sound like the Nancy Drew I love! No worries though, she skates with him a few times and even holds his hand before disappearing to talk with Sean some more.

Bess keeps worrying about Leslie, especially when she starts spending the night with her new boyfriend. Even though there's references to both Bess and George sleeping with their boyfriends, she thinks it's too soon for Leslie to do the same. They finally sit down and talk, and Leslie admits that she needs to focus more on her studies.

Stephanie gets transferred from the ladies department to the toy department and has a ton of problems. Some kids knocks over a display, and both his mom and her boss get mad at her for demanding he clean it up. The boss gives the kid a gift certificate to make up for her bad attitude, which pisses me off to no end, before deciding to transfer her once again. Her new boss makes it clear that this is her last chance.

Eileen tells everyone about her horrible date and whines/moans a bunch about how it was so terrible. Emmett then confesses to his roommate that he really does like her but that it's clear she hates him, so the guy convinces him to try and make it up to her. She's a huge bitch, so he has to be the good guy? Whatever. He leaves her a note, she calls him, and they decide to go out again.

Mrs. Vanderbrock calls Nancy to ask about Sean and then requests they come to her house. After she and Sean talk in private, they bring Nancy into the room. Turns out that she's actually his aunt, his mom's sister. After his mom left Hollywood, she moved to Chicago to live with her sister. When Mrs. Vanderbrock married, she refused to move to a new city with him, so Mr. Vanderbrock bought his mom a house in Europe.

The story goes that she had an affair and later broke it off with him to focus on her marriage. He asked her to come back for one last meeting, but when she got there, he was dead. There were signs of a struggle and some kind of rope or shoelace on the ground. After calling her husband for help, Sean's dad agreed to cover it up and make it look like a suicide if she agreed to give him a divorce and full custody before going away. She died of cancer three years ago without ever seeing her son again.

Jake comes over for a makeout session, but Nancy keeps getting distracted by photographs taken on set. She notices that Erika, the actress who came to town, wore a necklace on a satin ribbon in the pictures but wore a necklace with a leather thong in the film. Nancy ditches Jake to do some more research but doesn't find a whole lot.

At the next film society event, they show outtakes from the movie. Nancy notices that Erika wore the ribbon in the outtakes. She discovers that all the outtakes occurred on the last day of filming and confronts the woman. Instead of laughing it off, Erika breaks down and confesses. She and the producer had an affair later in the filming, and when he broke it off, she confronted him, they fought, and she accidentally killed him.

Nancy later tells Jake that the police arrested her and arranged for her to go back to California for a trial. She thinks Erika might claim self defense and get off, but he isn't too sure about that. They kiss again, and she invites him back to River Heights on their next break to meet Hannah and her dad. He says it sounds serious, and she tells him that while she likes Terry, she wants to get serious with him.

*A Nancy Drew book that mentions sex? I never thought I would see the day!

*I'm not a big fan of all the other stories in the book and all the characters. I'd rather have a straight up mystery.

*You have to love that Nancy keeps ignoring/avoiding/forgetting about Jake and how she gets weak in the knees when she sees Terry, but in the end, she decides that she likes Jake.

*Jake is no comparison to Ned. That is all.