Friday, April 22, 2016

Nancy Drew Mystery Stories #2: The Hidden Staircase (1930)


Quick note, this is the revised edition from 1959 and not the original edition from the 30s.

Nancy gets a call from her close friend Helen for help. Since this is early in the series, Nancy is still honing her skills and wants to go on another investigation. Helen asks her to come check out the home of her aunt and great great grandmother. Before she can though, a Mr. Gomber arrives on her doorstep. He's the lawyer for this guy Willie. Willie owned land that a railroad company wanted to buy, something happened with his signature, and now the railroad company is suing. Gomber warns Nancy and Hannah that Carson is in serious danger and acts so threatening that Nancy throws him out.

She then goes to see Helen's aunt Rosemary and Miss Flora, her great great grandmother. Rosemary gives her a short history of how they thought their big ass family home was haunted because they kept hearing weird footsteps and noises. Someone then broke in and stole some things. Nancy agrees to come back and spend a few days in the house.

Carson comes home, hears about what happened with Gomber, and pretty much just rolls his eyes. He promises that things will work out and that he'll be fine. Carson even takes Nancy to the construction site the railroad company is working on. A truck comes out of nowhere and almost hits them. Though Nancy thinks it's a warning sign, Carson just pooh poohs her and says that it was probably just an accident. He's a little too trusting.

Nancy goes to Helen's family's house. On the way there, Helen tells her that she's now engaged to some oil worker. They met, spent a few days hanging out, he went on an international assignment, and proposed to her over the phone. Seems a little fishy to me. Flora announces that someone broke in and stole her treasured pearl necklace. She also tells them about a second staircase in the house but claims that no one has access to it. It turns out that the staircase is hidden inside a closet.

Rosemary tells her about some guy who wants to buy the house. She says that he's a horrible man and keeps offering them less than the house is worth. Nancy also finds out that the original owner of the house built a matching estate next door. His brother lived there and they were best friends, but their sons later fought and stopped talking. Rosemary tells her that no one has lived there in years.

While hanging out at the house, there's a knock at the door. It's the guy who wants to buy the house, which turns out to be Gomber. He acts nasty again and hands over a document that he says Flora already agreed to sign, which gives him the house at a super cheap price. He snarls about how everyone knows the house is haunted and that he's the only one who will ever want to buy it. Nancy sends him packing.

Not long after he leaves, the chandelier in the living room starts swinging on its own. While everyone faints and practically gets the vapers, Nancy rushes upstairs. She discovers that by standing in a spot on the ceiling and rocking back and forth, she can make the chandelier swing. Helen suddenly starts screaming, and when she rushes downstairs, she learns that there was a horrible looking man standing in the window. Nancy deduces that it was just someone in a mask. Before they can do much, the radio comes on upstairs. Though Rosemary still thinks there's a ghost, Nancy thinks there's a rational explanation.

Not a whole lot happens after that. Nancy goes for a walk outside and runs into a police officer who introduces himself as Patrick. He tells her that he keeps an eye on the property. She later walks to Miss Flora screaming because she sees glowing red eyes in her room, which turns out to be an owl. Flora swears she closed the chimney, and Nancy worries that someone sneaked in and let the owl loose.

What happens next is completely random. In the hopes of making Nancy feel more at home, the women decide to put on a show. They find all these old clothes, shoes, and wigs from the colonial era in the basement, bring them upstairs, and pretend like they're from that era. They get interrupted by Patrick catching a prowler on their property. The “prowler” says he's a neighbor named Albert who was just out on a walk.

Nancy gets a call from Hannah telling her that someone saw Willie sneaking around River Heights. Her dad is now hot on his trail and hopes to stop by and see Nancy too. Helen gets a letter from her beau Jim that puts her in a happy mood. The girls then check out the attic and find something that looks like a hidden seam. Despite their best efforts, they can't get it open. Just as they're about to give up, they hear Patrick shouting from downstairs.

It turns out that one of the women thought they saw the couch move, which made Patrick run in to help. Nancy gets a telegram from her dad that says he'll be in town, but then she gets another that says he changed his mind. Hannah calls to ask if her dad made it there and says he never sent a second telegram. When Nancy calls the telegram office, they say they never sent the second one. She realizes that someone didn't want her to meet up with her dad and begins frantically calling around to find him to no avail.

She does, however, drive downtown and ask every cab driver she finds about her dad, but they all say they didn't see him. A woman stops her, explains that she works as a nurse, and says that she swears she saw Carson the day before enter a specific cab. They confront the cab driver who denies it until Nancy says she thought her father was kidnapped. He finally breaks down and admits that he picked him up and also picked up two other guys. The other guys made him stop because they said her father passed out. They drug him out of the car, and he basically took off.

After getting a description of what they looked like, she starts back and comes across an aqueduct that she thinks might hold the secret entrance to the house. While checking it out, she hears a noise and comes back to find a man matching a description of one of the kidnappers hanging around her car. When he sees her, he takes off running. She also manages to find a newspaper clipping from the River Heights paper that blows away before she can read it.

Still worried about her dad, she gets back to the house, only to have a chunk of the ceiling fall on her head. Rosemary and Flora think is was the ghost, but Helen points out that the roof leaks and recent rain made the plaster fall apart. When Nancy comes to, she calls Hannah and finds out that the article in the paper had a story about a school trip on one side and an ad for a used car on the other. This somehow convinces her that she knows what's going on.

Nancy takes her information to the police captain, he does some investigating, and he discovers that the kidnapper just bought a car in River Heights. Nancy and Helen then go over the parlor with a fine tooth comb and actually find the hidden staircase. All she finds inside is a letter from the 18th century that the owner of the house wrote because he worried that his servants had nefarious plans.

Flora suddenly get sick, but when she starts telling the doctor about the ghost, he thinks she's suffering from hallucinations. She keeps getting sicker. Nancy and Helen go out one day, and when they come back, they see Gomber leaving with a big smile on his face. Turns out that he tricked the housekeeper into letting him into the house, threatened Flora that he would go after the girls, and made her sign a bill of sale over to him. The doctor comes back and wants to take her to the hospital but she refuses.

She suddenly remembers her dad talking about a hidden entrance to the house in the roof. Nancy and Helen investigate, find the trap door in the roof, and learn that the latch rusted out. They still manage to get the door open and discover that it leads to a walkway on the roof. They also find evidence that there was once a connection between the roof walkway and the house next door. To make things even worse, Nancy leans that Gomber just bought the house next door too!

The captain calls Nancy to tell her that they caught one of the kidnappers and have the cab driver too. Nancy asks the driver to put himself in her shoes, which makes him break down and admit that the guy in custody was one of the kidnapper. That kidnapper himself breaks down and admits his part in everything, but he claims that the other guy was in control. She makes an appointment to talk with the railroad's lawyer and then gets a call from the real estate broker to say that she can get in and see the house next door.

She and Helen check the house out and discover that someone's been living there. Nancy then finds a hidden passageway in the house, which she literally falls into. She and Helen start wandering down the passage and then hear someone shout at them to stop. The man they find is Willie.

Willie tells them that he signed the contract to sell his house but that Gomber told him he could get more for it. He agreed to scare the women into selling their home in exchange for Gomber getting him more money. Though he never stole any of their jewelry, he does think Gomber did. He also helped take her father, or at least he picked him up from the other two guys and turned him over to Gomber. He's so upset over everything that happened that he's willing to confess it all.

They follow the secret passageway way back to the other house and call the authorities. The railroad's lawyer shows up, calls a notary, and finalizes all the sale documents. The cops show up, follow the passageway, and discover Carson passed out in a hidden room. Gomber apparently gave him a bunch of sleeping pills to keep him knocked out. Everyone celebrates, and Nancy looks forward to solving her next mystery.

*Rosemary and Flora serve the girls steak, french fried potatoes, and peas for dinner but make them eat a fruit cup first. How quaint!

*I wonder when Ned enters the series. Nancy goes on a date with a football player named Dirk and daydreams about him while going to sleep.

*Nancy gets a kick out of how tiny the old clothes are in the waist, which makes me wonder how tiny they are given her very small size.

*Am I the only one wondering what happened to Gomber? I swear there's no resolution or talk of him getting picked up!

*Sad to say that there's no resolution for Jim either. I still don't trust him...

2 comments:

  1. I don't trust Jim either.
    This was the first Nancy Drew I ever read! I heard so much about the hidden staircase I wanted to read it for myself.

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    Replies
    1. The old ones are such a tripped compared to the "modern" ones!

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