Friday, June 24, 2016

Nancy Drew Mystery Stores #63: The Twin Dilemma (1981)


Carson's sister Eloise invited the girls to stay with her and check out a big charity fashion show. As soon as they arrive though, she reveals that fashion model Jacqueline Henri disappeared. She was set to be the big star of the show. Luckily, Eloise already volunteered Nancy to take her spot. They rush over to the show, and see Jacqueline herself on the street before the woman rushes away. They also meet Mr. Reese, the famous fashion designer who donated some of his clothing.

He immediately moans and whines that someone stole some of his designs. After throwing a fit and firing his assistant, he takes one look at Nancy and decides that she'll do for the show. When she walks out in the first outfit though, he throws another fit and pulls her off stage. He shows her the Millington catalog, which is a retail company that sells knock off designer fashions. Somehow, the company responsible for the catalog got his designs ahead of time and are already selling them. According to Reese, it will take him far too long to recover and his business is now over.

Reese is just about to cancel the show when he gets a message from one of his long term customers in the audience who wants to buy the dress Nancy wore. After doing a not at all surprisingly amazing job, she asks the designer to make sketches of his missing dresses for her before going to the after party. There, she meets Chris Chavez, the world famous photographer. She also runs into Jacqueline, who thanks her for taking her spot, announces that someone kidnapped her brother, and then disappears. Chavez just gushes about how beautiful Nancy is and how she should become a model.

After getting an envelop that contains the sketches and hearing that Reese took off on a trip, the girls decide to visit Chavez's studio. They hear loud voices arguing inside and see Jacqueline come out. It turns out that their good friends and that she was telling him about her brother. Ted, the brother, is an investigative journalist who went missing while searching for something called the lion's crest. Jacqueline received a note from him that said to call the cops if she didn't hear from him for several days, but she isn't sure if it's really from him. Nancy agrees to take on the case and keep the cops out of it.

They decide to check with antique stores and auction houses for the crest and hear about an auction that very night with a bunch of antiques up for sale. The lion crest is actually there and is some type of medallion. Nancy bids on it but loses out. It's from the estate of someone named Kaiser, and the high bidder is Russell Kaiser. He acts super rude and makes up an excuse to take off.

Two other men big on the same medallion but nothing else during the auction. Another man approaches them and says his name is Russell Kaiser, which makes the other man an impostor. He says that it was his uncle's estate and that an old friend called and wanted the medallion for sentimental reasons. When he hears about the impostor, he immediately runs off to make sure the man didn't steal any of his checks.

Nancy gets a telegram from her dad that he needs her to get some important documents he's sending. Since she can't leave the house, George and Bess go to the police station to look through mug shots and possibly find the man from the auction. They find the second Russell Kaiser and learn that he's actually a con artist named Peter Grover. The girls also swing by a dress shop Jacqueline told them about but only find rude sales staff who make it clear everything sold there is unique and one of a kind. As an added bonus, Carson never sent a telegram, which means someone wanted her in the house all day.

During their investigation, they find Reese throwing a fit at a photographer's studio. The photographer winds up throwing him out, which makes him go crazy and break a bunch of stuff. He tells them that the photographer was taking pictures of girls in some of his stolen dresses. They then find that the dresses appeared in yet another catalog. Only a few people saw his designs before, including Chavez.

In the hopes of solving the mystery, they split up and apply for jobs at both design houses. Bess and George do terribly but learn that Chavez was the photographer they use. They also discover that he's supposedly been out of town for weeks, even though they just met him. To make things even stranger, they overhear someone calling a completely different man Chavez. Nancy gets recognized on the spot because of being in the fashion show. The HR director says they might have a job for her and leave her in a room where the lights go out.

Bess and George go to see Jacqueline, but when they push her buzzer, a strange woman answers and tells them they have the wrong apartment. They sneak inside, go upstairs, and hear people arguing inside the apartment. A man's voice says something about keeping Nancy busy. The door opens, he storms out, and it's the first Chavez. Though they try to follow him, he gets away.

This book is super confusing and hard to keep up with, but I'll try. Nancy escapes by using a letter opener to break open the door and heads home. She goes back the next day and learns the man she talked to was fired and had no authority to offer her any type of job. They learn that someone broke into Kaiser's apartment and stole a ton of stuff before following random people around town. It literally feels like nothing happens. Nancy makes an appointment with the real Kaiser and finds out that the thief didn't take the medallion. She also suspects that the first Chavez is a fake and may actually be Ted, Jacqueline's brother.

Nancy thinks the answer to everything is at the upcoming Crystal Ball. Reese agrees to wrangle them invites to the fancy ball and even dress them. Rosalind, the assistant he fired way back at the beginning, picks out dresses for them but picks out ones that are way too small. She says she'll send them once she finishes altering them. The dresses arrive with the zippers sewn shut, but Nancy uses scissors and saves them.

Every suspect possible is at the party, including the fake Chavez and the fake Kaiser aka Grover. Nancy runs in Hans, a German designer who believes that Reese stole his designs. He claims that Reese lost his touch in the fashion industry. Even though he supposedly designed dresses that look exactly like the stolen designs, Hans says that Reese is just crazy and that the dresses are similar. While tracking the fake impostors around the party, Nancy loses them and sees Rosalind in the crowd.

When the woman disappears, Nancy tries to track her down and sees a suspicious man outside near a white van. She recognizes him as the owner of a local fabric store before everything goes black. George and Bess meet two guys, but when they decide to go looking for Nancy, the guys decide to help. They get separated, someone shoves them in a van, and handcuffs them. Though they worry about their new friends, it turns out the guys are involved.

In a completely unrealistic scene, Bess's wrists are so enormous because of her being 10 pounds overweight that she slips the cuffs and then helps George escape. They overhear the two men talking about the pier, sneak away to find a taxi, and get the driver to take them to the pier. Worried about their safety, he agrees to wait for them. There, they find a building, pick the lock, and discover racks and racks of designer dresses inside.

Bess and George find Nancy tied up in a room inside the building. They get her untied when Rosalind walks in, but Bess literally sits on top of her to keep her from moving. We then get a few POV pages from the bad guys that have them talking about ripping off designer fashions for profit. We then find out that just as the ladies are about to escape, the whole building goes up in flames!

Let's try to wrap this up quickly. Rosalind tells them where to find a key to unlock the door and get out of the building. They find the police and a bunch of other people waiting. Turns out that Rosalind stole the designs because Reese fired her sister who really needed the money. The fake Chavez really was Ted, Jacqueline's brother, and Peter Grover, the fake Kaiser, was not Peter Grover but his cousin, who worked with Ted on the smuggling case. The paper then runs a story about how the real Kaiser remembered a story his uncle told him and found an extremely valuable black opal hidden inside the medallion. Does this connect to absolutely anything? Nope.

*Everyone says that Nancy will fill in perfectly for Jacqueline because they look so similar, but Jacqueline is described as super thin with dark eyes and ebony black hair. Yup, she totally looks just like Nancy.

*Bess and George want to know how Ned will feel when they see his girlfriend dancing in the arms of a handsome photographer on the cover of the paper the next day. Nancy just laughs it off because Ned will never see the picture. That seems kind of rude to me.

*Bess gets a makeover, which leaves her with huge fake eyelashes and this crazy permed hairdo that looks terrible on her, but she loves it because a professional modeling guy did it.

*George makes two kind of mean comments in the dress store about Bess. One where she tells her that she can't wear a pair of pants because they're meant for sticks, which Bess is not, and again when she says an outfit she tried on was clearly meant for a skinny girl.

*Seriously, I think the ghostwriter forgot that he/she made Ted involved in the lion crest story at the beginning. He winds up being in the middle of a story on garment smuggling and has nothing to do with the whole lion thing.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Sweet Valley Twins #117: Down With Queen Janet!


Janet Howell is a real piece of work. As she gets ready to graduate eighth grade and move onto high school, all she can think about is herself and her big graduation party. She assigns Jessica to write her speech, since the principal apparently couldn't find anyone better to speak. Jessica really doesn't want to do it, nor does she want to become the older girl's right hand man when it comes to party planning.

While going over the speech she wrote the night before, Lois tries to inch past them. Janet throws her arm up, which causes Lois to dump a plate of spaghetti all over her. This leads Janet to call her a whale and pick on her in front of the whole cafeteria. Both Elizabeth and Sophia stand up to her, but Janet just calls them nerds, dorks, and acts like a mega bitch.

Worried about how Lois feels, especially since she went home early, Liz stops by her house to check on her. Lois confesses that when they were kids, she and Janet were best friends. She even shows her pictures of them together. When they got to middle school, Janet suddenly only cared about boys, makeup, and clothes. She barely talked to Lois and then started treating her like dog shit. Liz tells Jessica about their friendship, and Jess points out that Janet could never be popular if she had a loser friend like Lois. Harsh.

Liz comes up with a great idea. Lois should throw her own party on the same night as Janet's party. She assumes other kids hate Janet's attitude as much as they do. Amy tries to tell her it's a bad idea, but she's convinced Lois will win. Lois isn't too sure, but when Janet calls her a whale yet again in front of a large group, she changes her mind. Though she buys invitations, she almost backs out again when Janet sees the cards, calls her a whale, and makes comments about how she has no friends.

Janet really is a piece of work in this book, much more so than usual. Cammi and Randy make the mistake of asking Jessica for the time, which leads Janet to telling them that they're such nerds that they should automatically know the time. She then snaps at them about how they should feel lucky they got an invite because it might be their last chance to be cool. She calls Kimberly out for wearing overalls that make her look like a stork and insinuates that Sophia hasn't bathed in weeks. And yet somehow, people still want to hang out with her.

Since her parents gave her unlimited funds for this party, she gets BBQ from some hot restaurant in town and books Gotta Rock for her party. Joe even tells her that high school kids plan on coming. While choosing food, Aaron has the never to talk back to her. Janet steals his hat, calls him a loser, says he has terrible hair, and wanders off. Jessica actually thinks his hair is cute and thinks about apologizing to him but chases off after Janet instead.

Queen Janet then starts telling people they can't come. Lois and Liz get their names crossed off the list, and then she knocks off Sophia and Patrick too. Jessica warns her that she shouldn't piss off people too much if she wants to make a good impression on high school kids. Janet gets just worried enough that she invites Patrick and Sophia again.

Jessica goes to Janet and tells her that Liz was super upset not to get an invite. Janet goes on and on about how Liz had her chance to be cool and ruined it before finally giving in and inviting her. When Jess tells her, Liz is less than thrilled. Jessica then goes on and on about how they never go to separate parties and should really go to the same one. Liz unexpectedly agrees but then reveals that if Jess doesn't stand up to Janet and come to Lois's party that she'll never look at her the same way again.

Liz starts talking up the party to everyone she knows. Lois will have 10 pizzas, dips, chips, and all sorts of stuff. Sophia keeps trying to change the subject before finally admitting that she doesn't know which party she'll go to or if she'll go to either. When Liz explodes at her friends, they all finally admit that they really want to go to Janet's house. Ouch, that has to sting.

Cut to party day. Janet makes Jess hang up all the decorations and be her little lap dog. She even gets pissed when Jessica hangs cacti lights over the food because clearly, chili pepper lights go with food and cacti lights go on the porch. When Joe once again tells her that high school kids are coming, she freaks out and decides that she needs a brand new outfit. They go shopping and then stop by Casey's for some ice cream.

Since apparently everyone in Sweet Valley hangs out in the ice cream parlor on Saturday afternoons, she stands up and gives a big speech. She tells Winston not to make a single joke because the high school kids will think they're immature and warns Aaron not to date wear his shirt, which has a skateboarding logo on the front. After threatening and warning everyone else about how to act and what to do, she tells Cammi to go get a makeover and snaps at Lila not to bring her baby CDs. Janet is nice enough to suggest Lila buy new music for the party, provided she ask for help picking out the discs.

Meanwhile, Lois keeps changing her mind. She cries to Liz because no one said they were coming and she doesn't think anyone will show up. That's when helpful as ever Jessica stops by. Jess tells Lois that everyone will be at Janet's except for the two of them, that she should cancel her party, and that Jess will sneak them into Janet's party. Liz leaves it up to Lois who finally decides to go forward with her own party. Jessica just shakes her head and leaves.

At 7:30, not a single person has showed up. The BBQ got delivered early, the band is late, and Janet is almost in tears. Even her mom thinks it's weird that no one is there. Lois feels pretty much the same way at her own house. The doorbell rings, but no one is there when they answer. It's actually Jessica, who has no idea what to do or where to go. Lois finally bursts into tears and runs to her room.

Liz hears a doorbell and finds two people waiting outside. Two more people show up, then a few more, and then an entire group. Lois hears people talking and peeks downstairs to find everyone looking for her. They all have a great time gossiping about Janet, which leaves her feeling pretty bad. Steven stops by to pick up Joe and gets force fed food by Janet who remembers Jessica once telling her that Steven will go anywhere if there is food. Joe then comes downstairs and announces that they're leaving. Lois's party is so happening that a bunch of his high school friends called and told him to get his ass over there.

After over an hour of walking around town, Jessica finally makes a decision. She goes to Janet's house to tell her that she can't come to the party. Janet breaks down crying because not a single person showed up. Jessica rushes to the other party and tells everyone what happened. While they all get a kick out of it, Lois feels so bad that she grabs her jacket and walks to Janet's house.

Janet tells her not to gloat before she starts cleaning up. In an extremely bitchy move, she briefly thinks that people only went to the other party because Lois is fat so they just assumed she would have better food. Lois breaks down and asks why she's been such a bitch, and Janet finally confesses that she's worried she won't be popular anymore and won't have any friends, which is when Lois points out that multiple Unicorns will be graduating too. Somehow, she never put that together. Gotta Rock shows up, and the girls decide to combine both parties. They show up with food and the band. Janet apologizes to Jessica too.

During the graduation ceremony, Jessica looks forward to hearing her speech, which is why she's so surprised when Janet does a completely different speech. It's all about the value of friendship. The principal then announces that all classes are going on an unexpected field trip at the last minute, and people forget all about the parties.

*Janet snaps at Mandy for wearing a brown turtleneck and says she looks too washed out and needs makeup. When Jess offers up her brand new lip gloss, Janet says it's an old lady color and throws it in the trash.

*She also tells Tamara to not dare show up at her party in the outfit she's currently wearing, which is black tights, a black miniskirt, red top, and chunky shoes. Janet has the nerve to tell her to wear something more age appropriate. Oh, you mean like jeans and a tee shirt?

*Continuity error! Lois says no one came up to her in school that day to talk about her party, but it's Saturday when she says it.

*Everyone goes on and on about how great Lois looks in her “retro” outfit, which is just black flares and a red sweater. Lila even tells her she should get a pair of cat eye glasses and that she looks really cute.

*In a clear sign that Ned and Alice know nothing about their kids, they have no idea that there are two parties going on in the same night, even though they spent weeks talking about that very thing.

*I literally winced every time Janet called Lois a whale, which is, by my calculations, 748 times. She even pretends that she can't hear her at one point because only other whales can hear her.

*Once again, as with the BSC, I don't remember anyone giving a crap when we finished middle school. No graduation ceremony and definitely no graduation parties!

*Her party is such a big deal that sends out monogrammed invitations, but it's really just a local band and BBQ food like cornbread, chicken, ribs, mashed potatoes, and biscuits. Since when it mashed potatoes BBQ anyway?

*The one thing that really annoyed me is that Liz never suggests just throwing a party at the Wakefield house. Given the way most kids tend to treat Lois, it made more sense for Liz to have the party herself.

*Liz points out how impressed everyone was when Lois won the bike contest, and Lois says that was a long time ago. Yeah, like 12 years ago.

*I had to ask the boyfriend how old he thought the girl on the cover was, and his response was 15 or 16, not a girl in eighth grade.