Thursday, August 17, 2017

Nancy Drew Girl Detective #3: False Notes (2004)

It's almost Carson's birthday and Nancy has no idea what to get him, so she starts wandering around town and looking for ideas. While visiting with River Height's resident palm reader and psychic, she sees a black woman in a pantsuit with a man who looks like her husband. The man starts towards the police station before his wife grabs his arm and drags him away. Nancy thinks the woman looks familiar but doesn't remember until later that it's Mrs. Simmons, a woman planning on running for town mayor in the next election.

Mrs. Simmons is also the mother of Leslie, a pianist and a shoe in to win some massive scholarship to the local conservatory. Leslie is so popular that people pay to hear her play already. Also running for mayor is a guy named Granger. He's super rich and owns homes all over the country but somehow just can't get enough of River Heights. The girls all chat about how it's weird he wants to run their town and not live in a better place like Miami.

While sitting down to dinner, Nancy casually mentions seeing Simmons, which causes Carson to drop his spoon and splash soup everywhere. Thinking he's probably working on her campaign in secret, Nancy changes tactics and talks about Leslie instead. Carson sputters, makes a huge mess, and then excuses himself. That gets her thinking and makes her wonder if there's a mystery underfoot.

The next morning, she convinces the girls to snoop around with her. They find nothing until Nancy stops by the Simmons' house to supposedly talk about a charity event. Nancy rushes outside with big news: Leslie was kidnapped! How does she know someone kidnapped the poor chick? Well, it's obvious because no one used the piano for a few days and there were no notes about rehearsals on their calendar. Duh.

Since it's obviously the work of Granger who wants to throw Simmons off her game, the girls start following him around town. Simmons only has until the end of the week to submit her official paperwork to run for mayor, and Nancy assumes that he wants to distract her until the deadline passes. They learn nothing except that Deirdre, the snooty girl they all hate, is working for him as an intern.

Nancy sneaks into his house one night and rifles through the stuff in his basement office. He comes home early and almost catches her but gets distracted by a phone call. Bess pops up and uses her locksmith tools to unlock the padlock he keeps on his basement door to get her out of the house. Since when is Bess the one who can pick locks like a pro?

There's a big music event in town that they all go to in the hopes of finding Leslie and learning the whole thing was a mistake. Not only does Leslie not show up, but her teacher claims that the girl called off because she wanted to practice on her own for the scholarship event. Nancy meets Mrs. Sharon, the mother of Leslie's best friend. It turns out that her own daughter plays the cello and is up for the same scholarship.

Nancy and the gang follow Granger some more and see him secretly enter the children's hospital his company is in the process of building. Thinking he's hiding Leslie there, they follow him inside, only to have them catch them. Nancy tries to bluff her way out of his questions by claiming that she knows what he did and telling him about Leslie. He's in absolute shock and demands that they go see the Simmons right away. Granger tells them that he had nothing to do with her going missing but that he'll put up a $10,000 reward for information leading to her. Simmons tells Nancy that Leslie left a note that said she was going off by herself for a bit but that the handwriting did not match her.

After some back and forth and still no sign of the missing teen, Nancy gets suspicious of the Sharon family. They stop by their house and learn that both the teen daughter and parents left earlier in the day. Their babysitter is there to look after their young son, who is a helpful source of information. He tells them all about how they have a cabin by the lake and how his parents keep taking his sister there and not him.

Even though it's like 10 at night and the lake is four hours away, the girls set off. Between getting lost and the houses having no addresses, it's five am before they get there. Nancy conveniently hears music playing and randomly stumbles across Leslie. It turns out that her best friends' parents suggested they take a trip up there together to get away from it all and practice on their own. The dad came back the day before to pick up his daughter for a dentist's appointment and claimed he'd be back the next morning for Leslie but never showed.

The girls get Leslie in the car and explain what really happened, which sends her into shock because she thought they were actually being nice to her. She uses a cell phone to call her parents and tell them what happened, and they agree to get the auditions held for her. Despite getting back to River Heights, the auditions are over and someone else gets the big scholarship. Leslie is a little bummed because she doesn't know if she'll find a way to go to the music conservatory without it.

Cut to Carson's party. Granger shows up and tells Nancy that since she found the missing teen, she gets the $10,000 reward. After talking with her friends who helped solve the case and deserve a share of the reward, she tells him to give the money to Leslie for music school. Simmons then says she almost feels bad about running against him, but he tells her the people of River Heights deserve a real choice and offers to send someone over to help her with her paperwork. Nancy then gives Carson the best birthday present ever. She rented a piano and asked Leslie to put on a performance for him. Gag me.

*Bess is apparently so afraid of Nancy driving that she hesitates before ever getting in a car with her. It turns out that even though Nancy can solve crimes like a professional police officer, she can't remember to regularly fill her car up with gas.

*Hannah makes a mushroom and squash soup that is so good that George asks Nancy for any leftovers. I like both those ingredients but don't think they really go together.

*The one thing I do like about this newer series is that the Chief doesn't bend over backwards for Nancy all the time. He actually sees her coming in the beginning and suggests she get an actual summer job instead of doing police work. In the end though, he congratulates her on solving the crime without any help.

*One thing I don't like about this series is that they took all of Nancy's traits and moved them around. Bess is now the one who picks locks like a pro, and George is a tech expert. George also has a penlight that she takes everywhere with her. It kind of seems like they could solve most of these cases without her.

*This isn't one of those Texas cheerleader murder cases. The parents apparently spent way too much money on cars, a huge mansion, and a vacation cabin and didn't have enough money to send their daughter to music school. George finds all this by hacking a bunch of records.

*Ned is only in the book because he's still working at his parents' newspaper and can help Nancy get an interview that leads nowhere.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Sweet Valley Kids #40: Robin in the Middle

Jessica and Elizabeth just can't wait until their cousins Robin and Stacey come down from San Francisco. They haven't seen Robin since they were in first grade and worry that she might have changed a lot since then. The twins hang a bunch of balloons on their mailbox to help the family find their house.

Stacey brings along a battered doll that looks just like one the twins had when they were younger. Jessica even shows it to her little cousin who promptly decides they must be twins and plans on sleeping with the two dolls every night. Robin gives them gifts: a pink satin hair ribbon for Jess and a comic book for Liz. She then gives Steven a gift too, which is actually a pen with disappearing ink inside. Robin makes him think he spilled ink all over himself before laughing and telling him what she did.

Robin then convinces the girls to play some more pranks on him. They give him a hamburger with a thick layer of hot sauce on it, which almost makes his head explode. The girls then let the air out of the tire on his bike and hide the pump. When she goes to tell his mom, they pump the tire back up. He comes out again, sees it, and goes back to hell his mom that it's okay and he's leaving. The girls then deflate it again, which he doesn't notice until he takes off. Steven eventually catches him and throws a hissy fit. The parents lay down the law that there will be no more pranks.

The twins take Robin to the park, where Liz tells her all about how she just learned how to play soccer. They run onto the super muddy field to kick around the ball, while Jessica hangs back and complains about all the dirt and mud. The two then gang up on her and toss mud at her, which leads to a huge mud fight. Jessica has fun but pretends she hates it.

When they get home that night, Robin agrees to sleep in Elizabeth's bed the first night. Jessica hates this plan until her cousin agrees to sleep with her the next night. The next day, Robin and Jessica get caught up in playing with dolls. Elizabeth hopes they get bored soon because she hates dolls. She does tell Alice that the twins want to throw Robin a birthday party before she leaves, and Alice just asks them to decide what they want to eat.

After breakfast, Jessica and Robin start playing dress up, which is yet another activity Liz hates. Luckily, Amy comes over and suggests they all go to the park. This leads to the twins fighting over what to do and each one trying to make Robin side with them. Robin tries to be neutral and tell them she likes all the same things as them but winds up spending more time with Amy than either twin.

Things get so tense that Stacey gives Jessica back her doll and tells her that she doesn't want the dolls to be twins anymore because being twins isn't fun now. Suddenly remembering the whole birthday party thing, Jessica runs downstairs and finds out that Alice didn't plan anything because the twins could never agree on anything. After a quick fight, they run back downstairs with new plans. Turns out that the parents just lied to them and already made party plans in the hopes they would start getting along again. We don't get to her about the party though. The last chapter picks up after the family leaves as Alice tells them about how they're all taking a trip to visit an old friend of the family.

*Not only does Nancy, their aunt, look almost exactly like Alice, but Robin is almost a spiting image of the twins. Hm, I thought that was Kelly...

*Poor Stacey looks nothing like a blue eyed and blond hair goddess. She took after her dad and has thick red hair.

*Has any YA author ever actually seen or used disappearing ink before? They always make it out like it does on one color and instantly disappears in seconds. It doesn't actually go away until it completely dries, which takes some time, and even then, it doesn't always go away. This comes from someone who stained a shirt with the ink as a kid.

*Steven screams about how there are too many girls around as soon as they get there and asks if he can go to his room. Ned and Alice tease him a bit before letting him go off by himself. Yeah, there is no way my mom would let me hide out in my room if we had family over.

*Jessica allegedly hates the banana pancakes that Alice makes for breakfast, which is odd because she eats pancakes all the time in other books in this series.

*One thing they fight over is whether to have a chocolate cake with chocolate frosting or a yellow cake with chocolate frosting. Personally, I'm a vanilla cake with vanilla frosting gal, but I don't know why they couldn't just have a half and half cake. Better yet, why not ask Robin what kind of freaking birthday cake she would like?

*Jessica wants burgers. Ned says it's too late for a barbecue, but then Alice suggests making spaghetti and meatballs. In what universe is it easier to make spaghetti and meatballs for nine people than to make burgers?

Friday, August 11, 2017

Nancy Drew Diaries #1: Curse of the Arctic Star

Nancy, Bess, and George are once again off to solve a mystery, this time on an Alaskan cruise ship. See, Nancy is friends with this girl Becca. Becca works for a brand new cruise line that has celebrities going on cruises with people. Some weird and strange crap happened that led to their first celeb dropping out, so she asks Nancy to come aboard and find out who is behind everything. The girls have to solve the mystery while keeping their snooping a secret from Alan, Bess's new boyfriend.

Not long after getting on the ship, someone screams. They find a “dead body” in a “bloody pool,” which actually turns out to be a mannequin and powdered drink mix that someone threw in the water. A couple on their honeymoon, Vince and Lacey, seem particularly upset. They also meet Tobias, a rude little kid who moans and whines about how he doesn't want to be there and how cruises suck.

Becca is on hand to calm everyone down and to slip a message to Nancy about them meeting up later. Before that can happen though, Nancy's main suitcase goes missing. Her butler, and yes, her room has a butler and TWO maids, finds it in a completely different room. Someone slipped a note inside that warned her to stay out of things.

At dinner, the girls meet the ABC ladies. These three older ladies each have a name that starts with one of those letters and go on cruise ships together all the time. They point out how familiar newlywed Lacey looks and how she looks just like a woman they interacted with on a different cruise ship.

Nancy quickly makes a list of suspects. Hori, the guy in charge of the kids' club, is a suspect because he's around when stuff happens. Scott, another worker, is a suspect because he's also around when stuff happens. She also suspects Tobias, the poor kid, after someone discovers a huge spider in the buffet, which turns out to be his pet that he brought from home. Also on the list is Iris, one of the maid, because Nancy spotted her coming out of a room that she wasn't supposed to clean.

Other than the mannequin thing and the spider, not a whole lot happens. They go mini golfing, which ends when a giant bear on the course falls on Nancy after Bess leans on it. An inspection finds that someone removed the bolts holding it to the ground. Though Nancy wants to do more sleuthing on their next excursion, Alan reveals that he already signed them up for a ton of activities.

Seeing Scott act a little shifty, Nancy follows him around town and sees him giving some guy money. He tells her that he's a poker player and needed to pay back a friend, but he also begs her not to tell anyone on the ship what she saw. While making her way back to the ship, someone hits her from behind and pushes her into freezing water. Since she's Nancy, she manages to escape and find a way back to the ship.

To get rid of Alan, who is literally always hanging around, Nancy makes a comment about how she really wanted to get some postcards while in town. Being a gracious gentleman, Alan offers to run back and get some for her. Nancy then runs into the newlyweds who tell her how they spent the day at the gym. Suspecting them of lying, she goes to the gym and learns they weren't there.

This somehow helps her put everything together in her mind. She calls the captain and Becca to meet her. They find the couple filling bottles of sunscreen with poison and catch them in the act. Turns out that they both worked for a rival cruise company that offered them a big payout to sabotage this cruise. The captain takes them both into custody, though they do claim that they didn't do all the bad stuff.

Becca hears more bad news: someone from the ship stole a ton of jewelry. Nancy knows it wasn't the “newlyweds” because they were doing other stuff at the time. The book ends with her thinking about how they didn't solve all the mysteries of the ship but how they have time because they have more travel plans ahead of them.

*To cover up why they're really there, Becca made it seem like they won a cruise and gave them the ultra fancy Hollywood Suite. When Alan heard the suite had four bedrooms, he kind of invited himself along. It would annoy the crap out of me, but Bess acts like it's totally cool and no one else cares.

*Bess and Alan have only been dating a few weeks, which makes things even weirder. Who takes some guy they just met on a cruise that lasts for multiple weeks?

*Bess makes George borrow a dress to go to the fancy dining room, and George complains the whole time. She's even more angry when she finds out there are dining rooms on the ship that let you wear whatever you want.

*It seems a little weird to me that Becca is Nancy's friend because she's described as several years older but is older enough that she graduated from college and has a full-time job.

*Nancy says that Alan is a few years older than them, but he's only a sophomore in college.

*The whole Alan thing really annoys me. In what world is it cool for you to invite your new boyfriend on vacation with you and your friends, or even agree when he suggests he come along? The fact that he completely changed their travel plans and signed them up for a bunch of stuff is annoying too.

*This is the first time that I read any of the Nancy Drew Diaries series, and I'm not sure how I feel about it. I'm not a big fan of cliffhanger books like this one, where you don't realize it's a continuing story until you get to the end.

Monday, July 31, 2017

The Nancy Drew Files #78: Update on Crime (1992)

Carson has a friend, Otto, who is the station manager for a local news station. Since Nancy is bored – Ned is in the middle of preparing for finals – he suggests that she take a job at the station and investigate who keeps threatening Hal Taylor, one of the two anchors. She'll go undercover as a new intern. Before the job even starts though, someone arranges for Hal to view a threatening video right in the middle of the telecast.

It doesn't take too long for Nancy to realize that lots of people dislike him. There's Carl, a temp crew worker who keeps sneaking around, Bill, a sound engineer who is just a little too friendly, and Gary, who wanted Hal's job but was passed over for the anchor position. There's also Marilyn, his co-anchor. They dated for quite awhile, at least long enough to get engaged, before he broke up with her and now keeps running around town with a young waitress who works with Bess. To complicate things even more, he takes Nancy out on “business dinner” to the fanciest restaurant in town and is visibly disappointed when he finds out she has a boyfriend.

While checking on how someone could slip the tape in his feed, she finds a novelty pin that advertises KSM Express, a shipping company in town. She and Bess check it out and meet the owner, Kurt. He seems charmed by them until he learns where Nancy work. See, there's this guy Steve, who is a politician, and Hal is working on proving that he accepted bribes from shipping and trucking companies to keep a new law from going through that would require companies give drivers more breaks to keep them safe.

Nancy and Bess check out a few other things and accidentally come across a truck accident, with one truck hitting another. Since Nancy is the only one on the scene, Otto sends a crew to her and asks her to go on camera live. Gary shows up just after she does an amazing job and bitches not only about how much he hates Hal, but about Nancy trying to steal his job and how he will never, ever let that happen.

Ned comes back because, even in the middle of finals, he just can't stay away from his lady. He helps her investigate the shipping company, but they don't find much. Someone sets fire to Hal's dressing room and nearly burns the building down. The same person then breaks into his house and rifles through his things but doesn't take anything. Hal thinks they want his notes on the story, which he hid in a secret safe.

Bess calls with some big news that she claims will end the mystery and tells Nancy to come to the restaurant where she works. She really just wants her to meet Rita, another waitress and the current paramour of Hal. Rita tells Nancy that Marilyn is so crazy about Hal that she kept calling and threatening her and then calling, breathing, and hanging up. Marilyn even confronted the couple when they were out on a date. That's why is makes absolutely no sense that Hal has Rita meet him for lunch at the freaking station. Marilyn throws such a fit that Rita basically runs away. When Hal goes to comfort her, Rita says that it's clear he's still in love with his ex and that she's breaking up with him.

While on her way home from a date with Ned, a truck starts following Nancy down a huge hill and begins ramming her from behind. Just as she's about to careen off the road, she dips into a turn off before the other truck can stop. By the time she gathers her nerves and gets back on the road though, the truck is gone. After calling Ned, he offers to meet her there with Bess and help.

Nancy and Ned sneak inside docking area by hiding inside an open truck. They find the truck that almost killed her, Ned pretends to be a driver, and they drive away to escape. Since Nancy still won't admit defeat, she goes back to the compound and finds proof that Kurt, the owner, is the son of Bill, the engineer from the station. The two men show up with Hal tied up in a van and pull a gun on her. Some random security guard out doing his rounds stumbles across them and distracts Bill to the point where Nancy can karate kick the gun out of his hands. The guard then helps them keep the men in place until the cops arrive.

Kurt really did bribe the politician to help his business, and he thought Hal was getting too close to the truth. When their threats didn't work, they decided to kill him. Bill wanted to help his son but also wanted to help Marilyn. He's been secretly in love with her for years and wanted her all to himself.

Brenda, a reporter from the newspaper, spotted Nancy early on and figured she was working on case. She spent most of the book following her around in secret until she figured out the story involved the politician. Nancy agreed that she would get first crack at the story in the end. When the end comes, Brenda shows up and is completely charmed by Hal, to the point where Ned points out that her story will make Hal the hero and ignore everything Nancy did. Hal and Marilyn also get back together.

*When Nancy goes on camera with no notice, Bess is luckily there with a fully stocked makeup kit and even a miniature bottle of hair spray. Love that girl!

*Hal's “secret safe” is actually one that looks like a box of scouring pads, which he hides underneath his kitchen sink. Sneaky, sneaky.

*Marilyn makes a comment about how Hal likes his women young and pretty, just like Nancy and apparently Rita. It is kind of creepy that a guy old enough to anchor a news station would go for a waitress who is barely out of high school. I'm also not a fan of her taking him back in the end either.

*Nancy comes close to letting Hal charm her while at their “business dinner” before an image of Ned floats through her head...

*So, Hannah and Carson deliberately leave the house so Nancy and Ned can have some alone time since he's been away at college for so long. They throw a bunch of blankets and pillows on the floor and cuddle up in front of a roaring fireplace while they roast marshmallows together. They kiss a few times and then Ned goes home. Yes, because that's exactly how that would work in real life.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Nancy Drew Mystery Files #98: The Haunting of Horse Island (1990)

George's parents got an invite to the Steadman Resort on Triple Tree Lake from Henry and his wife, the owners and friends of theirs. Since they can't go, they let the girls take their place. Nancy and her friends quickly find a gorgeous lake with dozens of things to do and tons of people.

Not long after arriving, they hear a scream from a neighboring cabin and rush over. Ann and Carrie, two sisters who work at the resort, came back to find their cabin trashed. Nothing is missing but they explain that it's just another weird thing to happen. They also give them the low down on people who work there like Rodney, the horse trainer who is a total hottie.

On a canoe trip, they meet Steve, yet another hot guy. He points out Horse Island to them and tells them that under no circumstances should any resort guest go out there. Legend says that a family once lived there, died in a mysterious way, and now haunt the island. Plus, hunters go out there to hunt illegally and once shot two guests. It gets its name from the wild horses who once lived there.

One of the guests on the canoe trip starts talking about how she wants to leave really badly. All this weird stuff keeps happening, but they keep ignoring it because their kids want to stay. Nancy talks to Henry, who admits that some suspicious things have happened and that he wants to keep everyone calm. Our hero also has a run in with a guest named Teresa who acts weird and doesn't want to talk to anyone.

The girls borrow a canoe and sneak over to the island. George brings along some guidebooks and starts pointing out all these birds and flowers. They find what looks like a brand new fence on a deserted island and the old mansion. After a quick investigation, all they find is a tower filled with bats and some minor proof that someone has been living there or at least staying there.

Sadly, a storm rolls in and when they head back to the canoe, it's gone. There's also some proof that someone dragged their canoe away, so they go back to the mansion and try to get some sleep. The next morning, Bess comes dangerously close to eating poisonous berries before George recognizes them from her book and stops her. Nancy uses her camera to take pictures of everything they see and later sees Teresa on the water. Though she looks right at the girl, Teresa takes off and leaves them there.

Bess is convinced that she saw a ghost the night before and shows them the exact spot where she saw it. Nancy finds a pair of sunglasses there, which a ghost probably wouldn't wear. The girls also wind up nearly trampled by a herd of wild horses, which is odd since horses supposedly no longer live on the island. Steve comes by with a group of guests on a canoe trip and helps them. He doesn't recognize the sunglasses but takes them and agrees to ask around and find the owner.

The next day, someone sets fire to their cabin. Henry rushes over with other staff members to put it out before it can spread. Nancy finds proof that someone deliberately set the fire but did it in a way that stopped it from moving beyond one room. The only thing destroyed in the fire was her camera with the photos from the island still on it. Gee, I wonder what Nancy would think about cell phone cameras!

On a horseback riding trip, their group comes across a dead body hanging from a tree. Nancy gets close enough to learn that it's actually just a dummy set up to look like a real guy. That pushes one more family to leave. Yet more people leave at dinner that night. Everyone who eats the blueberry pie becomes dangerously sick, including Bess. It turns out that someone put the poisonous berries in the pie. Though Nancy suspects the resort's chef Otis, he claims that someone stole a resort pan and made the poisoned pie.

While walking back to her cabin, someone hits Nancy from behind and pushes her into the resort swimming pool, almost drowning her. That person leaves behind a blue bandanna, exactly like the one Teresa wears. George and Nancy follow her into town and see her making a call on a pay phone. They confront her, she claims someone stole her bandanna, and she continues acting like a major bitch to both of them.

Nancy decides that the mystery must somehow be related to the island and goes back by herself. She sees Teresa following her through the woods and tries to ignore her until she hears Teresa scream. The other woman fell in a pit that someone set up as a trap. Even after Nancy saves her life, Teresa still acts like a witch. She finally confesses that she's a writer and working on a story but refuses to say anything else.

After following her back to the shore, Nancy sees Teresa have a conversation with Rodney, the horse trainer. A sudden gunshot rings out, and Nancy ducks to hide but instead finds that someone turned the fence into a corral to capture some of the wild horses. Someone knocks her out, and she wakes up in a canoe with Steve.

Steve confesses his whole plan to her because he assumes she'll die soon enough. He captured the wild horses with plans to sell the animals to others. He also set up the whole haunted island thing and did all the other weird stuff to try and make the resort go under. Steve assumed that he could then guy it back from Henry for a fraction of its value. After taking her back to the old mansion, he leaves her tied up while he deals with other stuff.

It's clear he doesn't know Nancy. She breaks an old clock and uses the glass to cut through her bindings before sneaking into the tower and hiding. She makes just enough noise to let Steve know her location. When he goes to the tower, she scares the bats enough that they freak out and attack, which gives her time to run downstairs and lock the tower door behind her. Teresa and Rodney then show up with the cops to save her.

It turns out that Steve brought Rodney in on his plan because he needed help with the horses. Rodney started feeling bad about catching the wild animals and contacted Teresa at her newspaper with the story. They secretly worked together to bring down Steve for weeks, but Nancy did it in mere days.

*Multiple people suspect Otis, the resort chef, because he's surly and complains a lot about not getting paid enough. Nancy thinks it's strange that he keeps bringing up how much he makes, but even Henry admits that people come back just for the food he makes and that he's seriously underpaid.

*The girls come back one day to find the cabin ransacked and completely flip out until they find a raccoon in their kitchen. Nancy is smart enough to trick the raccoon outside with crackers.

*The whole poisoned pie thing was kind of funny because George stopped Bess from eating the berries because they might kill her. Multiple guests then ate the pie laced with those berries and basically just had some mild discomfort. They didn't even need to go to the hospital!

*The sunglasses they found were Steve's, which Nancy figured out after way too long. He was the only one in the resort with prescription lenses.

*When they first get to the resort, the girls all change into skirts and tops for dinner. A rustic lodge in the middle of nowhere doesn't really seem like the type of place that would have a dress code for dinner.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Nancy Drew Mystery Stories #170: No Strings Attached (2003)

Nancy, George, and Bess head to Paris for a few weeks, and Carson was nice enough to rent them a small apartment that sits on top of a marionette theater and museum. Marie, the owner, welcomes them, shows them to their apartment, and then takes them out for lunch. She explains that the theater was in her family for years but that financial problems are forcing her to seriously consider selling the property to someone else. William, her lawyer, thinks she should sell to his business partner, Cristophe. Cristophe wants to keep it open but thinks he can do a better job of running it.

We meet William when he comes for a visit and recommends, once again, that she sell. Marie also has a distant cousin named Claude who keeps hanging around. He thinks that the building should remain in the family and is ticked off that he didn't get any money from their grandmother's estate. Claude is suspicious because he keeps hanging around and getting in the way. Marie recently fired Quentin, her best worker, because she couldn't afford to pay him.

The girls offer to do whatever they can to help, which leads to them agreeing to help her put on a show at some upcoming festival. Bess turns out to be so good with one of the marionettes that Marie even asks her to play one of the characters during the show. On their second day, someone sets the studio on fire. The police rule it as arson and actually suspect Marie did it to escape the theater with the insurance money, though she swears she would never do that.

While out at a cafe, Marie runs into Patrice, an old friend of hers from school. Patrice came back to town just to see the show and her former friend. Marie tells all the women in her life that her grandmother Juliette left behind notes about a family treasure that she hopes to find. No one believes her, but Nancy agrees to check things out and reads over a journal the woman kept that seems to include clues that really do lead to some fortune. It begins looking like it might have something to do with the marionettes, which date back generations in the family.

That makes more sense after someone breaks in and steals two of the dolls. They come back on another day and find that someone stole the doll Bess kept in her room and that the person is still there. He/she shoves Bess down hard enough to almost hurt her. Though they give chase, the person literally jumps from rooftop to rooftop to get away. They later find the mutilated doll.

Marie tells Nancy about this book she once had on famous marionette operators and how she misplaced it. She tracks a copy down from a book vendor in the hopes that it might reveal more secrets about the family treasure. Nancy finds other evidence like a matchbook from an exclusive club that both William and Christophe belong to, but that means nothing because anyone can walk through the front doors of the club and pick one up.

More investigation leads to her finding a wooden tray with different spaces for inlaying things on top. Nancy finds everything needed to open it but only uncovers a piece of paper with some characters written on it, which George recognizes as the names of characters from The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Nancy also catches Claude and Christophe deep in conversation and records them. Marie translates it and learns that the two are working together to find her family's secret treasure.

Nancy keeps stumbling onto random things like a photo of Juliette in an antique shop that shows her standing in front of something that exactly matches leather panels made for the marionette show. Someone knocks her out and locks her inside a wooden box, but because she's oh so smart, she somehow manages to get out and escape.

We then make it to the fancy festival. Nancy sees someone sneaking around backstage and gives chase. Though she almost loses the person, she catches up and finds Claude. Claude goes crazy, which leads to the cops arresting him. He claims that he did do a few things to Marie because she cheated him out of the family fortune and that he attacked Nancy but that he didn't do everything.

Nancy sends Patrice a note that she says for her to give to Marie but is actually part of a plan to set Patrice up. Patrice shows up, thinking that Nancy knows the truth of the fortune, and instead finds them all waiting for her. She confesses that while doing research for a book she wanted to write, she found out about the treasure. She also learned that Marie's grandfather killed her own grandfather in a duel and found letters about the treasure. Patrice was the one who started the fire and did some of the other stuff.

They show her the paper they found, but Patrice refuses to believe that Juliette would go to such great lengths just to hide a piece of paper. After the cops come and take her away, Nancy puts all the pieces together and takes everyone to the leather panel she spotted before. It's actually thicker than all the other panels. They open it up and find the handwritten manuscript for the first draft of The Hunchback of Notre Dame inside. It turns out there was some family connection between Victor Hugo and Marie's family, which led to him gifting the draft. She can sell it for more than enough to save the family museum and theater.

*Bess used all her frequent flyer points to get them all tickets to Paris for just $200 each. I totally want to be Bess's new best friend.

*I'm starting to think that every time Bess leaves River Heights, she discovers some new hidden talent. There was the whole pastry chef thing in that one book and now she's secretly a master puppeteer.

*Quentin, her old assistant, is a major suspect because she fired him and he works in a restaurant near the secret club. He explains that he worked there, even while working for her, because he needed the money. None of them believe him because why in the world would someone need to work two jobs? I'm totally rolling my eyes right now.

*George is such a fan of Victor Hugo, she says he's her favorite author, that she can literally recognize his handwriting on the page. Yeah, I like a lot of writers but have no clue what their handwriting looks like.

*After reading the book and seeing the cover so many times, I cannot get the N*SYNC song out of my head!

Monday, July 24, 2017

Nancy Drew Mystery Files #68: The Elusive Heiress (1982)

Carson has a big and important job for Nancy. Millionaire Arlo Winthrop desperately wants to track down his daughter Clarinda before he dies. The only problem is that she went missing 40 years ago. After she fell in love with a solider, her father forbid her from seeing him, so she ran away to be with him. Winthrop tracked her to Wyoming, but no one has seen her in at least 30 years. When Carson gets a call that Clarinda is actually in Canada, he decides to try and find her and send Nancy and Ned to Wyoming. They can stay with Grace, the best friend of Nancy's mother.

At the airport, they randomly stumble upon this little girl Jennifer. She's been attending boarding school in River Heights while her mother recovers from a car accident, but her mom called and asked that she come home. The head of the school recognizes Nancy and asks her to keep a watch on her during the flight. Ned winds up really bonding with her.

Once they get to the airport though, her mother isn't there. They look up and call her phone number to find it disconnected. Grace, being a super nice woman, invites Jennifer to stay at her house. Nancy then notices two men staring at them and especially keeping a close eye on Jennifer.

Instead of focusing on the missing heiress, Nancy focuses on finding Jennifer's mom. She and Ned check out the house and find a car in the garage, a newspaper dated a few days earlier, and no sign of the woman anywhere. Two men in a blue car, who look suspiciously like the men from the airport, drive by the house and stare at them before speeding off. None of the neighbors have seen her either.

Also strange is that Carson never calls Nancy to update her on his own situation. She calls Hannah to see if maybe he checked in with her and learns that he hasn't called anyone. Nancy finally calls the lodge where he's staying, but the man who answers is really gruff and says Carson is too busy to talk. When Carson finally calls her back, he doesn't ask any questions or even check on Grace and just says that he's found a lead and is super busy.

Cheyenne, where they're staying, is in the middle of a big rodeo days celebration that lasts all week. This gives Nancy and her group the chance to go to a bunch of parades, square dancing, and rodeo events. At one, someone shoves Nancy in the street and she comes close to getting trampled by a horse before Ned saves her. At another, someone grabs Jennifer and runs off, but she kicks him in the shin. He drops her before hopping in a blue car.

Next, someone hits Grace from behind and steals Jennifer again, only this time, they actually get away. Nancy begins meeting with people to talk about the missing heiress and finds out that the woman actually did come to Cheyenne but that she changed her name before marrying her soldier. They lived on a big ranch until someone robbed the local bank. Police found some of the missing money on their property and blamed them, which led to them leaving the town in disgrace. The real robbers were later caught and admitted to hiding the money there.

Friends of the couple stepped up and took care of their ranch in the hopes that they might one day come back. They leased the land to other farmers and ranchers for their animals. One friend lets them check out the ranch. Nancy finds a diary kept by the woman that mentions people by their initials and learns that two of those initials match the names of friends who later moved to California. Oddly enough, Jennifer has an “aunt and uncle” in California by those same names. See where this is going?

To make a long story shorter, Nancy finds out that the two lived in a small cabin set back from the main ranch. She and Ned then see the same blue car in town and follow it to the ranch. They wait until the car leaves again, track down the cabin, and find both Jennifer and her mother. After breaking the window, they get them out and take them back to Grace's house.

It doesn't take long for the full story to emerge. Jennifer's grandmother is the missing heiress, who now lives in California. They call her on the phone, and she tells Nancy that she actually wrote to her father to make amends and got back a letter from him that basically told her to go to hell. Nancy realizes that the woman's cousin, a man literally mentioned one time on page two, is behind everything. He took care of his uncle and assumed that he would inherit everything. Nancy comes up with a plan to get Jennifer, her mom, and Ned out of town and back to River Heights while she flies to Canada.

After learning the lodge her dad stayed at actually went out of business, she sneaks over and finds that someone is keeping him drugged. She sets fire to a shed nearby to distract the guard and then helps her dad escape. They fly back to River Heights and meet the former Clarinda as she flies into town. Clarinda and her dad make up, and I assume everyone lives happily every after while her cousin and all his helpers do serious jail time.

*Ned says that there being a car at Jennifer's house isn't proof her mom was there because a lot of people rent out their garages to people who have cars when they don't own their own cars. Is that actually common or just something from the west in the early 80s?

*So, Grace is roughly the same age or slightly younger than Carson, yet Nancy always describes Carson as kind of a catch and makes Grace out to be some dowdy middle aged woman.

*Someone sends Nancy a note to meet them at the rodeo's animal corral and then locks her in the paddock with a charging bull. Remembering something she saw in the show, Nancy does some crazy and evasive maneuver to roll under the bull and through the fence. Surprisingly, no one really seems worried that a tourist was almost killed...

*Clarinda changed her name to Lindy, which is the name of the woman who lived in Cheyenne and then moved to California, but it somehow takes Nancy way too long to put the pieces together.

*I pretty much figured out Jennifer was the granddaughter of the missing heiress as soon as she showed up.

*There really is no explanation for why they kidnapped Jennifer and her mom. Clarinda already thought her dad didn't care about her anymore, so it's not like she was coming back to town.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Sweet Valley Kids #32: Left Back!

Elizabeth and Jessica cannot wait for school to start because there's a new boy joining their class. Kisho turns out to be super cool. He was born in Japan and moved to New York as a kid. His parents are college professors and moved a lot, but they most recently moved from Oklahoma.

All the kids in school think he's super cool. When he tells them that his birthday is coming up and that his parents want to throw a party at the park, Lila convinces him to do it at Secca Lake instead because it's bigger and has more room. He makes friends with both the boys and girls, and both the twins like him.

That all changes when they do some math problems in school. He's so good at math that the teacher gives him advanced problems to do. Kisho says that he learned this before. Jessica asks if he learned it in first grade or if he studied it earlier in the year, but he finally confesses that he was held back and that this is his second time in second grade. Cue the bullying.

First up is Lila. She calls him a dummy and turns everyone else against him. When Liz remains friends with Kisho, Lila tells Jessica that her twin must be a dummy too. All the kids gang up on him, make fun of him, and call him stupid all the time. The only kids still on his side is future shoulder patter Liz and Charlie. Liz – and me – think it's weird that Charlie, who makes fun of anything that moves, still wants to be friends with the new kid.

Kisho invites them both over to his house the next day. Jess is less than happy to see her twin hanging out with the dummy and doing things without her. They hear him speaking Japanese to his grandmother on the phone and learns that he speaks the language fluently. He actually has problems with English because he learned Japanese first and because his parents still speak it at home. Kisho shows them some of the Japanese books he has. Charlie then admits that his grandfather is Italian and still speaks with an accent. People make fun of him, which is why he wanted to be friends with Kisho.

At school the next day, Jessica calls Kisho a dumbo in front of a bunch of kids. Caroline then picks up on it and makes fun of him, not knowing the teacher is behind her. Liz and Charlie come up with an idea and lord it over the other kids, especially Jessica, that they'll find out what it is later. The teacher gives a speech about not picking on each other and how all people are different, which seems to affect no one but Jess.

The plan the kids had is a special presentation. Kisho brings in his grandfather, and Charlie brings in his too. The two men talk to the class about their first impressions of America and how much they loved the country right off the bat. They also talk about some of the problems they faced, which makes the kids realize that they're all a bunch of stupid heads.

Jessica feels so bad that she suggests buying Kisho a 64-count box of crayons for his birthday because he really loves drawing. All the kids go to the lake for his birthday and have a good time. He also manages to get Jessica to eat one of those dumplings with red bean paste inside and laughs at her expression when she finds out what it is. I think he'll fit in just fine.

*Am I the only one who totally pictures Kisho as Stephanie's friend from Full House?

*There's a horrible scene where Lila, Ellen, and some other girls are on the swings. When Kisho comes over, Lila loudly says that she doesn't play with dummies and convinces the other girls to leave. Kisho gets sad and goes off by himself, which causes her to say they can stay and play after all. Second grade Lila needs a smack upside the head!

*Kisho draws a card for his grandfather with a picture of himself on the front. When he can't find the black crayon, he gives himself blue hair. Winston then confesses that his grandmother really does have blue hair.

*Jessica really isn't the sharpest crayon in the box and neither is Lila, so I don't know where they get off making fun of someone else.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Nancy Drew Mystery Stories #173: Danger on the Great Lakes (2003)

Carson surprises Nancy with a cruise around the Great Lakes for her and her friends, and she surprises Bess and George by jumping out at them in a new bikini, seriously. After delivering the news, she suggests that they head to this new boutique where she got her swimsuit to get some new clothes for their trip. They meet Amber, another woman heading off on the same cruise. She explains that her boyfriend, Craig, works on the ship and got her a discounted ticket. They shop together and agree to meet up later.

Almost as soon as they board the ship, they see Craig and Amber in the middle of a big fight. Amber keeps complaining about him to her new friends because even though he's working, she thinks that he should spend more time with her. When Craig learns who Nancy is, he gets her alone and reveals a big secret. He's actually an Interpol agent working undercover on the ship to catch a jewel thief. Nancy agrees to help after seeing his badge and fills her friends in on the case.

The only problem is that this causes them to sneak around together a lot. Amber picks up on it and accuses the two of them of having an affair. She stops spending time with Nancy but does stick to Bess and George. Bess meets an older woman named Laura, who always wears a gold necklace and nail polish that matches her outfit. She encourages Bess to design clothing and says she'll even buy some of her pieces. When she comes to look at Bess's drawings though, she hates everything and acts like a bitch. The next time they see her though, she's completely back to normal and acting like their best friend. Bess and Nancy both wonder if she has an emotional disorder like split personality disorder.

At one shore excursion, Laura tells them to visit one particular shop and to check out all the amazing finds in the basement. While down there, someone locks them in a room and they almost don't get back to the boat before it leaves. Nancy also gets a note from Craig about how Amber is sick and wants to see her but she should take a specific set of stairs to get there. Bess goes in her place, falls down the stairs because someone left slick stuff there, and ends up on crutches for the whole book.

After another excursion, they come back to the boat to find Amber in tears. She tells them that she and Craig went out to dinner, he went to the bathroom, and just never came back. Since he's been acting weird and pulling away from her, she assumes that he dumped her, which might explain why he didn't even come back to the ship. Nancy calls her dad for help because now she wonders if Craig even works for Interpol.

Then, the other shoe drops. Amber comes to her and confesses the true story. Craig really isn't an Interpol agent, he just told her that to throw her off his scent. He and a friend case the ship to find the most expensive furs, purses, jewelry, etc. and steal it. Craig planned one last job and asked Amber to come with him. They agreed to meet at a restaurant after he walked off with the riches, but he never showed up. Since she had nowhere to go, she came back to the ship.

That night, a storm hits right above the ship. Nancy is snooping around outside when someone grabs her and tries to push her overboard. They succeed, but a wave moves the boat in a way that she just lands HARD on the floor below. Unlike other books, where she would just get up and brush herself off, this Nancy is actually so hurt that she can hardly move for awhile.

Laura tells the girls about all these delicious candy shops at the next stop and how she wants to check them off. Since she's acting weird again, the girls follow her but lose her when Amber tries to catch up to them and falls down. By the time they take care of her skinned knees and get her back to her room, Laura is waiting there with a gun.

I bet you're wondering what the hell is going on, right? Apparently, Laura is Amber's mother, and the two worked together to steal a bunch of diamonds, the same diamonds Craig wants. He really is an Interpol agent too. Amber arranged to meet him and make him fall in love with her, both to confuse him and to make sure that she was on the boat. I guess actually buying a ticket was way too hard. She met him at the arranged time, drugged him, and left him in an abandoned house with some food and water.

Amber, seeing all the boxes of chocolates, makes a comment about if those are the gifts for Uncle CN. They then tie the girls up and put them in the bathroom, saying that the porters will eventually find them but not until they get off the ship. They jam the door lock to prevent a key from working, which means the porters will need to remove the whole door to get inside. That happens much sooner than anyone expects, and the door opens to reveal both Carson and Craig.

Craig had a tracker in his watch, and when he didn't call Interpol at his appointment time, they tracked him down. He looked up Nancy's name and learned that she was that girl detective and the daughter of Carson, who is apparently super famous, so he called him. Nancy remembers the Uncle CN comment and realizes that the women are at the CN Tower.

Everyone rushes over there and finds the two about to sell the diamonds, which Laura hid inside boxes of chocolates, to some international man of mystery. Craig makes a call, the cops come, and everyone gets arrested. We also learn that Craig knew Amber was in on the crime the whole time and only “pretended” to fall in love with her. Oh, and the reason Laura acted so weird is that she was actually her much nicer twin sister who allegedly knew nothing about the crime sometimes. Since they're already there, Carson decides to treat everyone to dinner.

*Ned is in New York and doing an internship for an insurance firm. Ugh, how can someone so awesome work in insurance? He's on his way to Oklahoma City for a work trip and takes time out just to take a layover in Chicago so he can drive to River Heights and surprise Nancy with a bottle of expensive perfume. Aw.

*God love Nancy. Bess picks up on random things wrong with Laura like how she quit wearing her necklace and stopped wearing matching nail polish. Nancy's first instinct is a mood disorder or maybe split personality disorder before even considering it's two different women.

*George keeps going to the pool and tells them that she needs to stay in shape to make the swim team next season. Wait, what? Are they in high school and ready to start senior year, or are they getting ready to go to college? Since they keep taking trips like this, I assume they're out of school, but if it's already warm enough for swimming in the Great Lakes region, George should know if she made a college team already.

*When she tells George about Laura's reaction to Bess's designs, George points out that this is an adult woman with lots of money who maybe just doesn't like the clothing an amateur designed.

*They go out to dinner, so both Nancy and Bess wear elegant dresses, but George sticks with brown slacks and a striped button up shirt.

*George meets a professional football player on the ship and starts spending all her free time with him. Bess thinks they like each other, but George explains that he's married with kids and just likes talking about football. Um no. Professional athletes don't just hang around with hot teenage girls because they like talking about sports. To make it even worse, he gives her tickets to the next big game and says he can't wait to see her. Friends, my ass!