Author: Carolyn Keene
Nancy Drew, young woman and expert sleuth, is called to help her best friend’s great grandmother and aunt when their beautiful colonial mansion starts to become haunted by a ghost. With things disappearing, strange music playing, frightening faces in windows, and all the lovelies that go bump in the night, Nancy is desperate for a new adventure and to help out her friends. However, when Mr. Gomber, a nefarious businessman who is butting heads with Nancy’s father intimates that she should stay at home to protect her dad from danger as the railroad case proceeds, Nancy’s loyalty is torn and her suspicions aroused.
The Hidden Staircase is the second book in the Nancy Drew series. There are actually two versions of this book. The original, written in the 1930s presents a reckless, pistol touting teenager who defies the law to solve mysteries. The toned down and “proper lady” version of Nancy depicted in the flashlight series (the one I have a vintage 1950s-1960s complete set of – I love you eBay) is vastly rewritten from the original. Indeed, Nancy manages to wear dainty gloves and skirts, stops investigations constantly to cook and clean industriously (life won’t go on without those floors getting waxed and those dishes washed – spooks be damned). However, I’ve got to say, her 1950s car is a pretty sweet ride, and I have to give it a thumbs up for being an innocent, family-centric series that presents some real mysteries and dangers, entertains children, gives adults a little fix of nostalgia, and manages to concentrate on the element of good winning over evil.
I originally read this version of The Hidden Staircase back when I was around eight or nine, surrounded by teenie beanie babies (yes, I was in on the craze), and enjoying a Memphis spring with the eyebrow window open over my toy crowded bed. It’s a memory that close to twenty years later I still cherish. While the series now, as read by an adult, is a lot more predictable and obviously follows a formulaic approach, Nancy’s adventures were breathtaking and riveting to me as a child, and even now I find them cozy, enjoyable, and still fairly tense in some key scenes. The stories that concentrated on the supernatural were always my favorites, even though the ghouls were always represented accurately as conniving criminals, always thwarted by the intuitive cleverness and risk taking adventures of our relatable, strong female heroine. My favorite in the series (up to this point however), still remains The Invisible Intruder.
Each chapter delivers a new twist to the two developing mysteries which eventually intertwine to deliver two mysteries, both of which combine to give a true sense of tension that even grown up audiences can appreciate. Although, really, enough of the cleaning and good house-wifery Nancy. The elegant old mansion with the possibility of secret doorways and panels evokes the yesteryear and creates an atmosphere that is both cozy and mysterious.
The novel wraps up with the traditional confrontation sequence, easy confession from thwarted criminals, and a little teaser for the next novel. Highly recommended. Great clean reading for children and nostalgically enjoyable reading for adults.
- Frances Carden
Other Nancy Drew Books: