I should start by mentioning that I myself grew up on the 1960s reprints of these books, and not the famous originals. So my fascination with the originals is not only because they are more awesome, but that they are completely different books. I understand some of the rewrites, because once the civil rights movement hit, it wasn’t okay to call people darkies anymore, but sometimes they only similarity between the 30s and the 60s version of a book is that Nancy Drew is in it. Totally weird. This book seems to be an exception, because the plots are reasonably similar.
This cover is rad. The 30s covers are generally the best, because they depict actual scenes from the book, the outfits are fantastic, and the girls always look smoking hot. How much do I want Nancy’s outfit? SO MUCH! I need to bring the 1930s back. Not the financial depression, of course, but at least the clothes. They rock.
Cover two also depicts a scene from the book. But Nancy looks weird. The color of her eyebrows clearly show that her blonde is not natural, and her clothes are not as amazing.
Creepy 60s cover shows Nancy, the old man, and a twisted candle. I remember as a child thinking that the old man was creepy as hell. Asa is supposed to be a rather kindly old man that likes Nancy. So what's with the creepy "I want to kill Nancy" stare?
The book opens with Nancy driving her roadster through a storm. Bess is, as usual, scared. George is, as usual, mocking Bess, and Nancy is, as usual calm and level headed. Nancy sees a light ahead in the storm and decides the group should stop there until the storm passes. Nancy gets stuck in the mud on the way up the driveway, so the three girls have to run through the storm up to the door of Civil War era mansion called The Sign of the Twisted Candles. Ding ding ding we have a title!
Nancy and her chums enter all wet and disheveled. Nancy takes charge when greeted by the inn keeper, demanding tea, cinnamon toast, a powder room to freshen up in, and permission to stay until the storm ends. Notice I say demand. Nancy demands a lot in this book. The inn keeper bends to her every wish because Nancy clearly has money. She even allows the girls use of the guest rooms to clean themselves up.
(Aside: Nancy, Bess, and George have never heard of this inn. In fact, there seems to be an inn, or farm, or store in every book that is brand new to Nancy. How is that possible? How big is River Heights that so many business exist without your knowledge. I live in a reasonably large metro, and I admit that I have visited very few of the many establishments around hear. But only rarely is one mentioned that I have never heard of. How many inns that serve luncheon are in River Heights? I must know!)
Anyways, Nancy and her friends get pretty in a manner of minutes, even though they ran through a torrential downpour and were dripping wet only moments ago when they walked through the front door. Nancy hears a man yelling at a girl and her super keen sleuthing/meddling alarm goes off. So she eavesdrops, of course, because Nancy is nothing if not totally ethical. She is caught in the act when the girl, fresh from her verbal berating, stumbles into the room Nancy and her friends were using to pretty up. Nancy lays a comforting/condescending hand on the girl’s shoulder and encourages her to relax a moment and tell three complete strangers her problem. Because one of these strangers is Nancy Drew, the girl immediately opens up and spills everything, Apparently this man is her adopted father, the woman the girls met downstairs is her adopted mother, and they run the inn. Sadie (the girl) is forced to work very hard and is essentially treated more like a servant than a daughter. There is an old man living in the tower room named Asa. Asa turns 100 years old today, and unlike Sadie seems to have imprisoned himself by choice, but seeing as how Sadie’s adopted parents want to feed him mush every day, it remains a mystery as to why he hasn’t fired them yet. No worries, Nancy will solve it.
So Nancy offers to take a tray of legitemate food up to Asa while Sadie calms down. So Nancy heads up the stairs to the tower with lots of food, Bess and George go downstairs to wait for their cinnamon toast, and Sadie disappears. Nancy meets Asa, is immediately intrigued by his age and all the boring stories he tells her, and decides that in celebration of his birthday, she will invite herself, her two friends, and Sadie to a party in Asa’s tower room. Because she is Nancy Drew, Asa is charmed by her and openly excepts Nancy’s invitation of complete strangers to his bedroom.
Nancy goes downstairs and orders a huge meal, demands that they be served in the tower room with Asa, and demands that Sadie join them. The inn keepers seem angry until Nancy opens her pocketbook and offers to pay ten whole dollars for all of the food and Sadie’s presence. Apparently ten dollars is a fantastic sum of money to a couple living in a town that seems to have escaped all ravages of the Great Depression, so they happily allow Nancy’s impromptu shindig. Asa intrigues his guests but bores the readers with stories of his life.
Nancy and her friends leave, but run into two men in the parking lot. They men fight with each other, mention that they are related to Asa, and race into the inn. Nancy feels the mystery tingle again. She drives Bess and George home, and on the trip they comment that Sadie seems far to refined to be a servant. My "Poor Girl that Used to be Rich" alarm goes off, because the only poor people Nancy likes are the ones that used to have money.
To make a convoluted plot short, the two men are distant relatives of Asa’s, and one of them is related to Bess and George, making them also related to Asa. None of these people, however, are close to the old man, and in the case of Bess and George, didn’t even know him until they were told about it. So Asa correctly assumes that everybody wants his money, and asks Sadie to ask Nancy to ask Carson to write a new will for him. He requested Carson because Mr. Drew is the best lawyer in River Heights, and probably in America, in all facets of law. Anyway, Bess and George hear about this, and for some reason get super pissed off at Nancy. Apparently friends don’t let their fathers write wills for old eccentrics that will deprive them of riches. And lets not forget that Bess and George didn’t even know that they were distantly related to some dude that got rich making candles until two nights ago. And Nancy didn’t know they were related to him when she asked her father for help. This may be one of the only times Nancy wasn’t a totally shitty friend, and Bess and George turn against her anyway.
So Asa dies the night after writing his new will, and at the will reading, one seventh of his estate is divided between all of his heirs, and seven eighths is given to Sadie. This, for some reason, causes Nancy to decide she needs to find Sadie’s birth parents. I don’t know. With Bess and George still mad at her, Nancy finds out the Asa’s wife left him when an explosion in his oil lamp laboratory resulted in the death of their daughter. “She burned up, poor dear.” This caused a Hatfield/McCoy type split, which of course resulted in a girl from one side and a boy from the other falling in love. They had a baby girl, but then they both died by drowning and the baby ended up in an orphanage. (This is really dark, actually. Was this storyline in the rewrite? Because I don’t remember a baby dying in an oil fire.) The baby was Sadie, and that’s the reason Asa is so fond of her. But instead of adopting her, or something, he let her become the servant of some greedy people.
Anyhow, Nancy and Helen take Sadie shopping and Nancy apologizes to Bess and George for actually doing nothing wrong in this book. Now Sadie has new clothes, the girls are chums again, and Nancy solved multiple mysteries almost entirely by herself, so when she takes all the credit its kind deserved this time.