Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Clue of the Broken Locket (1934)

Let's start with the cover. My 1934 edition has the dust jacket from an older reprint on it, rather than the famous original. We'll snark them both...

Famous original (right): Um...this is a little confusing. In the 1930s editions, Nancy is described as being blonde, but this cover shows her as the more well known titian. Also, as we all know Bess likes to eat, but this cover seems to imply that she also likes to vomit afterwards, because that is not the body of a girl that loves cake. Bess looks fantastic. Not that I'm promoting bulimia by saying that. Can I also mention how much I love that 1930s Nancy, Bess, and George actually do detective work in outfits like these? I mean, Bess is carrying her pocketbook and they are all wearing heels. Totally awesome.

Next, the version of the cover that I have (left): Even more confusing. Nancy is the blonde in the middle, because she is the one holding the locket. George would be the dark haired girl on the left. Which leaves Bess as the girl on the right. But Bess is a blonde, no matter what decade it is, and that girl is very much not a blonde. More like a titian, if you ask me. So does that mean that Bess is in the middle and Nancy is peaking in from right field? Also, that "locket" is enormous, obviously not broken, and isn't a locket at all, but a yellow construction paper cutout of a heart.
This book is awesome. It starts out with an adoption, which I don't recall being in the 1960s version. Apparently, Johnny and Kitty Blair are adopting two orphaned twin babies. Nancy does not like the Blairs because Kitty is overly rouged (read: whore) and Johnny is swarthy (read: criminal). They want to raise the kids as stage kids so they will be bringing in lots of money by the time they are ten or twelve. I did not know this, but Johnny Blair would have me belive that twins will be a sensation. I suppose...twins do seem to do well in porn today. Maybe the follies were 1930s porn. Nancy is obviously scandalized, because she is rich and saintly. Nancy and Carson spend the whole chapter fretting about this situation and eating Hannah's creamed chicken. At the end of the chapter, Nancy receives an annonymous note "Do not let the Blairs adopt my babies. Signed: Broken Heart".
Nancy can't resist a mystery, so she heads off to the Blair estate to meddle. She takes her shiny new roadster, which Caroline Keene describes in detail for about two pages. Nancy "skillfully handles the large machine." Maybe that meant something in the 30s? Because Ms. Keene mentions that in every book, I think. On the way, Nancy picks of Bess, who marvels at Nancy's awesomeness while Nancy marvels at Bess's love of food. Nancy is a shitty friend. While at the Blair estate, a courier arrives with the twins' few belongings from the orphanage. The Blairs intend to burn it in the fireplace (?), so while Bess makes small talk, Nancy steals the bundle by concealing it in her beret and hides it in her roadster! Nancy has just committ her first felony of the book. Then she calls Hannah, persuades her to get some of Nancy's old baby clothes out of the attic and take a taxi up to the Blair estate, so Nancy can leave those and the Blairs won't notice that they have been robbed. Seriously. And Hannah actually does it!

Then the twins start crying, because they are babies. Nancy uses her powers of reading the minds of babies and realizes that they are hungry. Kitty Blair says the babies can wait while she dresses for the evening, so Nancy gets all outraged and takes it upon herself to go into the Blair's kitchen and feed the babies herself. Rodney, the Blair's chauffuer, falls into the fire while Kitty is burning the twins' old belongings. He has an imprint of a heart burned into his forhead, but he is otherwise alright, so Nancy and Bess then leave without really caring all that much about his well being. After all, he is only hired help, not an innocent baby.
The next day Kitty Blair calls Nancy and begs her to babysit the twins because she simple can't handle their screaming. Nancy calls Bess, and they head over to the Blair's home, stopping to pick up toys for the twins. Kitty leaves the house as soon as Nancy and Bess arrive. The girls bathe and dress the twins (expertly, of course) then give them the toys they have purchased. The twins endear themselves to me by creating a game in which they throw the toys and Nancy and Bess run to pick them up and bring them back. Two 14 month olds are playing fetch with Nancy and Bess. It is awesome and goes on for about 6 pages. Nancy and Bess take the twins to the park, where they because so engrossed watching a tiny lizard that the babies almost get kidnapped by a strange woman. Luckily, the woman abandons the babies by the side of the road, and Bess takes the babies home while Nancy chases the woman in her roadster. Nancy decides that this must be the twins' biological mother, and makes up her mind to solve the mystery of who she is so the twins can be taken away from the awful Blairs and be given to their real mother, who has abandoned her children at least twice, once near a busy intersection. Then, after thanking Nancy, the Blairs, the twins, and the parents will disappear from River Heights forever.
Nancy spends the next 100 pages babysitting the twins, snooping around the Blair estate, and making comments about their gaudy taste and bad parenting. Sometimes Bess and George are there. Sometimes they are not. Nancy notices that the chauffuer Rodney seems to be very intersted in the well being of the twins, and the mystery woman that tried to kidnap the twins keeps popping up. Kitty and Johnny realize what Nancy has been up to and frame her for robbery. No need to frame her...she really has robbed from you before. Nancy, of course, doesn't get thrown in the hokey because her father is a prominent River Heights attorney. She saves the day and solves the mystery. To the suprise of exactly two people, the parents of the twins are revealed to be Rodney the Chauffuer and the mystery lady attempted kidnapper/baby abandoner. The twins are reunited with their parents, although why they were up for adoption in the first place is never explained. Everybody thanks Nancy. Nobody thanks Hannah for aiding and abetting Nancy's felony.
Number of times Nancy's driving skill is mentioned: 8
Inappropriate father/daughter relationship alert:
"Carson pulled his lovely daughter into his lap and stroked her hair out of her face. 'You're a peach' Nancy said, kissing her father."
Number of meals Hannah prepares: 7
Number of times Bess's weight/love of food is discussed: 5
Dated references:
dictaphones, follies, operators connecting phone calls, telegrams, adoptions that take two days from start to finish

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