Review: The Secret of the Old Clock, by Carolyn Keene

Nancy Drew! Oh, how your absurdities delight me. Oh, it is all too much to bear. I can’t speak about this. I will have to show you, internet. Here are the first four paragraphs of The Secret of the Old Clock:

Nancy Drew, an attractive girl of eighteen, was driving home along a country road in her new, dark-blue convertible. She had just delivered some legal papers for her father.

“It was sweet of Dad to give me this car for my birthday,” she thought. “And it’s fun to help him in his work.”

Her father, Carson Drew, a well-known lawyer in their home town of River Heights, frequently discussed puzzling aspects of cases with his blond, blue-eyed daughter.

Smiling, Nancy said to herself, “Dad depends on my intuition.”

Of course he does, Nancy Drew! You just keep saying things to yourself. We’ll tag along.

Okay, so I hadn’t read any Nancy Drew books since middle school, when my friends and I had a brief period of devouring them before we moved on to V. C. Andrews. And I definitely enjoyed these books back then — what I didn’t remember is how incredibly campy and stilted and twee they are. For example, here are the things Nancy does in this book:

  1. Rescues a five-year-old girl
  2. Becomes instantly beloved to two old ladies
  3. Successfully confronts her rich, spoilt, homely rivals
  4. Gets taken in by some strangers who become her BFFs after about four seconds
  5. Rescues a puppy
  6. Saves an old lady
  7. Foils her rich, spoilt, homely rivals again
  8. Repairs an outboard motor
  9. Escapes from a locked closet using only a clothing rod and her amazing screaming prowess
  10. Catches some thieves
  11. Finds the missing will
  12. Foils her rich, spoilt, homely rivals while successfully improving the lives of every other being with whom she’s had contact over the course of the novel

Look, she rescues a puppy, a child, and an old lady all in the same book, all while being attractively perky and slim and utterly adored. Does this strike anyone else as overkill? Anyone? It gets a bit trying after a while — Nancy Drew is so perfect. The Hardy Boys at least get knocked unconscious once a book or so. And she’s always saying things to herself, or telling herself things, or declaring to herself — not so much with the thinking, really. It intrigues me.

The Secret of the Old Clock was sort of charmingly ridiculous, but I can’t really recommend it as being something particularly well-written. Dead funny, though … just unintentionally.

Bonus excerpt!:

“So, one o’ you ornery robbers got yourself locked up, did you?” came an indignant male voice. “That’ll teach you to try puttin’ one over on old Jeff Tucker. You won’t be doin’ any more pilferin’. I got you surrounded.”

The caretaker! Nancy heaved a sigh of fervent relief. “Let me out!” she pleaded. “I’m not one of the thieves! If you’ll only let me out of here, I’ll explain everything!”

There was silence for a moment. Then the voice on the other side of the door said dubiously, “Say you aimin’ to throw me off, imitatin’ a lady’s voice? Well, it won’t do you any good! No, sir. Old Jeff Tucker’s not gettin’ fooled again!”

Nancy decided to convince the man beyond doubt. She gave a long, loud feminine scream.

“All right, all right, ma’am. I believe you! No man could make that racket. This way out, lady!”

Comedy gold.

9 thoughts on “Review: The Secret of the Old Clock, by Carolyn Keene

  1. I loved Nancy Drew as a pre-teen, but haven't read any of the books recently (although I do sort of collect them). But even back then, I always thought Nancy was just a little too perfect to be believed. I think it helps if you've seen lots and lots of old 1930s films, and read the books in that spirit.


  2. I loved Nancy Drew! I don't remember them being this ridiculous, but I'm sure they were. I also loved The Boxcar Children, and I bet they would be just a silly-sounding now if I went back to read them. I liked this review a lot.


  3. Ha ha ha! Wow, somehow I don't remember them being quite that…awful. It's amazing what you find in old books that would *never* appear in print today – not straight up, anyway. Like in one of the Narnia books, the two brothers are in fight with a dragon or something while Lucy is cowering and saying, “Oh, I hope I don't blubber!” Indeed.


  4. That is so funny! I had to laugh when I saw the title – you reviewed what was my favorite Nancy Drew book when I was a kid. I didn't even remember all of that happening in the book.


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