Reading, for me, is entertainment and an escape from the real world. But it can also inform and stretch the boundaries of the life I live.
The third book in the series was perhaps the most exciting so far, with Nancy almost continually in peril and getting herself out of one scrape after another. As usual, the mystery depends heavily on coincidence and inconsistencies that don’t stand up to much scrutiny, but it gives Nancy plenty of opportunity to show off (modestly, of course) her smarts, her skills, and her courage.
There is a significant difference in storytelling style and characterization between the versions.
The 1930 plot and characters are kept simple and few. We are more often inside Nancy’s head as she’s working out the clues and coming to conclusions. There is a buildup of suspense, violence both actual and implied, and Nancy is far more impulsive and emotional – she gets spooked, is at times frightened, but bravely recovers and thinks things through. The 1960 version introduces many more characters, romance elements, and a far more complicated plot, but we don’t get to solve the mystery inside Nancy’s head. We are on the outside and she just tells us her conclusions along with the other characters. This Nancy is also brave, but she is almost always deliberate, cool, and collected; justifying her actions as staying within the letter of the law and as morally just.
Original 1930 text: ★★★★★
Revised 1960 text: ★★☆☆☆
Averages out to a probably over-generous ★★★★☆
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Although I am really just getting to know him, I think M. Poirot may be at his best in short-story form. I love everything about him, from his arrogance to his insistence of the use of his little gray cells to his mustaches. And the solutions to his mysteries are almost always a surprise but are never, ever a cheat.
Audiobook, borrowed from my public library via Overdrive. Sad as I was that Hugh Fraser wasn't narrating this, David Suchet nevertheless did a fine job.
The Book Genie picked an old paperback that I found at a Friends of the Library sale, and I can see why it was a giveaway. I could not last even my usual minimum 50 pages before giving up on this 40 year old Sci-Fi snoozer.
I came to this book by an NPR article discussing pandemic lit. It's a fictionalized tale of the real English town that, struck by plague in 1665, chose to sacrifice themselves by quarantining the town in hopes of preventing the spread of disease to their neighbors.
At least, that's the framework for the story, but the real story is its characters and how they respond to the crisis, how they endure or find strength or break as they lose their neighbors and loved ones. How for some, it's business and opportunism as usual as they use legal means to take a valuable mine from an orphaned child because her dead father can no longer work it or defend it, or price-gouging for grave-digging services when the church graveyard is full and there is a shortage of able-bodied men. How the taverns are always full and the fearful mob inevitably looks for witches to burn.
But it's also the story of neighbors looking out for each other, of a mother rising above the grief of her lost children to care for the dying and deliver the new babies when the doctors flee the town, of the religious leaders look past their fundamental differences to provide leadership to people in need, how a pastor and his wife work tirelessly to minister to the whole town, good or evil of spirit, deserving and undeserving.
There are some odd twists at the end that surprised and angered and disappointed me, but overall the story had me fascinated throughout.
Audiobook via Overdrive, and I strongly recommend you do NOT do this one on audio, because it's read by the author who may be a very good writer but is a terrible narrator, and yet I was so engaged with the story that even her droning voice couldn't put me off.
I was initially disappointed with this book. The first couple of chapters had that sort of clumsy and obvious Romance trope of two lovers who had ended things badly but still longed for one another, and I really dislike Romance genre mixed into my mystery-thriller genre. But before long I was thoroughly engrossed in the story and the characters, so much so that I couldn't muster more than an occasional eye-roll for the terribly implausible medical stuff.
It was good! It kept me on the edge of my seat to the very end, even though the plot twist wasn't very twisty. I'm sorry, I realize I'm not making this book sound very good, and objectively I guess there was a lot to complain about, but the author's strength as a storyteller somehow overcomes all those things. I'm looking forward to the next book in the series.
Audiobook via Audible, read by Kathleen Early. She's read almost all the other Slaughter books I've listened to, and I've enjoyed her performances, but for some reason she seemed a little stilted on this one. But I did like it! I don't know why.
The narrator is terrible, but the story is very good in spite of it. I'm not sure who she is, because it's uncredited. Maybe it's read by the author?
I gave the audio a full hour, hoping that I'd reach that magical point where you just fall into the story and thoughts about how much longer it was going to go on stop intruding on your consciousness, but it never did. So I finally gave up and moved on to the next book.
Audiobook, picked up on a whim at an Audible $5 sale. Rich Orlow's narration was okay.
Howdy everybody. Sorry I've been silent lately, but I've been desperately trying to get through the next pair of books in my Nancy Drew project. I've finished reading and making notes on both, now I just need to match up my notes and put it together in a somewhat coherent comparison. These take up so much mental energy that I just don't have much left over for socializing, but today I'm writing some pending reviews and will catch up on the timeline to see what y'all have been up to.
And my library hold came up, so I can start diving into the text version of Invisible Man now! YAY!
The Crimson Parrot - A genuinely funny take on what happens when the hard-case criminals from classic noir detective novels have to work from home.
The Cape House - fun story progression as the characters reveal themselves
Stop Motion - meh
I started this audio during my long drive this weekend and MY GOD my jaw was dropped through most of it. Everything about Joe Morton's performance just floored me.
The downside is that it's so dense with ideas and imagery and emotion that there is no way I can continue it solely on audio, since I'm normally listening while I multitask doing other things, so I won't have the luxury of staring blankly at a highway while spending 90% of my attention on what's soaking into my brain through my ears. Plus, I want to be able to stop and consider what I'm reading, and to look up some of the references.
So I've put the ebook on hold at the library, and will suspend the audio until my hold comes up and I can both read and listen to this together. Hopefully it'll only be a couple of weeks.
The changing artwork is part of my fun in collecting these books. Although there are two text versions, the illustrations were updated three times, with the quality deteriorating each time.
Russell Tandy did the first two versions, but the second revision, to save costs on the printing, only included a single frontispiece in a plain paper rather than glossy page, and for this book was an entirely new scene. The book in my collection with this illustration was printed about 1952, but based on Nancy’s hair and clothes, I’m guessing that this illustration was done in the 40’s. Here are an example of the original and revised Tandy illustrations, the first showing Nancy breaking into Jacob’s house, and the second showing Nancy and the rescued Jacob finding his house ransacked and empty:
The illustrations were revised again for the 1959 revised text, but this time by an uncredited artist who had little of Tandy’s talent, and by the 1970’s (for the later volumes in the series) the illustrations look like they were pulled from a reject pile of scribblings. The revised versions all have 6 plain paper line drawings. These revised text illustrations don’t attempt to mirror Tandy’s original work, although they sometimes show a similar scene.
The stormy lake:
The tree blocking the road:
And last, here’s an illustration of my favorite scene in the original, that never would have made it into the revision, where Nancy parks illegally, rushes into a hotel lobby, snatches the phone from the desk clerk, then proceeds to give him orders to start making phone calls for her.
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1930 Chs 22-25 vs 1960 Ch 18-20
Both versions conclude the events with a bang. Literally.
1930 Nancy just happens to meet up with her father as she’s racing to catch up to Stumpy and Mr. Drew and Laura are racing to find Nancy. After syncing their stories, the chase continues with Mr. Drew instructing Laura to get in the roadster with Nancy, saying, “If it comes to a battle, you girls can drop back and be out of range of the bullets.” (me: !!!!!)
Nancy takes off ahead of her father like the speed demon that she is. The next few paragraphs are an ode to the power of Nancy‘s little roadster and the skill of her driving. Nancy Drew gives no f***s for your speed limit; she drives as fast as she thinks she can without wrecking.
“Her eyes focused upon the road, Nancy Drew clung grimly to the wheel. The little figured ribbon in the speedometer crept higher and higher until the car wavered in the road. Reducing the speed slightly, she held her foot steady on the gasoline pedal.”
They catch up to Stumpy and Nancy drops back to let Mr. Drew engage him in a gun fight while still driving at top speed.
“Nancy sensed that the end was drawing near, for it was apparent that the racing car had reached its maximum speed. Stumpy was making his last stand, and knew it. He looked back over his shoulder frequently now. Nancy had never seen such reckless driving. Where would the mad race end?”
They come up on a sharp curve and a cliff. Nancy and her father see it in enough time that with their skillful driving they’re able to stop, but Stumpy Dowd, being a villain and a reckless driver, goes right over the barrier and over the cliff.
Scrambling down into the ravine, they find Stumpy alive but pinned beneath the wreck. They’re able to drag him free as the car catches fire. Nancy, knowing that Laura’s fortune is in the burning car, dives back in and retrieves two suitcases. Her father yanks her back just before the car explodes.
The 1960 chase and capture is more convoluted and not nearly as exciting, partly due to the added embezzlement subplot and related characters. They drive around to more places, Mr. Drew gets conked on the head by one of the baddies, so Nancy is driving for the chase scene, but it ends the same way, with the crash and explosion.
The last couple of chapters wrap up the story, with the villains surviving so they can go to jail for a satisfactorily long time, Laura and her fortune reunited with her real guardian and his fortune, and everyone praises Nancy’s cleverness and courage, while Nancy wonders what her next adventure will be.
Considerations – Violence and risk:
I guess the 1960 revision might have been exciting for readers who had never experienced the glorious original. But there’s no way the 1960 sanitized versions were going to include a complete disregard for speed limits, a Bonnie and Clyde style gun battle, the contemplation of finding gruesomely injured people in the wrecked car, or sensible Nancy crawling into a burning car for money. 1960 Nancy can’t even be considered even peripherally responsible for the wreck, since she had just caught sight of Stumpy’s car before it went over the cliff. Technically speaking, there wasn’t even a car chase.
One side note: in keeping with her impulsive and non-law-abiding nature, 1930 Nancy actually withholds the information about Jacob Aborn’s kidnapping from the police, just because Laura is present. She wants to surprise Laura by introducing her directly to her real guardian, and doesn’t want it spoiled by the police report.
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Oh boy, I am in a real audiobook reading funk. I have almost a hundred acquired audios waiting to be read and can't work up a real interest in any of them. I just DNF'd an Audible monthly freebie that isn't in the catalog here and I'm too lazy to add.
So, since I re-read A Time To Kill recently, and this sequel was available immediately at the library, I'm going to give it a shot.
1930 Chs 18-21 vs 1960 Ch 15-17
These chapters offer the greatest contrast between the original and revision storytelling styles, as they cover Nancy’s escape from the bungalow and pursuit of the fleeing Stumpy Dowd.
Abandoned to starve in the basement, Nancy keeps her head and methodically sets about trying to free herself, working at the ropes to loosen them enough to get out. She’s able to unchain Jacob Aborn because, in typical Scooby Doo criminal fashion, Stumpy left the key to the padlock behind in plain sight to torment them. The fiend!
At this point, the versions diverge as Nancy is rewritten to be more restrained, more dependent on law and the menfolk, and to add a lot of convoluted plot elements and accommodate all the unnecessary new characters.
1930 Nancy helps the debilitated Jacob back to his house, finding it ransacked with Stumpy gone with all of Laura’s money and all of Jacobs money. There is no phone at the cottage. Jacob is too weak to go further so Nancy leaves him here and takes off to get him a doctor, notify the police, and pursue Jacob.
“The rough forest road held Nancy to a slow pace, but when she reached the lake thoroughfare she stepped on the accelerator, and the little car begin to purr like a contented cat.”
What happens next is pure 1930 Nancy and had no chance of making it into the 1960 revision. When Nancy gets to the fancy hotel, she parks illegally, storms into the lobby looking like a wild woman with her hair in disorder and her clothing in disarray, and seeing that the telephone booths are all in use, she sprints to the main desk and snatches up the clerk’s private telephone. Everyone there is scandalized, but Nancy couldn’t care less.
She tries phoning home to warn them but nobody is there. She has hotel clerk start calling all the police stations between there and River Heights and also the radio stations asking them to put out public alert before running back out and haring off after Stumpy. I have no idea if the radio stations would do such a thing in 1930, but they certainly wouldn’t do it today.
Back home in River Heights, Laura has been worrying about Nancy all day, and when Mr. Drew gets in from out of town and learns what Nancy is up to, he loads his revolver and races off to find her, taking Laura with him.
1960 Nancy also helps the debilitated Jacob back to his ransacked house, but is stuck there because Stumpy has disabled her car and cut the phone lines. Then suddenly all the extra characters show up and the plots all converge: Mr. Drew, Laura, and Nancy’s ex-boyfriend Don arrive, then the Donnell kids that helped Nancy with the fallen tree way back in Ch. 4 show up with their parents and everyone sits around talking and giving complicated explanations of bank embezzlement and people calling each other and misunderstandings, etc. Nancy puts all these clues together with her own story and everyone is amazed and admiring at her bravery and cleverness. The police are called, and Mr. Drew’s good buddy the River Heights police chief sets a patrol car and 4 men to guard the Drews home. I guess the 1960s were nice if you were a rich prominent citizen.
Considerations – Violence and gore:
The 1960 revision continues to tame down the more exciting and explicit elements into blandness. Although both Nancys calmly work to get loose of the ropes, the 1930 version describes her abraded and bleeding wrists and the original Jacob rages against his chains and vainly tries to break the padlock against the cellar floor. When 1930 Mr. Drew discovers that his daughter may be in danger, he loads and pockets his revolver before dashing off in his sedan, but 1960 Mr. Drew is just so worried that “he could barely restrain himself from breaking the speed limit”.
Considerations – Active vs passive plot events:
This part of the story is very action-oriented in the 1931 original. We follow along with Nancy’s thoughts as she puts clues together and rushes wildly to stop Stumpy Dowd. The 1961 revision is far more static, where people gather in one place and explain to one another how the various plot elements fit. The reader doesn’t know that Nancy has even put it all together until she tells her admiring audience.
Dated Plot Points - Telephones:
Again, much of the plot depends on an inability to communicate with others or call for help. Even Nancy’s flashlight battery problem would have been solved with an iPhone. A modern retelling of this story would have to depend on a mobile phone getting broken or being out of service range.
The Cult of Domesticity – Nancy is smart but testicles take charge:
The 1931 Nancy does not wait around for help from anyone. She charges about and gives orders to everyone – Jacob, the hotel clerk, the radio stations, the police. 1961 Nancy is just as smart – we are even told that she had taken a class in auto mechanics and so was able to look under the hood of her convertible and figure out how Stumpy had tampered with it. But when her father and the police show up, she steps back and lets them make the decisions and lead the discussion. She offers her input, but makes suggestions and asks about taking action rather than just doing it.
The Cult of Domesticity – Laura is girly and Hannah is motherly:
1931 Laura spends her day worrying about Nancy, chafing at the inaction and unable to distract herself, but 1961 Laura happily goes off to a BBQ with Nancy’s ex-boyfriend and has a lovely time socializing. 1931 Hannah the housekeeper is an almost invisible servant, but 1961 Hannah has motherly concern for Nancy’s safety and frets over her continuously, when she’s not in the kitchen cooking up and serving yummy things to eat.
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This was a terrific first-half read. The back half lost some steam and I lost some of my buy-in to plot and characters. What was a fascinating look at what life might have been like for the servants propping up the various featured characters and households in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice became a meandering and increasingly unlikely story.
Still an enjoyable read and the first 2/3 of it was absolutely worthwhile. Certainly better than any other Jane Austen fan-fic type stories I've picked up.
Audiobook, borrowed from my public library via Overdrive. Excellent performance by Emma Fielding.