The Scarlet Slipper Mystery (1954) by Carolyn Keene
Nancy Drew meets Eastern European smugglers. This story is full to the brim with Centrovian* characters--refugees from an oppressive government, smugglers, and just plain bad guys taking advantage of the political situation. We begin with a man seated across the aisle from Nancy in an airplane heading to River Heights. One of the engines has gone out and he's just certain that they're all going to die--and probably because of the top secret papers in his brief case (we learn later that the top secret stuff has to do with an underground movement of Centrovians). Nancy does her best to calm his fears. The plane lands safely and the man disappears from Nancy's life...for a while.
Her next contact with Centrovians is with Henri and Helene Fontaine, two Centrovian refugees, who have opened a dance school in River Heights. Bess Marvin has been taking a class there and when she & Nancy go back to the school in search of Bess's purse, they find the Fontaine's in great distress. The siblings have received a threatening letter telling them they should leave River Heights. It's not the first one...they got one while still in France (where their family had initially fled unrest in Centrovia) which made them flee to the States. Now they don't know what to do. Nancy, of course, cannot resist a mystery--especially when Centrovia keeps cropping up--and insists that the Fontaines drop out of sight by hiding at her house while she and her friends try to get to the bottom of things. She'll need to discover the meaning behind cracked figurines, a pair of scarlet dance slippers, twelve paintings of a ballet dancer, and some missing Centrovian jewels. There are also a horde of Centrovians claiming to be friends of the Fontaines and Nancy must determine who is truly friend and who is foe.
Oh my. There certainly are a lot of Centrovians in River Heights these days. As Jennifer White notes in her review of this Nancy Drew title, it is one of the things most difficult to suspend one's belief over. Of all the places in the United States, why did they all decide to descend on Nancy's home town? [Well, of course, the obvious answer is...to provide Nancy with another exciting adventure.] Once I got over that hurdle, I settled down to enjoy the mystery. And I found it quite enjoyable even if it was difficult to keep all the Centrovians straight. I remember this one fondly from my younger days, though I would never have listed it in my top ten. The action is good and for once Ned is given a fair amount to do in assistance. I do have to agree with Jennifer that Nancy absolutely should have paid more attention to that kerosene smell towards the end of the book. Why on earth would she and Bess ever suppose that the policeman was doing anything with it? Those two points (hordes of Centrovians & Nancy being a bit slow on the uptake) keep it just shy of a full four stars. ★★★ and 3/4
*fictional Eastern European country
First line: "We will crash! Oh---oh!"
Last line: "And it should be titled," Ned said, smiling at Nancy, "'America's Loveliest Sleuth.'"
Deaths = two natural