Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Ringmaster's Secret: Review

Yesterday I finished a walk down memory lane. I had recently picked up a copy of the Nancy Drew The Ringmaster's Secret by Carolyn Keene at a local flea market. Not that I didn't already have a copy--I do. But this was the tweed-style hardcover book that matches the original set of six books that my mom handed down to me when I was seven. I'd like, at some point, to have all 38 of the titles which were published in tweed to match Mom's set. Since I bought it, I decided I ought read it for old time's sake. This edition of the book has the original 25 chapters (instead of the truncated, yellow-spine version I already had from 1974). If my other Drew books weren't buried in storage, I'd dig out the 1974 edition just to see what changes had been wrought (beyond transforming Nancy from a blonde to a titian-haired beauty).

But enough about that. How did the book stand up after more than thirty years?

The story is an interesting one. It begins with Nancy taking trick riding lessons from a former circus performer and a mysterious package arriving in the mail from Nancy's Aunt Eloise. Aunt Eloise is aware of her niece's horseback riding lessons and sends her a golden bracelet with five horse charms--with a place for a sixth charm. Aunt Eloise also presents Nancy with a bit of a mystery, telling her in an accompanying letter that the shopkeeper told her that the bracelet had originally been given to a circus performer by a queen. The performer was forced to sell the bracelet and would not reveal her true identity. Nancy is immediately intrigued and wonders what secrets the woman was keeping. 

Then the Sims circus comes to town and Nancy discovers that the young circus star, Lolita, is very unhappy--practically a prisoner of her foster parents, Ringmaster Kroon and his wife. The Kroons took custody of Lolita when her parents were in an accident and reportedly killed. But Lolita wears a charm that looks remarkably like those on Nancy's bracelet and Nancy goes undercover (as a bareback rider) in the circus to look for clues connecting Lolita and her charm to the woman who sold the bracelet. Her investigations will take her to England, see her and George Fayne kidnapped and left aboard a speeding freight train, and finally straight into the lion's den (well, cage) before the mystery is finally solved.

I had a good time with this. How likely is it that Nancy, after a few lessons,  would be expert enough at trick bareback riding to sub for a regular performer? Not very. But it also isn't very likely that one young woman would be an expert horsewoman, airplane pilot, dancer, code-breaker, speedboat driver, sailboat sailor, tennis and golf player, seamstress, gourmet cook, etc. and etc. Nancy is a super-girl--just the way we like her. She doesn't represent reality. She represents possibility. The possibility that any young woman who is determined and confident enough can do anything she wants to do. That's what Nancy meant to me when I read her stories originally and I see that meaning for girls now.

A thoroughly enjoyable trip to the past. ★★★★

First published in 1953, this qualifies for the "Amateur Detective" square on the Golden Vintage Bingo card.


Anonymous said...

Sound like good fun but have never tried the series (wasn;t that keen on the Hardy Boys as a lad either). It sounds like getting the earliest versions available makes sense too if they go re-edited as time wore on. Thanks.

fredamans said...

Love Nancy Drew, and can't think of one book of hers that I read I didn't like. Been years since I read any though.
Great review, really took me back.