Sunday, October 31, 2021

The Mystery at Lilac Inn

 The Mystery at Lilac Inn (1930) by Carolyn Keene [original text edition)

Nancy is returning from a trip to deliver important papers for her father and stops for lunch at Lilac Inn. There she runs into an old schoolmate, Emily Crandall, and they lunch together. Emily has never been as well-to-do as Nancy, but the girl is excited because next weekend is her eighteenth birthday and she's coming into an unexpected inheritance. It seems her grandmother left her the famous Crandall jewels and they become hers when she reaches eighteen. She invites Nancy to be present the next Friday when her guardian Mrs. Willoughby brings the jewels to her from the bank's safety deposit box.

But Mrs. Willoughby isn't as careful with the $40,000 bundle as she should have been and the jewels are stolen when she and her friend Mrs. Potter stop for lunch guessed it...Lilac Inn. Rumors are that Mrs. Willoughby was in financial trouble so the police immediately suspect her of pretending to have been robbed. With no real evidence at all, they're preparing to arrest her, so she calls upon Carson Drew for help. Emily also approaches Nancy for help in sorting out the mystery--so both Drews are on the case.

In a backstory, we watch Nancy hunt for a temporary housekeeper while Hannah Gruen needs to go away in aid of her sick sister. This will be distasteful to modern readers because Nancy repeatedly rejects applicants based on what seems to be purely racial or ethnic stereotypes. The only point to this part of the plot seems to be bringing Nancy in contact with her primary suspect

This is another where the story diverges from the original to a fair extent in the revised text (which I read when young). The basic mystery is the same--the stolen diamonds--but after ditching Nancy's housekeeper search, a great deal of extra mystery was thrown in for the revised version (a Nancy imposter buying expensive clothes; a crime ring with small submarine; bombs going off here and there....). I'd be tempted to say that I prefer the original text version if Nancy's investigation was more than just her seeing a young woman from the "wrong side of the tracks" shopping at a store where she couldn't afford things and deciding she must be the thief. I do get it--people who one day seem to be desperate for a job and then are seen shortly after in an exclusive dress shop (especially after a bagful of jewels have gone missing) is a bit suspicious, but a few more clues would have been nice. Like, say, finding a waitress at Lilac Inn who remembered seeing the suspect there...because as far as we (and Nancy) know there is no connection between the suspect and Lilac Inn. 

my copy--no dust jacket
Ah well, I can guarantee you that I wouldn't have been that picky if I had read this version when I was seven or eight. I would have been focused on Nancy and her adventures and not thinking too much about how she figured it all out. Having read it now, I can say that it's a decent mystery with a very exciting ending that does make up (to some extent) for the deficiencies. ★★

First line: A bright blue roadster, low-swung and smart, rolled swiftly along the winding lake road to halt suddenly before a large signboard which boldly proclaimed to all who chanced that way: LILAC INN: CHICKEN DINNERS OUR SPECIALTY.

Last line: "And what could be more fitting than that the mystery of the Crandell jewels should fade out just where it began--at Lilac Inn."

No comments: