The Spider Sapphire Mystery (1968)
Nancy, Bess, and George plan to join Ned, Burt, and Dave on an Emerson College trip to East Africa. It will be part pleasure trip, part educational, and--for Nancy--part mystery-solving. Her father, Carson Drew, has become involved in a case centering on a missing rare gem, the titular spider sapphire. Carson's friend and client, Floyd Ramsey has developed a synthetic version of the authentic sapphire owned by Mr. Shastri Tagore, an Indian living in Mombasa, Kenya. Representatives of Mr. Tagore have accused Floyd of either stealing the gem and passing it off as his "invention" or of having stolen and copied the gem (and done who knows what with the original). Nancy will be investigating the African side of things while on her trip. She also picks up a secondary mystery when an East African singer by the name of Madame Lilia Bulawaya (who has a singing engagement at Emerson College) asks the amateur detective to investigate the disappearance of her brother while he was leading a safari.
But Nancy hasn't even left River Heights before trouble starts. Several attempts are made to prevent her from taking her trip--from blocking her parked car in to kidnapping Ned Nickerson. Of course, none of this keeps Nancy from doing what she set out to do. She honks her horn until help arrives at the car and then goes on a search mission to find Ned--ably assisted by Burt, Dave, Bess, and George. More obstacles are thrown in their path once they arrive in Africa, but neither giant baboons nor burned up wardrobes will stop the mystery from being solved. Of course, Nancy finds the sapphire as well as the missing brother and the two mysteries dove-tail into one.
This was one of my favorite Nancy Drew mysteries when I was young...definitely in the top five or so. It has a lot of excitement and action to keep things moving. As an adult, I can see that many of Nancy's deductions are more intuition than anything and there are a lot of coincidences, but it still makes for action-packed reading. And I understand that some of the expressions and viewpoints are very much of the time and wouldn't appear in books today, but nostalgia for my first bookish adventures goes a long way. We can only be glad that we are more aware of stereotypes and racial slurs and keep working to make things better. I rated the story as ★★★★ when I read it back then and I'm going to keep the rating for the sake of ten-year-old Bev.
First line: Nancy Drew drove her convertible into the public parking lot and chose a space facing the far fence.
Last line: "I should say," George spoke up, "that Nancy Drew has made this spider the most famous one that ever lived on this earth!"