Danger at the Drawbridge (1940) by Mildred A.Wirt
This is the third in the Penny Parker detective series and my second attempt to get on with Mildred Wirt's favorite character (a girl detective that Wirt apparently thought was "a better Nancy Drew than Nancy is" (quote reference). If she says so... I didn't think much of Penny when I first met her in Behind the Green Door, though she did improve as that book went along. I still don't think she's better than Nancy. In this particular adventure, she is trying to get her dad to let her cover the society wedding of the season. Miss Sylvia Kippenberg is set to marry Grant Atherwald and no reporters or photographers are allowed. There's been a mystery surrounding the Kippenberg's ever since Sylvia's father disappeared a few years ago. He was suspected by the Feds of having bought up gold when it was illegal to do so, but disappeared before anything could be proved. Mrs. Kippenberg doesn't want any notoriety marring her daughter's wedding and, so, has barred the newspapers from the event.
But Penny is resourceful and she and Salt, the Riverview Star's photographer manage to get into the grounds of the castle-like family estate...only to discover another mystery: the mystery of the missing groom. Atherwald arrives at the estate on the same boat launch that brings Penny and Salt. He's handed a note by one of the servants, heads down a path in the garden, and disappears into thin air. Penny discovers footmarks that seem to indicate a struggle and also a wedding ring that the bride-to-be says looks like the one Atherwald bought for her. Did someone kidnap the prospective groom? And if so, why? Penny is out to find out...and hopefully get a big scoop for her dad's newspaper.
So...there's quite a bit of action in this one and Penny comes close to a watery grave. I'm not sure what I think of her investigative reporter skills. She seems to have a lot of hunches that manage to pan out. She is brave and willing to put herself in danger for what she thinks is the right thing to do...especially if it will get her a good story for the paper. But given that she's still a high school student, I'm surprised that her dad isn't more worried about the fact that his daughter is nearly drowned by the bad guys. A fairly decent mystery/adventure for girls, but I'm still not convinced that she's in Nancy's league. I'm not sure what I would have thought of her if I had discovered the books at the time I was reading the Nancy Drew books. But now? ★★★--just.
First line: Penny Parker, leaning indolently against the edge of the kitchen table, watched Mrs. Weems stem strawberries into a bright green bowl.
Last line: "I just hope I won't have to wait too long for the next mystery to come along."
Deaths = one natural