Thursday, December 7, 2023

The Clue in the Jewel Box

 The Clue in the Jewel Box (1943) by Carolyn Keene

A mystery which begins with Nancy looking for the pickpocket who has relieved several of the citizens of River Heights of their wallets--including her own father, Carson Drew soon expands to include a search for the missing grandson of a European queen living incognito in the States. Nancy, Bess, and George assist Madame Alexandra when the frail older woman requests their help in seeing her home--she has suddenly felt ill while out shopping. When the girls are invited to her house for tea, they learn of her aristocratic heritage and while showing them some of the treasures she brought from her home country, they see a picture of a little boy in a sailor suit. Madame Alexandra tells them that he is her grandson Michael who has been missing since he escaped the country with his nurse. She'd given anything to find him. And Nancy promises to do everything she can. Her investigations turn up a man who seems to have the proper credentials--but is he really the long-lost prince? His manners certainly don't seem to be very princely. A clue left by Michael's nurse in Madame Alexandra's jewel box will help Nancy determine who the real Prince Michael Alexandra is. Along the way, she and her friends will also catch a sneak thief or two.

It's a good thing I don't go back and read Nancy for the believability of the plots. Me--I'm just in it for a nice stroll down memory lane and, when I've found the original text version, to see if I spot any differences from the versions I read as a child or spot things that I never even thought about as a child. So--the first thing that stood out to me this time? Where is Nancy's roadster? The girl is biking, walking, or taking a taxi everywhere--no roadster in sight. When I look at the publication date, I realize that because of WWII, it probably wasn't a good idea to have Nancy bopping all over the place and wasting all that gas during wartime. And yet...her old school friend Helen Corning shows up in this one and announces that she and her dad had just returned from a glorious trip to Paris. Say what? Paris? In the middle of WWII? Maybe Nancy could have kept her roadster. 

The other thing is more intangible. Something about this one just doesn't feel right overall. All of the characters seem a bit off to me. And I'm not quite sure what it is--except in the case of Ned and Nancy's other friends. When the man originally identified as Prince Michael gate-crashes their boating trip/picnic, Ned and company decide it would be great fun to strand the guy on the other shore. Nancy protests a bit that it wouldn't be nice--but she's actually more worried about Madame Alexandra's disappointment in her than abandoning the guy. Sure, he's been a rude boor, but I don't remember Ned and the others being so mean-spirited--willing to capture proven bad guys? Certainly. But playing dirty tricks on those who are rude? Not so much. 

I enjoyed the mystery and watching Nancy solve it. I just wish the characters had behaved more as I expected them to. ★★

First line: "No a silver pen isn't exactly what I want," Nancy Drew explained patiently to the jewelry salesman in the department store.

Last line: " I'll turn over the organization task of the new company to Dad, and my share of the profits to his pet charity, the Boys Club!"

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