Friday, July 28, 2017

Nancy Drew Mystery Files #98: The Haunting of Horse Island (1990)


George's parents got an invite to the Steadman Resort on Triple Tree Lake from Henry and his wife, the owners and friends of theirs. Since they can't go, they let the girls take their place. Nancy and her friends quickly find a gorgeous lake with dozens of things to do and tons of people.

Not long after arriving, they hear a scream from a neighboring cabin and rush over. Ann and Carrie, two sisters who work at the resort, came back to find their cabin trashed. Nothing is missing but they explain that it's just another weird thing to happen. They also give them the low down on people who work there like Rodney, the horse trainer who is a total hottie.

On a canoe trip, they meet Steve, yet another hot guy. He points out Horse Island to them and tells them that under no circumstances should any resort guest go out there. Legend says that a family once lived there, died in a mysterious way, and now haunt the island. Plus, hunters go out there to hunt illegally and once shot two guests. It gets its name from the wild horses who once lived there.

One of the guests on the canoe trip starts talking about how she wants to leave really badly. All this weird stuff keeps happening, but they keep ignoring it because their kids want to stay. Nancy talks to Henry, who admits that some suspicious things have happened and that he wants to keep everyone calm. Our hero also has a run in with a guest named Teresa who acts weird and doesn't want to talk to anyone.

The girls borrow a canoe and sneak over to the island. George brings along some guidebooks and starts pointing out all these birds and flowers. They find what looks like a brand new fence on a deserted island and the old mansion. After a quick investigation, all they find is a tower filled with bats and some minor proof that someone has been living there or at least staying there.

Sadly, a storm rolls in and when they head back to the canoe, it's gone. There's also some proof that someone dragged their canoe away, so they go back to the mansion and try to get some sleep. The next morning, Bess comes dangerously close to eating poisonous berries before George recognizes them from her book and stops her. Nancy uses her camera to take pictures of everything they see and later sees Teresa on the water. Though she looks right at the girl, Teresa takes off and leaves them there.

Bess is convinced that she saw a ghost the night before and shows them the exact spot where she saw it. Nancy finds a pair of sunglasses there, which a ghost probably wouldn't wear. The girls also wind up nearly trampled by a herd of wild horses, which is odd since horses supposedly no longer live on the island. Steve comes by with a group of guests on a canoe trip and helps them. He doesn't recognize the sunglasses but takes them and agrees to ask around and find the owner.

The next day, someone sets fire to their cabin. Henry rushes over with other staff members to put it out before it can spread. Nancy finds proof that someone deliberately set the fire but did it in a way that stopped it from moving beyond one room. The only thing destroyed in the fire was her camera with the photos from the island still on it. Gee, I wonder what Nancy would think about cell phone cameras!

On a horseback riding trip, their group comes across a dead body hanging from a tree. Nancy gets close enough to learn that it's actually just a dummy set up to look like a real guy. That pushes one more family to leave. Yet more people leave at dinner that night. Everyone who eats the blueberry pie becomes dangerously sick, including Bess. It turns out that someone put the poisonous berries in the pie. Though Nancy suspects the resort's chef Otis, he claims that someone stole a resort pan and made the poisoned pie.

While walking back to her cabin, someone hits Nancy from behind and pushes her into the resort swimming pool, almost drowning her. That person leaves behind a blue bandanna, exactly like the one Teresa wears. George and Nancy follow her into town and see her making a call on a pay phone. They confront her, she claims someone stole her bandanna, and she continues acting like a major bitch to both of them.

Nancy decides that the mystery must somehow be related to the island and goes back by herself. She sees Teresa following her through the woods and tries to ignore her until she hears Teresa scream. The other woman fell in a pit that someone set up as a trap. Even after Nancy saves her life, Teresa still acts like a witch. She finally confesses that she's a writer and working on a story but refuses to say anything else.

After following her back to the shore, Nancy sees Teresa have a conversation with Rodney, the horse trainer. A sudden gunshot rings out, and Nancy ducks to hide but instead finds that someone turned the fence into a corral to capture some of the wild horses. Someone knocks her out, and she wakes up in a canoe with Steve.

Steve confesses his whole plan to her because he assumes she'll die soon enough. He captured the wild horses with plans to sell the animals to others. He also set up the whole haunted island thing and did all the other weird stuff to try and make the resort go under. Steve assumed that he could then guy it back from Henry for a fraction of its value. After taking her back to the old mansion, he leaves her tied up while he deals with other stuff.

It's clear he doesn't know Nancy. She breaks an old clock and uses the glass to cut through her bindings before sneaking into the tower and hiding. She makes just enough noise to let Steve know her location. When he goes to the tower, she scares the bats enough that they freak out and attack, which gives her time to run downstairs and lock the tower door behind her. Teresa and Rodney then show up with the cops to save her.

It turns out that Steve brought Rodney in on his plan because he needed help with the horses. Rodney started feeling bad about catching the wild animals and contacted Teresa at her newspaper with the story. They secretly worked together to bring down Steve for weeks, but Nancy did it in mere days.

*Multiple people suspect Otis, the resort chef, because he's surly and complains a lot about not getting paid enough. Nancy thinks it's strange that he keeps bringing up how much he makes, but even Henry admits that people come back just for the food he makes and that he's seriously underpaid.

*The girls come back one day to find the cabin ransacked and completely flip out until they find a raccoon in their kitchen. Nancy is smart enough to trick the raccoon outside with crackers.

*The whole poisoned pie thing was kind of funny because George stopped Bess from eating the berries because they might kill her. Multiple guests then ate the pie laced with those berries and basically just had some mild discomfort. They didn't even need to go to the hospital!

*The sunglasses they found were Steve's, which Nancy figured out after way too long. He was the only one in the resort with prescription lenses.

*When they first get to the resort, the girls all change into skirts and tops for dinner. A rustic lodge in the middle of nowhere doesn't really seem like the type of place that would have a dress code for dinner.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Nancy Drew Mystery Stories #170: No Strings Attached (2003)






Nancy, George, and Bess head to Paris for a few weeks, and Carson was nice enough to rent them a small apartment that sits on top of a marionette theater and museum. Marie, the owner, welcomes them, shows them to their apartment, and then takes them out for lunch. She explains that the theater was in her family for years but that financial problems are forcing her to seriously consider selling the property to someone else. William, her lawyer, thinks she should sell to his business partner, Cristophe. Cristophe wants to keep it open but thinks he can do a better job of running it.

We meet William when he comes for a visit and recommends, once again, that she sell. Marie also has a distant cousin named Claude who keeps hanging around. He thinks that the building should remain in the family and is ticked off that he didn't get any money from their grandmother's estate. Claude is suspicious because he keeps hanging around and getting in the way. Marie recently fired Quentin, her best worker, because she couldn't afford to pay him.

The girls offer to do whatever they can to help, which leads to them agreeing to help her put on a show at some upcoming festival. Bess turns out to be so good with one of the marionettes that Marie even asks her to play one of the characters during the show. On their second day, someone sets the studio on fire. The police rule it as arson and actually suspect Marie did it to escape the theater with the insurance money, though she swears she would never do that.

While out at a cafe, Marie runs into Patrice, an old friend of hers from school. Patrice came back to town just to see the show and her former friend. Marie tells all the women in her life that her grandmother Juliette left behind notes about a family treasure that she hopes to find. No one believes her, but Nancy agrees to check things out and reads over a journal the woman kept that seems to include clues that really do lead to some fortune. It begins looking like it might have something to do with the marionettes, which date back generations in the family.

That makes more sense after someone breaks in and steals two of the dolls. They come back on another day and find that someone stole the doll Bess kept in her room and that the person is still there. He/she shoves Bess down hard enough to almost hurt her. Though they give chase, the person literally jumps from rooftop to rooftop to get away. They later find the mutilated doll.

Marie tells Nancy about this book she once had on famous marionette operators and how she misplaced it. She tracks a copy down from a book vendor in the hopes that it might reveal more secrets about the family treasure. Nancy finds other evidence like a matchbook from an exclusive club that both William and Christophe belong to, but that means nothing because anyone can walk through the front doors of the club and pick one up.

More investigation leads to her finding a wooden tray with different spaces for inlaying things on top. Nancy finds everything needed to open it but only uncovers a piece of paper with some characters written on it, which George recognizes as the names of characters from The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Nancy also catches Claude and Christophe deep in conversation and records them. Marie translates it and learns that the two are working together to find her family's secret treasure.

Nancy keeps stumbling onto random things like a photo of Juliette in an antique shop that shows her standing in front of something that exactly matches leather panels made for the marionette show. Someone knocks her out and locks her inside a wooden box, but because she's oh so smart, she somehow manages to get out and escape.

We then make it to the fancy festival. Nancy sees someone sneaking around backstage and gives chase. Though she almost loses the person, she catches up and finds Claude. Claude goes crazy, which leads to the cops arresting him. He claims that he did do a few things to Marie because she cheated him out of the family fortune and that he attacked Nancy but that he didn't do everything.

Nancy sends Patrice a note that she says for her to give to Marie but is actually part of a plan to set Patrice up. Patrice shows up, thinking that Nancy knows the truth of the fortune, and instead finds them all waiting for her. She confesses that while doing research for a book she wanted to write, she found out about the treasure. She also learned that Marie's grandfather killed her own grandfather in a duel and found letters about the treasure. Patrice was the one who started the fire and did some of the other stuff.

They show her the paper they found, but Patrice refuses to believe that Juliette would go to such great lengths just to hide a piece of paper. After the cops come and take her away, Nancy puts all the pieces together and takes everyone to the leather panel she spotted before. It's actually thicker than all the other panels. They open it up and find the handwritten manuscript for the first draft of The Hunchback of Notre Dame inside. It turns out there was some family connection between Victor Hugo and Marie's family, which led to him gifting the draft. She can sell it for more than enough to save the family museum and theater.

*Bess used all her frequent flyer points to get them all tickets to Paris for just $200 each. I totally want to be Bess's new best friend.

*I'm starting to think that every time Bess leaves River Heights, she discovers some new hidden talent. There was the whole pastry chef thing in that one book and now she's secretly a master puppeteer.

*Quentin, her old assistant, is a major suspect because she fired him and he works in a restaurant near the secret club. He explains that he worked there, even while working for her, because he needed the money. None of them believe him because why in the world would someone need to work two jobs? I'm totally rolling my eyes right now.

*George is such a fan of Victor Hugo, she says he's her favorite author, that she can literally recognize his handwriting on the page. Yeah, I like a lot of writers but have no clue what their handwriting looks like.

*After reading the book and seeing the cover so many times, I cannot get the N*SYNC song out of my head!

Monday, July 24, 2017

Nancy Drew Mystery Files #68: The Elusive Heiress (1982)


Carson has a big and important job for Nancy. Millionaire Arlo Winthrop desperately wants to track down his daughter Clarinda before he dies. The only problem is that she went missing 40 years ago. After she fell in love with a solider, her father forbid her from seeing him, so she ran away to be with him. Winthrop tracked her to Wyoming, but no one has seen her in at least 30 years. When Carson gets a call that Clarinda is actually in Canada, he decides to try and find her and send Nancy and Ned to Wyoming. They can stay with Grace, the best friend of Nancy's mother.

At the airport, they randomly stumble upon this little girl Jennifer. She's been attending boarding school in River Heights while her mother recovers from a car accident, but her mom called and asked that she come home. The head of the school recognizes Nancy and asks her to keep a watch on her during the flight. Ned winds up really bonding with her.

Once they get to the airport though, her mother isn't there. They look up and call her phone number to find it disconnected. Grace, being a super nice woman, invites Jennifer to stay at her house. Nancy then notices two men staring at them and especially keeping a close eye on Jennifer.

Instead of focusing on the missing heiress, Nancy focuses on finding Jennifer's mom. She and Ned check out the house and find a car in the garage, a newspaper dated a few days earlier, and no sign of the woman anywhere. Two men in a blue car, who look suspiciously like the men from the airport, drive by the house and stare at them before speeding off. None of the neighbors have seen her either.

Also strange is that Carson never calls Nancy to update her on his own situation. She calls Hannah to see if maybe he checked in with her and learns that he hasn't called anyone. Nancy finally calls the lodge where he's staying, but the man who answers is really gruff and says Carson is too busy to talk. When Carson finally calls her back, he doesn't ask any questions or even check on Grace and just says that he's found a lead and is super busy.

Cheyenne, where they're staying, is in the middle of a big rodeo days celebration that lasts all week. This gives Nancy and her group the chance to go to a bunch of parades, square dancing, and rodeo events. At one, someone shoves Nancy in the street and she comes close to getting trampled by a horse before Ned saves her. At another, someone grabs Jennifer and runs off, but she kicks him in the shin. He drops her before hopping in a blue car.

Next, someone hits Grace from behind and steals Jennifer again, only this time, they actually get away. Nancy begins meeting with people to talk about the missing heiress and finds out that the woman actually did come to Cheyenne but that she changed her name before marrying her soldier. They lived on a big ranch until someone robbed the local bank. Police found some of the missing money on their property and blamed them, which led to them leaving the town in disgrace. The real robbers were later caught and admitted to hiding the money there.

Friends of the couple stepped up and took care of their ranch in the hopes that they might one day come back. They leased the land to other farmers and ranchers for their animals. One friend lets them check out the ranch. Nancy finds a diary kept by the woman that mentions people by their initials and learns that two of those initials match the names of friends who later moved to California. Oddly enough, Jennifer has an “aunt and uncle” in California by those same names. See where this is going?

To make a long story shorter, Nancy finds out that the two lived in a small cabin set back from the main ranch. She and Ned then see the same blue car in town and follow it to the ranch. They wait until the car leaves again, track down the cabin, and find both Jennifer and her mother. After breaking the window, they get them out and take them back to Grace's house.

It doesn't take long for the full story to emerge. Jennifer's grandmother is the missing heiress, who now lives in California. They call her on the phone, and she tells Nancy that she actually wrote to her father to make amends and got back a letter from him that basically told her to go to hell. Nancy realizes that the woman's cousin, a man literally mentioned one time on page two, is behind everything. He took care of his uncle and assumed that he would inherit everything. Nancy comes up with a plan to get Jennifer, her mom, and Ned out of town and back to River Heights while she flies to Canada.

After learning the lodge her dad stayed at actually went out of business, she sneaks over and finds that someone is keeping him drugged. She sets fire to a shed nearby to distract the guard and then helps her dad escape. They fly back to River Heights and meet the former Clarinda as she flies into town. Clarinda and her dad make up, and I assume everyone lives happily every after while her cousin and all his helpers do serious jail time.

*Ned says that there being a car at Jennifer's house isn't proof her mom was there because a lot of people rent out their garages to people who have cars when they don't own their own cars. Is that actually common or just something from the west in the early 80s?

*So, Grace is roughly the same age or slightly younger than Carson, yet Nancy always describes Carson as kind of a catch and makes Grace out to be some dowdy middle aged woman.

*Someone sends Nancy a note to meet them at the rodeo's animal corral and then locks her in the paddock with a charging bull. Remembering something she saw in the show, Nancy does some crazy and evasive maneuver to roll under the bull and through the fence. Surprisingly, no one really seems worried that a tourist was almost killed...

*Clarinda changed her name to Lindy, which is the name of the woman who lived in Cheyenne and then moved to California, but it somehow takes Nancy way too long to put the pieces together.

*I pretty much figured out Jennifer was the granddaughter of the missing heiress as soon as she showed up.

*There really is no explanation for why they kidnapped Jennifer and her mom. Clarinda already thought her dad didn't care about her anymore, so it's not like she was coming back to town.