Friday, October 23, 2015

Nancy Drew: The Secret of Red Gate Farm - Review

If you've seen my reviews for Nancy Drews 4 and 5; you'll know that the original editions and the rewrites are completely different books, with separate storylines and characters. With Book 6, the publishers finally realized that making up a new story from scratch is waaay too much work, so they're just gonna copy/paste the storylines from here on out.

I also don't like doing way too much work, so I'm going to follow the publishers' lead here and discuss both versions of Nancy Drew 6 in one video, as opposed to making a separate video for each one. I read the 1931 version, written by Mildred Wirt and her editor, Harriet Adams. The 1961 rewrite was done by Lynn Ealer.

And with all that background info out the way, let's start the review!

The book begins with Nancy and her friends finishing a large shopping trip. Bess ducks into a nearby shop, where she meets an unpleasant woman. I'm sorry to say it, but we have another racist stereotype as the culprit. Darn it, 1930's Nancy Drew, why are you so racist?

The woman is Yvonne Long, who is described as a squint-eyed Oriental. Nancy instantly recognizes her as half-Chinese and half-French. Wow, that's an oddly specific racial profile for Nancy to be familiar with.

Bess wants to buy some perfume, but Yvonne refuses to sell it. In order to get rid of Bess, Yvonne makes up a ridiculously high price for the perfume: three dollars. Phew! Three whole dollars! That's a little too rich for my blood!

The girls pool their money and buy the perfume, much to Yvonne's displeasure. On the train ride home, we get the series' first appearance of George the Terrible. You wouldn't know it from any of the other Nancy Drew series, but original series George is super clumsy and awkward. She tries to get a hat box, which is too heavy and too high up for her to reach. It falls to the ground the perfume smashes all over Nancy.

Darn it, George.

The perfume causes weird reactions with the other passengers. One woman collapses outright. A shady man checks Nancy out, sniffs her, and asks if she's heard anything from the Chief.

Well, looks like Nancy has stumbled upon a perfume-based crime ring.

The unconscious girl is today's victim, Millie Burd. In the rewrite, she's Joanne Byrd. Millie is timid, sickly, and since this is the Great Depression, she's really poor. If she doesn't get a job soon, her Grandma is going to have to sell the family farm.

By huge coincidence, the only place in town that's hiring right now belongs to the perfume criminals. The man doing the interviews offers Nancy the job, because she's better-looking than Millie. Sleaze. He does a really bad job of hiding secret numbers, right in front of Nancy where she can see the entire thing. "Oh, hold on a second, I'm going to do something suspicious in front of the criminal. Hope this doesn't cause us any problems later."

Nancy walks away with the secret code. 1960's Nancy Drew is perfect, so obviously, it only takes her a few pages to figure out the code and learn about the culprits' plans. Original Nancy Drew tries her hardest, but she can't crack the code by herself, which is a lot more realistic.

Yvonne gets the job that Millie was hoping for, and Millie's job search goes so badly that she's forced to return to her grandmother at Red Gate Farm. Nancy, Bess and George decide to go with Millie and live at the farm for a few weeks.

On the way there, they stop off at a gas station and have another run-in with the culprits. In the rewrite, Nancy recognizes the gang because Yvonne is with them; in the original, Nancy recognizes the men from their perfume. That is a really, REALLY memorable perfume scent.

Once again, the gang does a really bad job of hiding their criminal activities, as they pull out hundreds of dollars and wave them in the air for everyone to see.

There's a storm after this, and Millie mentions that they rent out part of the farm to a weird nature cult called the Black Snake Colony. Every now and then, the cult members dress up in white robes and dance around like maniacs.

There's a CULT on the farm? That's creepy and weird, and I find it funny that Millie doesn't mention the cult until it's too late for Nancy and her friends to leave. *suspicious face* That's the sort of thing you're supposed to tell boarders ahead of time.

Things are generally peaceful in the next section of the book, where the girls live at the farm. They have a few encounters with the cult members, who warn the girls to stay away from them, or else!

I liked this section, because it built up a lot of suspense about the cult and its activities, but it's still a five-chapter chunk where not much happens in terms of the storyline. The rewrite spices up the section a bit with a fake letter from Nancy's father and a pushy man who tries to buy the farm.

The girls go back into town for a day, and they stop at the same gas station. Inside are some government agents, who are trying to find a gang of counterfeiters. The owner of the gas station remembers seeing Nancy that day, so he accuses her of being the culprit. The agents prepare to arrest Nancy, but she gets out of trouble by saying her dad is the famous Mr. Drew.

That's not the first time she's gotten cooperation from the authorities by mentioning her dad. I wonder when she'll switch from saying "my dad is famous" to saying "I'm famous".

Nancy gives the secret code to the government agents, which shows a lot of trust in these guys who just tried to arrest her for no reason.

Nancy and her friends make costumes and infiltrate the cult. After dancing around for a while, the group goes into a cave, where we learn that the cult is just a front for a counterfeiting ring. The idea is that the culprits created the fake cult to divert suspicion away from themselves. Um...hate to burst your bubble here, culprits, but if your plan is to AVOID getting attention, maybe you shouldn't throw huge dance parties in weird costumes. That's the sort of thing people tend to notice.

All the culprits from earlier in the book are here, along with their leader, Maurice. In the rewrite, only the women wear perfume. In the original, Maurice wears perfume all the time, and it's not completely explained why. I guess it's done partly as a way for people to recognize him, but mostly because he likes the smell. I bet the other crooks wear it too, because they're trying to kiss up to their boss.

Nancy and her friends are discovered. They try to escape, but they get caught. The culprits tie them up and plan to leave them in a shed to starve. That's when the government agents appear to save them! Yes, the agents cracked the code, just in time to save everyone!

Great, except Nancy first got that message a month ago. And the message is only 25 letters long. I don't believe the message went into that much detail about this specific meeting.

The book ends with Nancy turning the counterfeiter's cave into a tourist trap, which makes so much money that Red Gate Farm goes out of bankruptcy. Forget detective work; Nancy's talents clearly lie in running tacky roadside attractions!

The End

Post-Book Followup

Nancy's romantic interest in this book is Karl, the son of one of the farm's tenants. Karl is a flat love interest, because he doesn't really talk to Nancy. All he does is help Nancy with the government agents. He gets more attention in the rewrite, which is an interesting decision, because Nancy gets her permanent boyfriend in the next book. Not sure why they decided to emphasize Nancy's final proto-boyfriend.

[I should probably write more here.]

Overall, this is a good book. I enjoyed it, especially the heavy suspense where Nancy is almost arrested, and the exciting ending sequences. I would give it a perfect score, but I'll take away a point for heavy plot coincidences, like the fact that Nancy is always in the exact same area as the crooks. Also, I'll take a point away for the fact that the crooks are really stupid and obvious about everything they do.

8 out of 10.

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