I can remember being a pre-teen and hanging on every word of every Nancy Drew book. I thought they were terrific and read them repeatedly, soaking up what I thought were terrific stories. Oh to be Nancy Drew and have the freedom she had, as well as what seemed like no worries about where she was getting money for things like gas for her car, clothing, and plane tickets.
In Nancy’s Mysterious Letter, Nancy Drew invited her postal carrier, Ira Nixon, into her home for hot chocolate on a cold November day. Now, that might not seem like a huge deal, but according to the local postal authorities, she broke the law. So did Mr. Nixon as he left his mailbag in her entryway. This resulted in all of the letters getting stolen, including a registered letter containing a large sum of money for Nancy’s father, attorney Carson Drew, and a letter for Nancy from London.
As Nancy tries to find out more about the letter from London, she learns that there is a woman out there with a name very similar to hers who is being sought as an heiress. The sum she will inherit is quite substantial, and Nancy begins to try to find the woman who she learns is an actress.
Along the way, Nancy visits her “friend” Ned Nickerson at Emerson University. He’s a star of the football team there. Apparently at some point between the end of The Clue in the Diary, and Nancy’s Mysterious Letter, Nancy’s two friends, George Fayne and Bess Marvin managed to hook up with two of Ned’s college buddies, Burt Eddleton and Dave Evans.
Issues abound from the first chapter. Why would one of Carson Drew’s clients send a large sum of cash to his home? Especially when the lady is in his office at the very moment Nancy telephones to tell him what is happening? She could have just brought it with her.
Once again, Nancy thinks that she and those she befriends are above the law or exceptions to the law:
She knew that the postal inspector was a very reasonable man. Surely he would understand that the case of Ira Nixon was indeed an exception.
Reading about the culprit in the mail theft, it’s quite apparent from early on that the villain is Ira Nixon’s evil half-brother Edgar. No matter what Edgar does to his brother – theft, intimidation, abuse, etc. – Ira stands by him and doesn’t want the police involved. And Nancy “respects” that!!! You want to talk about enabling the situation – just go to the police and spill your guts already. Not that it matters because it seems the police or any authority can’t solve a case without the help of Nancy Drew even when a crime has been committed.
I’d also like to discuss the apparent lack of football knowledge by the real author of this book. It was ghost-written by Walter Karig rather than Mildred Wirt Benson who penned most of the early novels under the name Carolyn Keene. Well, at one point there is a discussion of a newspaper article where it talks about the skills Ned Nickerson has in a kicking game. Later on, when the game actually gets played, Ned is the quarterback! He also does kick as well as acts as a receiver. There is no way a college football player would be in all of those positions. It would seem that Ned is being set up as a Superman of sorts opposite Nancy who also seems to have the ability to do anything.
It still bothers me that Ned and his two friends are at college, yet with all of Nancy’s implied intelligence, there’s never any discussion of her attending classes anywhere. It would seem all of the girls are just hanging around keeping themselves busy until a suitable husband comes along.
The pacing of Nancy’s Mysterious Letter is pretty off. It bogs down terribly in spots as it slows down and gets away from the action and the mystery. Everything that takes place at Emerson University seems totally out of place and like a complete waste. There’s hardly any use of Nancy’s friends George and Bess, and yet another character is brought in to be her buddy while they are at the college (in the original 1932 version, the character of Helen Corning was brought back instead of adding this other character).
This is not the best of the series by far, and that’s saying something. There are issues that abound with the plot. Even my daughter said there were parts that just didn’t make sense to her, and she’s in the target audience. Although the characters of Burt and Dave are introduced, it really doesn’t provide any character development – they just suddenly appear. I definitely wouldn’t start the series here, and would only read it if I felt the need to read all of the books in the series.
Previous book in the series (link): The Clue in the Diary
Next book in the series (link): The Sign of the Twisted Candles