The Clue of the Broken Locket is the eleventh book in the Nancy Drew series. It marks a return to writing the series by Mildred Benson, after three pretty bad books authored by Walter Kraig. All were issued under the pseudonym “Carolyn Keene”. However, Benson does attempt to keep a timeline and doesn’t make Nancy quite as perfect at everything she does. This was extensively rewritten between the original publication in 1934 and the reissue in 1965 with just scant few parts of the original story remaining. All of the books I have been reviewing are based on the rewrites.
Nancy’s father, attorney Carson Drew, drops a mystery on his daughter’s lap. It seems he is somehow involved in the management of a cottage on Misty Lake in Maryland. The owner has recently rented the cottage for several months in the off-season and Mr. Drew has asked Nancy to deliver the key to the new tenant. This is because the usual contact at the lake, Mr. Winch, has been frightened by the appearance of a ghost ship. This has also frightened off many of the summer residents at the end of the season.
Nancy accepts the challenge and has her two best friends, cousins Bess Marvin and George Fayne, accompany her to Maryland. Along the way, they stop for lunch and come across a couple arguing on a bench outside the restaurant. Of course, the female half of this couple just happens to be the new tenant of the cottage – the first in a long series of stunning coincidences.
The girl’s name is Cecily. The man she was arguing with is her boyfriend, singer Niko Van Dyke. She has an issue with a missing treasure. He has an issue with his record company possibly cheating him. Do I have to tell you that in the end the two are connected? What’s worse, though, is that Cecily won’t accept his marriage proposal until they have enough money for her to accompany him on the road.
Okay, this is the sixties. He is a rock star. Cecily’s story might have sounded romantic and sound until I grew old enough to understand the word groupie. I’d be on that road with him, ring on my finger or not. And if he was begging me to marry him, I certainly wouldn’t have turned him down.
Once Cecily is at the lake, she learns she has a double in the area. Nancy and the girls have seen her. All of the activity seems to center on a beautiful stone house nearby on the lake. Although the people renting it are tepidly cordial, Nancy suspects they are up to no good.
I have to say, at least time is moving forward again. It’s now the end of the summer and Ned, Burt, and Dave are back in college, although there’s no mention of their football schedules. Knowing the three play football and it is the fall, makes it seem a little strange that they can just cut out for a number of days to help Nancy with her mystery, but that’s a minor nitpick.
We got fooled that time all right. That bird is a loon. I just remembered that their call can easily be mistaken for a woman’s scream.
Um, no. I live in loon country. There’s a pair of nesting loons that return to where we swim each summer. I have never once thought their beautiful call sounds anything like a woman screaming. It’s more like a yodel than a scream. So obviously Mrs. Benson has never heard a loon call. I have to wonder who does their research for them.
The police in the local town by Misty Lake at least have some balls and basically pat Nancy on the head and send her on her way. Of course, they were WRONG to do that, but at least he didn’t let her march in there and basically run his police force for him. The police in Baltimore – where Niko’s record company is headquartered and where the piracy issues surface – are much more receptive to Nancy telling them what to do.
The whole story felt more like a Scooby-Doo mystery than anything else. Nancy overhears the villains spell out the whole story near the end, and I couldn’t help but expect the Driscoll brothers to say that everything would have been perfect if it weren’t for those meddling kids! It’s schlock, but at least it’s better schlock than the last three books have been.
The Clue of the Broken Locket is aimed at the tween market of 9 to 12-year-olds, and it’s suitable for them. I think this isn’t quite as dumbed down as other books have been. Nancy doesn’t quite exhibit the super-human powers where she’s talented at everything she does, and actually chastises herself in this novel for a few missteps. The series is back on track with this. It will never be mistaken for great literature, but at least the books have stopped being an insult to one’s intelligence.
Previous book in the series (link): Password to Larkspur Lane
Next book in the series (link): The Message in the Hollow Oak