One of the good things about The Quest of the Missing Map is that there were a few surprises in the story. Although much of it sticks to the formulaic writing of the series, there are a few moments where it didn’t stick to the predictable formula.
Nancy arrives home to the house she shares with her father, noted attorney Carson Drew, and housekeeper Hannah Gruen, who has been a maternal figure in Nancy’s life since her mother died when Nancy was just three years old. Hannah is entertaining a guest, Ellen Smith, who is about the same age as Nancy. Before coming to the Drews, Hannah worked for Ellen’s family.
Life for the Smiths hasn’t been so good recently. Ellen wants to study at a prestigious college of music but can’t afford the tuition. She has been offered a position at an estate just outside of River Heights, where they all live. Ellen is nervous about getting along with her charge, Trixie Chatham, as well as the mysterious air there is about the estate. She wants Hannah to accompany her, but Hannah convinces Ellen to take Nancy with her.
Ellen confides in Nancy the mystery surrounding her family as well. It seems her father and a brother were on board a sinking ship with their father, the Captain. The two boys were put in separate boats, each with one half of a treasure map. The two never saw each other again, and one of the boys grew up to be Ellen’s father. They still have half of the treasure map, but no way to know where to search unless they find the missing brother and the other half of the map.
Upon visiting Ellen’s potential new employer, the second mystery falls into place. Nancy meets Trixie, who expresses a fear of going into what she calls the “Ship Cottage”. Nancy goes in to show her there’s nothing to fear, and finds herself confronted by a ghost in the wall.
As usual, the two mysteries are related. However, The Quest of the Missing Map does ratchet up the action a bit. Nancy’s foes are pretty persistent in terms of trying to keep her from solving the mysteries that she is engaged in.
I won’t give away too much, but suffice it to say that my first impression of who was going to be “the bad guys” was off the mark. It was nice to have that twist and feel like I was led in one direction, only to have it take me by surprise. That wouldn’t be the case except that I have gotten used to how certain characters have been written and have just come to expect the same pattern to be followed. The Quest of the Missing Map changed it up a bit, and that was refreshing.
That’s not to say The Quest of the Missing Map is perfect – far from it. There’s a lot here that’s forced or contrived. Some of the problem is what was cut from the original version. That version flowed much better. Not much of the actual story was changed between the 1942 release and the 1969 rewrite, but the tightening up of the book resulted in events being changed to fit the new format, and details that helped these events make more sense were lost. The pace is off as usual, with some events being greatly detailed while others are glossed over.
Then there’s the whole idea of an ocean trip in 1942. Even taking into account that it was probably written in 1941, it doesn’t seem like a good idea for private citizens to be engaging in treasure hunting on the high-seas at a time when German u-boats were actively targeting U.S. shipping lines, even if we weren’t officially at war yet. This story doesn’t fit in well with the times.
Other than that, there’s the usual appeal to the 9 to 12-year-old market this series is aimed at. Nancy faces some real peril and outsmarts the bad guys again and again. Her friends are all back, including Bess, George, Ned, Burt, and Dave. It’s amazing how the boys can always get away from college to go on some adventure with Nancy.
The Quest of the Missing Map is fun for this age group to read. My daughter and I both enjoyed it, although I picked up on the issues with events more than she did. It makes for a fun discussion, though, and got us on the topic of WWII and the Atlantic. It’s an easy read for anyone, and recommend it.
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