The Clue in the Jewel Box (Nancy Drew #20) by Carolyn Keene

In this installment of the plucky teen sleuth’s adventures, Nancy finds out that her elderly neighbor is actually a deposed queen from a tactfully-unnamed country, and not two seconds after Nancy meets her the old lady is inviting Nancy over to tea and letting her mess with all the priceless antiques. Turns out the queen had a grandson who was smuggled out of the old country to live in hiding in…wait for it…America! The only thing the queen has to remember her grandson is an old picture of him at age four, and she wants Nancy to track the guy down. Because this is a Nancy Drew novel, this takes about ten pages, but luckily further drama ensues to stretch out the story a bit more.

This one wasn’t my favorite. For starters, it was blatantly obvious who the bad guy was from like, page thirty. And Carolyn Keene works really hard to keep the Very Important Clues from being revealed to the reader so the ending doesn’t get spoiled, so she has Nancy discover said clues and then never mention them to anyone until the appropriate time, forty pages later. Also, there’s something that I noticed when I read these books as a 6th grader but wasn’t as bothered by then: do we really need to be constantly reminded how fucking perfect Nancy is? When she’s not being lovingly described as “slim and attractive”, we get even more random compliments thrown in that have nothing to do with anything. Example: there’s a subplot involving Nancy modeling a friend’s dress at a fashion show, and we get told over and over how Nancy is “keeping perfect time to the music” and has “perfect composure and the grace of a professional model.” WE GET IT. NO REALLY, WE DO.

Nancy is pretty insufferable in this one, to be honest. Usually her moments of “look at me with my spiffy little roadster and perfect figure and perfect hair being perfect” are overshadowed by her moments of “look at me being awesome and escaping from an abandoned cabin where I’ve been tied up and left for dead in the middle of the winter.” But there aren’t any in this book. Nancy gets trapped in a phone booth once, and doesn’t even have to escape – a policeman comes along and helps her. COME ON.

Speaking of insufferable, can we talk about Ned, Nancy’s “special friend” (that’s how he’s described in the book)? Good lord, what a schmuck. There’s a scene where they’re on a Ferris wheel (enjoying some forbidden hand-holding, I’m sure) and it breaks down, causing them to be trapped at the top. Nancy, being perfect, stays positive and says, “They’ll fix it soon. In the meantime, let’s enjoy the view.” Ned responds, “The sun’s hot and I’m thirsty.”

Hey Ned, what’s it like dating a girl who’s got bigger balls than you? Bet that’s awkward.

Verdict: two out of five stars


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