The Mystery at Lilac Inn, Nancy Drew #4 (1931)

The Mystery at Lilac Inn - Russell H. Tandy, Mildred Benson, Carolyn Keene

It would appear that a year has passed since Nancy's previous adventure and though she has gained some fame does not feel in any hurry to have another mystery yet. A chance stop at a pleasant lakeside inn brings Nancy together with an old school mate, Emily Crandall. Happily, Emily is about to come into an unexpected nheritance - the Crandall Jewels were willed to her by her grandmother and with her birthday around the corner she will be of age and able to have them.


While many of these Nancy Drew mysteries are not known for intricate plots or mysteries that are actually puzzles, this book was skimpy even for this company. She is still our beloved, brash Nancy, but her classism isn't so funny this time around and the clues Nancy discovers mostly have to do with disbelief that people of a certain type would have money and shop in the nicer department stores of River Heights.


Obviously, the jewels are stolen, and the police will arrest Emily's dotty guardian Mrs. Willoughby and cause a scandal unless Nancy can discover the real thief. Nancy is distracted at the beginning of the novel by housekeeper Hannah Gruen having to take immediate leave to take care of her sister. This inconvenience is made worse because father is having someone important to dinner in a week!


Nancy is up to the task of finding a new housekeeper but despairs when the hiring agencies send her unsuitable candidates who are black, Irish and Scots. We are given the impression that she wouldn't even have interviewed them if she hadn't been so desperate. She despairs to her father about having a "negro" housekeeper! Of course, these people are found unacceptable on inspection, but Nancy tried to help the dears not be black, Irish or Scots.


Another bad candidate is a young woman, Mary Mason, who is sullen and disrespectful in her answers to Nancy and is also dismissed despite good references. She becomes Important later, of course.


Thankfully, Nancy finds an older white lady of suitable Anglo-protestant extraction to take care of the house.


The racism this time around is more abhorrent because it is so casual and because it is directly from Nancy's own, natural perspective. She isn't observing someone who could do her harm as in 'The Hidden Staircase', nor is she trying to correct behavior as in the 'Secret of the Old Clock'. Other considerations like their slatternly dress and shuffling feat are on top of who they are. It's disgusting to read.


For that, let's move this down a few notches, despite their being some genuine daring behavior and adventure at the end of the book.


The 1961 revision, for what it's worth, changed the plot to something about evil twin shenanigans instead of opportunistic jewel thieves. It's likely better than the complaining about the lack of good help that Nancy and several other characters engage in.


Nancy Drew Mysteries


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