Nancy, Bess and George are stuck in a thunderstorm on their way home in Nancy's roadster. Two trees are struck by lightning before their eyes, which, wow. The conditions are so bad they seek shelter at a house advertising meals "at the sign of the twisted candles".
While freshening up before tea, the girls overhear the innkeeper scolding a waitress for bringing up a fine meal to the old man upstairs when a plate of mush would do as well. Nancy questions the girl and finds the waitress, an orphan taken in by the innkeeper and his wife, to be too finely bred to be doing heavy labor. There's a mystery afoot!
There's also the 100 year old man, Asa Sidney, working away in his tower room making candles and talking about his tragic past. Nancy and her friends insist on joining him for a birthday party with the young girl, Sadie. A fun time is had and Nancy asks that if Sadie or Asa need a good lawyer, to call on her father. It turns out, he does. The next day Nancy's father is called by Asa to draw up a new will. Asa Sidney made a lot of money with his inventions and, having no children, has many relatives who may have an interest in his property.
A low point for me was the revelation that the man was a near-distant relation to George and Bess and those two worthy girls are manipulated by their families to cut off Nancy Drew because of her interference with the will! I seriously thought it was just going to be a ruse, but it was an actual thing that happened and us readers are expected to believe. That element was even kept for the revision in the 1960s.
Doing a little digging about these novels I'm upset to find that there were 3-4 illustrations in addition to cover art originally attached to these books, but subsequent editions eliminated them to a single frontispiece, redrawn in a mid-century style. I have some earlier editions, but none of mine have any of this extra art. If you have time, search for the frontispiece for this one featuring a man about to push Nancy off a high ladder from a window! It's amazing.
Bess and George's defection aside, this book was exciting because of the extra depth provided to the secondary and tertiary characters - the friend of her father's brought in to witness Asa's will was so eager to be a part of a mystery it was great - and the extra lengths Nancy had to go to to solve the case. Highly recommended.
I've reached another gap in my Nancy shelf, so it may be some time before I continue.
Next: 'The Password to Larkspur Lane'
Previous: 'Nancy's Mysterious Letter'