The Secret of the Old Clock - Russell H. Tandy, Sara Paretsky, Carolyn Keene

Just for your awareness, I am knowledgeable about the fact that as a person who makes an effort (to an almost intolerable degree, might I add) to word everything I speak and/or write eloquently, my saying that this novel is boring because of its cumbersome dialogue is most likely not in my favor. In fact, my distaste for elaborate wording is most likely a wake-up call to edit my manuscripts a bit more closely and start to ask myself, "Which of these phrases is destined to annoy normal people?" 


Now, moving on to my past experiences with the novel. The copy I have is, indeed, an heirloom, passed down from my mother in hopes that I would love it as dearly as she did. Perhaps, the first time I read it, in third grade, that hope was well-founded. But, rereading it as someone who has refined their taste and read more literature in their day, frankly, the success of this series has become a bit disconcerting. I would've given it a whopping five stars when I first read it, but now, I realize that I should have looked a bit more closely.


The gist of the story, in and of itself, is entirely entertaining. I enjoyed very much the way the clues were placed, the integrity and optimism of our protagonist, and the varying in setting. It's a good story, but what could perfectly well be considered minor flaws cost it an entire forty percent of its rating. 


Firstly, the original author of this book, or the person that revised the edition that I have, is rubbish at writing prose. That's simply a fact. The suspense is pitiful, despite the fact that it could have been filled with opportunities, and Nancy Drew's inner monologue is far too reminiscent of one whom we'd all recognize as captain obvious. 


"Oh, I hope nobody finds out about this!" 


Damn straight you do, Nancy. Keene already told us about it. Five times. 


 And then, on top of having to plow through that mess, I had to cope with ludicrously irrelevant extra details. I'm not discussing minor stuff, like one-sentence remarks about distant Aunts or, god forbid, exes, oh no, I'm referring to multiple-paragraph wastes of time. Like Nancy's hatred for the GOD-AWFUL, DREADFUL, POSITIVELY HORRENDOUS Topham sisters. Not only were they entirely irrelevant to Nancy's motives, I would have much preferred reading about an eccentric, single billionaire doing whatever the fuck he could to obtain the fortune of his cousin. Maybe even murdering some folks. I'd rewrite this story in a heartbeat to include that. 


This might just be a product of desensitization, but finding a will alone isn't enough of a high stake to be of my liking. When it comes to me truly enjoying mystery/crime fiction, someone has to get murdered. (Otherwise, my attention will instead.) 


Yet, regardless of the lack of truly high stakes, this has the potential to be a fantastic story. Luckily for you, I'm going to tell you how to make it so: 


1) This should not be a piece of literature. This should be a television episode. Books have to pass a strict test in my head for me to be able to consider them legitimately interesting. If I'm being honest, this novel didn't have enough internal conflict, action, or meaning for me to be able to consider it a worthy book. To be a worthy tv episode, it passes the test. Many of the scenes in here could simply have the dialogue edited and the immediate suspense tweaked by a margin, and they'd automatically be a thing that would keep people waiting through the commercials. Scriptwriters, borrow my copy. There's annotations all over that damn thing. 


2) Nancy Drew has to stop being flawless. Yes, I understand that this was written in a time where authors hadn't yet excelled in making children's characters realistic. But if this is going to be truly entertaining to a large audience, you've got to have an internal struggle in there somewhere. Perhaps Nancy Drew suffers from anxiety and has panic attacks, making her doubt herself constantly and causing everyday endeavors to be arduous, not to mention those involved with solving a crime! You could also change the character to have problems involving finding her identity. This book could technically be considered within the New-Age genre demographic, and you could do a million things with that. Her family is full of lawyers and proper detectives, and Nancy loves solving crimes, but she wants little to do with formal courts and school. Or maybe she's trying to figure out what kind of point she has even existing if all she does is live with her dad and solve crimes on the side. Please, future screenwriter, I'm begging you, mess this character up somehow, the fans need it. 


3) Make it funny. Even if you do end up using the dramatic, flawed character, high-stakes thing, a little humor never hurt anyone. If Drew cranks out a few casual "that's what she said" jokes per episode, people like me, who are very passionate about innuendos, might just find her more relatable. But, hey, always take caution in advice of that nature from a middle schooler. 



4) Improve upon supporting characters. Boy, do I have a big bone to pick with this one. I found the side characters that were meant to pull at the reader's heart stings extremely one-dimensional. Imagine if these characters, or, at the very least, one or two of them, were well-rounded and even had some easily noticeable flaws of their own? What if Nancy's father was obviously disappointed in her constantly? What if Richard Topham was clearly an actual psychopath? What if the two girls Nancy had met first lacked empathy for the people in the same situation? Even if not all of them have noticeable dramatic flaws, it would certainly help that we knew more about them and saw them as more believable and realistic characters. 


5) Make it fun, whatever the method. I think one of the major reasons I was disappointed in this book was the fact that reading it was predominantly trudging through the story, rather than actually enjoying it and flying through it. The mystery, the characters, the motives, and the clues--those are all things that possess immense potential. But, without proper prose and fabrication, they all go unnoticed under the novel's collection of major flaws. Expanding upon the suspense, featuring more human characters, and, overall, just making it more exciting, let all the potential come to light. 


That is when Nancy Drew will truly be worth five stars.