Friday, December 3, 2010

The Secret of Shadow Ranch by Carolyn Keene

This is the fifth Nancy Drew mystery, and since I've been reading nothing but mysteries lately, I thought I'd give it a try. I've only read one Nancy Drew book before, back when I was a little girl. I don't know how old I was--maybe twelve?--but I distinctly remember being shocked at the racism in the book. The only scene I remember clearly is Nancy and her friends exploring the slave quarters of an old mansion, and Bess sighing nostalgically and saying she can just picture the little "pickaninnies" singing and dancing. It still horrifies me even after all these years. I feel certain that the reissued books have had the racism excised, although The Secret of Shadow Ranch has the girls wear "squaw dresses" to a square dance.

Anyway, all that aside, The Secret of Shadow Ranch was a lot of fun. The writing isn't exactly world-class, but it works. The mystery isn't difficult to solve, but I'll give Nancy credit for not missing clues and for making shrewd guesses.

In this book, Nancy visits Shadow Ranch, home to a friend's aunt and uncle. Her friends Bess and George are there too, as is Bess's young cousin Alice. Strange events are happening at the ranch, including sightings of a ghostly horse. Nancy is positive the horse isn't a phantom at all, and when she hears rumors of a long-lost treasure hidden somewhere on the ranch, she's positive that someone is trying to scare everyone off to search for the treasure. Oh, and Alice's father is missing after a robbery at the bank where he works.

I enjoyed the nonstop action--something happened every single chapter. Of course I never really believed Nancy was in any real danger, but the mild scrapes she gets into would have felt more real to me when I was a kid. Too bad I didn't have the non-racist versions back then.

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