Reviews of All 56 Original Nancy Drew books - Part 1

Sophia Davis,
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nancy drew books by Carolyn Keene .
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The Author Mildred Augustine Wirt Benson

Part of my childhood is reading the Nancy Drew book series. Every twist and touch of each story excites me.

Growing up, I admire how Nancy shows her instincts, resourcefulness, and ingenuity in solving mysteries. However, before introducing you to the 56 original Nancy Drew books, let’s get familiar with the author behind these book series.

Mildred Augustine Wirt Benson is probably the most popular real person behind the pseudonym Carolyn Keene. She was born in Ladora, Iowa, in 1905. Even at an early age, she knew to herself that she wanted to be a writer. She won in writing content at the age of 14.

As a youngster, Benson wrote different children’s stories. She studied at the University of Iowa and became the first woman to receive a master’s degree in journalism.

During her graduate studies, Mildred Augustine Wirt Benson submitted a manuscript to the Stratemeyer Syndicate and was hired in 1926 to write the Ruth Fielding series final volume. After that, she was hired to write the first Nancy Drew book, “The Secret of the Old Clock, " published in 1930.

She is credited as the primary writer of the Nancy Drew book series under the pseudonym Carolyn Keene .

Now, let’s get more familiar with Nancy Drew books in order.

[Nancy Drew Book Series Review Part 2 (book 20-38): Reviews of All 56 Original Nancy Drew Books - Part 2 ]

Nancy Drew Book 1: The Secret of the Old Clock, 1930

The Secret of the Old Clock is the first Nancy Drew book and takes place in River Heights in the 1930s. Nancy Drew learns that her buddies face great financial trouble. Her friends expect money from Josiah Crowley, who has recently passed away. However, the will says that everything goes to the town’s one of the most disliked families.

Nancy Drew Book 1: The Secret of the Old clock The first Nancy Drew novel offers a cozy mystery and is enjoyable to read again and again. The storyline amazes me, mainly that it provides a solid start. Carolyn Keene portrays Nancy as an adventurous, brave, smart, fun, friendly, and intelligent girl.

The adventures and mysteries that Nancy Drew solves in the story make me want to solve my own. She is a great role model for everyone in the present time, even if she is a character who exists in the 1930s. The story itself is perfect for children looking for an action-packed and suspenseful mystery to solve with Nancy.

Overall, I recommend The Secret of the Old Clock for pre-teens and young teens. It is also a great escape for adults who want a comfortable and nostalgic mystery book or who want to remember a piece of their youth.

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Nancy Drew Book 2: The Hidden Staircase, 1930

The second book, The Hidden Staircase, tells about how Nancy Drew resolves to help her friends solve the ghost-hunting mystery in an old mansion. While she tries to crack that case, a mysterious man comes into the scene and warns her that her father is in danger. Meanwhile, her discovery of a hidden staircase leads her to solve the baffling mysteries.

Nancy Drew Book 2: The Hidden Staircase My first impression about the second adventure of Nancy Drew is that it is more suspenseful and in-depth than the first one. The storyline provides two mysteries, which catches every reader’s attention. I appreciate how the plot moves along nicely.

There are no so many characters involve in the story until the very end when Nancy gets closer to the truth. I enjoy the three other girls who go with Nancy wander the mansion and investigate.

I find the writing style of Carolyn Keene here pretty simple since it’s a children’s story. As for the POV, it comes with a lot of Nancy’s inner monologue. This book is relaxing and comfortable to read. Even if I’m trying to solve the case on my own, I don’t need to overthink.

Overall, The Hidden Staircase is a simple yet excellent mystery with some twists. It’s fun to read!

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Nancy Drew Book 3: The Bungalow Mystery, 1930

In the third book of the Nancy Drew series, Nancy Drew faces mystery and danger once again. She and her friend Helen encounters a dangerous boating expedition. Fortunately, a newly arrived girl in River Heights saves their lives. However, this rich girl turned orphan is still not safe against the devastation of grief.

Nancy Drew Book 3: The Bungalow Mystery In this third book of the Nancy Drew book series, I encounter cozy nostalgia through a homespun aura. There are complex plots and tense situations. The storyline is equally downright sweet and mesmerizing. The mystique appeal with the fearlessness of Nancy creates an impelling role model for kids and adults.

Although Carolyn Keene introduces The Bungalow Mystery as sweet alongside odd happiness prevailing during traumatic moments, I still enjoy the entire plot. It focuses on realism, where the spooky and strange stories involve creative acting skills, mistaken identity, and fraud.

The suspense in the story continues to grow, along with the characterization of the setting. As a result, Nancy becomes recognizable. Keene shows that Nancy’s actions, reactions, and tense gumshoe moments reflect her family’s happiness and personal safety.

Overall, The Bungalow Mystery offers a relaxing, rewarding experience for children. For adult readers, Nancy is a realm of bravery and kindness.

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Nancy Drew Book 4: The Mystery at Lilac Inn, 1930

The adventure in The Mystery at Lilac Inn starts when Nancy Drew visits her engaged friend and an owner of a cozy inn. She discovers a doppelganger with an axe, strange submersibles, bombs, and diamond thieves. She is torn between helping her friend, who relied on the inn to afford her marriage and solving the case of credit-card stealing double.

Nancy Drew Book 4: The Mystery at Lilac Inn In the fourth novel of the Nancy Drew book series, Nancy opens her oddly cozy but hard-core gumshoe world. The story focuses on the young audience and presents every detail in non-fancy, straightforward language. So, both the children and pre-teens can follow the flow of the story.

The atmosphere is vivid and rich, while the inn appears cozy yet creepy. As for the villains, Carolyn Keene makes them properly develop the mystery throughout the story. Their evil motives bind and gag the plotting and adventurous sleuth.

Overall, The Mystery at Lilac Inn is another edge-of-the-seat, cozy, and enjoyable mystery. It introduces clever machinations, revenge, betrayals, and truth. It helps my trip back to my childhood and blissful dreams.

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Nancy Drew Book 5: The Secret of Shadow Ranch, 1931

For the fifth time, Nancy Drew brings new adventure and mystery in The Secret of Shadow Ranch. A peril interrupts the vacation of Nancy Drew in Shadow Ranch in Phoenix, Arizona is interrupted. An ancient highwayman’s treasure is believed to lie somewhere on the ranch, while a phantom horse signals frightening losses and events.

Nancy Drew Book 5: The Secret of Shadow Ranch The atmosphere of the story is distinctly cozy with an intriguing Western vibe. The adventure is very refreshing and endearing. There are usual be-hatted cowboys and horse rides up steep paths, discarded Indian dwellings, and a winding atmosphere.

Carolyn Keene sees that the story will match the children’s taste and pre-teens, especially the complexity of the mystery. Before reaching the end, I encounter legends, jewels, abandoned towns, horses, cowboys, escapes, and more. Everything that a young reader needs an introduction to the world of mystery is present in the story.

Overall, The Secret of Shadow Ranch is easy and fun to read. It suits the imagination of young readers well. Plus, it provides moral patience, and intelligence always wins over greed and haste.

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Nancy Drew Book 6: The Secret of Red Gate Farm, 1931

In the sixth mystery novel of the Nancy Drew series, The Secret Red Gate Farm, Nancy Drew encounters a new friend and a new mystery right after the unusual shopping experience. A girl named Joanne Byrd tries to convince her grandmother to keep the Red Gate Farm. Near the farm, there is a mysterious cave-dwelling nature cult.

Nancy Drew Book 6: The Secret of Red Gate Farm In Nancy’s previous adventure, she hit the Wild West while searching for a ghost horse and an old legend. This time, she and her friends enter a new journey on a failing but charming farm. As usual, there’s no such thing as unconnected side stories or coincidence in Nancy Drew’s world. I admire how Carolyn Keene started the novel with the strange purchase of an overpriced perfume from the bizarre sales lady. It takes a matter of time before the main characters tie the piece together.

This time, the story is even more real than the previous novels. While Nancy and her friends’ operation is strongly adult, it is not overly simplified for the children and pre-teen readers. This what makes the mystery more suspenseful and authentic.

Overall, The Secret of Red Gate Farm is an impressive mystery novel. I figure out the secret communication codes and knotty money schemes together with Nancy and other characters.

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Nancy Drew Book 7: The Clue in the Diary, 1932

After the secret cult mystery, the seventh book, The Clue in the Diary, delivers a more sedate adventure. Nancy Drew is still in the riverside and stays comfortable in her house. However, her familiarity of location soon stumbles onto an exploding house, a long-running patent scheme, a murky case of her father, and a presumed homicide.

Nancy Drew Book 7: The Clue in the Diary Starts with a bang, this seventh Nancy Drew book turns the country drive for Nancy and her friends into a raging inferno scene. As she finds a diary that holds the clue to the entire crime, the story’s suspense and excitement start to grow.

I like how Carolyn Keene effectively elaborates on the villain’s trap. While the plot is a little predictable, it is still enjoyable and even part of the charm.

This series is well-formed but straightforward and substantial. It has equal parts of excitement and coziness. My favorite part is when Nancy becomes interested in growing her social life while defending the downcast. So, her rollicking adventure causes reliance on wits, ingenuity, and quick thinking.

Overall, I admire how The Clue in the Diary offers a simple yet attention-grabbing mystery. This book plays with my imagination and is filled with surprises for the young audience.

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Nancy Drew Book 8: Nancy’s Mysterious Letter, 1932

For the eight novels Nancy’s Mysterious Letter, Nancy Drew receives a letter from a law firm in London. They search for the heiress in England named Nancy Drew. While Nancy tracks down the woman with the same name, she is looking for a mail thief.

Nancy Drew Book 8: Nancy’s Mysterious Letter As I expected, this Nancy Drew novel provides an original storyline. Reading this book, which introduces different scams and crimes, I learn certain things that are not part of my world. These include postal inspector, sailor slang, or a little bit of Shakespeare vibe.

Carolyn Keene tries to work in suspenseful and related happenings. She is successful in creating scenes that fit within the story naturally. The story itself is simple and straightforward alongside clarity. The mystery is easy to understand but interesting enough for both young and adult readers.

Overall, I find Nancy’s Mysterious Letter amusing, especially when Nancy calls the police chief and gives him clues to solve the cases. The story is entertaining, pleasant, and innocent. It’s a quick read!

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Nancy Drew Book 9: The Sign of the Twisted Candles, 1933

When Nancy Drew’s friend asks her to investigate their granduncle, a prison of his mansion, a new mystery comes on her way in the ninth book, The Sign of the Twisted Candles. She almost lost her friendship with George and Bess because of the case and her newfound friend Carol. Meanwhile, she uses the sign of the twisted candles as a clue in getting to the bottom of the problem.

Nancy Drew Book 9: The Sign of the Twisted Candles I see this ninth novel as a wholesome mystery story, which provides a great role model even in today’s world. The story is highly recommended to young readers as they can relate to the characters. This is especially with Nancy because she is witty, a nice friend, and adventurous, but still a good daughter.

Carolyn Keene uses easy to comprehend and very descriptive words in her writings. I notice it when she describes the actions and settings and the emotions of the characters. What I read is what I imagine and see in the pictures in the book. The description of Keene matches my imagination.

Overall, The Sign of Twisted Candles excites and makes my mind curious because I need to learn many things that surround the twisted candles. It’s simple and catchy!

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Nancy Drew Book 10: The Password to Larkspur Lane

The Password to Larkspur Lane is the tenth novel of the Nancy Drew series. Nancy Drew takes her housekeeper Hannah to a local physician and meets Dr. Spires, who is recently involved in a very unusual event. The doctor asks her to investigate a case and gives a bracelet to her, which he believes holds the clues.

Nancy Drew Book 10: The Password to Larkspur Lane I notice the uncanny ability of Nancy in the previous books, but it is much more prevalent this time. I commend the creativity of Carolyn Keene in portraying Nancy in the story. Every time I turn to the next page, I imagine how amazing and brilliant Nancy is.

Despite the almost perfect attributes of Nancy, I get a solid and charming mystery story. As I start reading this book, I invest time discovering what is happening and how Nancy brings the villains to justice.

Overall, The Password to Larkspur Lane offers me a charming and engaging reference to the style and culture of the 1930s. I enjoy the yacht club dance, rumble seats, roadsters, frocks, sanatoriums, and more. It’s an old-fashioned yet enjoyable book to read.

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Nancy Drew Book 11: The Clue of the Broken Locket, 1934

In the eleventh mystery, The Clue of the Broken Locket, Nancy Drew is on a relaxing vacation. However, she gets involved in one of her father’s cases, multiple kidnapping attempts, a missing treasure, a new friend’s doppelganger, a suspicious estate family, and a ghost ship sighting. Now, she suspects that the different mysteries are connected.

Nancy Drew Book 11: The Clue of the Broken Locket As I read the Clue of the broken locket, I notice that many things are going on. Both the adventures and action are non-stop, from near-misses to kidnappings to assorted threats.

Carolyn Keene provides a broader cast of characters, which I find refreshing yet intriguing. Some of the new characters are bit players, and others are suspects. However, most of them are side characters who help Nancy tie the mysteries together.

If I’m a young reader, I’ll find the endless dangers exciting. As an adult reader, I see the storyline as exciting and fun to read. As always, Nancy brings a cozy tinge of drama. While there’s a melodrama, the mysteries keep the whole story well-balanced.

Overall, The Clue of the Broken Locket is easy and fun to read. There’s a perfect mix of mystery and melodrama.

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Nancy Drew Book 12: The Message in the Hollow Oak, 1935

The new mystery in the twelfth Nancy Drew book The Message in the Hollow Oaks starts when a group of detective challenge Nancy. She needs to find the hidden message in a hollow oak tree. Nancy and her buddies live with a group of archeologists who excavate prehistoric Indian burial piles. Then, she discovers a strange treasure.

Nancy Drew Book 12: The Message in the Hollow Oak Nancy Drew delivers an entertaining and very intriguing character. While she is solving the mystery, I get excited to solve it for myself as well. The storyline suits any age, especially those people who crave mystery.

Despite the problematic aspects of the story, Carolyn Keene still makes it a fun mystery. It offers a lot of twists and turns. The characters, conflicts, and side plots work together to provide a great storyline. The characters do not confuse me as they come with proper description and portrayal.

Overall, The Message in the Hollow Oak delivers a mystery and realistic fiction genre. It has a decent storyline that appeals to me.

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Nancy Drew Book 13: The Mystery of the Ivory Charm, 1936

The thirteenth book, The Mystery of the Ivory Charm, centers around Coya, a young Indian boy, and a visiting circus. As his father is mistreating him, Nancy willingly protects him. She wants to know why his father has been keeping him, which puts her life at risk.

Nancy Drew Book 13: The Mystery of the Ivory Charm After the intriguing atmosphere that The Message in the Oak Tree, here goes the thirteenth novel where Nancy witnesses the brutal abuse of Coya. Honestly, if readers cannot deal with young or animal abuse, this story may appear a bit off. However, as Nancy intervenes, everything makes sense. So, Carolyn Keene still gives justice to the characters.

The characters, especially the villains, effectively portray their roles and are caricatured. I find a lot of good scenes, which all end up with well-utilized and interesting plot points. All settings connect to each other, so I have no trouble following the flow of the story.

Overall, The Mystery of the Ivory Charm is entirely different from the previous Nancy Drew book series. It delivers a different flavor of mystery. It is still worth the read despite the abusive scenes.

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Nancy Drew Book 14: The Whispering Statue, 1937

In The Whispering Statue, Nancy Drew has been torn between two mysteries once again. She needs to resolve the rare book collection concerns, which she wants to know if swindling is involved. Then, a mystery revolves around the beautiful marble statue also concerns her. This is another story that challenges the detective skills, Nancy.

Nancy Drew Book 14: The Whispering Statue One of the best things about The Whispering Statue is that it introduces many exciting challenges, which I enjoy solving with Nancy. I think the encounter with the deceitful sculptor, an almost disastrous sailboat collision, and attempted kidnapping are the story’s main highlights.

My favorite part of the story is when Nancy conceals herself behind the statue and then uses her voice to make it appear speaking to the con man. Carolyn Keene adds a dramatic rescue in one scene, and I appreciate how she delivers it very catchy.

Overall, The Whispering Statue is one of the most coincidence-heavy, ragged, and overpopulated series. Despite the several harsh episodes, the saucy behavior of Nancy balances every scene. Plus, I love the twists in the ending.

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Nancy Drew Book 15: The Haunted Bridge, 1937

The Haunted Bridge is the fifteenth book of Carolyn Keene for Nancy Drew series. Once again, Nancy finds herself in the middle of two intriguing mysteries during a golf tournament. As she discovers the thriller of an abandoned bridge, she can track down the woman who is a suspect of being part of the jewelry thieves. Together with her friends, Nancy uncovers fascinating clues.

Nancy Drew Book 15: The Haunted Bridge I find this another Nancy Drew book as a worthwhile read. It offers dynamic characters alongside sensational cliffhangers and intriguing suspense.

The novel becomes more captivating due to its unique, creative, and engaging characters. For instance, Nancy proves that she is not afraid of anything, not even in a haunted bridge. I also find it interesting how she and her friends put their lives at risk just to track down the elusive jewel thief.

Not only does the suspense keeps me reading the book, but also adds mystery to the entire story. Since there is more suspense to this novel, I wonder what will happen next to the characters.

Overall, other than the extraordinary characters, The Haunted Bridge provides mysterious suspense. It also comes with gripping cliffhangers, which makes me read the story until the end.

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Nancy Drew Book 16: The Clue of the Tapping Heels, 1939

In the sixteenth Nancy Drew novel The Clue of the Tapping Heels, Nancy and her friends become tap-dance enthusiasts. She meets a bizarre retired actress who owns a lot of cats. There’s an unusual sound at the woman’s house, and Nancy attempts to solve this mystery. Meanwhile, the woman faces some financial issues because of a crook’s manipulation.

Nancy Drew Book 16: The Clue of the Tapping Heels Again, Carolyn Keene shows her unique taste when it comes to plot devices. The story delivers unusual climaxes in each chapter and other action-packed scenes.

I get even excited about reading this novel when Nancy uses the Morse code to seek help. Then, she reveals the solution to the mystery. This scene illustrates the frontispiece of the book. The story is perfect for those who love plot twist mystery like me.

When I start reading this Nancy Drew book, I become eager to know what happens next. I finish it in less than 5 days. I like how Nancy displays her detective skills and do what she enjoys. Despite the life-threatening events, she manages to enjoy her life.

Overall, the plot of The Clue of the Tapping Heels is unique and mostly coherent. While it is easy to read and more of catching the culprit, the story is fun and exciting to read.

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Nancy Drew Book 17: The Mystery of the Brass Bound Trunk, 1940

The Mystery of the Brass Bound Trunk starts when Nancy plans a trip to South America with her friends. They travel by boat and join a tour that is hosted by an exclusive school for girls. Nancy learns the issues involve in the Trenton trunk company, mostly about the quality of merchandise. While solving the mystery, someone hits her on the head.

Nancy Drew Book 17: The Mystery of the Brass Bound Trunk I appreciate the way Carolyn Keene creatively describes the 1940s clothing of the girls. I find this Nancy Drew book very intriguing. Even its title is attention-grabbing.

This novel is in an older writing style targeting young readers, but it is still entertaining for adult readers. It provides an action-packed mystery with a fantastic plot. Even the grammar is pretty perfect.

I like how each chapter ends with a cliffhanger. It makes me more eager to anticipate the next chapter. As for Nancy’scharacter, she shows that every woman can do many things other than staying at home to clean and cook.

Overall, I enjoy reading The Mystery of the Brass Bound Trunk until the end. I love the way I help Nancy uncover the mystery. It is like I am part of the story.

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Nancy Drew Book 18: The Mystery at the Moss Covered Mansion, 1941

Nancy’s new adventure starts in The Mystery at the Moss Covered Mansion when her father asks her help to find a missing heiress. As Nancy with her friends start their sleuthing journey, they stumble upon a mysterious mansion covered with moss. Near the mansion, they hear that someone is being murdered. Plus, strange noises are coming inside the moss-covered mansion.

Nancy Drew Book 18: The Mystery at the Moss Covered Mansion This 18th Nancy Drew book by Carolyn Keene offers an excellent deal of action. It includes a great combination of gypsies, murder, a missing heiress, and an airplane accident. The forest fire, reclusive artist, and needy elderly lady also add twists to the story.

With the twists and turns, I become even more curious about the ending. Guessing some of the mysteries is always fun and enjoyable. I find Nancy delightful and clever. However, I also notice some sensibilities toward the heritages apart from the white American, which is part of the pre-civil rights.

When Nancy almost falls into a boiling pool or the leopard attacks her, the suspense explodes. So, I get excited to know the next scenes and how Nancy solves the mysteries.

Overall, The Mystery at the Moss Covered Mansion provides a solid plot. A lot of things are involved in the story, like real estate, astronauts, stolen boats, wild animals, and stolen cars. The good thing is that they wrap up neatly.

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Nancy Drew Book 19: The Quest of the Missing Map, 1942

The Quest of the Missing Map is the nineteenth Nancy Drew novel by Carolyn Keene. The story starts when Nancy is investigating a small ship cottage located at the Chatham estate. She unveils a connection between the mysterious events happening at the cottage and the lost treasure on an island. She holds one half of a map and seeks a missing twin brother who keeps the other half.

Nancy Drew Book 19: The Quest of the Missing Map The first time I read this Nancy Drew mystery book, it’s easy to say that the story takes place in the pre-WWII period. For instance, the treatment and image of women and the portrayal of the main characters. The physical appearance of the characters really matches the time period and their roles.

When it comes to speaking, personalities, and overall role in the story of the characters, Carolyn Keene shows her creativity. However, they are not particularly deep. This is because there is always a correspondence between their physical attributes and personality. On the bright side, the characters add color to the storyline as they provide details that make me curious about the next scenes.

Overall, The Quest of the Missing Map is entertaining, surprising, and exciting with a funny scene. It is well-written and ideal for mystery lovers.

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Sophia Davis
Sophia is an aspiring blogger writing about movies and books.