The Secret of the Old Clock

The Secret of the Old Clock

The Secret of the Old ClockThe Secret of the Old Clock
Author: Carolyn Keene
Published by Penguin
Released: 1987
Genres: Mystery
Pages: 180

Nancy Drew solves her first mystery when the accidental rescue of a little girl who lives with her two great-aunts leads on an adventurous search for a missing will.

I’ve never read any Nancy Drew book, or seen any movie or anything like that. Trixie Belden was my girl detective of choice, so I went into The Secret of the Old Clock kind of unaware of what is going on inside the covers exactly. But what a cover! These new editions of the classic girl sleuth are absolutely gorgeous. I love a good illustrated cover, and these colours, silhouettes, swirls and more just grabbed my eye.

After reading The Secret of the Clock, however, Trixie Belden is still my girl detective of choice.

From the moment she appeared in the opening of the book, eighteen years old (aged up from sixteen in the rewrite, I learned later) and driving her convertible it was clear that I had been imagining Nancy Drew wrong for much of my life. I’d imagined her younger, spunkier, and nosier, and while she could certainly snoop, at times she felt more passive than spunky, with clues and leads to follow up on almost falling into her lap.

Need an excuse to talk to some suspects? Oh look, a friend is selling tickets to a charity event but won’t be able to sell them in time before she goes away to a summer camp. So why not buy two tickets without hesitation, and go to sell the suspects the rest? Oh, and as an added bonus, this camp you’ve been invited to happens to be right nearby the next place to search for clues.

If I had read this as a child, I might have enjoyed the book more (although still finding it lacking compared to Trixie, who has a much more exciting yet grounded supporting cast of family and peers), liking Nancy’s calm resolve and quick thinking, but looking at it now I see how heavily her sleuthing is reliant on her being an attractive, educated, young white woman of a certain class. Were she not, would she still be immediately trusted, welcomed into people’s homes, forgiven for snooping, and basically be told straight away the woes of strangers she just met?


The mystery itself was simple, but solid: the turns made sense, explanations were reasonable, and the result (while expected) was satisfactory. After all these years it’s now more cliche than anything, but it works, and to young readers would definitely be appealing – as it has done for so many years since first published, then rewritten. Still, coming at it now the perfectness of it all is noticable.

It’s easy to see why Nancy Drew has been so popular amongst young readers all these years, but coming to it now it’s sort of ‘meh’. Her influence over and importance in children’s fiction cannot be denied, however, and for those interested in seeing where it has come from will find it interesting. I don’t think I’ll read the ones that follow, but will look into the more modern updates of the character.

The covers are still so very gorgeous though. Can someone give Trixie ones on this level? #bobwhitesforever