Book name: The Crooked Banister
Author: Carolyn Keene
Publisher: Grosset and Dunlap
Format: ebook, print
Genre: Vintage children’s fiction, Nancy Drew Mysteries
Publication Date: 1971
Star Rating: 5/5
Another Nancy Drew mystery, this time involving a con man and his oddly designed, automated house, which is looked after by a terrifying robot.
I always love Nancy Drew mysteries, and one of things I most enjoy about the franchise is the endless variety of plots and scenarios that the writing team that is Carolyn Keene bring to reading experience. The Crooked Banister proved to be no exception.
Carson Drew has been instructed by Mr and Mrs Melody to track down a con man named Rawley Bannister who has swindled them on a land purchase in Arizona. They bought it from him only to discover that the land was in fact on an Indian reservation.
Nancy and her father head up to where Bannister is being held on fraud charges in Mountainville, a few hours’ drive outside New York, together with Mrs Melody. They track down Bannister’s brother Thomas and sister Sally, now Mrs Carrier.
Their path to obtaining further information is smoothed by two things. Firstly, Mrs Melody knew Sally before she was married. Secondly, Sally and Thomas are smarting from Rawley’s skipping bail after they paid the bond.
They are also annoyed as Rawley’s other victims ask them to reimburse their losses. Seeing that this is likely to be a serious investigation, Nancy swells their numbers by asking George and Bess to help her solve the mystery. Ned and the girls’ regular dates turn up for a weekend to help, too.
Rawley lives near Mountainville, but when Nancy, Ned and the others attempt to search the place, they run into various inventive traps to prevent them from getting inside. Apart from the robot, there is a moat around the house which catches fire and nearly kills Nancy.
The young detective and her regular sidekicks are certain that the solution to Rawley’s crimes and his whereabouts lie inside the house, so they keep trying. The place is just like a fairground house of horrors, with walls that revolve and trapdoors.
Freeing each other when they get trapped is a dangerous and arduous task. Even the strangely built crooked staircase seems to be a part of the deception.
Nancy is also accosted by Clyde Mead, who claims to know Ned. She dislikes him instinctively and becomes suspicious of his pushy tactics as he tries to persuade her and her friends to give money for children on a Native American Indian reservation.
All paths lead from Mountainville to the reservation down in Arizona, not far from where Mr and Mrs Melody were swindled by Rawley Bannister on their land purchase. Nancy and her father head off there to track down the fraudster and work out what Mead is up to.
The Crooked Banister is a perfect example of a Nancy Drew mystery novel. Physical danger sits alongside a carefully constructed plot that is both inventive yet entirely credible. I was hooked right to the last page.
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