Book name: The Message in the Hollow Oak
Author: Carolyn Keene
Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap
Format: Print, ebook
Publication Date: 1935
Star Rating: 5/5
I love the sheer variety of tales in the Nancy Drew franchise.
The Message in the Hollow Oak sees Nancy, George and Bess head up to Canada to check out some land that Nancy has won in a contest.
Nancy entered a contest to name a mystery story and won. She receives the deed to some land up in Canada as her prize.
Carson Drew is too busy to go with her, so Nancy invites George and Bess along. However, the girls still need an adult to accompany them.
One of Carson’s clients recommends a Mrs Donnelly, who lives in the area and runs a boarding house.
Nancy meets Mrs Donnelly by chance before the introduction can be made and helps recover stolen property for her.
The four of them set off by train, only for Mrs Donnelly to be injured when it crashes.
Another passenger, Ann Chapelle, is also badly injured. She is a writer but grew up in the area where Mrs Donnelly lives.
Everyone’s interest is converging on the same remote part of Canada, and Nancy is intrigued by the mention of prospecting for gold in the area.
Nancy has already recovered property stolen from Mrs Donnelly, and the same group of men are already trying to frighten her into selling her land to them for next to nothing.
She is determined to inspect the land and have it surveyed before she decides whether to sell – and for how much!
As Ann Chapelle recovers from surgery in hospital, Nancy is determined to track down the man Ann was supposed to elope with years earlier. He never turned up for their rendezvous.
Feuds going back many years between local families threaten to make that impossible, but Nancy persists.
The more Nancy investigates, the more she discovers about the dodgy company that has been tricking local people out of their land and savings, and about the men behind it.
Setting is so vital to a Nancy Drew story, and the Message in the Hollow Oak had a great choice of setting. The story had plenty of action and it tapped into a traditional vein of North American storytelling when it focused on prospecting for gold in remote regions.
Nancy is such an inspiration to everyone, but perhaps particularly to a young female readership. This story saw a young woman reclaim what has previously been a largely male narrative: that of travelling to remote places to prospect for gold.
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