Funny, the first original text Nancy Drew I find is the one where she learns all about antique dolls and the cutthroat dealings of those who collect them.
One evening at a concert Nancy witnesses a purse being stolen and dashes after the culprit. She recovers the purse, but not the contents. The owner is grateful and on learning Nancy's vocation engages her for some further detective work. There is a cryptic note, a willful child, and a missing gypsy violinist. The key to solving the mystery appears to be a stolen photograph album and a missing doll.
Nancy does not mess around. She is undaunted when threats are made against her life, killer dolls are placed in her way, and when people are rude on the telephone. Nancy is determined to reunite a family AND win the first sail boat race for girls.
Obviously, the big deal with this one is the vast gypsy conspiracy that has even River Heights in its terrible clutches. As a people the Romani are depicted here as mysterious, superstitious, and 'wild'. In fact, of great concern for one character is the fact that her granddaughter's gypsy blood may be affecting her behavior. Its totally that and not her missing/dead parents. I don't know much about the Romani as a group, especially in the United States, but they are reduced to a carnival sideshow ("see the child bride in tent 6!") and in the tight grip of the "old ways". During her investigation, everyone was frightened into silence, and in the end it was a white woman who was hiding among them in the caravan that helped Nancy save the day. It doesn't even look like the revised text of 1977 took care of the problems. It's amazing what was acceptable only a few decades ago.
That was hard to swallow, but Nancy Drew, sailing genius, and doll mania kept me reading. My husband, doll genius, assured me that most dolls don't conceal venomous blades and poison spores. Magical health radiation was not a standard feature either. Some of the details were right: many of the dolls Nancy was shown in the collection and at the auction exist and are still sought after. Not enough to fund a crime ring (in this economy?), but its fun to find these references in unexpected places.
Overall, I'm glad to have found this, and even stumbled upon a whole trove of early Nancy Drews so I'm going to be reading a lot more of these.
Next: 'The Ghost of Blackwood Hall'
Previous: 'The Mystery of the Tolling Bell'