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The Hidden Staircase (Nancy Drew, #2) by…

The Hidden Staircase (Nancy Drew, #2) (edition 1930)

by Carolyn Keene

Series: Nancy Drew (2)

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4,001422,272 (3.84)58
Teenage detective Nancy Drew uses her courage and powers of deduction to solve the mysterious happenings in an old stone mansion.
Title:The Hidden Staircase (Nancy Drew, #2)
Authors:Carolyn Keene
Info:Grosset & Dunlap, Kindle Edition, 192 pages
Collections:Your library

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The Hidden Staircase by Carolyn Keene


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A slightly creepy but thrilling mystery in which Nancy's firm grip on reality prevents a family of women from being gaslighted by a predatory man trying to buy up old manors. This is one of the few stories in which Nancy is not kidnapped or tied up, by the way. It's an interesting digression from the usual formula. ( )
  DrFuriosa | Dec 4, 2020 |
The Hidden Staircase is the 2nd book in the Nancy Drew series. First published in 1930, the book still remains in print today, although edited and updated from the original just a bit. I am revisiting a lot of favorite children's books at the moment, because a summer cold is totally kicking my butt. I found several Nancy Drew audio books on my library's digital site.....perfect! The audio versions are about 3 hours long on average. Perfect listening time for someone who is stuck indoors coughing and feeling pretty miserable.

I worried that I might find these childhood favorites dated or juvenile, but I'm actually quite entertained! The audiobook I listened to (Penguin Random House) was narrated by Laura Linney. She does a great job reading! She reads the story at a nice pace and has a pleasant, easily understandable voice. The production quality is top notch....at suspenseful moments there are cheesy music stabs and sound effects. It was a fun listening experience!

In this second book, Nancy is investigating two mysteries.....ghostly activities at a local mansion and threats made to her father, Carson Drew. It develops into quite the interesting mystery!

The mysteries in the Nancy Drew series are not all that complex and the plot gets cheesy at times....but the stories are targeted at children and the first few books were written almost 90 years ago. They had a bit of an edit in the 1960s to remove some outdated stereotypes and to add in more action, but other than that the character and her adventures are as originally written. There is a reason these stories are classics. There might be some cheesy moments, but Nancy solves some interesting cases. She is intelligent, self-reliant and interesting as a main character. The books are a bit more outdated now than they were when I read them as a child, but the stories are still interesting and enjoyable. I can see the books being fun supplemental reading in a classroom or homeschool setting. There could be some fun writing prompts for students such as how could Nancy be aided in her sleuthing if she had access to modern technology (cell phone, computer for research, etc), what are some things Nancy does/says that are outdated and what would she say and do if she was a teen today?

The books are totally appropriate for middle grade students. There are some mild threats of violence and suspenseful moments, but nothing is ever graphic, gory or scary.

Moving on to the next book! Totally enjoying re-reading these classic favorites! ( )
  JuliW | Nov 22, 2020 |
Home alone one afternoon, Nancy Drew receives a most unwelcome visitor in the form of Nathan Gombet, a rude man who barges into the Drew home, raving about how Nancy's father, Carson Drew, had cheated him in a property deal. Shortly after this unpleasant episode, while visiting with Abigail Rowen, an elderly lady she aided in her first adventure, The Secret of the Old Clock, Nancy is introduced to a Miss Rosemary Turnbull. Miss Turnbull and her sister Floretta, older maiden ladies, live together in a Civil War-era mansion in the nearby town of Cliffwood, and are dealing with a most frightening situation, in the seeming haunting of their home. Nancy is intrigued, and arranges to spend a week with the Turnbull sisters, investigating the ghost. When she discovers that Nathan Gombet, the man who had been threatening her father, lives next door and had previously offered to buy the Turnbull mansion, she immediately has her suspicions regarding the haunting. But how can she prove her theory that Gombet is the ghost, when she can't figure out how he is coming and going? And what does the disappearance of her father, who fails to return from his trip to Chicago, have to do with it all...?

First published in 1930, The Hidden Staircase was girl sleuth Nancy Drew's second adventure. Like all of the Nancy Drew books, it was condensed and revised in the 1950s, in a project intended to update the vocabulary and narrative incidents of the stories, and to excise any racially insensitive content. This particular title was apparently more revised than most, with quite a bit of storyline changed, so I am particularly glad to have access to the original version from 1930. As I mentioned in my review of The Secret of the Old Clock, although I read this series as a girl, I tended to find it fairly uninspiring and wooden, and only realized its charm when I happened many years later upon the Applewood Books editions, which present facsimiles of the original versions from the 1930s. These original stories are far more quirky, far more descriptive, and unfortunately, far more racist than their later counterparts.

On the last point, it is interesting to me to note that almost every detailed review I have encountered of The Hidden Staircase reads the Nathan Gombet character as Jewish, and his depiction as anti-Semitic. This surprises me, as I simply never picked up on that subtext, in any of my multiple readings of this book. The description of Gombet never struck me as coded in a way meant to suggest he was Jewish, which stands in contrast to any number of vintage children's books I have read that do have such coded depictions. The unscrupulous book dealer in Jane Abbott's A Row of Stars (1937), for instance, is never overtly labeled a Jew, but his depiction makes it plain that he is. Here however, I simply didn't pick up on this. I read a review recently that mentioned a description of Gombet having a "hooked nose," but although I read through carefully this time, I couldn't find the passage. Doing a little research, I have discovered that a similar surname, Gombert, is sometimes a Jewish one, so perhaps that was also meant as a hint? However that may be, and whether he is meant to be Jewish or not, the villain's characterization is certainly not subtle, and the depiction of his African-American maid and co-conspirator, who is frequently referred to as a "negress," is most certainly racist.

The outdated racial and ethnic content of these original Nancy Drew books is their chief drawback, detracting from the enjoyment of otherwise entertaining tales of a clever and brave young heroine, always stalwartly pursuing the truth. I always feel torn about this: the originals are much better, from a storytelling and writing perspective, and they have greater charm, with their old-fashioned terms - roadsters, chums, and so on - and period details. The 50s version are like stale, bland copies in these respects, but they are't quite as outdated. It's a tradeoff. For myself, I tend to prefer the original version of any work of literature, however offensive that original is, but I would understand why some would hesitate to give these original Nancy Drew titles to young readers. This (the original) is one I would mostly recommend to adult readers who enjoy vintage girls' fare, while the revised 1950s version is one I would recommend to middle-grade readers who enjoy mystery fiction. ( )
  AbigailAdams26 | May 26, 2020 |
Nancy is having an elegant day being her elegant self when her doorbell rings and, on answering it (herself!) discovers a rude man named Nathan Gombet on the porch. He accuses her father of cheating him on a land deal and it is all Too Much for the girl detective to deal with so she summarily dismisses him.

A visiting friend who benefited from Nancy's first case provides a low character reference for the man: he stole eggs. Presently, or some weeks later, she visits a dear old lady who also benefited from Nancy's winkling out the secret of the old clock who has a friend who has been troubled by GHOSTS.

So begins a good to decent installment of Nancy Drew. First written in 1930, 'The Hidden Staircase', like so many others, was later expurgated and re-written to conform to the standards of the 1950s. Sometimes these standards were well-meaning, meant to diminish Nancy's inherent class-ism as well as any racist elements of characterization or plot. Most of the changes, however, served to make Nancy more feminine, that is obliging, polite, domestic, and tame.

'The Hidden Staircase' as originally written, has Nancy planning an extended visit to "the mansion", the ancestral home of Rosemary and Floretta Turnbull, to explain mysterious happenings, including theft, which threaten to force the women out. This is done with the permission of her father who is planning an extended business trip away from River Heights and won't need her to remind the housekeeper to keep things in order. He asks her to be careful and then gives her a loaded revolver. Even though Nancy admits she's no good with guns she walks around with it all the time.

Nancy heads to the home alone to solve the mystery which involves screams in the night, secret passages and springed doors, and canaries. Her father also ends up needing rescue! Throughout Nancy vanquishes doubt and fear, strikes out into the dark alone, and encourages the Turnbull sisters to overcome their own anxieties. She is triumphant especially near the end when she confronts the police chief of Cliffwood. She has some pretty compelling leads and is backed up by both Turnbill sisters. The chief is skeptical, though, until Nancy in exasperation uses her father's name. Suddenly, the chief is all attention and asks why she didn't mention her father before. "What has that to do with the case?" Nancy demands, and is even sarcastic to him later.

Of course, such triumph is unacceptable and is scrubbed out. The maiden Turnbull sisters are transformed in the rewrite into the grandmother and aunt of Nancy's friend Helen Cornish, who in the original 'Hidden Staircase' is dismissed from being a part of the mystery for being too much of a gossip. The revised Nancy must be flirtatious at a dance and be accompanied by a friend to the "haunted" house. The plot in other ways is less ridiculous, but not nearly as fun.

The only problem came about three quarters in when we find that our villain employs a slovenly "negress" who, though an active accomplice in the crimes and suitably violent and dastardly, is given neither name or motivation. The simple-minded rendition of a southern-fried accent was racist icing on the bigot cake.

Urgh, so close to perfection.

Nancy Drew Mysteries

Next: 'The Bungalow Mystery'

Previous: 'The Secret of the Old Clock' ( )
  ManWithAnAgenda | Apr 20, 2019 |
I absolutely loved Nancy Drew growing up. This was a series I latched on to for dear life and never let go. Anytime my mom and I would go to antique stores, we'd peruse the Nancy Drews and add them to the collection (oftentimes my mom had to make deals with me on how many I could buy). So, while I don't remember the exact details of each and every one, the entire series was amazing and really fed my love for reading (especially novels full of suspense and mystery). Thank you, Carolyn Keene, for giving us an intelligent female character to fall in love with in Nancy Drew! ( )
  justagirlwithabook | Aug 1, 2018 |
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» Add other authors (4 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Carolyn Keeneprimary authorall editionscalculated
Almqvist, JosefTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gil, JúlioIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pardal Monteiro, MarianaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pickard, NancyIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Tandy, Russell H.Illustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Nancy Drew began peeling off her garden gloves as she ran up the porch steps and into the hall to answer the ringing telephone.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Teenage detective Nancy Drew uses her courage and powers of deduction to solve the mysterious happenings in an old stone mansion.

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