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The Secret at Shadow Ranch (Nancy Drew, Book…

The Secret at Shadow Ranch (Nancy Drew, Book 5) (original 1931; edition 1994)

by Carolyn Keene (Author)

Series: Nancy Drew (5)

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Nancy arrives in Phoenix, Arizona, eagerly looking forward to a fun-filled vacation at Shadow Ranch but finds herself embroiled in a baffling mystery involving a phantom horse and buried treasure.
Title:The Secret at Shadow Ranch (Nancy Drew, Book 5)
Authors:Carolyn Keene (Author)
Info:Applewood Books (1994), Edition: F Facsimile Reprint, 204 pages
Collections:Your library

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The Secret of Shadow Ranch by Carolyn Keene (1931)


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» See also 22 mentions

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This was one of my very favorites as a kid, and I still enjoyed the mystery and travel narrative very much. However, we need to get real about the Native American cultural appropriation that happens here. Nancy and friends dress up in women's regalia (cringe) and refer to their outfits as costumes (cringe). I realize that the books today would likely treat this scene VERY differently, and that's good. It's still vital to point out what is no longer accepted and how we can do better. ( )
  DrFuriosa | Dec 4, 2020 |
Nancy Drew and her friends George Fayne and Bess Marvin head to Arizona in this fifth installment of the classic mystery series for young readers. As George and Bess' aunt, Mrs. Rawley, works to get Shadow Ranch into better condition in order to sell it, the girls have a series of exciting adventures in the mountains, confronting wild lynx and cougars, and fording raging rivers. Nancy also finds herself getting involved in a local mystery, as she investigates the nasty Martha Frank and her abusive relationship to her ward, the young Lucy Shaw. In true Nancy Drew style, involving lots of coincidence and serendipity, the resolution of this puzzle also solves another mystery, healing an old wound in the family life of Alice Regor, George and Bess' cousin, who accompanied the girls to Arizona...

The Secret at Shadow Ranch is notable in the Nancy Drew Mystery Stories series, in that it introduces George and Bess, who become Nancy's best friends throughout the rest of the series, replacing the earlier Helen Corning, who seems to just disappear. I read the Applewood Books facsimile reproduction of the original 1931 edition, rather than the revised and condensed edition put out in the 1950s (the one with the yellow cover and spine), and it featured an introduction from Mildred Wirt Benson, the author who wrote the first twenty-three books in the series, under the pseudonym 'Carolyn Keene.' It's interesting to note that she considered this one of her favorites, of the Nancy Drew books she wrote. Given the western setting, and the date of publication, I was expecting some outdated depictions of Native Americans and/or Latinos, but surprisingly, there was none of that here. Ironically, given the fact that the rewrites done in the late 1950s and early 60s were intended to scrub some of the overt racism of the original books, they apparently added in some patronizing content in that regard. I usually find that these earlier, original editions of Nancy Drew have more outdated, and quite uncomfortable social content, but also better writing and more interesting historical details. Reading them is a trade-off. Here however, you apparently have the best of both worlds! Recommended to fans of Nancy Drew, who enjoyed previous installments of the series. ( )
1 vote AbigailAdams26 | Jun 19, 2020 |
This book is still a fun mystery (even re-reading it all these years later) but some of the stuff in town with the Native Americans is harder to read than I remember it being when I was a kid. It doesn't feel intentionally racist, but it's very patronizing. (And this was the version that was revised in the 60's. I'm not sure I want to ever read the original from 1931.) If you can overlook that part, the mystery itself is enjoyable. Nancy and the other girls do some incredibly stupid and dangerous things, though. There were nods to "we have to be careful" and it is shown that at least they are aware what they are doing is dangerous... but still. It could have easily all gone wrong.

When I was young, this was one of my favorite Nancy Drew books because of the horses and the ill-fated love story that makes up the background of the plot. That part is still fun, at least. ( )
  ca.bookwyrm | May 18, 2020 |
I loved this series very much as a child but now I find them unengaging. They don't capture my attention the way they used to. However, they will always hold a special place in my heart as they are my first foray into the mystery genre. ( )
  Michelle_Boyea | Jun 7, 2019 |
I'm probably being a little harsh with the rating here, as this, like 'The Bungalow Mystery' had no objectionable content like other unrevised volumes. Well, unobjectionable as long as you're OK with Nancy and company heading off into the mountains with a gun they claim not to know how to use. It's a part of the adventure! There's a bit of jaw-dropping ending, too, but we'll get to that.

This is really more of a wilderness adventure novel than a mystery story, which is fine. Nancy is encouraged to travel to the run-down but scenic Shadow Ranch with cousins Elizabeth "Bess" Marvin and George (never short for Georgia) Fayne with an aunt and another, younger cousin Alice Regor.

Unlike the 1961 revision there is no ghostly happenings or buried treasure, instead the girls spend their time enjoying the outdoors, learning to ride and exploring the Arizona countryside which is wild and wooded in this part of the state. Time is spent on the learning process and readers are told the girls went many places with a guide before being allowed to roam alone. Casual remarks are made about bears stealing lunch baskets and Nancy has to shoot rattlesnakes and lynx's all over the place.

Interestingly, this is also the first time in the original books we see Nancy at a dance or other social occasion with young men, and she's too distracted by a mystery man to pay attention to the handsome young doctor she's dancing with! Bess, on the other hand, and George as well if she's being honest, are disappointed there are no young cowboys employed at the remote ranch.

There are two mysteries. The first is that Alice's father vanished eight years ago. The world assumes he abandoned his family, but there were no debts or suspicions of any reason why. There's no reason for a man who vanished heading to Philadelphia to end up in Arizona, but...well. The other mystery is a sullen old woman who keeps a child in rags in a cottage neighboring the ranch. Nancy sees the beautiful child and knows Lucy Brown is "better" than "squatter's stock" and is sure something is going on.

The conclusions of the mysteries were a little far-fetched and absurd for me, especially when Nancy declares she doesn't want to press charges and lets the villains go. It's merciful and all, but it baffles me.

As I said, the mysteries come second to the experiences in the wild, rounding up cattle, and developing the characters of George and Bess who are clearly NOT Helen Cornish or any other friend-of-the-week that Nancy has had before this. I really enjoyed those parts and this is another worth putting into the hands of a young reader.

Nancy Drew Mysteries

Next: 'Secret of Red Gate Farm'

Previous: 'The Mystery at Lilac Inn' ( )
  ManWithAnAgenda | Apr 22, 2019 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Carolyn Keeneprimary authorall editionscalculated
Benson, Mildred WirtIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Tandy, Russell H.Illustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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[1965 edition] "Here I am, girls!" exclaimed Nancy Drew as she hugged her two best friends.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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DO NOT COMBINE ISBN 081185163X with this work! That isbn is a blank notebook that has illustrations from this book. It is not the same!
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Nancy arrives in Phoenix, Arizona, eagerly looking forward to a fun-filled vacation at Shadow Ranch but finds herself embroiled in a baffling mystery involving a phantom horse and buried treasure.

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In Arizona, Nancy uncovers a strange mystery about a kidnapped child.

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