The Secret of the Old Clock (Nancy Drew, Book 1)

by Carolyn Keene

Hardcover, 1930



Local notes

Fic Kee (c.2)





Grosset & Dunlap (1930), 192 pages


Nancy Drew's keen mind is tested when she searches for a missing will.


Original language


Original publication date

1959-05-15 (revised edition)
1991 (facsimile edition by Applewood Books)

Physical description

192 p.; 5 inches

User reviews

LibraryThing member lit_chick
2007, Listening Library, Read by Laura Linney

Book Description: Girl sleuth, Nancy Drew, is introduced in this audio version of the first book in the series. After aiding an injured child, Nancy accidentally stumbles upon the mystery of Josiah Crowley's missing will. While several of Crowley's
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impoverished relatives claim that he had included them in his will, his arrogant relatives, seem to possess the only copy, which leaves them in total possession of the deceased man's fortune. Nancy is intrigued by the situation and begins searching for Crowley's missing antique clock, an object that reportedly contains a clue to the will's location. During her investigation, she encounters a series of obstacles, one of which is the theft of the clock by thieves. Nancy's rescue of the clock ultimately leads to her discovery of the real will.

My Review:
Who knew discovering Nancy Drew in my mid-fifties would be such a delight! Nancy herself, of course, is the star of the show, but I am impressed with the secondary cast of characters here, too: the aging Turner sisters, guardians of little Judy, who want only the best for their ward; the much younger Hoover sisters, childhood neighbours of the deceased Crowley, who were fond of him; 80-year-old invalid Abbey Rowen, always pleasant despite her challenges; Jeff Tucker, a kindly farmer who’s dreamed of travelling; and, by contrast, the arrogant, entitled, and greedy Topham family. I’m expecting to meet again with Carson Drew, Nancy’s father and successful attorney, and their housekeeper come family friend, Hannah Gruen. The plot plays out well, as does the mystery story, but I was more impressed with the theme: that those who have help those who have much less – and in doing so, enrich their own lives as well as the lives of others. Laura Linney, who narrates this audio version, is, well, Laura Linney: fabulous! Her pronunciation and timing are perfect, and all of the characters are clearly delineated. Occasional background music is used effectively to indicate moments of tension. Highly recommended!
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LibraryThing member bibliophile26
Blah! This book was quite boring and Nancy Drew is so “good,” I just wanted to smack her. Everything just worked out too perfectly and that was very annoying. Also, the writing was substandard. I liked these books as a child, but apparently there is no accounting for taste. Never again!
LibraryThing member delphica
(#38 in the 2005 book challenge)

Ah, the first Nancy Drew book! I was a big Nancy Drew reader, although even as I kid I realized they were the same book, written over and over again. Being a child of the 70s, most of my NDs were the "cleaned up" versions with the yellow spines, with a few of my
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mom's originals thrown in for good measure. You can now purchase (at a ridiculous mark up, btw) reprints of the first editions, and that's what we're reading for book club. I have to say that they are excellent reproductions, you get the cloth cover and the dust jacket and the goofy frontispiece, so the whole package is quite slick. There's always a lot of buzz in the kidlit community about the cleaned up versions being too sterile, but cripes, it's alarming to read the original. We're not talking Huck Finn, here. While reading, I also remembered how perpetually, vaguely confused I was about what Nancy was supposed to be -- she's a teenager who doesn't go to school, doesn't have a job, and has a very smart wardrobe. Nice work if you can get it.
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LibraryThing member t1bclasslibrary
Nancy Drew becomes determined to see justice served by locating the newer will of a man who promised a good chunk of money to a variety of needy and deserving people. Her hunt takes her to many potential inheritors (all of whom she charms with her excessive goodness), some not-so-nice relatives, a
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couple of lawyers, and some thieves. Nancy manages to outwit, outsmart, and outthink everyone until she finally locates the will and everyone gets their rightful inheritance.
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LibraryThing member FerneMysteryReader
I first began to read the Nancy Drew Mysteries in 4th grade. I particularly remember reading Nancy Drew books during 4th grade math and tucking the book inside the long, rectangular red cover math book. When I would stand the math book up on my desk, the Nancy Drew book fit perfectly “inside”
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as the math book spine height was just a little taller than the Nancy Drew book. My teacher would continue teaching but walk behind me and reach down to pull out the Nancy Drew book and put it on his desk before returning to the front chalkboard. It always impressed me that he would tuck my bookmarker inside to keep my place and allow me to take the book home the same evening of my distraction from class. Now >50 years later, a dear girlfriend surprised me with a ©1959 edition of “The Secret of the Old Clock” in mint condition that she found in AZ and brought back for me in PA. I read the story again in one sitting and I was as enthralled with the mystery as I was so many years ago. I found the mystery riveting and just couldn't put it down. Now I can easily understand why I forgot to look up occasionally to act as though I was interested in that day's math lesson. Nancy Drew adventure or math? Still, no contest. lol

I had forgotten so many of the details of the series opener as well as the initial plot. The Nancy Drew Mysteries invigorated my interest in reading and particularly mysteries that has brought me a lifetime of reading adventures and treasured hours. What a priceless gift! My girlfriend also read Nancy Drew books during her childhood. She grew up to be an elementary reading teacher and I grew up to be a children's librarian.
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LibraryThing member AbigailAdams26
Since the publication of The Secret of the Old Clock in 1930, the adventures of Nancy Drew have become an almost ubiquitous fixture in the landscape of American girlhood: continually in print, frequently revised and updated, and always immensely influential. I vividly recall the long row of yellow
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spines that was to be found on the shelf under "Keene, Carolyn" at my public library, and my sense that these books were somehow important. But despite my earnest desire to be a part of the Nancy Drew phenomenon, to share in the pleasure that all my friends seemed to experience with her, I was never able to take the "girl detective" entirely to heart. The narratives always seemed so bland, the language so dry, and each installment felt like a cardboard cut-out of the same basic story. I read Nancy Drew, of course, but I eventually concluded that I just wasn't a Nancy Drew girl...

Imagine my surprise, many years later, when Applewood Books began to reprint the original Nancy Drew Mystery Stories, as they appeared in the 1930s, and I discovered that the yellow-covered volumes of my childhood were in fact rewritten and condensed versions. The original edition of The Secret of the Old Clock had 25 chapters (unlike the 20-chapter version that has been in print since 1959), and featured richer language, charming period details - Nancy has a golden bob, drives a blue roadster, and has many "chums" - and an exciting narrative that somehow felt more convincing than the rewrite.

Sixteen-year-old Nancy (eighteen in the rewrite) tackles her first mystery with aplomb, locating the missing second will of Josiah Crowley, thereby defeating the social-climbing Topham family, who benefited from the first will, and aiding the charming (and very deserving) Horner sisters, Allie and Grace. An entertaining, if somewhat predictable story, this original edition of The Secret of the Old Clock appeals to me in ways that the 1959 version of my childhood did not. The narrative is more engaging, the language has character, and the vocabulary has a distinctly period appeal.

Sadly, the original also contains a number of very unfortunate social anachronisms, from Nancy's rather classist assessment of the "quality" of those around her, to the overtly racist depiction of Jeff Tucker, the "Negro" caretaker Nancy encounters in the course of her adventures. This last is particularly troublesome, involving as it does the stereotypical speech patterns assigned to African-Americans in vintage children's books, and a scene in which Nancy (all of sixteen years old) lectures a man old enough to be her grandfather. The inclusion of these ugly elements - however realistically they mirror the times - presents me with something of a dilemma: I cannot recommend the rewrites from a narrative perspective, nor can I recommend the originals from a social one. Ironically, given the interest in vintage series that these Applewood reprints have engendered in me, and the enjoyment I have experienced while reading them, it would appear that I am still not a true Nancy Drew girl...

One final note, for those interested in the details of publication: the Applewood facsimile edition includes the plates by Russell H. Tandy, the original cover art, and the advertisements for other series that would have appeared on the reverse side of the wrapper. It also features an introduction by Sara Paretsky, the author of the V.I. Warshawski mystery novels.

Addendum: Having now reread this Applewood Books edition, in order to continue on with the series - I have been stockpiling the original editions for some time now, intending to indulge in a vintage Nancy Drew extravaganza - I was struck yet again by the charm of some of the period details, and the ugliness of others. The scenes involving African-American caretaker Jeff Tucker, mentioned above, stood out in this regard, but so too did the characterization of the nouveau-riche Tophams. There is a definite enforcement of social hierarchy here - something I have not noticed in similar series for boys, such as The Hardy Boys.
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LibraryThing member debnance
Although it took many, many pages to warm up to Nancy, it finally began to happen. I was at first taken aback by her amazing kindness and hospitality; you do not meet many Nancy Drews in 2010 America and she seemed unrealistic and one-dimensional.

After I made comments of this sort on my blog, all
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the Nancy Drew fans ganged up on me and urged me to reexamine my thoughts about Nancy with gentler, pre-2010 eyes. So I did. Who wants to risk being beaten up by a horde of Nancy Drew aficionados?

So I will revise my initial impressions of Nancy as a goody-two-shoes to that of a genuinely nice person who has learned to always be kind and helpful to the young and the poor and the elderly. Such a person could exist. Right?

One can only hope.
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LibraryThing member EmScape
Now I remember why I didn’t really get into Nancy Drew books when I was a kid. I seriously don’t think Nancy would be able to solve a single mystery if “clues” didn’t keep dropping directly in her lap. (“Oh, a sudden rainstorm. And what’s this? My convertible top won’t go up. Well,
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I guess I’ll just drive into this random open barn, which just happens to belong to the people I’m looking for!”) Nancy is sickeningly sweet, smartly dressed, idle rich, and just has loads of time to go investigating mysteries, breaking in to people’s houses, arranging lovely surprises and just generally being loved and admired by everyone she meets (except our evil villains, of course, which you can tell are villains because they don’t like Nancy). What a Mary Sue. Maybe I’m just too old and cynical to appreciate this series/character.
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LibraryThing member gail616
Absolutely fun to read. Completely not based in reality. My goal is to reread all the books in the series. I first read them when I was 10 years old.
LibraryThing member cherylktardif
I think Nancy drew was the beginning of the end for me. Her adventures and the mysteries that she solved made me yearn to solve my own. This made me inquisitive, leading to a job as a journalist at 14. It also made me want to write.

And here I am...just a few years later (Ok, more than a few), and
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I'm a writer of suspense, mysteries and thrillers! :) Go figure.

I recommend this book for pre-teens and young teens. It's a great escape. And for women who want to remember a piece of their youth, pick it up and read it now. :)

Cheryl Kaye Tardif
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LibraryThing member WillowOne
I picked up this book for my GodDaughter at a flea market. I decided to read the book again as I had previously read all Nancy Drew books as a teen myself.
Nancy is looking into a mystery surrounding the estate of a local resident and whether or not the will that has been produced is the last will
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and testament or one written prior.
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LibraryThing member meallen1
The genre of this book is mystery and it is also fictional. There are few pictures and they were all black and white sketches. The book is about Nancy Drew solving the mystery of the Old Clock. She had to find clues about what happened to the clock. The reading level is third or fourth grade. The
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curricular connection is that is is a fun book that keeps you on the edge of your seat.
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LibraryThing member jacketscoversread
When a young girl, Judy, is almost hit by a large moving van and falls off a bridge in her attempt to avoid being hit, eighteen-year-old Nancy Drew quickly rescue the girl and brings her back to Judy’s home, which she shares with her Great Aunts Mary Edna Turner. The two elderly ladies share with
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Nancy that they don’t have a lot of money, especially since their promised inheritance from Josiah Crowley fell through. Mr. Crowley’s fortune was willed to the snobby, rude, and already rich Topham family. While searching for a possible second will, Nancy discovers five other people claiming Josiah Crowley was close to them and promised them money after his death. As Nancy interviews sisters Grace and Allison Hoover, brothers Fred and William Mathews, and the elderly, invalid Abby Rowen, she becomes more and more insistent upon solving the case.

My biggest complaint with The Secret of the Old Clock is the title leaves no secret as to where the second will was left. If I follow the publication date, I received this book, and the following five novels, when I was 9. I can only recall reading the first two. Now whether that was because I found the books too hard or too boring I do not know. But at seventeen, I found The Secret of the Old Clock to be surprisingly simple. The “mystery” might better fit the description of an adventure. Still, it was both short and straightforward, perfect for a children’s book.
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LibraryThing member victorianrose869
December 16, 2002
The Secret of the Old Clock (revised)
Carolyn Keene

Wanted to read the revised version right after reading the original, so the differences would be clear in my mind. I’m thinking about writing up the differences on each book, just for fun.

The Nancy in these re-writes isn’t bad,
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but she’s a little less feisty than the original Nancy. I think the reason is well explained by Mildred Wirt Benson in Rediscovering Nancy Drew – that she, Mildred, was a rough-and-tumble sort of gal back in the 30’s, having to scrap together a living as a female journalist, and that independence and spunk comes through. Harriet Adams, who did the re-writes later, was born into wealth and privilege, and so her Nancy is softer, more leisurely, solving mysteries more for fun than out of a sense of obligation and honor, as Benson’s Nancy does.

I plan on collecting both the originals and the rewrites.
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LibraryThing member earyan2
I read all the Nancy Drew books that were out when I was 10 (1978-I know there are more now) and this was always my favorite, especially the ending.
LibraryThing member DanaJean
As a young girl, I read the complete series which will be represented in my library by this first book. I thought the stories were fantastic and I vowed that when I grew up, I would have a suitcase packed in the trunk of my car so I could go on any adventure at a moments notice.

Didn't happen. Yet.
LibraryThing member victorianrose869
December 12, 2002
The Secret of the Old Clock (original)
Carolyn Keene

I indulged my nostalgia. What a great book! This is the very first Nancy Drew book ever written, by the inimitable Mildred Wirt Benson. Very different from the re-write, too. I’ve now ordered all the Applewood reprints, through
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book 17. I just love Nancy! She’s gutsy and level-headed, never wasting her time thinking about guys or clothes. My heroine!!!! I may be on a Nancy Drew kick for a while.
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LibraryThing member scoutlee
A few weeks ago, I began reading graphic novels and decided to read Nancy Drew. After finishing the second book in the series, I found myself thinking about the original Nancy Drew. As a young girl, I loved reading about Nancy’s adventures and was fascinated with her detective skills. So once
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again I found myself in the children’s section at the library looking for book one: The Secret of the Old Clock.

In The Secret of the Old Clock, Nancy Drew is on the hunt for a missing will. She’s determined to correct a wrong caused by a greedy family to ensure that the slighted individuals are provided for as Mr. Crowley promised prior to his death.

I enjoyed re-reading this mystery. I still can see myself browsing the library at my elementary school for the next book in the series. Who knows, maybe I’ll revisit this series again. Walking down memory lane has been fun…
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LibraryThing member moraviangal
This book in the original is so much better! The language is rich and although it is not always "politically correct" it is fun to read.
LibraryThing member angharad_reads
I reread this (the 1959 version) in one evening. The prose is… well… amusingly bad. Apart from that, I was surprised by the simplicity of the "mystery", which really might be better called an adventure. If this were an adult mystery novel, this plot might take up one-third to one-half of the
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action. It was both short and not confusing. That's what I get for reading cheap children's books, I suppose. I'm giving this three of five stars because that's what I rate classics about which I'm ambivalent.
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LibraryThing member EllieGiles
This is the first book in a series of wonderful stories about Nancy Drew, a girl detective. Throughout the series, Nancy uses her smarts and the clues she finds throughout her adventures to help solve mysteries. These books are great for young girls. (This series could be likened to the Hardy Boys
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Series for boys.)
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LibraryThing member EmilieM
I read several of these in my childhood, but not all of them.
LibraryThing member owensmj
When lawyer's daughter Nancy Drew discovers a mystery surrounding an inheritance and a possible secret will, she takes risks and fights to uncover the truth.
Some younger readers might have a problem both understanding parts of this book, and really relating to it, given its age and datedness. Nancy
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is very well off; her father has a maid and Nancy received a convertible for her birthday. This is very different than modern trends in YA literature, but it's still an enjoyable read.
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LibraryThing member N.N.B.D.G.B.
It's started off, when you kinda got into the book, you understood what they were talking about and what they were doing. As a first book to start a series, it kind of led you into the book like a welcome mat. I fell in love with Nancy and the mystery genre automatically.
LibraryThing member abbylibrarian
Laura Linney narrates this audio recording of the first Nancy Drew book and she does a wonderful job. Her voice just has that wholesome, old-fashioned timbre that really lends itself well to this story. Music is artfully used in tense spots and it's melodramatic but it fits the story perfectly.

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for the story itself, it's fine. These books stick around because they're classic, not because they can hold a candle to the high-caliber children's books being published today.
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