The Secret of Shadow Ranch (Nancy Drew, No. 5)

by Carolyn Keene

Hardcover, 2007



Local notes

Fic Kee





Grosset & Dunlap (1980), Edition: New edition, 192 pages


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.


Original language


Original publication date

1965 - revised edition

Physical description

192 p.; 4.94 inches

User reviews

LibraryThing member AbigailAdams26
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
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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 Given the western setting, and the date of publication, I was expecting some outdated depictions of Native Americans and/or Latinos, but surprisingly, there was none of that here.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.
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LibraryThing member keristars
This is easily in my top ten favorite Nancy Drew list. I have the version of the story from the 1950s, which I'm told is different from the 1930s version in plot points, though it is the full 25 chapters.

Since it's a Nancy Drew, it is of course subject to the laws of all Nancy Drew stories, so I
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don't suppose there's much purpose in commenting on them. In this book, she, Bess, and George go with a friend to a ranch in the mountains in the West where they do exciting things like ride horses on trails, get caught in thunderstorms, locked in shacks, and threatened by poisonous snakes.

What I like about The Secret at Shadow Ranch is the interaction between Nancy, Bess, and George. I love the two friends and I'm always so pleased when they get plenty of screen time (so to speak), and even happier when they're allowed to have personalities. I mean, they're still subject to the Nancy Drew Universe Laws, where George is boyish and adventurous and Bess is plump and a bit silly, but they felt a bit less two-dimensional than usual here.

Also, thinking back on it, I don't think the mystery was completely transparent the way it can be in the Stratemeyer Syndicate series. It wasn't crazy difficult to figure out before Nancy, but I also didn't know the end result as soon as the culprits were introduced, either.
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LibraryThing member angharad_reads
Enjoyable despite the contrived plot (if you see a secondary character in the first act, that person will be significant to the mystery). As long as I remember that the plot won't require cleverness to solve, then I'm not disappointed. Yay, for the girls' thirties hair! Also noticed that one of the
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changes with the fifties' edition was giving George the long-name Georgia. Here, she's originally named George (because her family was expecting a boy).
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LibraryThing member SusieBookworm
This one is one of my favorites, it's also a computer game.
LibraryThing member N.N.B.D.G.B.
This book has several good things going for it. 1- The description of the scenery sounds wonderful. 2- She helps an abused child. 3- She gets a family back together. And 4- And they have to spend the night in a cave when they get lost.
LibraryThing member TamiHindes
This is my fifth Nancy Drew Book in a month. Although I'm not sure who really wrote this book, it's obvious it's a different writer. Nancy's engaged friend Helen Corning is gone and the cousins George and Bess have replaced her. This book takes Nancy to Arizona far from River Heights and her
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family. Her father, Carson Drew and housekeeper Hannah Gruen are only mentioned in passing and play no part in this book. Also we hear for the first time of a boyfriend - Ned. Those who have read other Nancy Drew books know that George, Bess and their boyfriends along with Ned, become mainstays later.

Nancy as usual, is just trying to have a nice vacation and knit a sweater for her father. She no sooner lands at the airport than I mystery lands in her bag - a rattlesnake rattle, then a mysterious man leave a message in the car she and her friends are driving. Something or someone is haunting Shadow Ranch. There is a second mystery - George and Bess's uncle is missing from the bank where he is president. The authorities think he might have been part of a robbery there, but his daughter and the cousins don't think so.

Not only is Nancy a good sleuth, but in this book she's an excellent equestrian and a great baker. She meets a woman who runs a store in Tumbleweed and saves the store from robbery. Because of her heroism, the woman gives Nancy an old watch which just happens to have a clue to mystery.

Rock slides, a phantom horse, an old west romance, and a ghost town all play a part in this mystery. Of course, in the end, Nancy solves the mystery of the ranch, finds the treasure, rescues the bank president and leads the sheriff to the bad guy. When the dust clears, everyone loves Nancy and she's a bit wistful because the case is done and she doesn't know when she'll find another one - but she can finish knitting her father's sweater.

A bit on the hokey side for the 21st century - no cell phones, computer or other technology. The author describes the clothes, especially the "squaw" dresses the girls choose to wear to the BBQ. And I found it amusing that when the girls go to town to eat, they have tacos and the word is in italics. Obviously, this was a foreign food to most. I had to chuckle because where I live in Michigan, we have a Taco Bell and 5 authentic Mexican restaurants in town, plus the Eagles, the VFW, and the local bar all have taco day. But while the author emphasizes the word, she doesn't describe what they are. She does go into great detail about the cake that nice is baking.

These are fun books to read - if for no other reason than to have a glimpse into what was important in a by-gone time.
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LibraryThing member GG18
Nancy Drew and her friends wanted to go to a ranch camp for the summer but the owner of the camp said that they might not be able to stay at the camp because of the mystery horse the horse is a shodow horse who belonged to a man the owned the ranch a long time ago and the man had burried tresure on
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the ranch somwhere and they were hoping nancey and her freinds would help solve the mystery and find the tresure.
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LibraryThing member JeremyPreacher
This continues my series of comparative reviews of the 1930s and 1950s editions of the Nancy Drew books.

Shadow Ranch was the mystery with the biggest divergence of story so far. I've been trying to read them more or less in parallel, but that was pretty much impossible here - they're basically two
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distinct stories with different plots entirely.

In the 1930s version, there are two main mysteries - what happened to Alice's father, and what's the deal with the little blonde girl who lives with the mysterious old women in the mountain shack. The majority of the book takes place on horseback in the mountains, where the girls have various adventures and Nancy shoots a lynx and a rattlesnake, leads them across raging floodwaters, and finds them shelter when they're lost overnight. Her clever deduction and a telegram back to her father for research solves one mystery, and the other gets wrapped up almost coincidentally.

In the 1950s version, a phantom horse is frightening the inhabitants of the ranch and Nancy learns about the legend of an outlaw's treasure hidden somewhere on the property. Alice's father is still missing, but it's on a much shorter timeframe (months instead of years) and a much less subtle solution. Nearly all of the sleuthing takes place in the farmhouse, with hidden clues and trapdoors and all, or in town. There are a couple of wilderness excursions, but not nearly as many, nor does Nancy do anything particularly butch - even the flood rescue is credited entirely to her "water horse." Obligatory shopping and cooking scenes are inserted, and much is made of the girls' clothes and hair at every occasion.

These are basically not the same book at all, despite the title in common, and the 1930s version is by far the more interesting one.
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LibraryThing member jillfisk8
Nancy is trying to see in this book what a group of criminals want and she will not only find out, she will discover the truth that has been hidden for 50 years. I love this book because it's full of adventure and mystery.

I love Nancy Drew books because of the great context, the setting and the
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theme, and overall the suspenseful mystery. I recommend this book because of the great mystery that is unexpected.

I give this book 4 stars because even though it was good, I've read better Nancy Drew books such as the Bungalow Mystery.
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LibraryThing member katieloucks
loved this series when I was younger
LibraryThing member nx74defiant
A nice mystery. I like how the adults end up being helpful in the end.
LibraryThing member justagirlwithabook
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
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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!
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LibraryThing member thelittlebookworm
Helen Corning ceases to exist while Nancy gets new friends that she's apparently had all along. It's Bess and George, of course! Nancy ventures to Bess and George's aunt and uncle's ranch for a vacation and finds a mystery to be solved (of course). Well, there's like 3 mysteries going on. One is
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the phantom horse and the sabotage that follows at Shadow Ranch. Then there is Bess and George's younger cousin's missing father. And then there is the missing treasure of outlaw, Dirk(!) Valentine. Of course, the solution for two of the mysteries is the same and Nancy is an expert at finding things that have eluded others for a long time.
Oddly there is a mention of Ned even though Nancy doesn't meet him until The Clue in the Diary (#7). This was apparently a mistake when the revisions were made.

The Little Bookworm
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LibraryThing member DrFuriosa
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
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(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.
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LibraryThing member mutantpudding
A good Nancy Drew book that gave us the masterpiece that is the Secret of Shadow Ranch computer game. I wasnt too happy with the part where Nancy and her friends dress up in culturally appropriative costumes though.
LibraryThing member Micareads
Nancy and her two best friends, George and Bess, travel to Arizona for a vacation on Shadow Ranch which is owned by one of her friend's relations. While there they discover that there is a mystery to be solved - there are sightings of a ghost horse and the lure of a hidden treasure. As bizarre
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happenings occur, Nancy begins to think that one of the ranch hands is behind the trouble at the ranch. When trapped by the culprits, Nancy does what she does best - evade certain harm and solve the case.

This is finally the book where we see George and Bess make their first appearance as most Nancy Drew fans know that they are her most loyal sidekicks. Together the three girls make Nancy's adventures far more exciting and the books a great read. Laura Linney continues to do an amazing job portraying Nancy and all those around her. Nancy, although a teenager in a very different time, continues to give all young girls thoughts of solving their own mysteries.
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LibraryThing member funstm
1931 Version:

1965 Version: 3 stars.
I enjoyed this one, it reminded me a lot of the old Westerns I used to watch with my father. It also reminded me of Barbie - I grew up reading Barbie - anything reminiscent is always good. I liked the story of Dirk Valentine and his one true love. The way in
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which the ghost horse was rigged up was fascinating and added an interesting dimension. The bad guys were pretty obvious but it was a nice easy going mystery. And Nancy was smart and capable as she deceived them and god knows it's hard to resist a smart capable heroine holding her own in a fight.
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LibraryThing member Heather19
The first Nancy Drew book I ever read, and it got me very addicted. I orginally read it just because I like horses, but it proved to be so much better then I'd thought it would be.
LibraryThing member crabbyabbe
3.5/5 Maybe because I'm a native Phoenician, I liked this one the least so far. Too many stereotypical devices to count. We don't say “hombre“ or “sandstorm“ (it's a dust storm or haboob)--nor do we say “squaw“, which crudely refers to female genitalia. Dude ranches existed primarily
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around Wickenburg (The Dude Capital of the West in the 1950s), which is an hour NW of Phoenix. It was hard for me to take this story seriously.
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