Book review: The Secret of the Old Clock

The Secret of the Old Clock
(Nancy Drew #1)


The Secret of the Old Clock

Carolyn Keene/Mildred Benson
Laura Linney
Listening Library
Published in: 1930
Duration: 3:09 hours
ISBN: 978-0739349137
Genre: childrens/mystery






  Rating systemRating systemRating system

Not having grown up in an English speaking country, I had not heard about Nancy Drew until rather recently. Tackling the task of reading 50 classics in 5 years, I thought listening to The Secret of the Old Clock would be a fun way to begin.
Oh, I just checked, in French she is known as Alice Roy (!), and actually I must indeed have a read a few, but I have no specific memory of them.

Well, to tell the truth, I failed to fully enjoy the book.

The context was too vague, this could be set anywhere with nice houses, rich people, and a lake.

The plot was easy to figure out, especially with the clue in the title.

As for the character of Nancy herself, when I read mentions of her, I thought she was a kid. I was actually surprised she was already 18. She’s from a well-to-do family, “bon chic bon genre” as we say in French, and I really have a hard time with that type of heroes or heroines, even though she focuses on trying to do good for others and is not afraid to put herself in dangerous situations to do so.

I know this is a harsh review, and I hope I stirred the conversation here. Please share with me why you like so much Nancy Drew.


The narrator was ok, nothing spectacular, just as tame as Nancy I guess. But something totally cracked me up in this recording and made me laugh all along: the sound effects between chapters or scenes of the books, the type  you would hear in old “scary” movies. It gave a cool vintage feel to the book.

VERDICT: Classic children story that failed to grab me. The audiobook version has some cool sound effects.


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


Mildred Benson

Carolyn Keene
is a writer pen name that was used by many different people
– both men and women- over the years.
The company that was the creator of the Nancy Drew series,
the Stratemeyer Syndicate, hired a variety of writers.
For Nancy Drew, the writers used the pseudonym Carolyn Keene
to assure anonymity of the creator.
Mildred Benson wrote 23 of the original 30 Nancy Drew Mystery Stories,
including the first three.
Mildred Augustine Wirt Benson (aka: Mildred A. Wirt).
Benson was a journalist and author of children’s stories.

 Eiffel Tower Orange

Would you encourage me to read others in the series?

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I checked out this book from my public library, through Overdrive

This book counted for these Reading Challenges

New Authors  classicsclub 2016 audiobook challenge
CDChallengebadge2016-204x300 name Women's Classic



20 thoughts on “Book review: The Secret of the Old Clock

  1. I have no argument with what you said about this mystery and Nancy Drew as a character. All true. So my comment is just by way of answering your question about her appeal. First, it is definitely a children’s book, and some children’s books don’t travel as well to adulthood. My daughter read this in third grade as one of the first of more challenging books for early readers. And it was a little challenging. The plot while predictable is still well crafted and somewhat complicated. It is just right for children reading about the adventures of a teenager who to them seems quite grown-up and independent. The Secret of the Old Clock was originally published in 1930 but we now usually read the 1959 “updated” version. But it is still dated. My mother grew up reading Nancy Drew mysteries when the books first came out. The heroine is privileged in a way that protagonists are usually not these days. But she was a smart, independent girl detective who took the initiative and solved “mysteries” at a time when most girls in novels were still victims or being rescued by boys or men. For that she was greatly admired and loved. So this is a cozy mystery par excellence. Imagine a young pre-teen reader curled up devouring these and imagining an active life for herself too. I’m not sure that the audio book can recreate this experience, but the sound effects do sound funny and fun. So glad you read and reviewed it! And glad that more complicated female solvers of mysteries have been written since.


    • Ah, thanks for this :solved “mysteries” at a time when most girls in novels were still victims or being rescued by boys or men”. I think that’s the strong point.
      As a young girl, I was most attracted in reading mysetries solved by a bunch of kids together (The Famous Five, by Enid Blyton) than by a girl already 18.
      And in my teen, I was already reading classics anyway (Zola, Balzac) so Alice Roy/Nancy Drew would no longer have been on my radar system

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I haven’t read Secret of the Old Clock since I was ten. I think that’s the first of the Nancy Drew series and of course they were written. I’ve been thinking about re-reading some of my kid-books so I brought it home from the lake last winter. My handwritten note on the title page indicates I got it in June 1961, which makes my copy nearly 55 years old! I was curious so I went online and found out this particular book was written originally in 1930 and revised in ’59 by Harriet Stratemeyer Adams. (The wikipedia entry for the book highlights a lot of the changes made in the ’59 edition, which is the copy I have).

    SO, in terms of your review being harsh, both yes and no. (And I DO want to re-read this so you may have inspired me to move it closer to the top of the stack!). I’m pretty sure the plot is obvious, the characters more or less one dimensional and there are clearly some stereotypes based on the literature for pre-teens at the time. But then, it WAS written for kids and their reading level and reasoning/detection skills are pretty limited at age 10. It is a trick to make the heroine old enough to have her roadster and still be on interest to a little girl and I suspect somewhere the authors had to compromise — “Dumb her down,” if you will. And then, I’m thinking that looking at it by today’s standards of youth and behavior can skew an opinion. I know that 10 year olds now are NOTHING like I was when I was that age, and teenagers are more like adults! So, while I can see why it would be annoying to today’s reader, I think (from what you describe) that makes a little more sense back then. She’d have to be younger to appeal, yet old enough to run around and solve mysteries!

    I have a feeling that when I dig in, I will find a lot of the frustrations you discovered because after too many decades and hundreds of mysteries, it will seem juvenile and tame. But then, that’s who it was written for!


    • Thanks for sharing, yes I was aware when it was written, and it’s on top of my review, 1930.
      There was a series I enjoyed a lot as a kid, and I reread one recently and still enjoyed it a lot: The Famous Five, by Enid Blyton, who started the series a bit later, in 1942. I think there’s so much more in these books, as for plot and characters.
      I was actually reading classics and adult books very early by the way, so already by then I needed something more meaty.


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  8. I loved Nancy Drew as a kid and have enjoyed the ones I’ve reread as an adult BUT I love them now for the vintage feel and the fact that Nancy knows everything about everything not for the strength of the plot. I think part of the appeal is that even though Nancy is thoroughly ladylike she’s also amazingly independent and capable for the time period. She’s not waiting around for someone to rescue her. She’s doing the figuring out and the rescuing herself.


  9. Totally understand your thoughts about reading this as an adult. I reread it about 5 years ago when purchasing for my grandchildren, just out of curiosity to see how it would translate into adulthood. The answer for me–not all that well. However, I devoured these books when 7-8 years old in the early ’60’s and my grandchildren love them! However, unlike some children’s literature, I would agree that they are definitely geared for the young independent reader and I agree with everything stated above that for her time, Nancy was an amazingly independent self-sufficient ‘girl’!! I would agree with you and say that I’m just sorry you didn’t have the opportunity to read them when you were young. But at least you are familiar with them now!


    • as I said in another comment, I must have read a few, I have a vague recollection, though I didn’t realize that Nancy Drew = Alice Roy in French translation. But my passion was the series The Famous Five by Enid Blyton


  10. Sad to hear you didn’t enjoy it, though I suppose the upshot is you’ll know any references you hear in future 🙂 It’s been a long time since I’ve read one of the books, too lonbg ago to remember it.


    • that’s true, at least I’ll know whom we are talking about,and before I wrote my review, I had not made the connection between Nancy Drew and the way she was re-baptized in French. No wonder I thought I had never heard about her!


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  12. I was just telling another blogger that I should read these for the Classic Club’s Women’s Classic Literature Event. I’ve never read them. Too bad they didn’t translate well.


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