haunted-bridge-03My parents bought us a collection of five Nancy Drew books when we were younger, and for a while, I spent most of my time blazing through every Nancy Drew title in the library.

Eventually, though, I got over it, and those books entered the canon of “great books from childhood that I will probably never read again”.

And they would have stayed there, too, if I hadn’t stumbled upon The Haunted Mansion while looking through my brother’s bookshelf.

I decided to give it another read, just because of Martin Bartesque and the infamous “tender” comment (more on that later).

The Haunted Mansion was all about golf. Once again, Nancy Drew is a jack of all trades, master of all of them. (Well, except for remembering to bring money, or to fill her gas tank, or to tell people that she’s going to a dangerous place all alone. She’s not so good at that…)

As I’m sure you have already suspected, Nancy is such a good golfer that she manages to win a tournament despite the fact that she injured her wrist by falling off a balcony.

You read that right. Barty was getting a little too close for comfort one evening, and Nancy’s attempt at fending off the creep sent her tumbling off a balcony.

But Barty was the least of my concerns when reading it again, although he does manage to irritate Nancy, something that no one in the entire series is really able to do. No, when I read The Haunted Mansion again, something else stood out to me.

The mystery revolves around a missing jeweled compact case (kinda like an old school purse) and the thieves that supposedly took it.

Nancy’s investigation leads her to an old cabin in the woods, where the previous owner of the case used to reside. Now, many years later, the only inhabitant is a groundskeeper, charged with the sole task of finding the lost compact case.

One afternoon, Nancy and her friends are investigating the woods near the cabin when they hear a gunshot. They discover that the groundskeeper has been wounded and is in dire need of help.

They rush to get him home and find a doctor for him. Nancy even manages to convince her boyfriend to spend a good chunk of his vacation taking care of this guy.

Okay, so you might be wondering: what’s the big deal? Why is this even important?

I firmly believe that the injury the groundskeeper sustained by accident was no accident.

I believe that the gunshot Nancy and her friends heard was the man’s suicide attempt.

When the man regains consciousness, the only thing he can talk about is how he failed and he wasn’t able to find the compact case.

This was a man tormented by his mistake – losing the jeweled compact case – and he decided to take matters into his own hands.

The nature of his injury isn’t clearly described in the book, but I don’t know what he was doing with a gun out in those woods. There weren’t any animals to hunt, only a few ghost stories about a haunted bridge. They lived close enough to civilization that he wouldn’t have needed to hunt, anyway.

So, what was he doing with that gun, and why didn’t they just flat out say that he tried to kill himself?

That definitely would have been very dark, and these books never center on the dark. More often than not, something has been stolen, someone is cheating, or has something to hide. I don’t think anyone has ever been murdered in a Nancy Drew novel, but I haven’t read all of them.

Either way, this was something that I most definitely did not remember reading when I was a kid. I remember everything else, from Barty’s unwanted advances, to Nancy telling her friends that they couldn’t massage a part of her back because it was “too tender”. But I have absolutely no recollection of this guy’s gun injury.

To be honest, I probably wouldn’t have understood what suicide was back when I read it the first time, anyway.

The Verdict

This is a run of the mill Nancy Drew mystery. It’s got a whole lot of golf, a whole lot of Nancy following red herrings, and a whole lot of Martin Bartesque trying to flirt with our favorite girl detective.

But it’s also got something that closely resembles a suicide, something that I don’t remember noticing the first time.

Nancy Drew is getting a revamp – again – and it’s always nice to take a look at her origins. While not the best mystery from the original series, The Haunted Bridge is definitely enjoyable today, especially if you read it growing up.