Venetian palaces, masquarade balls, cute men, glass factories! What could go wrong for Nancy? A review of Nancy Drew #78: The Phantom of Venice

Every once and a while, I pick up one of my Nancy Drew books. Today, not wanting to waste away on the computer like usual, I decided to read. I’m currently trying to finish Sarah Vowell’s The Wordy Shipmates. That sounds like I absolutely hate the book, but I really don’t! I just have been having trouble finishing them the past year or so (you can imagine how being a history major can be difficult because of that). A book with the word “wordy” in the title can be a bit hard to finish. While I’m still on the subject, you should read it because it’s about the Puritans and it is really interesting. No really!

ANYWAY, I wanted to read, but not something really heavy in historical facts, so I picked up The Phantom of Venice. It should be noted that I was playing the video game of the same name the other night, so it was partially because I was curious to see the differences between the two. To be honest, they’re almost not even the same story!

Read on if you know the endings for both, or if you don’t care for spoilers! You have been warned by me AND Nancy!

The book begins with Nancy’s flight to Italy. She’s taking a flight into Rome, where she would catch another flight that would take her within driving distance of Venice. I don’t remember where it was she would end up, and honestly, that doesn’t matter, except that I never knew that Venice was originally really marshy. Thanks Nancy for teaching me that!

During the flight, we meet Tara Eagan, a girl who this version of Carolyn Keene forgot to give a personality. Nevertheless, I liked Tara, even if it was a bit obvious she was only added to become a “rival” to Nancy at one point. I’ll get to that later, especially because one could argue that she played an important role in the plot. YEAH. Sure.

We learn that Tara is going to Venice to collect her late father’s belongings. Apparently he fell in a canal and was never seen again. I wanted to make some sarcastic comment along the lines of “Wow, that’s not weird at all!”, but to be honest, I do not know the statistics of people falling into the canals of Venice, never to be seen again. Therefore, my sarcasm would only come off as being really snarky and uncalled for. Anywho, the two learn that they will be on the same connecting flight, so decide to become friends, of course. And I mean, who doesn’t want to be friends with Nancy? Granted, a sane person probably wouldn’t want to be, since…Well, she is constantly almost getting killed, but I guess some people enjoy having to always look around their shoulder, right? Nancy proceeds to help Tara find where she’s staying and also her father’s flat, where they meet Angela Spanelli and her hottiemchot’s brother, Giovanni, or as he wants to be called, Gianni. Because Gianni is so good-looking, Nancy assumes he’s no good. And to be honest, I assume that too. But he seems to have taken a liking to the girls (especially Nancy). But we’ll get to that later.

Anyway, Angela explains that Rolf Eagan, Tara’s father, had been going home one night when a shot rang out and he proceeded to fall into the canal, never to be seen again. The gondela man was just kind of like “Oh, well I heard a shot, and he fell, so I just assumed he had to have been killed by a gunshot, or drowned.” Uh-huh. Right. Anyway, I guess this must happen a lot, and that bodies are like never found or something, because the police dismiss it, assuming that his body was probably washed out to sea. So, Rolf is presumed dead, and poor Tara must come to Italy to get his stuff, whilst meeting his girlfriend Angela, who is in a grand total of maybe 2 chapters. I kind of wish we had gotten to know her more, but she had nothing to do with the mystery, other than knowing Rolf. You’re probably like, but she was living with the guy? How does she not have anything to do with the mystery? Well, idk guys! They never mention how she’s effected after the thing is solved and what-not, so I just have to assume she just is on her merry way!

So that’s mystery number one. Or, 0.5, depending on what part of the book you’re at.

Nancy goes to the palace she’s staying at, that was built in like the 1550’s, so it’s really old and GREAT. Her father, good ole Carson Drew, is helping his client Marchese Francesco de Falcone, the man who owns the palace, sell his glass factory to some American company (such a shame). However, these plans are thwarted when Marchese’s star glassblower, Pietro Rinaldi, is kidnapped! Uh-oh! So, naturally Carson knows a guy, Nancy, and then tells her to come in a solve this mystery.  There’s the second mystery.

But of course, being a Nancy Drew book, all the mysteries are entwined! She later learns that Rolf was working for the very same factory! WHAT? Okay, we all saw that coming. So anyway, things get dicey, and stuff happens.

I think I need to talk about the characters now, in order to talk some more about the mysteries. First there is Gianni, who is described on page 21 “the most gorgeous man she had ever seen!”. I’m kinda gagging at this point in the book. Leave it up to the 80’s writers to decide that now, after 50 years of mostly just crime-solving (save for a few guys like Dave from Shadow Ranch), Nancy is in need of getting laid. FYI, she doesn’t actually have sex. I just was saying that to make it seem more ridiculous. Thinking that Nancy Drew actually has sex is really ridiculous, tbh. I mean, seriously. But from the way they write the scenes involving Gianni, you would think she was always this horny. You’re probably like, But Sara, all she did was decide this guy was the most gorgeous guy she’d ever seen! WELL MAN, IT’S PAGE 21! I’m getting there! There’s just some really corny lines about him, some even kind of bordering R-rated! I couldn’t find the one I was thinking of in particular, but there is a line where his eyes are referred to as: “lustrous amber-green eyes” (page 35). YUCK.

So anyway, Gianni takes a liking to the girls, specifically Nancy, because as we all know, none of the guys can resist her, even players like this man.  Normally I wouldn’t pay much attention to the characters in the Nancy Drew books like Gianni, but we’re literally FORCED to pay attention to the man! HE IS EVERYWHERE! He follows them! And then he kisses Nancy without asking like 4 times! To make matters worse, Tara has a crush on this tool! So, Nancy tries her best to get him to stop making advances, but it doesn’t work. You know, being Nancy Drew, you would think she has mace on her at all times. I looked it up, and pepper spray was invented in 1965, so there is NO excuse as to why she doesn’t own a can, considering that this book was written in 1985. I mean, she’s got a lot of enemies and is always in danger. You would think she would be ready for shit like that. But alas, she is not. Points for her though, since she does slap him once. Another time she claims she would have, but didn’t want to make a scene. TO HELL WITH THAT! If a man is kissing you, after you have told him several times you are not interested, you have every right to cause a scene! Urgh. I guess we need to keep in mind that this was written in the 80’s , and Nancy has always been a little old fashioned. Ironic, considering that she’s a pretty big feminist in the 1930’s books since she was doing shit like solving crimes and sending 50-year old men to jail being only 16-19 (idk, I feel like it always changes). I did check on wikipedia, and I guess the person that outlined the book and wrote the manuscript was in fact a man, so that might explain this. URGH.

Tara probably could have just as easily not existed. I think they only added her for tension, since she liked Gianni, who liked Nancy. Yes, she is Rolf’s daughter, but, Nancy could have just as easily stumbled onto his “death” without having to meet Tara. That said, this fact makes me want to take a whole star off my rating, HOWEVER, even though Tara was dull, but only there for drama, it was still nice that Nancy had someone her own age who wasn’t trying to suck her face off.

Then there is Don Madison, who is pretty much the opposite of Gianni. It’s stated that he is good looking, I’m sorry, I mean, “His face had a lean, craggy, strong-jawed look that was far from handsome, yet attractive in it’s own way” (57).  I mean, I tend to gravitate towards these kind of guys, but I was wary at first. Then Nancy decided that she could imagine him as a baseball pitcher, and I was sold. Totally team Dancy. Not only this, but the guy has a job! It’s not mentioned until later that Gianni has a job, but Nancy is doubtful it’s real (and I’m pretty sure it’s not), so right away, we know that this Don guy is secure. But Don first appears to hate Nancy! That’s a first! Except, Nancy pulls a Rolf Eagan, and almost tumbles into the canal herself, but Don catches her and suddenly they’re attracted to each other! Like what? Okay, so, I noticed chemistry long before this happened. In fact, the moment he was rude to her I was like “Yes. This is the right one, Nancy.”

But anyway, I’m sure all this talk of men has gotten you die-hard-Nancy-fans irked. Where does Ned Nickerson fit into this whole equation? OKAY. UNPOPULAR OPINION TIME. I never liked the idea of the two dating, and at an early age, before even reading/seeing any Hardy Boy/ Nancy crossovers, I was also a Francy shipper, as in Frank Hardy and Nancy Drew. I also thought that maybe Joe and Nancy would work well together. Just please, NO Ned and Nancy! I felt that they were mismatched! I never could detect any chemistry. Granted, in the games, Ned is one of my favorite characters, but I felt they are better as best buds. Ya know? I recently read a fanfiction (yes. I do read Nancy Drew Fanfiction in my spare time.), where the reason Nancy wasn’t with Ned was because he realized he was gay, and suddenly, everything made sense to me. I much preferred this idea of Ned being gay over him being straight, because well, 1) my ships benefited from it, and 2) it just seems more like Ned, than him trying to continue this ill-fated romance with Nancy, who, let’s face it, acts before she thinks, and probably has kissed many a man on her travels. Um, yeah, I just admitted that I think Nancy is probably a cheater. But this whole paragraph is not about that. I need to get back to the part where I explain that this book has this huge romance-triangle-subplot because Nancy and Ned are on a “break”. No reason why, just a break. Talk about convenient.

Unfortunately, I do not know if the Dancy ship ever really worked out, because, well…It turns out that Don thinks he fell in love with Nancy (um, they’ve known each other a total of 3 days?), but has a fiancee back home. A FIANCEE. As in, he’s getting married! Like what the fuck dude! Why didn’t you mention that before you two were throwing googly eyes at each other? So really, all this ill-fated romance is only added because the author just didn’t feel like bringing Ned along for the ride. Nice. So, there goes the half of a star that was here only because I took pity on Tara.

Whatever, this is beside the point. This book was, meh. I mean, it wasn’t really bad, but it wasn’t good either. The mystery was okay, until Nancy explained it. Then it was just kind of like, okay, that was kind of boring. Nancy also only almost died like twice, not even. Like once! The second time she had a gun pointed at her, but to be honest, I don’t think she was fearing for her life because I feel like she felt Gianni was too stupid to use it. I’m not even going to give him the satisfaction of explaining how that ended up happening.

Anyway, the book was short, kind of dull and meh. I didn’t even explain all of the characters, but I’ll mention a few once we get to the video game. I give the book a 2.5/5 stars. It sounds worse than it seems, but I feel like it’s more technicalities, really. The who romance subplot really ruined it. The mystery portion had so much potential, but ended up just not being worth it.

NOW I WANT TO COMPARE THE GAME TO THE BOOK!

First off, I have yet to finish the game, however, I know who the bad guys are from years of thinking “Meh, I’ll just never finish it”. How does it compare? Well…

  • There is no Tara. Someone at HER realized that there was no need for her. Thank GOD.
  • They turned Don into a british guy who looks as if 90’s Ryan Phillippe and 90’s Justin Timberlake had a baby. Instead of working at a glass factory, he is obsessed with mosaics. He also has a criminal record. I think this portion of him is the team combining Don and Gianni. Whatever.

  • One of the bad guys is a dutch journalist named Katerina van Holst. In the game she is replaced by Helena Berg, who’s German, but also a journalist. However, Katerina has taken a liking to Carson Drew, where as in the game, Carson is at home, and instead of liking anyone, Helena appears to have decided she HATES Nancy. She keeps making comments about how Nancy’s life is so perfect. Meanwhile, Nancy is almost killed by an urn on the roof, and she has to dance in a cat suit to make money. Um. Yeah. The games are great tbh.

She does kind of look like how Katerina is described in the book.

  • ALSO, instead of being on a break, Ned and Nancy are happy together. In fact, he has given Nancy a locket, which she wears through the whole game (except, it gets stolen. I haven’t gotten to that part yet, but, yeah.)
  • She is staying with some lady Prudence Rutherford (vidgame character who appears in other games), named Margherita, who unfortunately is not sweet like a Marg(h)erita (see what I did there?). In fact, she doesn’t like Nancy and is often trying to give her fashion advice.

She kinda looks like a mummy to me…

  • No one is kidnapped (that I know of), or dead (that I know of). In fact, the only thing that is similar is that there’s a diamond in both stories. So yeah.

There you have it. All that I can think of that is the same/different between this book and the game.

SO OVERALL. The game is good. Not my favorite Nancy Drew Game, and plus I haven’t finished it, but the book gets 2.5/5 from me. Shame. I would also like to point out that the copy of the book I own is in really bad shape. The only instance I was ever bullied in school was 6th grade english, and it involved this really obnoxious guy taking my book and throwing it across the room, and the binding ripped. So the pages are coming out and really I put so much effort into reading a book that was only worth 2.5 stars. Shame. Again.

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