The Clue in the Diary is the seventh volume in the Nancy Drew Mystery Stories series. The book was originally released in 1932 by Grosset & Dunlap, and revised in 1962. It follows Nancy as she tries to clear a Swedish immigrant falsely accused of burning down the home of a wealthy conman.

Both texts are notable for being the official introduction of Ned Nickerson. The original version is also notable for being the final one written by Mildred Wirt, before she returned for The Clue of the Broken Locket.

Plot summary


Nancy and her friends Bess and George, on their way home from a carnival, discuss a financially struggling and have trouble deciding if they should by candy Swedish immigrant, Mrs. Swenson, and her daughter Honey, whom the girls have just helped to enjoy the carnival attractions by being their hosts for the evening. As they are driving, a luxurious roadside estate bursts into flames. The girls park the car and make sure that no one is trapped inside. In doing so, Nancy sees someone fleeing the property, and discovers an anonymous Swedish diary on the ground. She picks up this clue, as firefighters and gawkers arrive on the scene.

Nancy also notices an attractive young man moving her car away from the flying embers, who introduces himself as local resident Ned Nickerson. Although Nancy is at first suspicious of Ned, she warms up to him after he helps her out of a jam. Ned proves to be a good friend, and is a perennial admirer of Nancy's from then on.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Swenson's husband is missing, and she identifies his diary as the one picked up at the fire. To top it all off, the owner of the burned house, "Foxy" Felix Raybolt, is missing, and his wife claims Joe Swenson has murdered her husband. Joe Swenson is eventually captured by the police, who are forced by Mrs. Raybolt to hold him after questioning him.

Raybolt, it turns out, swindles inventors like Swenson out of patents and copyrights on their inventions. He used an invention to start the fire and fake his death to collect his life insurance. After being threatened by Nancy, the Raybolts reluctantly give back the money they stole.


The revision is essentially the same story as the original. However, there are some detail and subplots eliminated. For example, Nancy's initial response to Ned is downplayed, and a country club dance featured in the original was not featured. A short subplot involving mail fraud was added to the revision.


This list is incomplete, you can help the Nancy Drew Wiki by expanding it.Characters


  • River Heights
    • Nancy Drew's home
    • Raybolt home
    • Swenson home
  • Mapleton
    • Mechanic



Original 1932 book cover art.

Following this book, Mildred Wirt was informed that her fee for ghostwriting would drop for the next Nancy Drew book. Due to this, she quit writing the series; she was later asked the return for The Clue of the Broken Locket, following the termination of Walter Karig. Harriet Adams rewrote Wirt's manuscript.[1]


The original edition featured an immaculately dressed Nancy retrieving the title object and four illustrations by Russell H. Tandy. He updated his own frontispiece to a pen and ink drawing for the 1943 imprint.


2014 Special Edition Collectible Cover

The cover art for this volume has not changed since 1950, when the revision art was introduced by Bill Gillies, showing a very animated Nancy running after a suspect with the diary falling from her hand. The 1962 revision added internal illustrations, featuring line drawings of an immaculately dressed Nancy and chums sleuthing, and a frontispiece of Nancy in jeans spying on ruins at night. All of these drawings are present through editions published in 2009.


Adult series collectors have critiqued the addition of the mail fraud subplot in the revision. The criticism lies that it only seems to serve as a filler for two chapters, and that its sections of descriptive, but non-essential action do not advance the story.


  • Ned Nickerson is introduced in this volume.
  • This is the last book that Mildred A. Wirt wrote for the Nancy Drew Mystery Stories series before she temporarily quit writing for the series.

References and Notes

  1. Keeline, James. "Who Wrote Nancy Drew? Secrets From the Syndicate Files Revealed." Web. PDF File. 27 June 2012.
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