Nancy's Mysterious Letter is the eighth volume in the Nancy Drew Mystery Stories series. The book was originally released in 1932 by Grosset & Dunlap, and revised in 1968. It follows Nancy as she tries to track down another Nancy Drew, who has received a large inheritance.
This was the first book not to be ghostwritten by Mildred Wirt, after a pay dispute with the Stratemeyer Syndicate. Walter Karig was assigned to ghostwrite.
After returning from Red Gate Farm on a day trip, Nancy and chums enjoy hot cocoa and a snack at teatime during the late fall. Postman Ira Dixon, set to retire soon, is invited inside, and leaves his mailbag in the vestibule; it is quickly stolen. Nancy immediately is summoned to Postal Authorities where she is accused of having a hand in the theft, and Dixon's pension and career are threatened. In the meantime, she is invited to spend a weekend at a big football game as a guest of Ned Nickerson, and spends time preparing for the trip.
Nancy encounters low-brow Mrs. "Sailor" Joe Skeets, who accuses her of wrongdoing due to her own missing letter containing money, stolen with the mailbag. Strangely, the letters are re-posted later. Nancy receives a letter from British solicitors informing her of a Nancy Smith Drew, sought as the heiress of an estate there. Nancy looks for her namesake; it is revealed she has no middle name or initial. In the meantime, she seeks the primary suspect, the half-brother of her mail carrier, a flashy man with a yellow coat.
Mrs. Skeets provides a clue, as does George Fayne, and Nancy discovers her counterpart is visiting faculty at Emerson. Ned is great in the big game, and Nancy sees the suspect at the game in the stadium. Nancy tries to make contact with Nancy S. Drew, and while she investigates during an unexpected layover, she and Mr. Nickerson discover a lonely hearts mail racket, with money being sent for introduction services!
Nancy saves the day for Miss Drew, and helps her avoid marriage to a crook: the dodgy Edgar Dixon, who is presumed to have drowned while attempting to escape. However, Nancy still exonerates Ira Dixon, who will now be able to retire in peace.
The revised edition is largely condensed, but is the same story. Ira and Edgar Dixon become Ira and Edgar Nixon, and the action speeds up. Subplots involving early snowfall adding days to the Emerson trip, and Nancy's success at a hotel costume event, are eliminated.
Nancy still goes to Emerson, but her companion in the original version, who was Helen Corning, is changed to a new acquaintance. The action at Emerson now includes someone attempting to harm Nancy by releasing a heavy curtain after luring her to a deserted theater stage. Nancy also is waylaid at the airport after determining to go there to find her namesake. The details involving the football game are modernized and abridged, to reduce this story element.
An added element to the story is Nancy traveling to New York City, to stop Edgar Nixon from escaping the country with Nancy Smith Drew.
- Nancy Drew
- Bess Marvin
- George Fayne
- Ned Nickerson
- Carson Drew
- Hannah Gruen
- Helen Corning (original only)
- Eloise Drew (revised only)
- Ira Dixon/Nixon
- Edgar Dixon/Nixon
- Nancy Smith Drew
- James Nickerson
- Mrs. Joe Skeets
- Nancy Drew's home
- Emerson College
Business and Organizations
- United States Postal Service
- Emerson College
- to be added
BackgroundAfter writing The Clue in the Diary, Mildred Wirt quit writing for the Nancy Drew series, after being informed that the Stratemeyer Syndicate would lower her fee for the eighth Nancy Drew book. The Syndicate then assigned ghostwriter Walter Karig to write the series. Wirt would later return to write for the series with The Clue of the Broken Locket.
The original 1932 artwork is by fashion illustrator Russell H. Tandy, illustrator for the Nancy Drew series from 1930 to 1949. Nancy is depicted chasing Edgar at the football stadium, with a glossy frontispiece of Nancy at the postal inspector and three glossy internal illustrations included in the original imprint. The frontispiece alone was used beginning in 1937, but the third plate, of Nancy, Nancy S. Drew, and Edgar is used. Tandy updated this illustration to pen and ink on plain paper with 1940's hairstyles in 1943.
In 1950, Bill Gillies introduced cover art featuring a close-up of Nancy and Mr. Nickerson examining a letter in an Emerson residential area. This art was retained on all covers, including direct printed picture cover stock, until the 1968 text was introduced.The revised cover art by Rudy Nappi shows Nancy in a pink suit with the letter in her hand and an overlay image of the letter on a blue background. An uncredited illustrator provided a frontispiece and five plain paper internal drawings featuring rare glimpses of the interior of the Drew home. The 1968 artwork remains unchanged in current imprints.
- The original text is notably the only story where the culprit gets away; Edgar Dixon is presumed to have drowned. The revised story has a different ending, where Edgar Nixon is apprehended in New York City.
- The revised text marks the chronological introduction of Aunt Eloise (though she had first been mentioned in the original text of The Clue in the Old Album).
- Since Walter Karig died in 1956, Canadian copyright laws forced the original text to go into the public domain in Canada since January 1, 2007. The story is still under US Copyright until 2027.