This page is for book. For the video game of the same name, see Secret of the Old Clock (video game).

The Secret of the Old Clock is the first volume in the Nancy Drew Mystery Stories book series. It was originally released by Grosset & Dunlap on April 28, 1930, with the revised edition being released on May 15, 1959. It follows Nancy as she searches for the missing will of an eccentric wealthy man.

Plot summary


16-year-old recent high-school graduate Nancy Drew wishes to help the Horners, who are struggling relatives of the recently-deceased Josiah Crowley. Initially she becomes interested in the case because she dislikes his snobbish "nouveau-riche" social-climbing "heirs." Briefly aided along the way by chum Helen Corning, Nancy also wishes to discredit the Tophams, the Crowley family's snobby rivals.

A nasty encounter at a department store allows Nancy to discredit the Topham sisters when they break an expensive vase. Interviewing various Crowley relatives and friends, Nancy learns from an injured old lady that Crowley hinted that the clue to his will would be found in the family clock. When Helen gives Nancy charity tickets to sell, she sells them to the Tophams to gain entry to their home and quiz them about the clock. She then joins Helen at summer camp to investigate the Topham summer-home nearby. There she is overpowered by the burglars who stole the Crowley clock and the rest of the Topham furniture. She is imprisoned in the vacant house while the African-American caretaker recovers (the burglars had gotten him drunk). She is able to obtain the title clock while the burglars drink heavily (illegal in 1930) at a wayside inn. Nancy is depicted as intentionally hiding stolen evidence (the clock) from the police, and gunfire is involved in the police-robber chase.

A climactic scene, inserted before the denouement and epilogue, sees Nancy delighted to take the money away from the Tophams and see it distributed to destitute family and friends. Nancy comes across as very strong-willed, but also a bit competitive with the Tophams; although charitable and altruistic to the poor heirs, she thoroughly enjoys seeing others in River Heights society lose their status earned by new money rather than character.


18-year-old Nancy is prompted to help the Crowley kin by her affection for Crowley's distant relative, little Judy, who's being raised by the two elderly Turner sisters; later, while she's looking for the Hoover sisters, she happens upon their farm during a downpour and shelters with them to dry off because her convertible top malfunctioned. In the original version the sisters had wanted to improve their hatchery and dressmaking skills; here, Allison Hoover is helped to obtain singing lessons. Nancy is more refined, with an extensive wardrobe and a more charitable outlook. Crowley's initial "heirs" are depicted as very undeserving of wealth; and Helen is older (in preparation for her eventual "write-out" after volume 4 of the revised series—no explanation is made in the original series to introduce Bess and George, although two figures illustrated in the same vein as these girls appear in a 1959 illustration at a girls' camp.) The action is increased significantly, and is faster-paced. Greater detail is given to developing Nancy and her home; her encounter with the undeserving Topham sisters now centers around a torn evening dress instead of a broken vase, as in the original story. Racial stereotypes and all minority characters are omitted; the caretaker is now elderly, poor-white, and physically harmed by the burglars. Nancy catches up with the thieves when they stop to dine, instead of drinking alcohol. The final scene, which is the reading of the will which disinherits the Tophams, focuses on the delight of awarding and deserving Crowley kin, instead of Nancy's desire to harm the snobbish Topham family.




to be added


The 1930s edition was published with the white-spine dust-jacket, with artwork by Russell H. Tandy, and four glossy black-and-white interior illustrations, also by Tandy. The first edition is readily distinguished from later editions by its lack of a silhouette on the front cover, and blank end pages. However, a few printings occurred (through 1932) before these trademarks were added to the series.

In 1937, three of the illustrations were eliminated, leaving only a frontispiece, and additional information and illustration was added to the dust-jacket. In 1943, the interior frontispiece art was updated to conform to current 1940s style. In 1950, the dust-jacket was revamped as a wraparound jacket, with the picture continuing onto the spine of the book, and with cover art by Bill Gillies that was more in keeping with 1950s style. Gillies' Nancy, modeled after his wife, looks more mature than 16 (her age in the text at the time). She wears a 1950s version of her early trademark blue suit, and is kneeling so that the length, width, and general style are indeterminate, leaving the art less dated. The scene doesn't exactly match the text in the story.

In 1960, this volume was given entirely new artwork, including eight ink drawings and a color frontispiece, which served as the jacket illustration, all by Polly Bolian, for the Reader's Club (Cameo) edition.

In 1966, the cover art was updated with an illustration by Rudi Nappi, featuring the same dress Nancy wears on Gillies' cover for The Secret of the Wooden Lady.


  • This book, along with The Hidden Staircase and The Bungalow Mystery were released on April 28, 1930 as a breeder set.
  • Not long after the release of the first three books, Edward Stratemeyer died on pneumonia on May 10, 1930.

External links


Nancy Drew Mystery Stories (1930-2003)
Original series & Wanderer Titles (1930-1985)
Mega-Books era (1987-2003)

79. The Double Horror of Fenley Place
80. The Case of the Disappearing Diamonds
81. The Mardi Gras Mystery
82. The Clue in the Camera
83. The Case of the Vanishing Veil
84. The Joker's Revenge
85. The Secret of Shady Glen
86. The Mystery of Misty Canyon
87. The Case of the Rising Stars
88. The Search for Cindy Austin
89. The Case of the Disappearing Deejay
90. The Puzzle at Pineview School
91. The Girl Who Couldn't Remember
92. The Ghost of Craven Cove
93. The Case of the Safecracker's Secret
94. The Picture-Perfect Mystery
95. The Silent Suspect
96. The Case of the Photo Finish
97. The Mystery of Magnolia Mansion
98. The Haunting of Horse Island
99. The Secret at Seven Rocks
100. A Secret in Time
101. The Mystery of the Missing Millionairess
102. The Secret in the Dark
103. The Stranger in the Shadows
104. The Mystery of the Jade Tiger
105. The Clue in the Antique Trunk
106. The Case of the Artful Crime
107. The Legend the Miner's Creek
108. The Secret of the Tibetan Treasure
109. The Mystery of the Masked Rider
110. The Nutcracker Ballet Mystery
111. The Secret at Solaire
112. Crime in the Queen's Court
113. The Secret Lost at Sea
114. The Search for the Silver Persian
115. The Suspect in Smoke
116. The Case of the Twin Teddy Bears
117. Mystery on the Menu
118. Trouble at Lake Tahoe
119. The Mystery of the Missing Mascot
120. The Case of the Floating Crime
121. The Fortune Teller's Secret
122. The Message in the Haunted Mansion
123. The Clue on the Silver Screen
124. The Secret of the Scarlet Hand
125. The Teen Model Mystery
126. The Riddle in the Rare Book
127. The Case of the Dangerous Solution
128. The Treasure in the Royal Tower

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