The Haunted Showboat was always one of my favorite Nancy Drew Mystery Stories. And why wouldn’t it be? There was a mysterious bayou (complete with an alligator), an abandoned showboat and the grand pageantry of Mardi Gras in New Orleans.
I blogged before about one of the reasons I think this book is flawed. But, looking back now, I see another reason — a reason that comes in the form of a questionable plot point. Once again, this is one of those plot points I didn’t think was odd when I was seven. I was too wrapped up in the azaleas, the French Quarter of New Orleans, and the moonlight over the bayou. Oh, and the car thieves.
In order to discuss this, we have to go back to the premise of the mystery. Relatives of Bess and George, the Havers, are trying to restore an old abandoned showboat in the bayou on their property. But strange happenings on the showboat are causing workmen to refuse to go near it. Who could the saboteurs be? Ghosts? Voodoo practitioners?
No! Apparently there is an old rumor about pirate treasure being hidden aboard the showboat, and someone has been searching for it. Once Nancy hears this old story — about the treasure that has been hidden for generations — she and Ned immediately find it.
“We’ve found it! We’ve found it!” Ned cried out. He ran his hand through the coins. “There must be fifty thousand dollars’ worth!”
As he and Nancy did a little dance together to express their glee, they were completely unaware of two sinister figures who suddenly arose from behind a pile of crates and rags nearby. The two men held stout sticks in their hands.
Uh oh. I think we know where this is heading. This is a Nancy Drew Mystery Story, after all, and we haven’t had our obligatory head injury yet.
Sure enough, Nancy and Ned are soon found lying unconscious in the hold.
Bess knelt down beside them. “See those lumps on their heads! They’ve been hit.”
Groggily, Ned tells everyone what he and Nancy found.
“It was an authentic pirate chest filled with old gold coins,” Ned explained.
See. The old rumor was true. It was an authentic pirate chest!
The bad guys, however, have gotten away scot-free with the treasure. Or have they? That’s what you or I would expect. But Nancy knows bad guys better than we do. Especially bad guys like Alex Upgrove, who is a prime suspect in the mystery.
“In some way he’ll be using the pirate coins.” The young detective laughed. “I think Alex might even have made some kind of arrangement to rent the coins to the parade committee, provided he found them before the Mardi Gras. He’ll use the cash to get out of town while still in costume.”
“And leave the chest of pirate money behind?” Burt asked unbelievingly.
“Oh, no,” said Nancy. “He’ll manage to take it with him.”
Until they can find Alex, Nancy and her chums bide their time by going to night after night of carnival parades, where thousands of imitation pearl necklaces are tossed to the crowd. Bess even manages to catch one.
Finally, on Shrove Tuesday, Nancy and her chums head out to watch the last parade. And sure enough, Alex does dress as a pirate and rides atop a parade float, where he is seen by a kajillion people. And sure enough, the float company rented the pirate chest from him because, I guess, parade-goers would know that it was an authentic pirate chest and…what? They’d care?
Three of the “pirates” were busy throwing necklaces to the costumed revelers in the street below them. A fourth pirate was bent over a treasure chest. He was busy sifting gold coins through his fingers, much to the delight of the crowd.
“Throw me some of your money!” cried a bystander dressed as a knight in armor.
“Yes, I’d like some pirates’ money!” called his companion in a skeleton costume.
The cloaked pirate merely laughed.
We can assume the pirates are throwing fake necklaces to the crowd. But I guess they didn’t want to disappoint the spectators by using fake gold? So they shelled out money to rent real gold? Because…why again?
If you can explain that, please also explain why Alex stayed in New Orleans, where he is being sought by the authorities — or, worse yet, by Nancy — just to rent out the gold for cash? Well, obviously, he must be getting a lot of cash, because that’s authentic pirate gold. People don’t get to rent authentic pirate gold for mere peanuts.
I guess the real mystery is why Alex thought he could get away with it all. Hhmph. I’m with Nancy and Ned on the likelihood of that:
Nancy and Ned exchanged glances as if to say, “What tremendous conceit the man has, to believe he could have gotten away permanently with such a scheme!”