Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Clue in the Pot Roast

By Kelli

Which three characters would you invite to dinner? What would be on the menu and what would you discuss?

Hmm ... dinner. I'm both inspired and made hungry by my grog mates' earlier posts, and am tempted to throw a German food extravaganza and ask Sophie to serve the Champagne. Then we can have Russell Crowe as the Chippendale dancer ...

OK, back to reality. Sort of. I'm going to ask the greatest crime solver of all-time to dinner, and maybe, in the process, try to unravel a mystery of my own ...

The River Heights Affair

Menu: pot roast, mashed potatoes and gravy, bean salad, peas, jello mold fruit cup. Apple pie with vanilla ice cream for dessert.

Beverage: milk.

We find ourselves at the large, well-polished and immaculate oak dining table, while Hannah serves the perfectly normal, middle-of-the-road roast beef. Carson is off in the study searching through a book of River Heights statutes. It won't take him long, because there's only one ..

Yes, friends, we're in the home of the 1950s era Nancy Drew, who kindly accepted my invitation but insisted that we dine at her house (poor girl is a little on the paranoid side--keeps tapping SOS with her heels while we eat). Bess and George are here, too, Bess a bit defensive about her extra helping of pie, and George, as usual, carrying a large boyish chip on her shoulder over her name. Both of them are in hostess dresses -- luckily, the table sits eight. Ned Nickerson drops by for a quick glass of whole milk, which he drains. I notice he's won another varsity letter.

Conversation, on the whole, is a little strained. I ask her about one of her recent adventures, like The Witch Tree Symbol, and Nancy seems confused, and not herself, though of course she is impeccably dressed and her titan hair is stunning. I try to ask her what she thinks about being a feminist icon, and mention some of the social criticism that has been charged against her, but she just shakes her head.

I'm disappointed, thinking I invited the wrong Nancy--I should have chosen the 1930s, when she was truly spunky and drove a very cool little roadster. That was the Nancy I first read at the age of seven (The Ghost of Blackwood Hall) who has inspired me ever since ...

Finally, feeling a little foolish, I ask Nancy to step away from the bickering George and Bess and to talk to me in the kitchen. She sends Hannah back to the dining room with a wave of her hand, the crinkly-eyed housekeeper looking at her with puzzlement. It's at the kitchen sink that she breaks down and tells me she's uncovered a diabolical plot ...

A titan curl falls across her face, asymmetrically, while she excitedly confesses that she's the same Nancy she ever was, as willing to confront a murderer with the evidence as she is to make one of Ned's famous potato pancakes (I knew about the pancakes--I own the Nancy Drew Cookbook). She says she even got a ticket for speeding the year before but Carson kept it out of the papers. And then--what she says sends proverbial, Grosset and Dunlap chills down my spine.

Nancy has uncovered a plot ... something about replacing the wives and daughters of River Heights with automatically up-dating ROBOTS. No more fashion worries, no more hair salons, no more speeding tickets. The robots would be self-maintaining, always in fashion, always contemporary. I scoff, eying the doorway to the dining room nervously. Nancy holds her hand to her mouth, her large eyes soulful and scared, and whispers: "Didn't you notice the food? No taste--nothing real. And listen--they've already done Bess and George. George would never wear a hostess dress. And ... I think I'm next!"

At that moment, the door to the living room opens. A tall, distinguished looking man with gray temples frowns at the small squeak, as if making a mental note. Then Carson Drew smiles with all his teeth at Nancy and me ...

Gee, that was satisfying. I always knew Carson was up to no good! So ... how does the story end, Nancy fans? Will Hannah save us? Will Nancy and I escape? Will one of us wind up stabbing George with a steak knife? Help us! I'm tapping out S-O-S!


About Me: I, in fact, own a copy of the Nancy Drew Cookbook, purchased when I was ten. (Little Known Fact #87)

My second book, CITY OF DRAGONS, releases February 2, 2010, from Minotaur.

My first, NOX DORMIENDA, won the Bruce Alexander Award and is a Macavity finalist.


R.J. Mangahas said...

Some how Kelli, I'm not surprised with your choice of time period. ;-]

As for me, I'm sometimes interested in the sophisticated (if not sometime Sociopathic) criminal mind frame. Now Hannibal Lecter would seem the obvious choice here, but as I'm not willing to serve "former patients," I'll have to pick someone else.

So, my first two guests would include:
Iago from Othello

Charles Anthony Bruno from Strangers on a Train.

And to even things out (or at least keep the other two in line): Patrick Kenzie (just because he's a Boston Boy) or John Rain (he just seems like a kick-ass guy).

Sophie Littlefield said...

oh dear.

I always thought that Nancy's dad was kind of hot. You know, in an ironic way. Like, at dinner everything he said would be a double entendre, but only if you were paying attention.

I am amused by George in a hostess dress. :)

Kelli Stanley said...

RJ, that's a great duo!! :) I think Iago would pull a Hannibal and eat Bruno for dinner, though. He's close to being the perfect criminal ...

Patrick and John make wonderful counter-foils--and kick-ass is a great way to describe Rain.

Thanks, buddy!! :)


Kelli Stanley said...

Soph, darlin', I see what you mean ... Carson is kind of hot in that John Forsythe Dynasty kinda way. But that's why he's such a perfect secret villain. And I always wondered what Hannah thought about it all! ;)

As for George, can you picture her squirming in the taffeta?


♥Jen♥ said...

You know, I've been thinking about this question all week as you all have been responding to it...I'm wondering if we could just get Detective Kubu, Spenser and Gabri Dubeau together - throw them in the kitchen and see what they come up with!

And come on, with that combo, you have to know the conversation will be at least...interesting! ;)

Kelli Stanley said...

Boy, Jen, now I'm really hungry!! Just Spencer in the kitchen would be enough, but all three ... I think I'm taking an early lunch today!! ;)

Thanks for commenting, sweetie!!



R.J. Mangahas said...

I don't know, Kelli. I just don't see Iago going for Bruno soufflé. Although, I could be wrong on that one.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to read Othello just because. :-)

Rebecca Cantrell said...

Sadly, Carson has always been a robot. That's why he's been replacing everyone. He wants robots to take over everything. So: what are they doing with the humans they have replaced? Alien zoo? Robot repair?

On the bright side: whole hosts of diseases that affected humans will now die out.

Kelli Stanley said...

RJ, Othello is always worth a re-read ... it's one of my very favorite tragedies. It would be tops, except Desdemona irritates me (the damn Willow song is really grating). Give me Lady Macbeth any day! ;)


Kelli Stanley said...

Becks, I like the idea of the alien zoo. Especially if we can get those aliens with the big ol' heads and poppin' veins. You know--just like that episode of Star Trek with Captain Pike! ;)

And I'm glad there's a bright side to Stepfordization ... but I'll take my chances with bacteria anyway, thank you. ;) Ever wonder why so much 70s pop culture was concerned with robots? The Stepford Wives, of course, and then there was West World (still one of my favorites). Yul Brynner as a cowboy robot -- it's like a horror parody of The Magnificent Seven!



R.J. Mangahas said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
R.J. Mangahas said...

I love "The Scottish Play."

Leslie said...


You don't have to limit yourself... champagne goes with everything. 'nuff said.

I envy you the Nancy Drew Cookbook, I'll have to swap you recipes from my Nero Wolfe Cookbook for some of Nancy's ;-)

BTW, was that strategic placement of the phrase " A tall, distinguished looking man with gray temples" in your article?

Kelli Stanley said...

Leslie, I'm going to find that recipe for Ned's potato pancakes today, and we'll have a swap! :)

As for strategic placement, if that line showed up next to a certain Criminal Mind who is tall, distinguished-looking, and with grey temples -- and handsome to boot -- well, coincidence. ;)


Leslie said...

Yum! Ned's Potato Pancakes sound great! I'm looking for my Nero Wolfe Cookbook... It is here somewhere!

I think I made bread out of the book. As I recall there was a great shirred eggs recipe with sherry... that would go nicely with the brunch theme... and it was easy to make!

Some of Wolfe's recipes are, shall we say, involved, but he had Fritz helping him.

I also remember a lot of cavier...

Jewels Diva said...

I still read Nancy Drew and have quite a large collection.

The new Nancy is nowhere near the Nancy of yesteryear. She was brave and smart and didn't act like an idiotic clutz like she does now.

Simon & Schuster have done a bad job of remaking nancy.

Kelli Stanley said...

Hi, Jewels, and thanks for commenting! :)

I miss the Nancy of my childhood, too ... those little hardcover yellow backed books used to be so exciting! I remember eagerly anticipating each new arrival at the local department store. Such a role model for so many ...

Thanks again for stopping by CM! :)