The Mystery at Lilac Inn
|The Mystery at Lilac Inn|
|Series||Nancy Drew Mystery Stories|
|Publisher||Grosset & Dunlap|
|Publication date||October 1930|
|Media type||Print (Hardback & Paperback)|
|Preceded by||The Bungalow Mystery|
|Followed by||The Secret at Shadow Ranch|
The Mystery At Lilac Inn is the fourth volume in the Nancy Drew Mystery Stories series. It was first published in 1931 under the pseudonym Carolyn Keene. Mildred Wirt Benson was the ghostwriter for the 1931 edition. In 1961 the book was revised as a completely different story; the original omitted the lead characters from much of the action, the titular Inn was only a place where a crime was committed with minor investigatory follow-up, and a domestic help sub-plot was out-of-place in 1961. Ethnic slurs and opinions are removed.
 Plot summaries & Controversy
 1930 edition
The story involves Nancy Drew helping her friend Emily Crandall find out who stole her heirloom jewels. Emily's aunt and guardian, Hazel Willoughby, unwisely removes them from a safe deposit box and carries them with her while lunching at Lilac Inn, only to have her handbag stolen while the diners are distracted. In the meantime, Nancy must hire a temporary maid in the absence of Mrs. Gruen, her housekeeper. Nancy uncovers the thief, Mary Mason, one of the applicants for the position of maid. She then tracks Mary Mason to a gang, which includes Mary's brother, Bud. Nancy is bound and gagged and left aboard the gang's sinking cabin cruiser to die, but is rescued by the river patrol. In the end, Nancy captures the jewel thief, exonerates the guardian, and returns her orphaned friend's fortune to her.
 1961 edition
Nancy Drew!How did you and Helen paddle than canoe up here so fast from River Heights? cried Doris Drake in astonishment. Nancy, an attractive titan blond, grinned up at her friend. Doris was weeding a flower garden at her home along the riverbank. "How did you know we left home?" Nancy's blue eyes twinkled. "My friend Phyl told me on the phone just half an hour ago that she'd talk with you, Nancy at the Elite Drug Store in River Heights." Nancy looked surprised. "She couldn't have. Helen and I were on our way here at that time." Slender, pretty Helen Corning, three years older than Nancy, frowned. "You must have a double Nancy. better watch out!" "I cant understand it," Nancy murmured. "You say Phyl talked to her and she didn't say it was a mistake?" "That's right , Nancy," said Doris. "But Phyl was wrong, of course. After all, she doesn't know you terribly well. Say, where are you and Helen going?" "To visit overnight with Emily Willoughby and her aunt at Lilac Inn. They're family friends. Emily and her fiance--we've never met him--have bought the inn, and Em tells me, plan to run it full time." Helen added, "Nancy and I are to be Emily's bridesmaids. We'll talk over wedding plans." "How wonderful!" Doris exclaimed. Nancy and Helen said good-by and paddled off upstream. The Angus River, a tributary of the Muskoka, was banked on either side with dense shrubbery, willow trees, and wild flowers. "Were almost to Benton," Nancy said. "The old inn should be just beyond the next bend." The next second something rammed the canoe violently. The impact capsized the craft, hurling Nancy and Helen into the chilly May water! Fortunately, the girls were excellent swimmers. Each instinctively grasped her buoyant, water proof canvas traveling bag, bobbing nearby, and swam ta a grassy bank. "Whew!" said Nancy, as she dropped her bag into the ground. "Are you alright Helen?" Her friend nodded, shivering in her bedraggled shirt and slacks,
 Accusations of Racism
The novel was extensively rewritten when it was re-released in 1961, partially because the original novel featured elements of racism that were considered unacceptable for the time. In the original novel, Nancy uses racial terms as far as describing potential replacement housekeepers who she has rejected (who are black, Irish, and Scotch). Also the character of Mary Mason, the novel's central villain, is described as "impudent," "dark-complexioned" girl, hinting at Jewish or Mediterranean descent. Nancy only realizes that Mary is involved in the theft after seeing her at an exclusive, upscale dress shop that Nancy frequents. Nancy comments in particular, upon seeing the Jewish or Mediterranean Mary in the store, "Surely a girl in her circumstances cannot afford to buy dresses at such a place as this."
Other elements made a revision of the plot necessary: the book is the only one in which secondary characters (not including Nancy, her household, or group of friends) for an extensive passage of action. Further, the mystery doesn't really occur at Lilac Inn---although the theft does. Finally, with the sub-plots involving domestic drama and rather slower paced investigations while Nancy interviews several parties connected, the book did not lend itself well to add the increased action, danger, suspense, and drama by simply reducing the length of the text. Adult collector fans often agree to liking both versions of the book, even though revised stories are often less popular among adult
The book was printed with a navy jacket and four glossy illustrations, all by artist Russell H. Tandy. In 1950, the cover art was updated with work by artist Bill Gillies. The text was completely rewritten by series owner Harriet Stratemeyer Adams in 1961. The cover art was changed again to reflect the new story, this time by artist Rudy Nappi, and internal plain paper illustrations were added. Only the first two printings of this volume were available in a dust jacket. The book's text and artwork remained the same when the publisher switched to picture-cover illustrated binding editions in 1962.
R.H. Tandy illustrated Nancy spying on the criminals in the original cover art, along with a frontispiece and three internal illustrations showing various elements of the story. He updated the frontispiece in 1943. In 1950, the dust jacket art was changed to show an updated version of Nancy with the crooks behind her. This art was not retained for the story revision in 1961, as the scene is eliminated by a completely different story. Rudy Nappi illustrates a ghostly picture of two girls illuminated by glowing lights in the cuff of their long-sleeved gowns. *The 1961 cover art appears to feature both Nancy, facing, and a mysterious dark-haired girl. In actuality, Nancy has her back to the reader, and is the dark-haired girl in the foreground; the other girl is actually Nancy's impostor.