The Clue of the Tapping Heels

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The Clue of the Tapping Heels
Original edition cover
Author Carolyn Keene
Cover artist Russell H. Tandy
Country United States
Language English
Series Nancy Drew Mystery Stories
Genre Juvenile literature
Publisher Grosset & Dunlap
Publication date
1939, 1969
Media type Print (Hardback & Paperback)
ISBN 0-448-09516-5
OCLC 39921931
Preceded by The Haunted Bridge
Followed by The Mystery of the Brass Bound Trunk

The Clue of the Tapping Heels is the sixteenth volume in the Nancy Drew Mystery Stories series. It was first published in 1939. An updated, revised, and largely different story was published under the same title in 1970. The 1939 version is published as a facsimile edition by Applewood Books. As of 2006, this title is still in print.

Plot summary, 1939 edition[edit]

Nancy Drew, age 16, strikes again! Nancy has recently heard news from her neighbor, Mrs. Carter, that her rare kittens have been getting stolen. Also, Mrs. Carter has been accusing Fred of stealing a disabled child’s funding money. When Nancy goes to investigate Fred’s house, she asks a boy where they went, for there was no car in the driveway. “They went off yesterday with big suitcases. I heard them say they were never coming back”(pg.60), said the boy. But when Nancy and her friend George go into the abandoned house, they find two baby Persian kittens that belong to Mrs. Carter, nearly starved. When Nancy and George start to walk out of the house, the door suddenly shuts and they are trapped! “Whats this?”(pg.180) they hear a man say. He then locks the door behind him. Later, after the girls escape, they go to Boston and follow Mr. and Mrs. Bunce onto their cruise ship, where Nancy is taken captive in the storage room. She taps out a secret message to George and she is rescued and Fred is arrested and all of the disabled child’s money is returned and Mrs. Carter’s kittens are returned.

1969 revision[edit]

Nancy is appearing as a tap dancer in a charity show, all the while with chums Bess and George, investigating strange tapping sounds at the elderly Mrs. Purdy's home. Purdy, like the character of the same name in the original version, is a cat enthusiast, only this time she owns mostly valuable breeding stock. Nancy determines there is a hoax going on, there are attacks at the charity show, and the mysterious tapping sounds are Morse code. . . .


The original Russell H. Tandy cover art shows an animated and visibly angry Nancy, accompanied Bess, and George seizing a ladder at Nancy's house, by moonlight. Discussions draw the conclusion so many elements were incorrect because the publisher's art department dictated the scene to show Nancy with her friends; the house doesn't match the description of Nancy Drew's home. The revised cover artwork by Rudy Nappi for the 1962 picture cover, shows the same scene, corrected to match the actual text, but lacking action. Nancy, alone, sees the ladder outside her home at night. For the 1969 revised edition, the cover art is very vivid and somewhat psychedelic, with images of Nancy tap-dancing, and a head shot underneath a giant Persian cat head, all on a sunflower-yellow background. This version was also painted by Nappi.


Adult collectors of nostalgia and juvenile series fiction often discuss book titles in fanzines or list serves. The original Clue of the Tapping Heels places much focus on cats, and also on a "lost love" subplot involving Miss Carter and her former leading man. There are minor elements of racism in that one crook, wearing partial make-up and wigs is described as a freckle-faced colored man. The incense is used as a drug against Nancy and George, an element removed from the updated revision, as drugs were popular in teen culture at the time. Further, a young boy suffering from developmental and intellectual disabilities regains his full faculties after surgery, very unlikely and unbelievable.

The revised version draws critique by overt placements of Nancy commenting on her desire to attend church as often as she can, and contains much physical action and danger, but does is generally somewhat more believable in tone.