The Secret of the Old Clock is the first volume in the Nancy Drew Mystery Stories series written under the pseudonym Carolyn Keene.
Nancy Drew is an eighteen-year-old high school graduate. Her father, Carson Drew, is a well-known criminal defense lawyer. The Drews reside in River Heights and employ a housekeeper, Hannah Gruen. In early editions, she is depicted as a mere servant; later in the series she becomes more of a family member.
Eighteen-year-old Nancy Drew wishes to help the Turners, who are struggling relatives of the recently deceased Josiah Crowley. Aided along the way by chum Helen Corning, she becomes interested in the case because she dislikes his snobbish “nouveau-riche” social-climbing heirs presumptive, the Tophams.
A nasty encounter at a department store allows Nancy to discredit the Topham sisters when they break an expensive imported 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.
Nancy 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 caretaker is locked in a shed nearby. She is able to obtain the titular clock while the burglars drink heavily (and illegally) at a wayside inn. (Prohibition in the United States was in force in 1930.)
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 from the Tophams and see it distributed to destitute family and friends.
Nancy comes across as very strong-willed, but also competitive with the Tophams. Although charitable and altruistic to the poor heirs, she enjoys seeing others in River Heights society lose their status earned by new money rather than character. [Wikipedia]