Sleuthing and Survival – Tips From Nancy Drew

Sleuthing and Survival - Tips From Nancy Drew


Penny Warner is the author of over 50 books, including the Connor Westphal mystery series and THE OFFICIAL NANCY DREW HANDBOOK.

Her new series, HOW TO HOST A KILLER PARTY, debuts in February 2010, and features a reluctant event planner who solves mysteries in the San Francisco Bay Area.


By Penny Warner

Nancy Drew saved my life on more than one occasion. Okay, maybe not my life, but she’s certainly taught me a few things about being a good sleuth. You never know when one of Drew’s Clues might come in handy when you’re tied up in an attic and left for dead, with nothing more than a lipstick …

So if you find yourself in the same situation-or you need to find a hidden passageway, escape a kidnapper, or treat a snakebite, here are some of the best tips I learned from Nancy Drew.

How to Escape from Rope Bonds

• Take a deep breath. As you’re being tied up, inhale deeply so that when you exhale, the rope will offer some slack. Do this subtly so your captors are not aware that you are planning to escape.
• Wiggle and shake. When your captors leave you alone, try to wiggle, jump, and shake the ropes loose. This will help you find any unsecured areas and may be enough to free you immediately.
• Remove shoes or clothing. Kick off your shoes. This will allow your foot to work on the ropes. If you’re wearing a coat or other thick clothing and can wriggle out of it, this will also cause the rope to slacken.
• Chew the rope. If you can’t anything else to cut the rope, use your teeth. Chew at strands a little bit at a time, until each one breaks free.
• If you can’t free yourself, try escaping anyway. Sometimes you can uproot the object you’re tied to more easily than you can cut the rope.

How to Thwart a Kidnapping

• Scream loudly and make a scene. It may scare the kidnapper away or alert others nearby.
• Instead of yelling “Help!” which is often ignored, yell “I’m being kidnapped!” or “Fire!” to gain attention.
• Instead of punching the assailant’s face with your fist, which is like hitting a brick wall, open your palm and slap, scratch, or grab at the kidnapper’s face.
• Pry away his grabbing hands with your fingers.
• Jab your elbows or knees into the attacker’s body, especially his groin.
• Find something to scratch, or wound the kidnapper, such as a pen, hair clip, handbag, or cell phone.
• Aim for the eyes and throat.
• Become a human windmill and thrash the heck out of him with your wildly flailing arms and legs.

How to Disguise Yourself and Go Undercover

• Dress for the situation. If there’s a mystery brewing at a dude ranch, wear boots, a hat, and a cute bandanna.
• Add distracting accessories. Try dark glasses, a scarf, frumpy shoes, a knitted shawl, a cloche hat.
• Assume an alias. Choose a name that fits your assumed character, then have business card, stationery, and identity card to confirm your false identity.
• Pose as hired help to blend in. People tend not to notice others who seem to be a part of their surroundings, such as:
• Waiter-wear a black outfit with a white apron and carry a tray
• Medical staff-wear a white doctor’s coat and carry a stethoscope
• Wedding guest-wear a dressy outfit and carry a glass of champagne

How to Tail a Suspect

• Tailor your outfit to match the environment. Don’t wear Jimmy Choos and a Hermes scarf to a Dude Ranch.
• Avoid obvious disguises, like trenchcoats, Groucho Marx glasses, or T-shirts that say “I Heart Ned.”
• Don’t follow too closely behind or he could turn around an assault you.
• Don’t look into shop windows every time the suspect turns around-that just makes you look suspicious.
• If he does spot you, keep moving down the street instead of constantly ducking into alleyways.
• Try not to look at the suspect directly. Instead, use your peripheral vision, mirrors, window reflections, periscopes, or holes cut in newspapers.
• If you should get “made” or “burned”-accidentally come face to face with the suspect-don’t panic. Cover yourself with a plausible lie, such as “I was shopping” or “looking for my dog.”

How to Escape from Danger

• When you’re tied up, but still have at least some use of your hands, locate your handbag, and pull out your powder compact. Flash the mirror glass toward the sun to signal for a rescue.
• Always carry a flashlight when you need to signal from a window in an emergency.
• If all else fails, use an animal sound known to you and your sidekicks as an emergency signal: Bark like a dog or hoot like an owl to tell them to get help, fast!
• Watch out for men with strange names, like Rudy Raspin, Tom Tozzle, Mr. Warte, Grumper, Stumpy Dowd, Kit Kadle, Sniggs, Snorky, and Red Buzby.

How to Treat Snakebite

If you or your pal is bitten by a snake, call for medical assistance immediately. Here are some things you can do while waiting for help to arrive.
• Keep the bitten area lower than the heart.
• Remove jewelry and clothing that may restrict blood flow and swelling.
• Wash the bite with soap and water or other antiseptic solution.
• Cover the area with a cool compress to minimize swelling and pain.
• Monitor breathing and heart rate.

Note: Tourniquets, incisions, and using your mouth to suck out the venom are techniques no longer used to treat snakebite.

Dangerous Drugs to Avoid at All Costs:

• Sodium Pentothal. Also known as Truth Serum, this treacherous drug is used to obtain information from an unwilling subject. Signs you’ve been drugged with Sodium Pentothal include talking too much and spilling all your innermost secrets. Seek medical attention.

• Curare. This bitter tropical plant, easily disguised in a Mai Tai or fired through a blowgun, is often used to turn innocent people into zombies. Signs you’ve been drugged with curare include relaxed muscles, slowed breathing, and paralysis, all of which will require immediate medical attention.

Hopefully these tips will keep you safe and savvy when danger lurks!

You can visit Penny Warner here.

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Author Terry Odell is giving away a copy of this fine book. Please visit Terry’s website for details.

5 replies
  1. Penny Warner
    Penny Warner says:

    Never know when you’ll be trapped in that attic…
    And as for all the quicksand around your neighborhood, Nancy warns, “Watch your step!”

  2. Joyce Tremel
    Joyce Tremel says:

    Penny, I love this post!

    Good old Nancy is the reason I write crime fiction now. Even now, I have four Nancy Drew books sitting in a prominent spot on my bookshelves. I started collecting the really old ones several years ago. It’s hard to find the ones published in the 30s.

    Okay, I have to ask. What in the world did Nancy see in Ned? She could do much better. Like Frank Hardy. (Yes, I read all those books, too.)

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