The Clue of the Velvet Mask is the thirtieth volume in the Nancy Drew Mystery Stories series.
As the story opens, Nancy and friends attempt to thwart suspicious, masked party-goers from reaching valuable objects d'art on display. At the party, Nancy finds an odd, black, velvet hood, which she retains as a clue. Her acquaintance, Linda, who is an employee of the Lightner company, is suspected of wrongdoing. At subsequent Lightner events, Nancy encounters other thieves, and is nearly suffocated by an evil pair of crooks. Nancy and George rent wigs to switch identities; however, George is kidnapped, her disguise removed, put under the influence of hypnotic, mind-altering drugs, and threatened.
Nancy focuses on the executive assistant at Lightner's, Mr. Tombar, while she attempts to decode mysterious numbers written on the lining of the mask. She realizes that the numbers actually mark dates of events at which robberies took place. She and Bess investigate the ramshackle Blue Iris Inn in the nearby countryside, and fall victim to the evil Velvet gang. Only paranoid George knows where they are, and can identify the clothing last worn by Nancy. She must overcome her mental breakdown and get on the case when the girls fail to return.
This volume seems to be one filled with physical action, finding Nancy repeatedly assaulted or engaged in physical confrontations. George Fayne is drugged and a victim of criminal threat, and Ned is involved in two physical confrontations as well. (this refers to an out-of-print version of the story).
Nancy's haircolor is changed to titian, George's from black to brown, and eliminates subplots and extraneous descriptive vocabulary, including non-essential scenes and passages, including humorous passages where Nancy works undercover as a file clerk and finds the work unappealing. Additionally, the revised version removes questionable (in 1969) descriptive elements of George's drugged status and hypodermics. Strangely, the revision also eliminates the importance of George's recovery; although she leads investigators to the scene of the kidnapping, Mr. Drew is nearly as instrumental in finding Nancy as George. Her discovery of a dress button Nancy has planted at the scene is downplayed. In the original version, Nancy has changed clothes, so only George knows what Nancy and Bess were wearing when they disappeared.
The original volume was published in 1953, and was the first book to feature cover art by the artist Rudy Nappi. Nappi would go on to illustrate the covers of both the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew series from 1953 to 1979. During his long term of employment, Nappi eventually updated cover artwork for books he originally illustrated. The original artwork shows Nancy in a conservative Spanish dancer's gown, on a mansion terrace. She is watching a man climb a trellis, while a masquerade is depicted through the French windows of the house. This art was also used on picture cover editions, from 1962 to 1969. The only interior illustration, the frontispiece, shows Nancy and Bess about to be kidnapped while spying at the Blue Iris Inn.
The cover of the 1969 revised version, still in print, depicts Nancy carrying the accessories from her costume, underneath a large image of a head wearing the black velvet domino. This edition contains five plain pen and ink illustrations as well.
Interestingly, the "capture" scene frontispiece, from the original 1953 edition, was chosen by several book-binding companies to be used as the cover illustration on re-bound or library bound editions of many Nancy Drew titles.
- This is the last book to be published that Mildred A. Wirt wrote. After this, all books in the Nancy Drew Mystery Stories series were written by Harriet Adams.