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Book Review

Strangers on a Train by Carolyn Keene has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine. It is the second book in the "Nancy Drew Diarlies" series.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements


Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

In Curse of the Arctic Star (book one), sleuth Nancy Drew gets a troubling message from her old friend Becca. As assistant cruise director on an Alaskan liner called the Arctic Star, Becca is convinced someone is trying to sabotage its next trip. Nancy, her friends and Bess' new boyfriend, Alan, go on the cruise. Alan thinks the girls have won the trip; meanwhile, they find the culprit. But Nancy feels uncomfortable about some loose ends. Then the ship's jewelry store is robbed.

In Strangers on a Train, Becca tells Nancy, George and Bess that the police have captured the jewelry thief. Nancy hopes she and the girls can relax and enjoy the rest of their trip. The ship has docked at Skagway, Ala., where the girls, Alan, and most of the other passengers plan on taking a scenic mountain train ride. As they exit the ship, Nancy overhears a senior crew member yelling at a busboy and telling him he's fired. The man with a moustache and Hawaiian shirt, one of Nancy's earlier suspects, appears and tries to get in the center of the dispute. The busboy argues that he knows nothing about the illegal drugs found in his locker. Nancy tries unsuccessfully to question Fred, the Hawaiian-shirt man, about what's just happened. She begins to wonder if this incident has anything to do with the jewelry store robbery.

Nancy and friends get on the train. Also on the train are ship passengers that Nancy counts as suspects. Among them are crewmembers Hiro, the children's director who keeps showing up when accidents happen, and Tatjana, Becca's sour-tempered Russian assistant. There's also Scott, the activities director, whom Nancy saw making a suspicious payoff a few days earlier. As Nancy steps between train cars, she sees Scott speaking angrily on his cell phone. He stops abruptly when he sees her. He looks as if he's about to hurt her when her friends appear.

Alan overhears the girls talking about the case, so they reluctantly let him in on their sleuthing activities. Nancy catches Fred meeting with some of the crew members. She learns he's not a criminal, but a rep secretly trying to help the workers start a union. Nancy returns to her train seat later to find it covered with shards of broken glass. This, along with a few earlier pranks directed toward Nancy, lead her to believe she may be in danger.

While staying at the lodge near Denali National Park, Nancy follows Tatjana when the assistant sneaks off into the woods. There, Tatjana secretly meets Hiro. When they see Nancy, they explain that Becca and Hiro used to date. Since Hiro and Tatjana work for Becca now, they keep their relationship secret to avoid awkwardness. Nancy crosses them off her suspect list.

Nancy finally learns Scott is involved in an operation that smuggles rare animal parts. The police catch and arrest him. As Nancy and her friends hike near Mount McKinley, Nancy continues to feel uneasy about Alan's lack of animal knowledge. For someone who had supposedly come on the trip to write an important college paper, he seems unable to answer even simple questions about animal behavior. On a hunch, Nancy uses the little cell reception she has left to contact her boyfriend, Ned, back home. His return message with info about Alan comes through unclearly. Meanwhile, Alan corners Nancy near a mother moose and throws rocks at its baby to anger the creature. He admits to planting the broken glass on Nancy's seat and causing other trouble for her on the trip. Before he can make the moose attack her, Nancy's friends and some of the other passengers arrive on the scene. After Alan is arrested, Nancy learns her attorney father had prosecuted the case that put Alan's father in prison for fraud and embezzlement. Alan had started pursuing Bess as a way to get to Nancy and exact his revenge. Alan is led away, still spewing threats at Nancy.

Christian Beliefs


Other Belief Systems

George wonders if the strange events on the cruise might not just be due to bad luck.

Authority Roles

Nancy, her friends George and Bess, and Bess' college-age boyfriend, Alan, are unsupervised. They make no mention of their parents or guardians at home until Alan's motives become clear.


The words heck and gosh each appear once.



Discussion Topics

Get free discussion questions for this book and others, at FocusOnTheFamily.com/discuss-books.

Additional Comments/Notes

Drugs: A crew member is fired when illegal drugs are found in his locker. Readers later learn they were planted there.

Gambling: In book one, Nancy saw Scott paying off a man at a port city. Scott told Nancy it was for a gambling debt, and he begged her not to tell so he wouldn't get fired. The incident is referenced in this book.

Lying: Nancy and her friends lie about their purpose for being on the cruise, even to Bess' boyfriend. They do this to safeguard the secrecy of their investigation. Nancy also lies to Alan when she begins to suspect he is involved in the recent criminal activity aboard the ship.

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Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. The inclusion of a book's review does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

Episode Reviews



Readability Age Range

8 to 12




Carolyn Keene






Record Label



Aladdin, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing Division


On Video

Year Published





We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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