the crook who took the book

Contents

Chapter 1: Big Book News

Chapter 2: Seeing Mr. Sandback

Chapter 3: The Mystery of the Missing Mystery

Chapter 4: One Book Crook Gets Off the Hook

Chapter 5: The Book Man in the Basement

Chapter 6: A Book Full of Clues

Chapter 7: A Clue Hunt

Chapter 8: Suspect: Sandback?

1
Big Book News

F
ridays are the coolest,” Nancy Drew said. Her third-grade class was walking in single file through the hall of their school, Carl Sandburg Elementary.

In front of Nancy marched her best friend George Fayne. George's real name was Georgia, but she hated to be called that. Behind Nancy was her other best friend, Bess Marvin. Bess and George were cousins.

“I know,” George whispered over her shoulder. “Friday is the day before Saturday. And Saturday means soccer.”

“That's true,” said Nancy, who was also on the soccer team. “But I love Friday because it's library day.”

Just as she said this, their teacher, Mrs. Reynolds, brought the class to a halt in front of the library. Nancy peeked through the door and saw that Mrs. Apple's third graders were already inside.

“Now, class,” Mrs. Reynolds announced. “Remember to keep your voices low while you choose your books. And at the end of our library time, Mrs. Goldstein has an announcement for us.”

“Hmm,” Nancy whispered to Bess as the class poured into the library. “I wonder what the news is.”

“Well,
I
wonder if a new Susie book has come in,” Bess said. She headed straight for the shelf where her favorite books were kept.

George plopped down on the floor to peer at the animal books.

Nancy wandered over to the mysteries. She pulled out a book called
Tick-Tock Went the Missing Clock.

“This looks good,” she murmured. Soon she'd forgotten all about Mrs. Goldstein's
news. She'd lost herself in the story. It was about a detective who had to find a clock before it struck twelve—or else!

“Hey,” George said, popping up at Nancy's shoulder. “Don't you get enough mysteries in real life? I can't believe you want to read them, too.”

Nancy looked up and shrugged. “I guess I never get sick of solving mysteries,” she said. Then she pointed to the book under George's arm. “What did you get?”

“I found this neat book about giraffes,” George said. “Did you know giraffes are related to camels?”

“Really?”

“And their tongues are black!” George said. “I'm not sure why. I guess I'll have to read the book to find out.”

“Blech,” said a squeaky voice.

Nancy and George turned to see Andy Nixon near the science-fiction shelf. Andy was in Mrs. Apple's class.

“Books are boring,” Andy scoffed. “Unless they're comic books.”

George rolled her eyes and muttered, “Boys.”

“I have twenty-seven comic books at home,” Andy said. “They're really old. I keep each one in its own plastic envelope so it won't get bent or dirty. My dad collects comic books, too.”

“Isn't it hard to read a book that's in a plastic envelope?” Nancy said.

“That's the point,” Andy said. “My comic books are totally special. My dad says they're collector's items. Someday I could sell them. Not that I'd want to. They're mine!”

“What good is a book if you don't read it?” Katie Zaleski piped up. She'd been listening in from a nearby section. “I'm going to be a writer when I grow up. My books will be so great, everyone will want to read them.”

“Like Morton Sandback,” Nancy said, nodding at Katie. “Every time one of his mysteries comes out, I just have to read it.”

Just then Mrs. Goldstein, the librarian, walked up to them. Mrs. Goldstein had curly brown hair and hazel eyes. She was wearing a bright blue cardigan sweater.

“It's funny that you should mention
Morton Sandback, girls,” she said. “I was just about to make an announcement about him.”

Nancy gave a little hop of joy. She couldn't wait to hear the news.

Mrs. Goldstein raised a slender arm over her head and snapped her fingers. “Children, please finish choosing your books and gather around,” she called. “I have some news.”

All the third graders grabbed their books and crowded around Mrs. Goldstein.

“Who here has been to the Book Nook?” Mrs. Goldstein asked.

Bess, Nancy, George, and a bunch of the other kids raised their hands in the air.

“The Book Nook is the best,” Nancy whispered to Bess. “What a great idea to put a bookstore in a big old house.”

“A big, creepy house!” George said.

“Nuh-uh,” Bess said. “I think the Book Nook is nice. I especially love the store mascot—Charlie the cat.”

“Charlie?” Nancy asked. “He's the grouchiest cat ever. He never gets off his cat bed!”

“Well, he might be the grouchiest, but
he's also the prettiest,” Bess said. “He's so white and fluffy.”

“Does anybody know who owns the Book Nook?” Mrs. Goldstein asked.

“Sure,” Mike Minelli said. “That tall, skinny lady with the red hair and freckles. She lives upstairs from the store.”

Katie raised her hand. “I know the lady's name,” she said. “It's Julia. She's really nice. Whenever I go to the Book Nook, she tells me about the latest books.”

“You're right, Katie,” Mrs. Goldstein said, smiling down at her. “But do you know Julia's last name? It's Sandback.”

“Like . . . Morton Sandback?” Josie Blanton asked. She was one of Nancy's classmates.

“Yes,” Mrs. Goldstein said. Her hazel eyes sparkled. “Julia Sandback is the daughter of Morton Sandback.”

“Wow!” Katie sighed. “Julia's dad is a famous author!”

“As many of you know, Mr. Sandback has just published a new mystery called
Frogs, Dogs, and Mysterious Logs
,” Mrs. Goldstein said.

Bess giggled. “What a funny title.”

“Mr. Sandback also happens to be visiting his daughter for a week,” Mrs. Goldstein continued. “So, as a treat, he's going to appear at the Book Nook this Sunday at noon. He'll answer questions and autograph copies of his books. This is a great opportunity, children. I know I'll be there.”

“Me, too!” Nancy cried. Bess and George nodded excitedly.

The other kids were excited, too. Kyle Leddington turned to Orson Wong and said, “We should wear costumes on Sunday. I'll be a dog.”

“I'll be a frog,” Orson said. “Ribbit, ribbit.” He jumped around wildly until he jumped right into Bess.

Bess rolled her eyes at Nancy. “Boys!”

“There's one more thing,” Mrs. Goldstein said. “Julia has a special surprise for her father. She's come across a very rare copy of Mr. Sandback's first mystery,
Foul-up at the Floss Factory
.”

“What's so rare about it?” Katie asked. “I have that book at home.”

“This is a first edition of the book,” Mrs. Goldstein
said. “Most books are printed many times. But the first time is the most important. This first edition was published forty years ago, and only a few copies still exist. Even Mr. Sandback doesn't have one. So, Julia is going to present her father with the book.”

Andy wasn't impressed.

“Too bad it's not a comic book,” he said. “A first edition is really rare. That's what my dad says.”

“Actually, Andy,” Mrs. Goldstein said, “
Foul-up at the Floss Factory
is more like a comic book than you think. There's a picture on every page. The pictures are divided into boxes, just like a comic. That's called a graphic novel. You can see the story, as well as read it.

“In the back of the book, Mr. Sandback writes about reading comic books when he was a boy. Those comic books inspired him to write
Foul-up at the Floss Factory.

“Well,” Andy said, “it's still a book. And if it's a book, I don't like it.”

2
Seeing Mr. Sandback

H
urry, Daddy,” Nancy said, tugging at her father's hand. It was Sunday morning. Carson and Nancy Drew were walking to the Book Nook with Bess, Mrs. Marvin, and George.

“I don't want to be late to see Mr. Sandback,” Nancy said.

“It's only eleven,” Mr. Drew said, “and Mr. Sandback doesn't begin until noon. So, I think we're safe, Pudding Pie.” That was one of Mr. Drew's pet names for Nancy. He tousled her reddish blond hair as he teased her.

“Sorry,” Nancy said with a giggle. “I'm
just so excited to meet Mr. Sandback.”

“I wonder what he's like,” George said.

“Well, we'll find out soon,” Mrs. Marvin announced as they reached the end of Drake Street. “Here we are!”

The girls gazed up at the Book Nook. It was in a house that was three stories high and painted several shades of blue. On the front porch were comfy wicker chairs and lots of flowering plants.

“I love coming to the Book Nook.” Nancy sighed happily.

George pushed open the front door. It had a tinkling bell on the doorknob. “I like to pretend that all those skinny aisles between the bookshelves are secret passageways,” she said.

“I'm going to say hi to Charlie,” Bess called. She ran over to the store's front desk and peeked behind it.

Nancy followed her and took a peek, too. There was Charlie—a fat, fluffy, white cat with green eyes. As always, he was curled up on a plaid cat bed, looking grouchy.

Bess dropped to her knees. “He's so soooft,” she cooed, stroking Charlie's thick fur.

“Mrowr! Ssssss,”
Charlie complained. Then he swiped at Bess with his claws.

“Eeek!” Bess cried, jumping backward.

“I don't know why you like that cat so much,” George said. “He always tries to scratch you.”

“And he
never
gets off that bed,” Nancy said, “so you can't really play with him.”

“Ssssss,”
Charlie hissed, squinting his green eyes at Bess.

“Um, maybe we should leave Charlie alone now,” Nancy said. She grabbed Bess's arm to steer her away from the grumpy cat. Then she stopped in her tracks.

“Hey, the Book Nook is all changed around!” she exclaimed.

Usually bookshelves filled the first floor. Now a lot of them had been moved aside. In the center of the room stood a big wooden table stacked high with copies of Morton Sandback's latest book.

Facing the table were rows of folding chairs. A few people had already settled into their seats. Nancy saw that some of them were her classmates. Mrs. Goldstein, the school librarian, was there too.

“Why don't Mrs. Marvin and I save us some seats,” Mr. Drew said. “You girls can look around. Just be back down here in a few minutes.”

“Thanks, Daddy,” Nancy said. Then she turned to Bess and George. “Let's go!”

The girls headed for the stairs. The second floor of the store had rooms for unusual old books. There was also a room for kids. It had books and music as well as stuffed animals and toys.

“Let's check out the stuffed animals,” Bess said as they clomped up the steps.

“I think we should go to that dark room at the end of the hall,” George said. “You know, the one with all the history books. That's the spookiest.”

“Ooh, no!” Bess exclaimed as they reached the top of the stairs. “Too scary.”

“Come on,” George called. She dashed down the long, narrow hallway. “It'll be fun. We can play hide-and-seek.” She headed into the last doorway on the left.

“Ready or not, here I come,” Nancy called. She ran down the hallway, too, with Bess on her heels.

At the doorway to the history room, Nancy and Bess peeked inside. Nancy led Bess down one aisle of books. They turned left. Then right. Nancy found herself staring at a wall.

“Dead end!” she exclaimed.

“Where did George go?” Bess asked.

“George?” said a voice behind them.

Nancy and Bess spun around to see a young man in a brown T-shirt and worn corduroy pants. He had spiky black hair, and the nametag on his T-shirt said Anderson Quilling.

“Hi, Anderson,” Nancy said.

Anderson Quilling worked at the Book Nook. He knew where to find any book in the cluttered store, and he seemed to know the name of every child who shopped there.

“I just saw George sneaking into the science room,” Anderson said.

“Hey,” George called from far away. Nancy peered across the hall. George was crawling out from behind a big chair. She came over to the history room doorway. “No fair, Anderson. You just gave me away.”

Bess ran up to George and tagged her
shoulder. “You're it!” she announced.

“Oops,” Anderson said with a guilty grin. “Hide-and-seek, huh? Sorry, I didn't know.”

Bess pointed to a box tucked under Anderson's arm. “What's that?” she asked.

The box was rectangular and made of beautiful polished wood. It was exactly the color of caramel. Nancy saw a little silver lock on the lid.

“I can't tell you,” Anderson said. “It's a surprise.”

“Does it have to do with the rare book that Julia is giving to Mr. Sandback?” George asked excitedly.

Anderson's face fell. “Oh,” he said. “I guess you already know.”

“It's okay, Anderson,” Nancy said. “Even though we know about the surprise, it's still exciting.”

“Yes!” Anderson agreed. “A first edition of
Foul-up at the Floss Factory.
That's a big deal. You know, I'm trying to be a writer myself,” he told the girls. “Maybe someday I'll have a book published, too.”

Anderson heaved a big, sad sigh. Then he shook his head and tried to smile cheerily.
“Anyway,” he said, “a book like
Foul-up
can't be presented in a plain cardboard box. So, Julia asked me to find a beautiful gift box.”

“It
is
beautiful,” Nancy said. She reached out to touch the smooth wood, but Anderson pulled the box away.

“Ah-ah-ah,” he said. “Nobody gets to see this book until Mr. Sandback opens the box himself.”

Nancy checked the clock on the history room wall. “Well, if we don't get downstairs,” Nancy said, “the big surprise is going to be no seats.”

• • • 

A few minutes later Nancy and her friends were fidgeting in their chairs.

“I wish Mr. Sandback would get here already,” Katie Zaleski said. She was sitting in front of Nancy. “I have so many questions to ask him.”

Finally Julia Sandback stood up behind the wooden table. All the chattering kids and grown-ups fell silent.

“If you think it's fun to read a Morton Sandback mystery,” Julia said to the group, “imagine what it was like growing up with Morton Sandback as your father. My dad used to send my brothers and me on treasure hunts after dinner. The winner would get extra dessert.”

“Ooh, good idea, Mom,” Bess said. She prodded her mother with her elbow.

“My point is,” Julia continued, “that my father believes that adventures aren't just for books. But see for yourself. Here he is—Morton Sandback!”

With that, Mr. Sandback walked into the room. He was as tall and skinny and redheaded as Julia. He was dressed in plaid trousers and a black vest covered with felt patches. Some of the patches looked like books. Others looked like pens and pencils. Some looked like typewriters.

The famous author peered at the audience over half-moon glasses. Then he broke into a big, friendly grin.

“Thank you, Julia,” he said. “And hello there, kids. Let's jump right in. Who has a good, juicy question for me?”

“I do, I do,” shouted a dozen kids, waving their hands. One of them was Nancy. But
Mr. Sandback pointed to someone sitting behind her.

“Mr. Sandback,” said a squeaky voice.

Nancy twisted around in surprise. Andy Nixon was sitting right behind her, next to his dad. What was he doing here? He hated books!

“Which do you think is better?” Andy asked. “Comic books or book-books?”

Mr. Sandback laughed. “I guess most writers would say, ‘book-books,'” he said. “But I grew up reading comic books. I think they're great. I even tried to make some of my early books seem like comic books.”

“You mean graphic novels?” Andy asked.

“Exactly,” Mr. Sandback said. “I'm impressed that you know that.”

“Only because Mrs. Goldstein told us,” George whispered to Nancy and Bess. “Remember, she said
Foul-up at the Floss Factory
was a graphic novel.”

“Shh,” Andy whispered. “I can't hear Mr. Sandback!”

“And guess what?” Mr. Sandback said. “I think that if I hadn't read comics as a kid,
perhaps I wouldn't be an author today.”

Next Mr. Sandback called on Katie Zaleski.

“How do I become a famous writer like you?” she asked.

“I don't know about the famous part,” Mr. Sandback replied, “but I can tell you what to do if you want to be a writer. Just read as many books as you can. That's the best way to learn how to write.”

The next question came from George. “Do you write on a computer?” she asked.

“Oh, I'm old-fashioned,” Mr. Sandback replied with a smile. “I use good old number-two pencils to write my books.”

Nancy thrust her hand in the air once more. This time Mr. Sandback pointed at her.

“Mr. Sandback,” Nancy said, “how do you come up with all your mysteries?”

“Why, look around you, young lady,” he said. “Life is filled with wonderful mysteries. They're everywhere. I just take the time to write them down.”

“Cool!” Nancy whispered.

Many questions later Julia stepped to her father's side. “In a few minutes, Mr. Sandback
will autograph books for you. But first I have a special gift for my dad.”

From behind her back Julia brought out the beautiful wooden box.

“That's the box Anderson had in the history room,” Nancy whispered to Bess and George. “But where's Anderson?” Nancy looked around the crowded store. “I wonder why he didn't stay to see Mr. Sandback.”

Julia held up the box. “Dad, I bet you thought you'd never see this book again,” she said. “But when I came across this first edition of
Foul-up at the Floss Factory
, I knew you should have it.” Then she handed the box to Mr. Sandback.

“What!” he sputtered, staring at the box. Then he grinned from ear to ear. “What a wonderful gift!”

He flung the box open. Eagerly, he peered inside. Then his face wrinkled into a puzzled frown.

Julia peeked into the box, too. Then she gasped.

“The book!” she cried. “It's gone!”

3
The Mystery of the Missing Mystery

T
he book has disappeared?” Nancy cried, turning to her father. “But what could have happened to it?”

“I don't know,” Mr. Drew said. He looked concerned.

Julia was more than concerned. She was near tears. Nancy saw Mrs. Goldstein jump to her feet. She walked to the front of the room and put her hand on Julia's shoulder. She whispered something into Julia's ear.

Julia turned to the audience.

“Well, it appears we have a real-life mystery on our hands,” she said. “While I get on the
case, why don't you line up for Mr. Sandback's autograph.”

Then she dashed into the back office with Mrs. Goldstein at her side.

Nancy and the other children lined up in front of the big table. Looking sad, Mr. Sandback uncapped a pen and took a book from the first child in line. As he was about to sign it, he paused. Then he looked up, and he spoke.

“I didn't realize how right I was when I said mysteries are all around us, children,” he said. “But what I want to know is—are detectives all around us, too? Can any of you help me solve the mystery of the crook who took the book?”

Bess gasped and looked at Nancy. “You're a detective, Nancy,” she said. “You have to help Mr. Sandback.”

“Totally,” Nancy said. “I'll talk to him when I get to the front of the line. I feel so bad for Mr. Sandback. Why would someone take his first edition?”

“And he's so nice, too,” Bess said sadly. “He's just how you'd imagine Morton
Sandback should be. Right down to that funny vest with all the patches.”

Nancy bit her lip and nodded in agreement.

It wasn't long before she herself was standing in front of Mr. Sandback. She handed him the copy of
Frogs, Dogs, and Mysterious Logs
that her father had bought for her.

“Ah,” Mr. Sandback said, giving her a kind smile. “You're the young lady who was so interested in my mystery ideas.”

“Yes,” Nancy said. “I'm Nancy Drew. I'm a detective.”

“Get out of here,” Mr. Sandback said playfully.

“Uh-huh,” Nancy said. “I have a clue book and everything. But I don't have it with me. I didn't expect to run into a mystery today.”

“See, the missing book proved me right, Nancy,” Mr. Sandback said. “We must always be ready for a mystery.”

“Oh, I am,” Nancy replied, sticking her chin in the air. “In fact, I'm going to do everything I can to help you find that book, Mr. Sandback.”

“Why, thank you,” Mr. Sandback said. “Lots of other kids want to help out, too. The more sleuths, the better! If you or any of your friends find any clues, you can reach me here at the bookstore. I'll be in town visiting with Julia for the rest of the week.”

With that, Mr. Sandback opened Nancy's copy of
Frogs, Dogs, and Mysterious Logs.
He scribbled a message on the title page. Then he signed his name with big, loopy letters. He handed the book back to her and said, “Good luck, Nancy.” Then he winked.

Nancy grinned back and walked to the front of the bookstore. Mr. Drew and Mrs. Marvin were waiting there.

“Let's see what Mr. Sandback wrote in your book,” Mr. Drew said.

Nancy flipped open her book and read Mr. Sandback's message out loud: “‘For Nancy Drew, a clever girl who, with a clue, just may unravel this mystery new. Best of luck, Morton Sandback.'”

“Cool,” George said. She had just finished having her own book signed. “He wrote you a poem.”

Nancy was inspired. “I say we get to work solving this mystery right now,” she announced. “After all, we
are
at the scene of the crime.”

“I'm sorry, Nancy,” Mrs. Marvin said. “But Bess and George and I have to leave. We're having Sunday dinner with the girls' grandmother.”

“Time to leave already?” George said. “But this is a big, important mystery. I want to help. I mean, the thief could be making a getaway right now!”

“Well, I'm sure Julia is doing everything she can,” Mrs. Marvin said. “Why don't you girls and Nancy come here after school tomorrow. You can get started then.”

“All right,” George and Bess said together.

“Is that okay, Daddy?” Nancy asked her father as her friends waved goodbye.

“Sure, Pumpkin,” Mr. Drew said. “Don't worry. I'm sure the mystery will keep until tomorrow. Now, let's head home ourselves. I've got to do some work. But then we'll have macaroni and cheese for dinner.”

“With Hannah's apple pie for dessert?”
Nancy asked. Hannah Gruen was the Drews' housekeeper.

“You got it!” Mr. Drew answered with a laugh.

“Yum!” Nancy said. They headed for the door. Suddenly, something white and fluffy ran across Nancy's feet, almost tripping her.

“Whoa!” Nancy cried. “Hey, that's Charlie!” She watched in surprise as the grouchy cat darted across the bookstore.

“That's funny,” Nancy said. “I thought Charlie
never
got off his bed.” She glanced behind the front desk. Charlie's cat bed looked lumpy and messy.

“Then again, that bed doesn't look very comfortable,” she said. “If I were Charlie, I'd take a hike, too.”

Nancy shrugged and followed her dad out of the bookstore. As they began their walk home, Nancy frowned. Then she looked up at Mr. Drew.

“I wonder why someone would take Mr. Sandback's book,” she said.

“No idea, Pudding Pie,” Mr. Drew said. “What a shame.”

“The thief would probably be someone who loves to read,” Nancy said. “But that would make everybody who was at the Book Nook today a suspect. After all, they all love to read.”

Except Andy Nixon, Nancy suddenly realized.

Andy hates books, Nancy thought. On the other hand, he seemed pretty excited about what Mr. Sandback was saying about graphic novels. Maybe Andy wants to add graphic novels to his comic book collection. And he's going to start with
Foul-up at the Floss Factory!

This worried Nancy so much that she went straight to her room when she and her father arrived home. She opened her book bag and pulled out her shiny blue clue notebook. Turning to a crisp new page, she wrote, “The Mystery of the Missing Mystery.”

Then she scribbled, “Suspect #1: Andy Nixon.”

4
One Book Crook Gets Off the Hook

T
he next morning Nancy, George, and Bess were filing into school.

“How was dinner at your grandmother's?” Nancy asked.

“Great!” George said. “She made meat-loaf with lots of ketchup.”

“And strawberry shortcake for dessert,” Bess added, rubbing her tummy.

“But the mystery's more important than our dinner,” George said as the girls approached the school library. They had to pass the library to get to their classroom. “So, what do you think about Mr. Sandback's missing book, Nancy? Any suspects?”

“Well, there is one—” Nancy started to say. Then something caught her eye. Andy Nixon was standing at the library door. He was writing his name on the Internet sign-up sheet.

Every recess period two Carl Sandburg students were allowed to sign up for computer time in the library. Then Mrs. Goldstein would help them surf the Internet.

Nancy darted to Andy's side. She peeked over his shoulder at the sign-up sheet. Yes! The line next to his name was blank. Nobody else had signed up yet.

Andy finished writing his name and turned around. “Oh, hi, Nancy,” he said. “I'm skipping recess today, and it's not just because I hate dodgeball. I have some very important research to do.”

“What kind of research?” Nancy asked.

“Oh . . . just research,” Andy said. Then he showed Nancy the back of his hand. “Check out my temporary tattoo. It's one of my favorite comic book heroes, Slugman!”

“Ewww!” Nancy squealed. “Good thing that tattoo washes off.”

Andy gave her a funny look and headed down the hall.

Nancy sighed. “Why are my suspects always gross boys?” she whispered.

Then she remembered the Internet sign-up sheet. Nancy dug into her book bag for a pencil. She jotted her own name next to Andy's.

George and Bess ran up behind Nancy.

“What's going on?” Bess demanded. “Why did you dash off like that?”

George peered at the sign-up sheet. “You're skipping recess for computer time? But it's dodgeball day!”

“Do you see who else has signed up?” Nancy said.

“Andy Nixon,” Bess read off the sheet.

“Make that Andy Nixon, chief suspect in the missing book mystery,” Nancy whispered.

“Really?” George whispered. “You think Andy took the book?”

“I can't be sure yet,” Nancy said. “But maybe at recess I'll find out.”

• • • 

Nancy sighed. The morning seemed endless! First Mrs. Reynolds had given the class a spelling quiz. Next they'd done
math worksheets.
Three
math worksheets.

Finally the bell rang for recess.

“Yay!” yelled most of the kids, popping out of their chairs and racing to the classroom door.

“Dodgeball day,” Mike Minelli yelled. “My favorite!”

“Yuck,” Bess said. “I'm jumping rope!”

Nancy didn't say a word. She just grabbed her clue notebook and hurried to the library. She didn't want to miss out on Andy Nixon's “research.”

• • • 

In the library Andy settled into the computer chair. Mrs. Goldstein stood at his side. Today her cardigan sweater had green and purple stripes. She turned to Nancy as she walked into the library.

“Hello, Nancy,” she said. “Andy and I are just getting started. Would you like to look at a book while you wait?”

“Sure,” Nancy said, grabbing the first book she saw. It was about antique cars. Bo-ring. But that didn't matter. Nancy wasn't
really
going to read the book. Instead, she was going to see what Andy
was up to. She sat down in a chair near the computer and listened hard.

“So, what can I help you with, Andy?” Mrs. Goldstein asked.

“Can you help me find some graphic novels?” Andy said.

“Like
Foul-up at the Floss Factory?
” Mrs. Goldstein replied.

“Yup,” Andy said. “I want to know if there are other books like that.”

This proves it, Nancy thought as Mrs. Goldstein and Andy began pointing and clicking with the computer mouse. Andy must have stolen Mr. Sandback's book. Now he wants other graphic novels to add to his collection!

Click.

Click-click.

Click.

Nancy fidgeted. She pretended to read her antique car book while Mrs. Goldstein and Andy went from Web site to Web site.

Finally, Mrs. Goldstein said, “Well, we've found ten books, Andy. Would you like me to see if we have any of them here?”

“Yes, please,” Andy said.

But as Mrs. Goldstein went to check on the books, Nancy peered around her chair. Andy looked a little sad. “What's wrong, Andy?” Nancy said.

“Well, those other graphic novels might be okay,” he said, “but I bet they're not as cool as
Foul-up at the Floss Factory.

“Why do you say that?” Nancy said.

“Because Mr. Sandback was really neat,” Andy said. “I bet that was a really great old book. And it's a collector's item! I hope you catch whoever snatched it.”

Nancy's eyes widened. Mr. Sandback had turned Andy into a book lover! And a book lover would never steal a rare book. Andy seemed to be innocent after all.

Mrs. Goldstein returned, bringing Andy a small stack of graphic novels to check out.

“Thanks a lot, Mrs. Goldstein,” he said. Then he looked at the library clock. “Recess isn't over yet? Ugh—I guess I'm going to play . . . dodgeball.”

Andy slumped out of the library while Nancy bit her lip. Well, that's one suspect down the drain, she thought. But if Andy
didn't steal
Foul-up at the Floss Factory
, who did?

“So, Nancy,” Mrs. Goldstein said, turning to her with a kind smile. “Were you wondering about great books, too?”

Nancy gasped. Mrs. Goldstein's words had reminded her of something Anderson Quilling had said the day before: “I'm trying to be a writer myself. Maybe someday I'll have a book published.” And he had looked really sad. Anderson dreamed of being an author just like Mr. Sandback.

Maybe, Nancy thought, Anderson is jealous of Mr. Sandback.

“Um, maybe I'll come back another day, Mrs. Goldstein,” Nancy told the librarian.

Then Nancy opened her clue notebook. She crossed out Andy's name and wrote in: “Anderson Quilling—angry author?”

As she wrote it, Nancy felt bad. Anderson was really nice. She hated to think he had taken the book.

One thing's for sure, she thought. I need proof. And that means going back to the Book Nook with Bess and George!

5
The Book Man in the Basement

J
ust as Nancy closed her clue notebook, the bell rang. She hurried out of the library and headed to the cafeteria. She couldn't wait to tell Bess and George about Andy . . . and Anderson.

When Nancy arrived, Bess and George were already eating their lunches.

“I brought your lunch for you, Nancy,” George said. She passed Nancy's pink-and-purple lunch sack across the table.

“Thanks,” Nancy said. She opened her lunch and pulled out a tuna sandwich.

“So, what happened at the library?” Bess asked.

As she unwrapped her sandwich, Nancy told George and Bess everything that had happened with Andy and Mrs. Goldstein.

“You're right,” George said when Nancy had finished her story. “It doesn't sound like Andy would steal Mr. Sandback's book.”

“So now we're back to having no suspects,” Bess wailed. She took a big bite of her peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich.

“Well,” Nancy started to say, “actually—”

“Yah!” Mike Minelli yelled. He plopped down on the bench next to Nancy. He waved his forearm in front of her face. There was an angry red scratch running across it.

“Ewww, gross, Mike!” Nancy squealed.

“Yeah!” Mike agreed. But Nancy knew that to him, gross was a good thing. “Charlie the cat gave it to me at the Book Nook yesterday. That's one mean cat!”

“He's not mean,” Bess said. “He just doesn't like people to bother him when he's in his bed.”

Nancy gasped.

“What is it, Nancy?” George asked. Mike
had already jumped up to go wave his icky scratch in someone else's face.

“I just thought of something,” Nancy said. “Bess, George, I think we may have two new suspects. But we need more clues. Which means we have to head back to the Book Nook after school!”

• • • 

Since they already had permission, Nancy, Bess, and George headed to the Book Nook as soon as the last bell rang. When they walked through the door, they saw Julia sitting at the front desk.

“Well, hello, girls,” she said. “Back so soon?”

“We're here to help solve the mystery of the missing book,” Nancy said. “Unless the book's been found already.”

Julia's face fell. “No, I'm sorry to say there's been no sign of the book,” she said. “What a disappointment. I so wanted my father to have it.”

“Well, Julia,” Nancy said, “I have a hunch. And if I'm right, that book is right under your nose!”

“What?” Julia said. She sounded surprised.

“Well, actually,” Nancy said with a giggle, “it's right under Charlie the cat.” She pointed at Charlie, who was curled up in his plaid bed, scowling.

“You think Charlie took the book?” Bess cried.

“No,” Nancy said. “But maybe he has it. After the book disappeared, I noticed Charlie running away from his cat bed. And you know Charlie—”


Never
gets out of his bed,” Bess finished.

“So, if someone wanted to hide Mr. Sand-back's book,” Nancy explained, “Charlie's bed would be the best place in the whole store.”

“We just have to move Charlie so we can look,” Bess said. She sounded scared.


Mrowr
,” the cat growled.

“This could get ugly,” George said.

“Oh, Charlie,” called a voice on the stairs behind them.

Nancy spun around. “Mr. Sandback!” she said. “Hello.”

Mr. Sandback stood on the bottom step, grinning at the girls. “I heard what you said about your hunch, Nancy,” he said. “I think
it's a good one. And I may be able to help.”

He reached into his pocket and pulled out a catnip mouse. He walked over to Charlie's bed and dangled the mouse in front of the cat's nose. Then he tossed the toy a few feet away. Charlie meowed loudly and dashed after it.

Nancy pounced on the cat bed and lifted the bumpy plaid cushion. Nothing.

Nancy gazed up at Mr. Sandback sadly. “I guess my hunch was wrong,” she said. “Which means . . .”

“What is it, Nancy?” Julia said.

“I have another hunch,” Nancy said. She didn't want to tell Julia that she suspected Anderson. Not until she was sure. So she asked Julia a question instead.

“Can you tell me where you last saw the book before it disappeared?” Nancy said.

“It was in the wooden gift box that Anderson got for me,” Julia said.

“Where's the box now?” Nancy asked.

“I put it in the storage room in the basement,” Julia said. “Would you like to see it?”

“Yes, please,” Nancy said.

The girls followed Julia to the back of the bookshop and down a flight of narrow, rickety stairs.