Nancy Drew #64

Captive Witness

Basic Plot Summary: On a tour of Austria, Prof. Bagley and Eric Nagy are given the assignment to spirit ten orphans over the border to the Western world from Eastern Europe. Nancy is also asked by her father to find a copy of the film Captive Witness which has been stolen from the Vienna Film Festival. The movie has been put together from footage smuggled out by director Kurt Kessler. Instructions regarding the transfer point for the orphans have been hidden in Eric's wheelchair (he is only pretending to be paralyzed so that enemy agents won't suspect him of being capable). Click here for chapter by chapter synopsis of the action.

This is a somewhat unusual Nancy Drew mystery as she does not sort through a list of suspects to solve a mystery. In a pre-Glasnost storyline which is politically charged, Nancy learns early on who her enemy is, and spends most of her time tracking him down. During her adventures, Nancy employs several 007-type gadgets such as a special silent car with 4-wheel drive that converts into a boat with pontoon sacks and propeller drive shaft, and a trick book which emits tear gas.


Austria: Salzburg, Vienna, Mörbisch (on the Austria-Hungary border)

Recurring Characters

primarily Ned Nickerson; also Bess Marvin, George Fayne, Carson Drew, Burt Eddleton, Dave Evans


  • Professor Raymond Bagley - tour leader of Emerson group, sometimes U.S. secret agent
  • Eric Nagy - wheelchair-bound student of Hungarian descent; speaks Hungarian, German, Czech, Russian, Polish and some Romanian
  • Unnamed bus driver, Mozart fanatic
  • Herr Schoenburg - manager of hotel in Salzburg
  • Bruckner - hotel porter
  • Kurt Kessler - expatriate Hungarian filmmaker, director of Captive Witness
  • Richard Ernst - official at Vienna film festival
  • Robert Haberman - U.S. intelligence contact
  • Emile Popov (and wife) - original escort for 10 orphans
  • Georg Waldheim - art patron who gets Nancy into the chorus
  • 10 children - orphans ranging from age 6 (three children) to age 13


Adolph Gutterman - agent hired to repatriate Kessler; aka Heinrich Hagedorn; poses as obnoxious realtor

Herr Burger - wears disguises to pose as porter, bus driver and messenger who steals the film

Motivation: Hired by unnamed Eastern European country which wants to retrieve footage of oppressive government practices which has been smuggled out of the country by Kurt Kessler during his defection. This country also wishes to prevent 10 orphans from being reunited with relatives outside the country.


Nancy poses as a member of the chorus in a production at the theatre on the Neusiedler See which lies on the Austria-Hungary border. After dark, as soon as the show is over, Nancy slips into a wet suit and joins Eric where they inflate inner tubes and cross the border via the See. They meet the Popovs with the kids and cross back.


hotel reservations cancelled

Ned &Nancy kidnapped, nearly topple over cliff in a car

attacked by a Doberman, who gets tear gassed

Nancy's talents fights with fake porter - assumes a judo stance
resuscitates heart attack victim with mouth-to-mouth and CPR

Key clues

sounds of trains & merry-go-round & 12 steps (leads to location of film)

Nancy's outfits

navy blue skirt, white blouse, powder blue cardigan

red 1880s ball gown (w/ brunette wig)

Meaning of the title

Title of Kurt Kessler's film; the film is being held captive - it serves as witness to the oppression of the Eastern European regime


shopping list requests baseball cap for Dave, but Burt gets the disguise

items of interest

reference is made to the Footlighters Theater Group (from Dancing Puppet)

next book notice is erroneously titled "The Gondolier's Secret" (#65 was later released as "Mystery of the Winged Lion")


Below is a gallery of all the covers I have found for Captive Witness. Below each picture is the artist's name, and a brief description of the scene depicted.

Wanderer "Arch" cover by Ruth Sanderson (left): page 169 - leaving the theater in an 1880s gown to meet Eric; Nancy and Eric hide in the pilings after changing into scuba gear, waiting for the audience to disperse when Gutterman calls out that Nancy Drew is urgently needed for a message, but Nancy doesn't fall for the ploy; Nancy should be wearing a dark wig.

Scholastic cover by Kinuko Craft (right): same, except Nancy is wearing the dark wig with ringlets. Note title has been changed to "Captive Witness Mystery."

Wanderer "Checkerboard" cover by Hector Garrido: page 172 - towing the innertubes to rescue the children; should be wearing black greasepaint on her face and Eric should be with her.

Minstrel cover by Linda Thomas: page 176 - crouching in reeds as they spot a patrol boat; Eric goes to distract the guards (who turn out to be Austrians anyway) and Nancy and the kids get to shore; only 2 of 10 kids? Eric and Nancy should be in blackface; they carry one small boy because he is asleep.

Angus & Robertson (Australia) and Wahlströms (Sweden) cover by Peter Archer: page 68 - Gutterman's brown spy car has gone through the railing on Alpine road and dangles precipitously. Only Nancy and Ned are visible in the car - they should be in the backseat with Gutterman and Burger in the front.

Armada (UK) Format "C" cover by unknown artist: composition of elements from the story: Nancy in scuba gear from rescue (except Nancy doesn't use any tanks or face masks and her suit should be black); Gutterman in background; significance of the castle unclear - prehaps a reference to the Austrian setting?

Hachette (France) cover by Jean Sidobre: this scene of Nancy being pursued by the brown sedan does not take place during the story. In Chapter 2, Ned is almost run down by the spy car, and in Chapter 9 Nancy escapes from the Alpine cabin and makes her getaway in the car.

Forlaghuset (Norwegian) cover by unknown artist: same scene as Sanderson above. Wahlströms (Swedish) 1990s cover - recycles the third American artwork by Linda Thomas (see above).

Indira (Indonesian) recycles Sanderson artwork


This chronological listing of printings mimics the identification system developed by David Farah for his guide on Nancy Drew. He has given me permission to replicate his system for the purpose of categorizing the paperbacks from this series. For those of you not familiar with his methods for identifying a printing, the first line describes the outside of the book (cover/spine/back cover) and the second line describes the internal pages (inside cover/pre-text pages/post-text pages/inside back cover).

Sanderson/W1/cream on grey/2.50,42361-4,+
bl/pwt/bl/tp+/cp/tc/bl//Fan ad (wb)/bl/ND#57-64, LC#1-5/blx3/bl

Sanderson/W1/cream on grey/2.75,42361-4,+
bl/pwt/bl/tp+/cp/tc/bl//Fan ad/bl/ND#57-69, LC#1-7/blx3/bl

Sanderson/W1/cream on grey/42361-4,2.85-2.95,+
bl/pwt/bl/tp+/cp/tc/bl//Fan ad (wb)/bl/ND#57-72 ao, LC#1-9 of/blx3/bl

3rd (General Publishing Co., Ltd.)
Sanderson/W1/cream on grey/no bar code, 42361-4, GPC, +
bl/pwt/bl/tp+/cp/tc/bl//Fan ad/blx5/bl

4th (details unknown)
Sanderson/W1/cream on grey/42361-4,xx,+
bl/pwt/bl/tp+/cp/tc/bl//xx/blx3/bl unknown

5th (details unknown)
Sanderson or Garrido/W1/cream on grey/42361-4,xx,+
bl/pwt/bl/tp+/cp/tc/bl//xx/blx3/bl unknown

Garrido/W2/two toned light brown/3.50,pic,+,62469-5
bl/pwt/ND#57-78/tp/cp/tc/bl//ND#57-78 ao of/RHts CCF/HB#59-85 ao of/DrG#1-6/bl

1st Minstrel
Garrido/M1/two toned light brown/pic,+,62469-5
bl UPC/pwt/ND#57-83/tp/cp/tc/bl//ND#57-85 ao of/HB#59-92 ao of/LCA(3) of/Min (18)/bl

2nd Minstrel
Thomas/M1/dark violet/pic,70471-0
BF#1-8/exc/ND#57-94/tp/cp+/tc/bl//ND#57-94, g1 of/HB#59-101, g of/RHts#1-4 of/LL (8) of/NewBT ad

bl/pwt/bl/tp+/cp(12-1, 3-6/8)/tc/bl//blx6/bl internals



Foreign Title

Title's translation


Alice et le témoin prisonnier

Nancy and the imprisoned witness


Kitty och flyktingmysteriet

Nancy and the refugee mystery


Detektiv Nancy Drew blir kidnappet

Nancy is kidnapped

Indonesian Rahasia kursi roda The secret of the wheelchair

Captive Witness, artwork by Ruth Sanderson © 1981 by Simon & Schuster, New York.
Captive Witness Mystery, artwork by Kinuko Craft © 1981 by Scholastic Book Services, New York.
Captive Witness, artwork by Hector Garrido © 1986 by Simon & Schuster, New York.
Captive Witness, artwork by Linda Thomas © 1990 by Simon & Schuster, New York.
Captive Witness, artwork by Ruth Sanderson © 1981 by Simon & Schuster, New York.
Captive Witness, artwork by Peter Archer © 1982 by Angus & Robertson, Sydney.
The Captive Witness, artwork unattributed © 1983 by Fontana Paperbacks, London.
Alice et le témoin prisonnier, artwork by Jean Sidobre © 1983 by Hachette, Paris.
Detektiv Nancy Drew blir kidnappet, artwork unattributed © by Forlagshuset, Oslo.
Rahasia kursi roda, artwork by Ruth Sanderson © 1981 by Simon & Schuster, New York.


© 2000, 2002, 2008 Lea Shangraw Fox