Monday, September 1, 2014

The Three Investigators #25 Dancing Devil and #26 Headless Horse

In the Three Investigators #25, The Mystery of the Dancing Devil, Pete's young neighbor, Winnie, asks the Three Investigators to find her missing doll.  Her request sends the boys on a quest to find a black case that is being sought by a thief.  Each time the boys get close to a solution, a horrifying Dancing Devil jumps out at them and makes threatening statements.

The boys are on spring vacation.

This book overall struck me as a bit silly.  Over and over, someone dressed as the Dancing Devil jumps out at the boys and scares them.  I was reminded of the silly plot devices in some of the higher-numbered Nancy Drew books, such as The Mystery of the 99 Steps when the villains left Nancy warning notes constantly, which actually helped her solve the case.

I enjoyed this book except for the Dancing Devil scenes.

In the Three Investigators #26, The Mystery of the Headless Horse, Diego Alvarez and his brother, Pico, are in imminent danger of losing their ranch, which has been in their family for generations.  Skinny Norris' father has bought the neighboring ranch and is pressuring Pico Alvarez into selling.  The Alvarez's mortgage comes due, and money is needed immediately.  The Three Investigators hope to locate a valuable sword that would supply the enough money to save the ranch.

This book starts with the boys leaving school for the day.

My book is the first printing and has two mistakes that I noticed.  Page 43, line 11 has an extraneous line by Skinny Norris which should not be there.  On page 123, Sebasti├ín is misspelled as Sebastien

Page 52 mentions "the gloomy bust of Alfred Hitchcock on the filing cabinet."  This is an interesting reference to the original cover art of #2 The Mystery of the Stuttering Parrot

This book has long stretches where Jupiter and Diego investigate one lead while Bob and Pete investigate another.  The Three Investigators make good use of their time by examining two paths at the same time. 

This book is outstanding from start to finish. 

Friday, August 29, 2014

Nancy Drew Diaries #3 Midnight Rider and #4 Once Upon a Thriller

In Nancy Drew Diaries #3, Mystery of the Midnight Rider, Nancy and Ned cheer on Ned's friend, Payton Evans, as she competes in the River Heights Horse Show.  Soon into the show, Payton's horse, Midnight, tests positive for drugs.  Ned is certain that Payton would never cheat, so Nancy investigates who is responsible for sabotaging Payton in the competition.

On page 7, Bess is described as "girly," so it sounds like she has retained her characterization from the Girl Detective series.

This book feels exactly like a Nancy Drew Digest book, just written in first-person narrative.  It is like a typical sabotage book, but the book takes a bit of a twist.  And I do mean quite a twist

I got a little bored around page 110.  By page 149, I was really bored.  On page 164, Nancy thinks, "The huge, colorful jumps had actually taken my mind off the case for a few minutes."  I needed something to take my mind off of the book.  I was so very bored!

By page 170, I was interested in the book again because I had guessed the culprit and was interested in how the rest of the story would play out.

Overall, the book is not bad, but the middle part could have been more interesting.  For around 60 to 70 pages, absolutely nothing happens except for Nancy wondering who the culprit is as she wanders around asking people questions. 

In Nancy Drew Diaries #4, Once Upon a Thriller, Nancy, Bess, and George travel to Moon Lake for what they expect to be a relaxing weekend.  Instead, the girls find mystery when a local book store is set on fire.  Nancy learns that a mystery author, Lacey O'Brien, lives at Moon Lake.  Strangely, the book store fire is similar to an event in one of Lacey's books, and other crimes that soon occur are also like events from Lacey's books.

The idea of someone setting up a crime spree to copy events from a book reminds me of the plot from Nancy Drew Digest #79, The Double Horror of Fenley Place, in which each scene filmed for the movie also occurs at the house across the street.  The plots of the two books are not at all the same, but I couldn't help thinking of Fenley Place as I read this book.

This book is set at Moon Lake and in a nearby town, Avondale.  In the very first Nancy Drew book, The Secret of the Old Clock, Nancy stays at Camp Avondale on Moon Lake.

On page 31, Nancy and Bess paddle while George rests.  This is very strange.  George has always been the athletic one.

On page 43, the word "portaged" is used.  The previous book has the word "fractious."  I feel like these are words that many children would have to look up. 

We learn on page 53 that Ned and his father are still involved with the newspaper, the River Heights Bugle.

Nancy goes looking for a typewriter, just like in the old mysteries, because a threatening note was typed on an old typewriter with a damaged key. 

This is a very good book.  I enjoyed it from start to finish.  The book grabbed me immediately, and I love the setting.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Three Investigators #23 Invisible Dog and #24 Death Trap Mine

In the Three Investigators #22, The Mystery of the Invisible Dog, the boys are hired to help Fenton Prentice, who has a mysterious intruder in his apartment.  Prentice sometimes spots the intruder, who appears as a shadowy figure.  Shortly after the boys begin their investigation, a valuable crystal statue of a dog is stolen from Prentice. 

This book is set in late December while the boys are on break from school.

The solution to the mystery of the missing crystal dog is quite ingenious. 

The books written by M. V. Carey usually have some aspect of the occult woven into the story, although typically, the books are written in such a way that the reader could come up with a logical explanation for the events that does not involve the supernatural.  This book leaves no room for doubt.  One of the characters experiences astral projection while he sleeps, and the story is written so as no other explanation is possible.

This is a very engaging and entertaining story.  The book is outstanding.

In the Three Investigators #24, The Mystery of Death Trap Mine, Allie Jamison tricks the boys into helping her solve another mystery.  Allie is staying with her uncle in New Mexico, and she is convinced that their neighbor, Thurgood, is up to something.  The boys travel to New Mexico to stay with Allie and her uncle. 

Allie also appears in The Mystery of the Singing Serpent when she blackmails the boys into helping her solve a mystery.  Allie is a likeable character who adds an interesting dimension to both stories in which she appears.  Allie could get old if she were overused, but I wouldn't have minded seeing her in one or two other books.

This is another excellent book.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Revisiting Nancy Drew Diaries #1 and #2

I read and reviewed the first two Nancy Drew Diaries books over a year ago in "Nancy Drew Diaries Series."  Please read that post for my original thoughts.  On this reading, I was able to do what I could not do last year:  compare the new Diaries series to the Girl Detective series.

In Nancy Drew Diaries #1, Curse of the Arctic Star, Nancy investigates who is behind acts of sabotage on a cruise ship.  Bess has a boyfriend, Alan, who travels on the cruise with Nancy, Bess, and George.

Nancy does not appear to be clumsy in this book.  She seems more interested in clothes than she was in the Girl Detective series, as evidenced on page 2.  Nancy says that River Heights is "catatonic" on page 6.  She thought that River Heights was pretty exciting in the Girl Detective series, and it was!

George may still be into technology to some degree.  George loves free things, as in free anything.  George loves to eat.  She eats and eats massive quantities of food and doesn't gain weight.  This is very strange.

I find both Bess and George to be annoying in the first two books.  George comes across as a very disagreeable bumbling fool.

On page 132, George mentions a zip line accident that occurred in Costa Rica, and this did happen in Nancy Drew Girl Detective #40 Green with Envy.  This means that the Nancy Drew Diaries series is set in the same universe as the Girl Detective series, so we can conclude that all of those events are relevant to this series. 

This book and the second book have the same story arc.  This is similar to the trilogies at the end of the Girl Detective series.  Nancy finds the culprit of this book but realizes at the end that there must be another culprit.

In Nancy Drew Diaries #2, Strangers on a Train, Nancy, Bess, George, and Alan are still on the cruise.  Nancy continues to investigate who is responsible for all the sabotage.

These books are like the trilogies from the Girl Detective series.  This story must have been originally intended to be a Girl Detective trilogy book and was adapted for this new series.  I shudder to think of how this story would have developed if it had been stretched into three books.

While I enjoyed these two stories, Bess, George, and Alan are all very annoying, so that reduced my enjoyment greatly.  The characterizations are quite off.  I see these first two books as transitional books from what was the Girl Detective series to what will be the Diaries series.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Three Investigators #21 Haunted Mirror and #22 Dead Man's Riddle

In the Three Investigators #21, The Secret of the Haunted Mirror, Mrs. Darnley asks the boys to help her guard a mirror that once belonged to a magician named Chiavo.  The mirror is said to be haunted by the spirit of Chiavo, but Mrs. Darnley's immediate concern is that someone is trying to steal the mirror.  Soon, Mrs. Darnley has greater concerns when she and the boys see Chiavo's spirit in the mirror.

On pages 70 and 71, Mrs. Darnley's grandson, Jeff, wants to go down the stairs to the basement with the Three Investigators as they try to find the phantom.  Mrs. Darnley protests, and Jupiter points out, "Mrs. Darnley, the phantom may not be down there.  He may be out of the house and away."  The phantom may not be down there.  How does that mitigate Mrs. Darnley's concern?  You get one guess as to whether the phantom was down there.  I'm sure you know the answer.

This book is really spooky, and I greatly enjoyed it.

In the Three Investigators #22, The Mystery of the Dead Man's Riddle, the friend of a deceased wealthy, eccentric man files his last will and testament.  The will is published and contains a riddle that leads to the man's fortune.  The Three Investigators eagerly join the hunt along with half of Rocky Beach.

In this book, the boys finally go to school.  This book is set in the spring.  On page 8, the boys plan to have a meeting before school the next morning.  What a relief.  I was beginning to worry about the boys' lack of education.

It's actually a bit awkward for the boys to be attending school, since school has not existed in any of the other books. 

This is another good story, and I enjoyed it.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Thoughts on the Nancy Drew Girl Detective Series

The Nancy Drew Girl Detective series was a drastic change for Nancy Drew.  The narration changed to first-person, and the characterization of Nancy and her friends was changed significantly.  While I agree that Nancy was made to be a bit too clumsy and forgetful, I did not mind most of the changes.  The key is to see the Girl Detective Nancy Drew as Nancy Drew in an alternate reality, and to me, the books are a lot of fun. 

The Girl Detective books I like the best are the ones that use the new premise.  This is because River Heights really comes alive in the new premise.  Ned's character is fleshed out better, and while Bess and George have some personality changes, they become more interesting characters.  

Even though I like the changes, I have to wonder why Simon and Schuster changed the Nancy Drew character so drastically from perfect to clumsy and forgetful.  Could Nancy have been made clumsy because some people didn't like Nancy's perfection?  If so, that was a mistake because all it did was alienate many Nancy Drew fans and probably did not gain the series new fans.  People who already hated Nancy Drew due to her perfection would not have tried out this series.  A publisher should never change a premise in order to appease people who don't like the original premise.

I began purchasing each book new as it was released and read #1-6 and the first Super Mystery in that first year.  I liked the books and wanted to continue purchasing them, but Simon and Schuster lost me for a different reason.  I purchased the books new up through #8 and then had trouble getting an unflawed copy of #9.  My local stores seemed to only have flawed copies with wrinkled spines.  I was not going to pay between $5 and $6 each for copies that were not in collectible condition.  I was not going to drive all over central Oklahoma looking for nice copies, and I couldn't risk buying from Amazon, since Amazon could also end up sending flawed copies.  I quit buying the books and began acquiring them when I could find cheap, used copies.  That's why I never got around to reading all of the books until this year.

While I enjoyed the seven books I read years ago, I assumed I would end up hating the series because most collectors seem to strongly dislike the series.  I was pleasantly surprised to find that I enjoyed most books in the series.  My only complaint is that the series is quite uneven and could never settle on one premise.  This is because the series has not just one premise, but three of them:  the Girl Detective premise, the Nancy Drew Digest premise, and the Modern Trilogy premise.  The series switches between all three. 

#1-6 These books introduce the Girl Detective premise.  They flow nicely, and we learn all about the new River Heights and its cast of characters.  These are great books for people who like the Girl Detective premise.

#7-8.  Simon and Schuster probably ran out of time to come up with enough original stories based on the Girl Detective premise.  These books follow the Nancy Drew Digest premise and seem like Nancy Drew Digest stories that were revised for the Girl Detective series.  They don't fit in with the first six stories.  They are just like digest books but are instead in first-person narration.

#9-14  The series returns to the Girl Detective premise of #1-6.  These are very good books with the exception of #13 which I do not like at all.

#15-29  These books are a mixture of the Girl Detective premise and the Nancy Drew Digest premise. #27, 28, and 29 may be the very best books from this part of the series.  Just like with the Nancy Drew Digest series, some of the strongest books occur right before either a drastic change or a deterioration in the series. 

#30-47  The series switches to the Modern Trilogy premise.  Now the stories center on very modern story ideas, including identity theft, virtual reality games, reality television, and environmentalism.  I enjoyed seeing some of these new ideas explored.  However, the trilogy format stretches out the stories too much and makes them very predictable. 

Since the series switches from one premise to another, the stories in the Nancy Drew Girl Detective series are more varied than in the digest books.  While I wish the series had been more consistent, I am glad for the varied plots, because I had less trouble getting through these books than I did with the digest books.  Of course, there are also far fewer of these books, so that is a factor.  It may also have helped that I had only read #1-6 plus the first Super Mystery ten years ago and had read none of the others before.  There are some that I know I can never read again should I ever decide to read this series again.

I greatly enjoyed the vast majority of the books in this series.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Three Investigators #19 Phantom Lake and #20 Monster Mountain

In the Three Investigators #19, The Secret of Phantom Lake, a museum sells its relics to the Jones Salvage Yard.  As the boys load the relics into the truck, a man named Java Jim arrives and tries to threaten the boys into letting him have an old trunk.  Little do the boys know that the trunk holds a clue to a hidden treasure, and Java Jim is determined to find it before anyone else can!

I notice that the boys are on winter vacation in this book.  They have been on a perpetual summer vacation for most of the series.  The cold winter weather ends up playing a role in the plot, which is nice for a change.

I really enjoyed this book.

In the Three Investigators #20, The Mystery at Monster Mountain, the boys travel with Hans and Konrad to Slalom Inn to visit their cousin, Anna, whom they have not seen in years.  Anna has recently married, and her husband, Mr. Havemeyer, is not very welcoming.  The boys soon learn that a monster has been spotted on the nearby mountain.  Two of the inn's guests quarrel about animal's rights, and Anna is strangely nervous. 

I really enjoyed this book.  I made an educated guess as to the solution of part of the mystery, and it was fun looking for additional clues to support my conclusion as I continued reading.  The clues were sprinkled throughout the book, so I was able to solve the mystery right along with the Three Investigators.  Outstanding!

The solution to the mystery of the monster is left open-ended, and this adds to the intrigue.  Some readers will find that part annoying, but I didn't mind.  I have my own solution as to what I think the monster is, so I am fine with the book not explaining it.

This book is outstanding.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Nancy Drew Girl Detective Ghost Stories and Super Mystery Books

The Nancy Drew Girl Detective Ghost Stories consists of four stories.  Each story contains some reference to ghosts and has some unexplained events.

The editing is very sloppy in this book.  Ned's name is given as Nick on pages 63, 149, 151, 159, 160, 185, 190, and 191 and probably other times that I missed.  These stories must have been written for something else and then changed to the Nancy Drew series.  There is really no excuse for that bad of editing, since a simple search-and-replace command would have easily found every single "Nick" and replaced it with "Ned."

In "Manga Mayhem," Nancy, Bess, and George travel to Japan with Carson Drew.  Mr. Drew is involved in a case that concerns possible plagiarism.

This story didn't really grab me, and I didn't find it that interesting.

In "America's Got Terror," Nancy and her friends stay in a haunted house during filming for a new reality show.  Nancy soon realizes that someone plans to commit a crime.

This story has problematic editing.  George leaves the show for home on page 102, but then reappears in the house on page 106.  She is then back home right after that.

In "Visitor from Beyond," Nancy investigates the strange behavior of an Emerson student.

A character mentioned on page 136 is named Grace Horton.  Grace Horton was the model for the cover art of the very early Nancy Drew books from the 1930s.

In "Carnival of Fear," Deirdre goes missing while at a carnival.  This story is quite spooky, and I liked it the best of the four stories.

I would have liked all four stories better if they had been fleshed out more.  Since they are just short stories, they are lacking.

In Nancy Drew Girl Detective Super Mystery #1, Where's Nancy?, Nancy has disappeared.  Bess, George, and Ned try to find her.

On page 11, River Heights is celebrating its 75th Independence Day celebration. This book was published in 2005, so this is a reference to Nancy Drew's 75th anniversary.

On page 37, George calls Bess "Miss Sunnybrook Farm."  Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm is an old children's book.

I read this book years ago, so I knew the solution to the mystery.  While I did enjoy the book years ago, I did not enjoy it very much on this second reading.  Bess and George had a good clue as to what Nancy had been investigating when she disappeared, and it took them nearly the entire book to investigate that location.  That location was where Nancy was found.  Infuriating.

In Nancy Drew Girl Detective Super Mystery #2, Once Upon a Crime, Nancy's favorite mystery author is helping a local charity renovate an old theater so that it can be used by troubled youths.  Nancy volunteers to help on the project.  Nancy's friends are unable to join her, so Nancy finds herself alone with Deirdre and several other people who take an instant disliking to Nancy.

I found this book to be boring for the first 40 pages.  The book also contains excerpts from Nancy's favorite author, placed after certain chapters in the book.  The excerpts were written after the events from this story concluded and tell the story of this book, so they are supposed to give us some insight and pique our interest.  I found them to be distracting and annoying.  I only enjoyed one of them and read or skimmed the rest of them as fast as I could so that I could get on with the story.

Aside my initial boredom and the distracting excerpts, I found this book to be outstanding.

In Nancy Drew Girl Detective Super Mystery #3, Real Fake, Nancy wins a role in the Mystery Solved! reality television series.  Nancy travels to Paris for filming.  The mystery centers around a stolen necklace, and eight contestants, including Nancy, compete to see who can find the necklace first.

Nancy receives several anonymous emails, which gradually become threatening.  Nancy realizes that she must solve two mysteries: one that is fake and another one that is real.

While I enjoyed this book, I found that too much time was spent on solving the fake mystery.  Of course that's the point of the reality show, but I didn't feel it was necessary for the book to print Nancy's detailed lists of what she had just learned from the suspects.  I began to skim those lists, because I already knew everything on them.  I also didn't care about the fake culprit for the reality show.  I only wanted to know the identity of the real culprit of the real mystery.

This book has 186 pages and is good, but it would have been better if it had been shortened by 20 to 30 pages.  Longer is not always better.