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.

Friday, August 8, 2014

The Three Investigators #17 Singing Serpent and #18 Shrinking House

In the Three Investigators #17, The Mystery of the Singing Serpent, Allie Jamison begs the boys to get rid of Hugo Ariel, who is a visitor in her home.  The boys have no choice; Allie knows all about one of the secret entrances to their junkyard hideout and threatens to tell Jupiter's aunt and uncle.  Allie's aunt, Miss Osborne, is presently staying with Allie, and Miss Osborne is involved with some strange cult, of which Hugo Ariel is a member.  Miss Osborne is very fearful, and the boys try to pry her from the clutches of the cult.

I really like how Allie forces the boys to take her on a client.  This is a different approach from the other books.  Allie adds an interesting dynamic to this story.

This is a very engaging book, a perfect book.  The book has a few twists and turns that help make it captivating.  I really enjoyed it.

In the Three Investigators #18, The Mystery of the Shrinking House, Professor Carswell has sold the belongings of a deceased artist to the Jones Salvage Yard.  Shortly thereafter, the man's relatives show up wanting his belongings.  As the Three Investigators try to find the items, they discover that others also seek the items, especially 20 paintings of a cottage.  The paintings apparently hold the key to the hidden location of a valuable object.

The title of the book is strange in that most of the story has absolutely nothing to do with a shrinking house.  It is not until well into the story that the title of the book finally makes sense.

This is a good book.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Nancy Drew Girl Detective #45-47: Malibu Mayhem Trilogy

The Nancy Drew Girl Detective Malibu Mayhem Trilogy consists of the following titles.

#45 California Schemin'
#46 Mystery at Malachite Mansion
#47 Stalk, Don't Run

In #45 California Schemin', Nancy, Bess, and George vacation in Malibu in celebrity event planner Stacey Manning's beach home.  The famous reality stars, the three Casabian sisters, live next door.  Nancy soon learns that Mia Casabian has been staying at the spa on the other side of Stacey's home for the past several weeks.  Nancy begins to suspect that the spa is run by a cult, so the girls infiltrate it.

The narrative is obnoxiously informal.  Nancy uses "vacay" for vacation and describes Bess and George as her "BFFs." 

The three Casabian sisters have a reality television show called Chillin' with the Casabians.  Quite obviously, they want us to think of the Kardashians.

I thought that the narrative was a bit flat for much of the book.  I liked the idea of a cult, but it wasn't as scary as it could have been.  Towards the end, however, the book became more suspenseful.

In #46 Mystery at Malachite Mansion, Nancy and her friends have exposed the cult.  Everyone believes that the cult leader is dead.  The Malachite beach has been damaged by oil stored on a yacht that exploded offshore.  Stacey Manning plans a celebrity event to raise money for the cleanup.  The girls are asked to move into Malachite Mansion, which is where the cult was.  The girls are a bit creeped out and worried.

This book is quite suspenseful.  I thoroughly enjoyed it.  Finally, we get a trilogy where the second book is not a retelling of the first book.  Furthermore, the culprit responsible for the oil spill is quite surprising.

In #47 Stalk, Don't Run, Nancy, Bess, and George are back in River Heights.  The Casabian sisters show up in River Heights hoping to test out an idea for a new reality television series.  Meanwhile, Bess's younger sister, Maggie, attends Camp Paloma, where the director suddenly begins acting strangely.  Nancy is shaken up when a strange man begins stalking her.

The title of this book is stupid.  Does Nancy's stalker stalk and Nancy doesn't run?  Does Nancy stalk, and someone else doesn't run?  I'm confused.

Nancy's stalker was obvious.  Anyone who has read the previous book should know, and it bothered me greatly all through the book that Nancy didn't consider that possibility at all.  She was shocked at the reveal, and I knew all along.  I hate it when books make something so obvious and then have the protagonist completely ignore it.

Even worse, Nancy, Bess, and George completely ignored Maggie's story about a "monster" in the camp.  If they had paid any attention at all, they would have figured out the solution.

I am puzzled that when Nancy's brakes are sabotaged that Mr. Marvin fixes the car.  What about Bess?  What about Charlie?  Speaking of Charlie, I was further puzzled that Mr. Marvin fixes the car, then Charlie delivers it.  Does Mr. Marvin now work for Charlie's garage?  Since when is Mr. Marvin a mechanic?

Even though the third book in this trilogy is a bit weak, the trilogy is overall very good.  I greatly enjoyed it.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

The Three Investigators #15 Flaming Footprints and #16 Nervous Lion

In the Three Investigators #15, The Mystery of the Flaming Footprints, a local potter, known only as The Potter, disappears mysteriously the day his daughter and grandson show up to visit him.  Meanwhile, three men show up in town at the same time, and they all take an interest in The Potter's family.

This is the first book in the series written by M. V. Carey.  The tone of the book is very good.  However, she made the police chief hate Jupiter, and this is a continuity problem.

This story grabbed me quickly, and I found most of it to be outstanding.  However, I found the long descriptions of Lapathia and its history to be convoluted and boring.  The ruling family was deposed with some of them executed, then someone else took office and ruled as a dictator.  I had to force myself to read it, since I found it confusing and boring.

Basically, this mystery involves dangerous people after something valuable that The Potter has in his possession.  The mysterious flaming footprints are spooky.  This is interesting enough.  Why have the explanation involve foreigners from Lapathia?  Why have the boring history lesson?

I just wish that a better explanation had been given for the mystery.  The Lapathian history made me feel the same way I did when I was reading any of the Wanderer Nancy Drew books set in Europe.

If Lapathia had been left out of the story, I would say that this book is outstanding.  Most of the book is outstanding.  Since the part about Lapathia bored me, the book is instead overall very good.

In the Three Investigators #16, The Mystery of the Nervous Lion, the boys are asked to investigate why a lion at an animal farm has been acting nervous.

I'll tell you why:  Some strange person has been messing around the lion's cage, thereby making the lion nervous.  Duh.  I knew that before the Three Investigators began their investigation.  Guess what?  I was right.

Now that I have that out of the way, the introduction by Alfred Hitchcock is copied from The Mystery of the Screaming Clock.  Parts of the opening scene also seem very familiar, so I wouldn't be surprised if some parts were copied from other books.  This book was written by Kin Platt under the pseudonym, Nick West.  Platt also wrote The Mystery of the Coughing Dragon, and the first page of that book was copied from another Three Investigators book.

At times, I just wanted to just get on with the story.  I felt like the description of the sanctuary just went on and on with too much discussion about the animals.

Jupiter came up with a really bizarre theory about the solution of the mystery.  He knew that the crime was smuggling, but he came up with this theory that was convoluted on who was doing what, and it made little sense.  He thought the ringleader was someone I was certain was innocent.  I was correct, because Jupiter's theory made no sense whatsoever.

The explanation of the mystery with Hitchcock in the last chapter just went on and on.  I was so bored and will admit that I skimmed part of it.  The explanation was way too complicated.

In fact, around 10 hours after I finished reading the book, I couldn't remember momentarily if a certain person was one of the guilty people.  The ending was that convoluted.

I enjoyed a good part of the book, but I did not enjoy all of the parts with unnecessarily complicated descriptions and explanations.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Nancy Drew Girl Detective #42-44: Sabotage Mystery Trilogy

The Nancy Drew Girl Detective Sabotage Mystery Trilogy consists of the following books.

#42 Secret Sabotage
#43 Serial Sabotage
#44 Sabotage Surrender

In #42 Secret Sabotage, Nancy is asked to help Lexi Claremont, who has been targeted online by bullies.  Lexi is the current Daughter of River Heights, and she is to be in a big parade at the 80th River Heights Celebration.  Someone is threatening Lexi and is sabotaging the celebration.

This book was published in 2010, which was the year of Nancy Drew's 80th anniversary.  The book paid homage to that by mentioning the 80th River Heights celebration on page 3. 

This book involves more bullying, and the overall premise in this book is very similar to the Identity trilogy.  I had trouble getting into it because Lexi is not likeable. 

At the end of the book, we learn who has been responsible for some of the threats against Lexi.  We learn that someone else is responsible for the rest of the threats as well as the sabotage to the carnival.

In #43 Serial Sabotage, Nancy tries to figure out who is sabotaging the carnival and parade.

This book is annoying because from page one, everyone calls Nancy "Fancy Nancy."  It annoys Nancy, and it annoyed me.  "Fancy Nancy" was run into the ground due to extreme overuse.

Two people in this book have similar names:  Josh and Joshua.  While similar names are common in real life, books should not have more than one person with the same or similar names.

Notice that Nancy is wearing the same outfit on the second and third books of the trilogy.  This is unbelievably lame.  Why would they put the same outfit on two books?  It gets worse.  The first book in the next trilogy also uses the same outfit, which makes three books in a row!

In #44 Sabotage Surrender, Nancy works to find the true culprit of the sabotage. 

The beginning of this book is very boring.  The first 22 pages rehash all of the events from the previous two books.

The book has continuity problems.  Bess and George are scared to go inside the school after hours and are afraid they will be caught.  I thought that in previous books that Bess and George were more brave.  George is now the one who can pick locks when earlier in the series, Bess was the one who could do it.

I could see the culprit from a mile away.  I guessed the real culprit's identity in the very early part of the first book in the trilogy.  It was that obvious.

While this trilogy has some problems, I enjoyed all three books.