The author of this book is definitely knowledgeable about Nancy Drew. On page 28, a reference is made to a "Mrs. Benson," and of course the original Carolyn Keene was Mildred Wirt Benson. Furthermore, the author of this book made Nancy similar to the perfect Nancy of the revised text era.
On page 2, we learn that Bess "would rather send a paper letter than an e-mail." That's a strange habit for a modern teenager. Before cell phones came into vogue, my teenage students passed folded notes around the room. I haven't seen a folded note in quite a few years. Instead, the students send each other text messages. I wonder whether statements about preferring paper letters are only put in these books to appeal to the older readers. The statement is so bizarre that young readers probably wonder what is wrong with Bess.
I have a newsflash for Simon and Schuster. Most of the older readers will never read this book. They either gave up after the first two titles in the series or after the abomination of The Magician's Secret. Only the most stalwart Nancy Drew collectorsor gluttons for punishmentare still with this series by this point.
This book is a clear improvement over previous books and even most of the better books in the series. Let's take it point by point.
1. The case is urgent.
The basic premise of this story solves one problem I have had with a number of the books in this series. I noted how in the previous volume, Nancy has to remind herself to get serious about the case. In this story, Nancy doesn't have to convince herself to get serious. The theft of over $100,000 is quite serious, and Nancy has only three hours to solve the case. The case is immediately urgent, which makes the story compelling.
2. Nancy doesn't go to the restroom.
Nancy and her friends do end up in the restroom, but this is just to discuss the case. Nothing is mentioned about using the restroom. Thank goodness. They might have gone while in there, but I was glad not to read about the experience.
3. Nancy's sleuthing abilities aren't belittled.
Actually Margot does belittle Nancy, but she is rude to everyone in the story. Nancy's friends support her fully. Nancy is not the target of jokes.
4. Nancy is confident.
Nancy goes through a dangerous situation when she crosses from one side of the riverboat to the other on a narrow ledge right above the paddle. Nancy is aware of the grave danger, but she tells herself, "I [can] do this." She doesn't have this confidence in some of the other books.
5. Nancy has above average abilities.
On page 89, Nancy gets a royal flush even though she has never played poker before. In another scene, Nancy cracks a combination in just a few minutes. Nancy Drew is supposed to be quite capable. We are supposed to look up to Nancy Drew, and this book nails it. Nancy Drew isn't Nancy Drew unless she retains her original character traits, which has been one of the biggest problems with this series.
6. Technology is used properly.
I wrote recently that the Hardy Boys Adventures series uses technology properly while the Nancy Drew Diaries series does not. Finally, Nancy Drew and her friends understand how to use technology.
In one scene in this story, Nancy becomes aware of something while speaking to a suspect. Her realization shows on her face, so one of her friends sends her a text message asking her what she has realized. What a great way to have a private conversation right in front of suspects!
Also, the girls decide that the combination to the safe might have been figured out by one of the people who was filming on their cell phones. Technology can be used well, and both of these are good examples.
I have three observations that are not so positive. First, the story is too short. Second, the culprit is extremely obvious. I knew who was guilty from the very beginning as soon as the character was introduced. Finally, the story appears to be a sabotage story. In the end, the theft is not sabotage, but even a story that appears to be sabotage gives off the wrong impression when practically every other book in the series has been sabotage.
This book is nearly as good as the Hardy Boys Adventures books, which I consider a better series due to the overall inconsistency and lameness of the Nancy Drew Diaries series. I wouldn't be surprised if one of the good Hardy Boys Adventures authors is the author of this book. Regardless, Simon and Schuster needs to keep using this person for the Nancy Drew Diaries. My fear is that they won't.
This is a very good book. If I had read the book before I read any of the Hardy Boys Adventures, I probably would have rated it excellent or outstanding. I still like the Hardy Boys Adventures better, but this book is a huge step in the right direction. If Simon and Schuster will continue the series along the lines of this book but take it just a little further, we'll be set.