Friday, May 2, 2014

Nancy Drew Girl Detective #1 Without a Trace

After the Nancy Drew Digest series concluded with #175 Werewolf in a Winter Wonderland, Nancy Drew was relaunched in a new series, Nancy Drew Girl Detective.  The Girl Detective series switched the voice from third-person narration to first-person narration, a first for Nancy Drew.

The Girl Detective series is not a continuation of the original Nancy Drew series, but rather, a new modernized Nancy Drew.  I see Nancy Drew Girl Detective as Nancy Drew in a parallel universe.  The books are a lot of fun so long as they are considered to be set in a parallel universe.  To me, that is the key to enjoying the books.

In the Girl Detective series, Nancy Drew is absent-minded and often forgets to fill her car up with gas.  She doesn't care whether her hair is brushed, and she often puts on mismatched clothing.

Nancy's best friends, Bess and George, still have their same basic qualities, except now George is the one who is a computer genius.  George is still a tomboy, and Bess still loves clothes and flirts with every boy.  Bess is now good at fixing things, such as car engines.

Ned is still Nancy's boyfriend, and he loves to read.  He isn't that interested in mysteries, but he fully supports Nancy when she has a mystery to solve.  Ned's father publishes the River Heights Bugle.

Nancy has a new rival, Deirdre Shannon.  Deirdre was in Nancy's class in school, and Deirdre's father is a prominent attorney.  Deirdre plays dirty tricks on Nancy and her friends all the time.  It seems that Deirdre must have met Lettie Briggs of the Dana Girls series at some point in the past.  She knows all of Lettie's moves.

The series sets up River Heights as a small town near Chicago.  The town's history is fascinating, and the history comes into play in the stories.  The town has its share of town characters, and they play roles in the mysteries.  Among them are Harold Safer, a cheese shop owner; Charlie Adams, a tow truck driver; Mrs. Mahoney, a wealthy widow; Luther Eldridge, an expert on River Heights history; and Evaline Waters, a retired librarian.  These characters appear in multiple books, and their presence sets up a nice continuity.

In Nancy Drew Girl Detective  #1, Without a Trace, Nancy investigates the theft of a FabergĂ© egg while she tries to find out who trampled Mr. Safer's zucchini plants.

I found it quite jarring reading the opening chapters of this book after reading so many Nancy Drew books in third-person.  After around 30 to 40 pages, the book completely captivated me.  I can tell that they spent a lot of time working to make this an engaging book with lots of humor.  The book is rich in description.  River Heights really comes alive.

Back when this book was first published, I felt like I was the only Nancy Drew fan who did not think the zucchini subplot was stupid.  The zucchini subplot didn't bother me years ago, and it doesn't bother me now.  Nancy and her friends even poke fun at the zucchini case, and to me, the zucchini subplot is mainly present for comic relief.  What's wrong with that?

Also, the zucchini subplot is not that different from the sort of mystery that Trixie Belden would solve.  The Trixie Belden books have great descriptions of everyday life, and Trixie finds mystery even where there is not much of a mystery.  I am thinking of the game preserve mystery in Trixie Belden and the Mystery Off Glen Road.  That book is wonderful.

Sure, the plot is different for a Nancy Drew book, but it's a welcome change.  I found it hard to slog through most of the last six Nancy Drew Digest books, and after I got into the first person dialogue, I enjoyed the changes brought by this book.  This book is rich in characterization and description of everyday life, just like the Trixie Belden books.

 This is not the Nancy Drew of #1-56 or even of #57-175.  This is a new Nancy Drew. 


A Candle to Read By said...

Sometimes, I think my imagination and appreciation for change is limited by my profession (History prof), but I wonder why an author would use the Nancy Drew name just to change her so much. I can understand a shift in person (1st v 3rd) but why change her persona so much? I am really, really posing this question to get a different perspective as with my last question to you. THanks, and I did order a Dana Girls from your site for my collection. Janis (homeschool mom)

Jennifer White said...

They probably did it to appeal to today's young people in order to gain new fans. What happened instead is that they offended a large number of longtime Nancy Drew fans and collectors. I am in the minority in that the changes did not bother me, but it appears that most fans were quite upset and refused to buy the books.

I think most of what they did with the series was great, but they should not have made Nancy so forgetful that she frequently runs out of gas. That's just stupid. I think that more longtime fans would have been more receptive to the changes if they had not gone quite that far.

Jennifer White said...

I also think there is a chance that they were trying to appeal to specific people who have always said that they hate Nancy Drew because she is too perfect. Those people already hate Nancy Drew too much to give a new series a try, and people who like Nancy's perfection end up hating the new series. It's a lose-lose proposition, but we see many businesses make those kinds of decisions.

I hope you enjoy the Dana Girls book!

A Candle to Read By said...

What you say makes a lot of sense--particularly about the "perfect" characteristic. And change for the sake of change offends some of us.