Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Book #52: The Secret of the Forgotten City

Nancy vs. racially stereotyped villains...and herself

Our tale starts with Nancy helping a woman, Mrs. Wabash, who was assaulted and robbed on her way to see Nancy.  Apparently, she had some mysterious and age-old stone tablets that would lead to a treasure she wanted a world-famous girl detective to help her find.  However, an early entrance by our main villain, aptly named Fleetfoot Joe (because he's fast, doiii) stymies the young detective off the bat.  Just as Mrs. Wabash is explaining the case, Nancy's friends waltz in and announce a surprise dig in Nevada where the gold is rumored to be.

Coincidence much?!!!  Mrs. Wabash attempts to explain that she heard the detective was going on the dig, but I'm just not buying it this time, guys.  After years of completely unbelievable serendipity, this is where I'm drawing the line.  Either Mrs. Wabash is secretly evil, or I call SHENANIGANS.

Anyhow, Fleetfoot was only able to make off with one of the less important tablets, but is on Nancy right away when he discovers her involvement, trying to snatch the other tablets.  At one point he grabs Togo (not TOGO!) and says he's going to shoot the dog if he doesn't get his tablets.  For several harrowing hours, Nancy and her friends think Togo is laying out there shot, when he returns home good as new.  Hooray!  Then, because Fleetfoot Joe clearly doesn't know how to hold a captive for ransom, he sends a note after Togo's return that contains vague threats about how he could have shot Togo and something worse might happen if Nancy doesn't get him the stone tablet given to her by Mrs. Wabash.  Uhhhh, you already didn't shoot Togo, guy.  It's a little too late to ask for something in return.

Nancy, being a frikkin' level A genius, hand chips away a fake stone tablet with similar but slightly off clues.  She then proceeds to age the tablet with chimney soot, and totally trick FJ into buying her charade of a tablet.  However, when the boys (Ned, Burt and Dave) head to the dropoff location, they are surrounded and a spectacular kicking of asses ensues.  Nancy (being an off the charts level MASTERMIND) blows a police whistle to make the thugs think the cops are rushing in, and the boys are saved.  This was the best part of the book by the way, as the rest of the story pretty much blows.

The gang heads to Nevada and a rather diffuse and boring tale ensues.  The only thing that brought me out of my bored haze was the rampant racial stereotyping of Native Americans.  The fact that they are referred to as "Indians" for the whole book made me cringe a little, but I can accept that given the time and setting of the book.  What I couldn't get past was the insinuations that people of mixed race are not to be trusted (Fleetfoot Joe is half "Indian" and, again. a villain is described in terms relative to his "darkness" of skin, eyes and expressions) and the general mockery of Native American culture. Their guide is made fun of for thinking that a white woman would be cursed for wearing a Native American artifact, and Burt does a not-so-hilarious skeleton dance in which he says "I'm from a different civilization!" in an overtly spooky voice. (Have I referenced that scene in Fututrama yet?  Well, I'll do it again: "I'm not from here!  I have my own customs!  Look at my CRAZY PASSPORT!"). There is also an actual scene where Nancy and her friends are listening to names called over a loudspeaker in the hotel lobby and giggling at surnames like "Rainbow" and "Antler."  When they meet Miss Antler, she seems apologetic for her own name and uncomfortably takes part in her own mocking.  It's the first scene of any Nancy Drew book where I really feel like Nancy and her friends are children.

Of course, Nancy and her pals find the gold--or was it jewels?  I don't remember, with all the boredom and cultural guilt washing over me.  But I need to talk about something really important.  It's time for a mini episode of...


Too Fat to Ride an Alpaca: 
The Mysterious Fat Shaming of Bess Marvin

     Bess Marvin had finally thrown caution to the wind, and was preparing a grilled cob of corn with cheese in her ever-empty house, when George strode in.  

"Hey, fatty," George said with her trademark sensitivity, "Pack up your clothes.  We're going on a dig with Nancy and the boys, which will probably include a dangerous mystery and a lot of physical exertion."

"But, I was just..." Bess began, sighing.

"Take your cheese corn with you," George sniped.  "Time to go!"

As always,, Bess complied.  Even though she really didn't have the stomach for these mysteries anymore and was starting to wonder if she'd ever find any interests of her own, she loved Nancy like a sister and George was family.  Tactless, bitchy family.  And at least she would get to see Dave.  He teased her from time to time, but seemed to enjoy her curves and femininity.

Bess had barely arrived in Nevada when George laughingly zings her again after her cousin brings up the dangers of scorpions in the desert.  "You're worried about scorpions?  Well, if you get bit, I'm not carrying your chunky butt back to camp so you best be careful."  

She tried to ignore the remark but tears sting in her eyes.  It seems like she's in a no-win situation.  Whenever she eats rich food, her friends exchange glances and make snarky comments.  When she's dieting, they make fun of her too.  She had already schlepped her admittedly more curvaceous ass to Nevada when a 102-degree desert filled with scorpions was pretty much LAST on her list of places to visit.  What more did they want?

Would she ever bee good enough for them?  With only a 100-lb load would she EVER be light enough to ride an alpaca?


Yep, that's right, more fat shaming.  Even the narration in the book points out the hopelessness of her situation this time--the catch 22 of her being mocked for eating and dieting.  At one point, Bess goes MISSING, and George suggests they all check the kitchen.  Really, George?  Is no one worried about Bess?  Omigod, is Bess BARB?  

Okay, fortunately not.  She doesn't meet with the horrible foul play of the beloved Barb (#barbslifematters).  But my point should still be well taken.

The story ends with a sort of "meh" climax.  Fleetfoot Joe is caught, and the gang finds the treasure.  There might have been a good story in there, but it was way too watered down with fat shaming and racial stereotypes for me to enjoy it.  This one gets 2/5 mags.

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Saturday, June 4, 2016

Book #51: The Mystery of the Glowing Eye

James Patterson presents 
The Mystery of the Glowing Eye.  There are really some shades of Patterson in here.  Only much better written.  Too bitchy?  Well, perhaps.  But true.

Wow.  Where to start?  This ended up being one of the best original Nancy Drew books I've ever read, and I can't believe it wasn't on my previous favorites list.  It has everything from a cat and mouse chase to a bitchy intruder who wants to edge in on Nancy's territory (think a lady version of Mortimer Bartesque) to a wily and clever criminal with a funky name.  Everything!!

Our story starts with Nancy talking with Bess and George about a case her father mentioned in passing, something to do with a glowing eye.  He didn't have time to elaborate before his new colleague, Marty King, tells Nancy not to bother because SHE has the case covered.  Poor Nancy is distraught, thinking her father may have found someone new to help him solve mysteries.  I admit I wondered if she was overreacting a bit, but I have to remember she never is.  Marty King is a bitch with a capital B. 

The girls are just comforting Nancy about this possible usurper to her crime-solving throne when a helicopter lands on their front lawn.  Okay, this is not the first time a helicopter or small plane has landed in their yard so I have to ask: Just how big is the Drew's property?  Obviously pretty effing big if small aircrafts are landing there regularly.  Anyway, the helicopter has no pilot, so it's basically an early model drone.  No one is in the copter but there is a note from Ned that says "Beware of the Cyclops!"  Spooky!

Before the drone can take off again, Nancy and her friends tie it to the ground with heavy rope and call for a police guard to watch it until they can figure out if Ned has met with some kind of foul play.  Meanwhile, journalists flood Nancy's apparently epic front yard and ask her if this is some kind of publicity stunt.  It hasn't been since Whistling Bagpipes that we've seen this kind of action--Nancy feeling the consequences of her local (and sometimes international) super-stardom while she's freaking out over Ned.   When Nancy finally gets away from the paps, she checks with Ned's frat bros, including Burt and Dave, she learns that there has been a "rumor" circulating that Ned was abducted.  Um, isn't that the kind of rumor you want to take seriously, guys?  

Overnight, Nancy hears the helicopter flying away from her house and calls the police.  When they arrive, they find the guard knocked out in some bushes and Hannah Gruen gasps with dismay.  "How dreadful!" she says.  And then the policeman responds with the best line I've ever heard: "Indeed it is, ma'am. And so is all crime."  

The next day, the girls take to investigating but don't quite know where to start.  Nancy's father had mentioned a mystery concerning a glowing eye, but still hadn't taken five minutes to explain.  And Ned's note had mentioned a cyclops--was this connected with the glowing eye?  Well, of course it is, but we don't know that yet.  While they are eating at a restaurant and George is once again fat shaming Bess by telling her the Cyclops is a monster that feasts on plump young ladies like herself, Nancy is shocked to see her father sitting a few secluded booths away...with Marty King!  The two look awfully chummy, and I can't quite tell if Nancy is more upset at the prospect of her father replacing her long-dead mother with some 22 year-old hussy, or at the fact that this woman keeps bragging that she's going to solve the glowing eye mystery.  Since Nancy is a proven android, I'm guessing it's the latter. Her dad, still not divulging the details of the original mystery, gives her a clue to check out The Anderson Museum.  What is going on, Carson?

At the museum, they are coldly received by the proprietor, Miss Wilkin.  At first she just seems like one of those stereotypical buns-up librarian/teacher/docent who thinks all these places of knowledge would be just perfect without the kids.  But her behavior starts to seems a little dodgy and I wonder if she has anything to do with the mystery, particularly when she acts strangely upon showing them the glowing eye exhibit, which was evidently created by a crazy red-haired Emerson student named Zapp Crosson.  He's also called "Crossy," so we know he must be evil.  Only Nancy Drew villains and Best Boy Grips on movie sets have such weird nicknames.  Apparently, old Crossy disappeared at the same time Ned did.

After the weirdness at the museum, Nancy and the gang decide to check out the airfield to see if anyone knows anything about a driver-less helicopter in the area.  A pilot, Glenn, offers to give them a ride and scan the area, and they eventually discover a few clues to Crossy's whereabouts at the airfield.  The gang heads back to the engineering lab where Ned was working on some kind of formula for cold light (wait, wasn't that the same formula that was stolen in Mirror Bay?).  They are looking for clues when a bomb goes off in the lab!  The FBI comes to investigate, and pretty much all the authorities are treating Nancy like she's Morgan Freeman in [insert James Patterson title here], some genius consultant who has the metaphorical keys to the case.

Mrs. Nickerson calls on Nancy to check out some notes and files that Ned had mailed to their house and Nancy et. al are on the move again.  I swear, the action in this book is moving so fast I keep thinking it's almost over but we're just halfway through, dear audience.  While poring through Ned's files, Nancy asks for a large pin/chalkboard to arrange her clues.  Annnnnnddd, she's Morgan Freeman again.  Soft, ominous classical music might at well be playing as Nancy carefully researches and puts together clues on her crime board.  She is just about to come to a conclusion when she sees a man with bright red hair (Crossy!) on a ladder up against the Nickerson's house copying her work!  Um, what is it with criminals and their ladders?  There must be a top secret spy ladder store all these d-bags frequent.  

Nancy's revelations lead them on yet another cat and mouse search when they follow the clues and see the driver-less helicopter above them.  They trek through a swamp and along a long path, losing the helicopter but finding Zapp Crosson's hideout.  But, there's no Crossy to be found--and no Ned.  However, Ned left a diary of his captivity and we see Nancy start to get really freaked out about how Ned could be maimed or even killed by this psycho.  I found it a little surprising, her being an android and all, but realized that she, like Data, might have an emotion chip.

Nancy's distress is compounded when she keeps trying to track down her father for more information about the case, now that she is sure the glowing eye and Ned's abduction are connected, and his secretary always announces he is out at various meals with Marty King.  At one point she even calls her own home and Marty answers, saying she's preparing dinner for Carson.  Um, is this woman responsible for Mr. Drew's diet now?  Marty again humble brags about her contact in the glowing eye case and Nancy starts to wonder if her contact has been Zapp Crosson all along.  She describes her contact as someone who would like to be her boyfriend but "she likes someone else better."  Carson?!!!   Whoa, Nancy,  You might have to take this bitch all the WAY downtown.

Now that Nancy has put together the possible connection between Marty and Crossy, she wants to track her down right away but remembers that she had a helicopter date with Glenn, the pilot from the airfield.  Whoa, slow down,  Are you making dates with handsome pilots while Ned is chained to a wall somewhere?  Nancy decides to have Glenn copter her over to where Marty is.  Because apparently that's a perfectly reasonable method of transport now, at least in this story.  Can I start coptering to Target when I need to run errands?  That would certainly be easier than driving in Bay Area traffic.  

When Nancy reaches Marty, she interrogates her LIKE A FRIKKIN' BOSS.  Every time Marty goes off on a tangent, Nancy just sternly repeats her question, until the bee-yotch finally cracks.  Marty admits that Crosson has been feeding her information because he wants to get close to her.  She tells Nancy Crosson might even have several more hideouts, including one at the museum.  Nancy basically mic-drops and leaves the room, because her work is done.

Nancy and Glenn casually helicopter on over to the museum and Nancy checks out the glowing eye exhibit again, to the chagrin of the crusty old docent Miss Wilkin, who seems irritated that she's returned.  At one point, Nancy gets pinned between a secret sliding door and the old bitch seems more upset that she's messing with the exhibit than that Nancy nearly lost an arm.  Okay, this woman is definitely involved.  Glenn helps out by massaging Nancy's hand and arm and I'm starting to get uncomfortable.  Who is this GLENN, really?  And people keep reacting with raised eyebrows when Nancy brings him around.  Is this guy. like, super sexy?  What kind of sexy guy is named GLENN? All I can think about is poor Ned, captive and probably starving, calling out Nancy's name weakly while she's off gallivanting with some cartoonishly sexy pilot named frikkin' GLENN.  Of course, GLENN offers to chauffeur her around some more, coyly saying at the end of the day that if she ever needs his help again, he'll "come flying in" to save the day.  

Ughhh.  Buh-bye, Glenn.  See you never.

When Nancy finally remembers she's in a committed relationship, she hooks up with Bess, George, Burt and Dave again to resume their search.  They discover that Miss Wilkin has suddenly resigned and everyone heads back to the museum, finding that more than a little suspicious.  As it turns out, they are 100% right.  When they investigate the sliding door that had pinned Nancy earlier, they find that it opens into a secret room, one that Crossy has been hiding in for quite a while judging by the piles of old food and dirty clothes.  He has a stack of diaries with notes about helicopters, epic poetry about himself, the "Cyclops", and even a note to his dear Aunt...MISS WILKIN!!!  So, Crossy/Cyclops did have an insider at the museum.  The gang decides to stake out the place, and their efforts are rewarded when Crossy's helicopter lands and he sneaks into the glowing eye exhibit.  Quickly, the gang restrains him and Nancy busts out some electrical wire and hogties the dude in under a minute.  Is hogtying something else we can find on Nancy's endless resume of skills?

Crosson is arrested and then we find out that his boundless love of his helicopter was truly his downfall.  First of all, it led them to almost all of his hiding spots. THEN, he took the copter to sneak back into a crime scene.  Most conspicuous criminal ever?  Hours later, Ned arrives in the self-flying helicopter and says that he was able to steer the craft back home from Crossy's third hideout because the boy had "let him drive it" a few times. Way to give your captive the keys to the getaway car, dude.

In the best device ever in Nancy Drew books, Ned has the floor to tell the amazing tale of his captivity.  He explains every clue he left, and every question we had left unanswered.  The only question I have left at the end of this book (other than how it's SO AWESOME) is how Carson's mystery even connected to the glowing eye in the first place.  But that question is answered too when Nancy returns home with Ned (not GLENN).  Apparently, a client of Carson's saw the glowing eye exhibit at the museum and suspected Miss Wilkin of misappropriating funds.  So, it was a connection, but also basically a McGuffin.

When Nancy asks Carson what Marty King thinks of all this excitement, he flushes red and tells her he had to let Marty go.  Apparently, she PROPOSED MARRIAGE.  To Mr. Drew.  

Nice, try, Skankbot 5000.  Nice try.  

Nancy tells Carson that it's okay if he wants to remarry someday, but try not to make it a mystery stealing ho-bag.  He agrees and it's a happy ending for all.

Whew!  This one was amazing.  I give it a surprise 5/5 mags

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Friday, May 20, 2016

Book #50: The Double Jinx Mystery

...or, as it should be called: The Triple Dog Mega Secret Probation Jinx Mystery

This book was...really weird.  Our story starts off with Nancy being asked to help a client of her father's whose exotic bird farm is set to be torn down by a local real estate company called "High Rise Company."  Yes, the generic High Rise Company wants to pave paradise to put up a parking lot, so to speak, and they have pulled out all the stops to get Mr. Drew's client, Oscar Thurston to sell his farm.  The Thurstons are your typical Nancy Drew sob story, a kindly old man and his handicapped wife who just want to keep their aviary and home. Mrs. Thurston, however, is a bit high strung, what with the constant threats.  She insists they are being jinxed.  No, DOUBLE JINXED.  I'm betting my this story's end, Nancy and her fiends will be triple dog mega secret probation jinxed, but that's just a guess.

And I'm totally right!  Nancy, Ned and their friends get into a mess of trouble, from obtaining some kind of bird flu after the exotic pets are poisoned to getting shoved over a dam.  Each time something bad happens, someone says they must be jinxed and I'm starting to feel like I should be making the whole thing into a drinking game.  They also keep saying the word "Eurasian" which I feel like might be semi-offensive but apparently is something people were described as.  The Thurstons have a mysterious Eurasian house guest, Kamenka (or, Kammy) who is studying orinthology at the local college and she has a pet, a Eurasian bird named Petra.  The rest of the book is so peppered with references to birds and people of Eurasian descent that I can't help but note that I would be extremely drunk right now if it were a drinking game.

Hmmmm. A reading drinking game.  I might have to make that a thing.

The "mystery" of who is responsible for the sabotage, threats and bird poisoning incidents that have befallen the Thurstons is clearly going to lead back to this High Rise Company, so each dangerous incident ending in the jinxing, double jinxing, or dodectuple jinxing of our heroes kind of falls flat.

The criminals, clearly hired by the aforementioned HRC (and it's owner, Mr. Wright) have names like Spike, Merv Marvel and, I kid you not, Slick Fingers O' Maylay.  Yet another example of why parents are really doing their children a disservice by naming them things like "Shifty," "Swindly," or "Slick Fingers."  You're really setting those kids up for a life of crime, guys.

Most of the book sees Nancy lobbying the town council to vote for an addendum to the High Rise project that restores and maintains the Thurston's farm, and is really the only interesting part of the book, save for the bizarre ending.  It's incredible how dull a book can be that contains repeated bomb threats.

In the end, Nancy "saves" the Thurstons by getting the council to vote to save it, and also manages to track down the criminals.  Slick Fingers is easy enough to pin down, but Nancy is kidnapped by one of the main crooks, Merv Marvel.  He is actually an ex high-jumper for the ballet, a real Baryshnikov (Nancy and Ned had discovered his involvement while looking for clues at the ballet). Apparently, Merv saw Nancy dancing--which she can do because of COURSE she can--and decides he wants to take Nancy to dance at his weird demonic coven.

Wait, back up (insert "truck backing up" sound)...

Yeah, this is where things get weird.  Merv Marvel takes Nancy captive and suggests that she be his new "dancing partner."  Nancy goes along with it to stay alive, and then the two of them dance-leap to this old barn, at which point it seems like Merv wants to take Nancy as his bride.  When they enter the barn, Nancy sees a bunch of people in masks dancing in a "convulsive" and "snake-like" manner.  At this point in the narrative, I'm doing cartoonish eye-rubbing double takes and wondering if I somehow forgot that this Nancy Drew book ends in an Eyes Wide Shut-esque orgy.  It does not.  Apparently, Marvel is part of a demonic cult that tricks weirdos and criminals into giving its "Grand Master" lots of cash.  The whole thing is set up by--big surprise--the dude from the High Rise Company.

Wow.  What a ludicrous way to end that story.  A story in which, inexplicably, Nancy and everyone around is convinced that jinxes (DRINK!) are real and that bad luck is a thing.  The whole novel feels kind of disjointed and not really befitting the Nancy Drew vibe.

I give this one a disappointing 2/5 mags.

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Nancy Drew Drinking Game:


*Drink whenever Nancy has a double/doppelganger
* Drink whenever Nancy can somehow do everything perfectly (act, model, dance etc.)
*Drink whenever Bess is fat shamed
*Drink whenever Ned remarks about marrying Nancy and she totally blows him off
*Drink whenever George says "Hypers!"
*Drink whenever Bess is afraid
*Drink whenever someone is kidnapped
*Drink for every criminal with a hilarious name
*Drink whenever it's not a haunting


*Drink whenever you see the word "Jinx"
*Drink whenever you see the word "Eurasian."

Congratulations.  You're now dead.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Book #49: The Secret of Mirror Bay

The Secret of Mirror Bay...
...is that Nancy has one million doppelgangers.

No, really.  She must have one MILLION.  Unless titian hair is so uncommon that anyone with similar hair color is automatically mistaken for her.  Let me back up.

The original gangsta mystery is the ghostly happenings surrounding Aunt Eloise's vacation cabin where they are staying, the Mirror Bay Bide-a-Wee.  Some say (the start to any verified story) that a woman has been seen gliding across the top of the water, and that a mad sorcerer roams the woods, bearing an unearthly glow.  Ooooh, this has all the makings of another...


Nancy Drew: Have you ever had a pesky ghost haunt your bed & breakfast?  A no-good spook send you other-worldly messages about giving away your fortune?  How about a phantom just going to TOWN on your showboat?  Well, we're Nancy Drew and co. and we're here to tell you--it's never a haunting!  That's right, say it with me once more: IT'S NEVER A HAUNTING!

You've got it, folks.  Our River Heights crew is back and they're here at Mirror bay to de-stress...and debunk!!!

George Fayne:  Well, at first when we heard about the lady floating on the water, I was like "bitch, please."  I mean it's never a ghost.  Never!

Bess Marvin: Oh, sure, I believe.  I mean, it's never turned out to be a ghost before but this time. [Takes deep, ominous breath]  This time I think it could be for real.  [Another pointed pause].  Yeah.  For mega-realsies, guys.

Ned Nickerson: Well, at first when I saw that glowing sorcerer dude, I thought it has to be an alien.  I mean, what other kind of creature would be glowing green and flitting around the woods?  Mr. Burns?  Bringing us love?  I don't think so.

Nancy: There you have it, people.  Our gang has a lot of conflicting theories.  But, as per usual, I'm about to completely prove them all wrong.  Because I'm Nancy Drew and, in addition to my flawless skills in almost any art, sport or contest, I also KNOW EVERYTHING.


Okay, that's enough of that.  But now that I think of it that would be a really good show.  Nancy and the gang quickly set out to disprove the new local ghost theory, with Bess and George even trying their hand at it.  George stands on Bess's shoulders and appears to glide over the top of the lake, causing Nancy to wonder if the ghost could really be a prank.  Her musings are quickly interrupted, however, by George making snarky remarks about how she could never be the one holding Bess on her shoulders, as she'd have to be "Supergirl."


Well, I guess George gets one jab per book, right?  I mean, after all this time, George must see that her cousin has feelings.  Right?  Whoa, spoke too soon.  Within a few pages, Bess mentions that she's hungry and George tells her she sounds like a contestant in an "eating contest," and, a few pages after that, tells her that if she eats one more sweet roll she will in fact resemble a sweet roll.  Okay, sorry George, but I call bitch.  Sure, Bess likes to eat, but that doesn't mean she deserves this constant haranguing.  At this point in the book, I'm starting to wish that my fake Lifetime movie  Too Fat to Ride an Alpaca: The Mysterious Fat Shaming of Bess Marvin had ended with Bess strangling George with a licorice rope or something.

George's bullying aside, however, the girls soon find themselves ensconced in not one but three mysteries.  The gliding female figure is soon debunked when they save a woman walking in stilts in the lake (Note: evidently she was doing this because she can't swim, but was stilt-walking in a lake without a life vest.  Super smart.) but the woman soon gives them another mystery to solve: finding a child's royal coach that had been brought over by her ancestors from Czarist Russia, but had somehow ended up in the lake after a tragedy that ended in the child's death.  This mystery ends up being kind of an add-on and red herring, but I'll come back to it later.

Onto the doppelganger!  There is yet another double of Nancy running around stealing from people.  So, in addition to the three mysteries, Nancy also has to deal with people accosting her on the street accusing her of selling them fake vacations or stealing their purse.  She also keeps nearly getting arrested by the police, but gets out of it each time when the officer decides that she must be a different girl because the thiefelganger (yes, that's thief and doppelganger and get used to it--I love word portmanteau) has a hard face.  You know, the criminals in these stories might want to work on their facial expressions.  It's apparently really easy to tell a criminal from their swarthy appearance, flashing dark eyes and hard expressions.  Fake Nancy also seems to catch on that she looks like our girl detective and that the gang is investigating something on the mountainside near the lake where the sorcerer has been spotted, so she goes out of her way to dress in similar clothes just to slow Nancy down.  Great job, thiefelganger.  Now, Nancy is totally onto the fact that there's something to investigate.

The gang checks out the mountainside and are immediately stopped by a glowing, furry green figure spouting nonsense.  My first thought was that it was the Philadelphia fanatic, drunk again, but apparently it's one of the criminals.  The green man, along with another man in a crazy mask, are clearly freaked out by Nancy's appearance in the area, because they try to kidnap Bess, rob their cabin, and play all sorts of tricks.  I'm sure they meant to scare Nancy away, but they clearly haven't gotten the memo that this just makes things worse for them.

While they are knee-deep in the mysteries, Ned, Burt and Dave show up to help out.  They've also brought along a professor, who seems to have eyes for Aunt Eloise.  Oooh la la.  I've never thought about it, but I have no idea why Aunt Eloise is single (unless she's secretly gay or something).  She's nice, thin, beautiful and owns her own apartment in Upper Manhattan.  I call bullshit that she wouldn't have been snapped up by now.

The professor, however, ends up being the key to the whole sorcerer-thiefelganger mystery.  He recognizes the two men in the criminal pack as "renegade scientists" who stole the formula for a firefly-based cool light experiment from a nearby real scientist.  Apparently, they have been conducting experiments in the caves on the mountainside (with thiefelganger Doria, the wife of one of the scientists, stealing money for the supplies) and were afraid of being found out by Nancy and her crew.  In my opinion, they did everything short of waving their hands in the air and shouting "Hey!  Don't investigate us!  Something sinister is happening here but it's not us!  It's something scaaaaarry!  So stay away!"  Morons.

Despite the top-tier idiocy of the villains this was a really enjoyable tale.  The Czarist Russia royal coach discovery in the lake at the end felt a bit disconnected and tacked on because it had little to nothing to do with the main events, but I still loved the book as a whole.

4 1/2 out of 5 mags.

Fat Shamings: 3 (1 bazillion total)

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Thursday, May 12, 2016

Book #1: The Mysterious Disappearance of Kate Alessandri

Next up is The Secret of Mirror Bay but I thought I'd address the other mystery on the table, which is why I've been missing for the past year.  You see, last year I was enormous with child and, eventually, the desire to do nothing but eat sour gummy worms and binge watch The X-Files for the tenth time overtook me.  I have kept up with my serialized Nancy Drew fiction (which you can find here, in The Sleuth: http://www.ndsleuths.com/thesleuth ) but have lacked the motivation since the baby was born to do much in the way of extracurricular writing.

When I became pregnant, I dreamed of a relaxing maternity leave that would involve me walking the baby down to a local cafe and writing while she quietly slept or cooed and played with toys.  Despite the fact that all parents warned me it wouldn't be that simple, I foolishly clung to the fantasy.  In reality, that scene plays out like this:
--Baby finally seems ready for a nap.  Let's get her dressed and ready to go in the stroller!  
--Oops, she just pooped all over everything.  Better change.
--You know, now it's getting a little chilly, I should bring her a sweater and hat.  
--Aw, man.  Those are in the dryer.  Guess I should wait a bit.
--Ok, dryer is done!  Let's go!
--Oh, wait.  She's fallen asleep on me and now I must sit motionless for the next hour and a half while my bladder slowly fills up...

You get the idea.  Now that I am back at work and have actual breaks that don't involve shoving food in my face while my 20 lb. child yelps and kicks me repeatedly in the boob, perhaps I can get back in the groove.  I will review all 56 books if it kills me!  After the Thirteenth Pearl, I will review my faves as I re-read them.  Now, bask in the glory that is my little girl detective :)

Book #48: The Crooked Bannister

The Crooked Bannister or, if you judge a book by its cover, Nancy Vs. the Evil Robot!

Hold onto your hats, Nancy Drew fans.  This is one of the good ones.  Which, of course, will inevitably lead to a less amusing review.  But still.

The Crooked Bannister is one of my favorites, in part because it has one of the weirdest and best villains, Rawley Banister.  Not only has he excelled in swindling the masses out of their money, but he's used those ill-gotten gains to build the kind of house that children might dare each other to approach on Halloween, a house that was both awesome and looked like what would happen if architecture was a sentient being that threw up everywhere.  First of all, there is a moat surrounding the house that catches fire when you cross it--mega cool.  Then, there's an evil robot that plays cassette tapes. There is a creepy portrait hall with paintings of relatives covered in poison-dipped black ink and, finally, there is the titular crooked banister that seems to run straight through the floor instead of ending at the base of the landing.  So, as you might expect, just in setting alone, this book gets an A+.

Nancy starts on the case at the behest of her father, whose kindly clients have been swindled by the nefarious Rawley Banister.  He insists because of the danger involved that Nancy bring her friends George and Bess along and, because, they're apparently never in school, working or doing anything, they are happy to come along.

Unfortunately, the kindly Bess is herself swindled by an accomplice of Banister, Clyde Mead.  He convinces her to send money to a poor and starving young boy on a reservation and then starts to send her fake letters with pictures of the young boy.  Wait.  Is Sally Struthers also an accomplice of Rawley Banister? Is that reference just a tad outdated?  Either way, George basically makes Bess feel like Queen Doofus of Idiotville for sending the money.

After the swindle, and numerous sticky situations at the Banister house, Nancy brings in more reinforcements in the shape of Ned, Burt and Dave.  The rest of the mystery sees some spectacular kickings of our gang's ass, but not even by the villain himself.  No, he's set up his Smart House (so ahead of its time...) to release evil robots, poison, maim and potentially burn alive any intruders.  I've got to be honest here: after a while, I start to really respect Rawley Banister.  Most Nancy Drew villains are lurking in the shadows, sending threatening notes or locking her in closets to "teach her a lesson" when all it ever does is strengthen her resolve.  This guy just lets his house do it.  Brilliant.

In the end, it turns out Rawley Banister died in a water cruiser explosion (Wow, another jet ski explosion?  Doesn't it seem like people in this universe should avoid them if they're so prone to fiery deaths for the passenger?) and Clyde Mead tries to take over villain duties.  Unfortunately for Clyde, he didn't build an awesome house that will kill for him.  Sorry, Clyde.  Game over.

This one is one of the best, although has the least fodder for reviewing silliness.  I'll be back soon with The Secret of Mirror Bay!

5/5 Mags

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