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:

GENERAL:

*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

THE DOUBLE JINX MYSTERY:

*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...

RIVER HEIGHTS: MYTHBUSTERS!!!

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.

CATCH THEM TONIGHT ON...RIVER HEIGHTS: MYTHBUSTERS!!!!

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."

Yikes.

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 226 books if it kills me!

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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