Wednesday, July 25, 2018

The G&D Nancy DREW Project is COMPLETE!

Thanks, all, so much for reading.  While the Nancy Drew project of the original Grosset & Dunlap series is finished, please check back for my upcoming "fave" reviews, starting with the wonderful book #85: The Secret of Shady Glen, and moving towards the most recent series books, The Nancy Drew Diaries and even the graphic novels. As my man Mickey Mouse would say: "See you REAL soon!"

Book #56: The Thirteenth Pearl

The Nancy Drew Project: Nancy Drew reviews by a pop-culture obsessed and F-bomb dropping madwoman: Book #56 The Thirteenth Pearl

TW/CW: Deals with racial stereotypes/slurs
Oh, crap. Where to start? I really wish that this wasn’t the last Nancy Drew to review in the O.G. project, because it’s gonna be bad, guys. But I guess that just means I’ll have to keep up with reviewing my favorites over the years. When I first opened this book, I was pretty sure how this review would go from the opening summary (below)…

So, yeah. Basically this whole mystery starts because a jeweler, Mr. Moto (the most sympathetic person in the book, but definitely relegated to stereotype and also fits of fainting) is robbed. A “clever” crook has stolen the titular thirteenth pearl off a rich white lady’s necklace and he’s afraid that the insurance payout will shut down his business. Unfortunately, I don’t have the strong sense that this guy will make it as a jeweler, considering that when Nancy et. al. show up, ANOTHER dude has just robbed his place while he stepped into the back, leaving his merchandise unprotected. I mean…I love you Mr. Moto, but if this was “America’s Next Top Jeweler,” Tyra would be giving you your walking papers by now.

What ensues is a mystery that, like many others in the series, entails the villains seemingly chasing the Drews from place to place. Carson and Nancy go to Japan to investigate the possible dirty dealings of World Wide Gems and the disappearance of the rich white lady, Mrs. Rossmeyer, but most of the mystery seems to be the “slippery Italian” (sigh) criminal, Benny Caputo jumping out at them and yelling “Hey! Don’t investigate us!” Not the right method, dude. And now Nancy is even more convinced that some criminal ring has infiltrated World Wide Gems.

During the whole book, I periodically find myself wondering why I should care that ONE of this rich lady’s abundance of jewels was stolen, but then I remember Mr. Moto. Most of this mystery is too scattered to create a focus; while World Wide Gems is definitely at the center of it, the numerous disguises and elaborate fake pearl cult have me scratching my head at the end. Like, I get it. In the beginner’s manual So You’ve Decided to Infiltrate an International Gem Company [oh, if only this was a book!], they tell you that you might need a cover story. But a fake pearl cult? I mean, did they have to register as a religion? How did they recruit followers? It seems like they had to use an awful lot of jewels to recruit people. Doesn’t that negate the money they’re making? Why expend all of this effort getting a rando criminal chick to impersonate Mrs. Rossmeyer (because the real Mrs. Rossmeyer is either in Paris shopping or dead in a gutter — I really don’t care at this point) just to steal what seems like INDIVIDUAL gems, one at a time?

These criminals don’t seem very smart.

So, now that I’ve dealt with the mystery critique…HOLY SHIT THE RACISM. Look. It’s clear that whoever wrote this book did a lot of research on Japan. A lot of the information was factually correct. However, they clearly read a book called An Old White Colonist Dude-Bro’s Hot Take on Wacky Japanese Culture and based it all on that because…HOLY SHIT. THE RACISM. As referenced above, there is actual yellowface in this book, which I don’t feel qualified to truly take on as a white lady, but I will tell you it’s BAD. Nancy dresses as a Japanese girl to blend in and spy on people, and she is essentially dressed as a geisha. She balks at the “weird” food put in front of her and giggles at the crazy customs over in Japan. Oh, Nancy…you’re better that this. Or ARE you?

At one point, Nancy and her friends are chasing a criminal and ask a local for a description. They are, and I quote “thrilled” when the criminal is described as Italian, and I have to tell you (even though this was back when Italian folks like myself were just starting to be considered white) I was thrilled too. I was actually physically relieved that this Italian criminal would buffer me from the relentless racism towards East Asian people for another few pages. And see how problematic my response is? Because on some level, my instinct is “I wish these books were filled with more white people so I won’t have this face (pictured below) frozen in terror for the rest of the book.”

Image result for michael scott cringing

And that, boys and girls, is how white guilt makes the lack of diversity in literature even worse. We’re so desperate to be blameless and not to be criticized that we just don’t try. As awful as the depictions in these books are, we need to learn from them, not just whitewash characters from different backgrounds. Because our COMFORT should not come with this price tag.

Whew. Okay, I know I got HELLSA ranty for a Nancy Drew review for a second. But…needed to be said.

The depictions in the book are what you would expect. While some are accurate, they are presented from such a white gaze that they are inherently problematic.

I wish I could spend this book talking about the mystery, where it worked and where it fell flat, but the truth is, I could barely make it through the pages this time around. I ended up skimming just to avoid the dropping sensation in my stomach every time someone is referred to as “An Asiatic” or when Carson chuckles when their host says “Ah, so.” I wish I could tell you I was able to look at it with the critical eye of a historian, but I’m just a girl reviewing Nancy Drew (And also…[Phil Hartman voice] “I’m just a caveman”). I have no such objectivity. I both love these books, AND I admit they are deeply wrong in many ways. And that’s just the truth.

1/5 Mags
Head Injuries: .5 (fell after being chloroformed), 24.5 total (….and her brain would be swiss cheese by now)

I hope you’ve enjoyed this ride with me. From here on out, I think I will hand pick my favorites, starting with perhaps my favorite of all time, The Secret of Shady Glen. See you then!
Notes from the author: Part 56 of 56 in The Nancy Drew Project
Review Notes: Scores are out of 5 “mags” or magnifying glasses.
If you feel inclined to read more from me, you can find my “hilarious” cancer survival tale here, my Nancy Drew Review Project on Blogger and my writing in fiction form in Suspense Magazine and The Sleuth. Also, follow me on Medium, Instagram, and also Twitter even though it’s garbage.
Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Book #55: The Mystery of Crocodile Island

I should be used to this by now, but this book yet again starts with George being a ginormous douche.  She brings a shoe box to the Drew house, where Bess is as well, and presents a baby crocodile (not really, but it's lifelike enough to fool Nancy, who escapes from George's mockery unscathed).  When Bess freaks out, George laughs at her for like a full minute and then proceeds to George-splain Florida crocodile pet laws and the difference between alligators and crocodiles. Basically, Bess accidentally says "alligator" ONCE and George acts as though she didn't know the difference between a cat and a dog.  Hmmmmm, I'm reacting to this.  Is it time for another edition of "Bess Marvin: Too Fat to Ride an Alpaca?"

Just when I'm getting an eye cramp from rolling my eyes, though, George gets some major comeuppance: a call from the trick shop tells George that the shop boy SOLD HER A LIVE CROCODILE BY MISTAKE.  That's right.  The "plastic" crocodile is a REAL MOTHERFUCKING CROCODILE and it's now crawling around the Drew's living room.

Okay, three things here and then I promise I'll get past the first chapter.  First, even though I'm a bit delighted to see George get so freaked out, I cannot believe the phone call she got.  It was basically: "We sold you a real crocodile by mistake.  Its name is Crocky. Bring it back NOW or we're going to put you in jail.  JAIL!"  Um, seriously, trick shop? First of all, why do you have live baby crocodiles at ALL?  And if anyone is getting arrested, it's you.  Secondly, Crocky? Thirdly...oh, wait, there is no thirdly.  WHY THE FUCK DO YOU HAVE LIVE CROCODILES IN A TRICK SHOP?

Sigh.  I'm done.
Or am I?
Okay, yes.

To the mystery! Carson's friend, Roger Gonzalez, is suspicious that his partners in the Crocodile Ecology Co. in Key Biscayne, are running the organization super shadily.  When Nancy gets a call from "Roger Gonzalez" saying: "Hey, guys!  Mystery's off. JK, y'all!" she's justifiably suspicious.  Nancy, Bess, and George decide to go anyways and adopt fake names (Ann, Elizabeth and Jackie, respectively).

Unfortunately, the girls have barely arrived in Florida when, even with the disguises, they are kidnapped by a fake limo driver and locked inside a house.  Nancy picks the lock (because she's s freaking pimp), and they finally make their way to the host house, owned by Carson's contacts the Cosgroves.

When they finally get to the titular Crocodile Island and start a tour with the Cosgroves' son Danny, they are warned away by a couple of "swarthy" dudes (seriously, Nancy Drew, with the dark-featured criminals again?) and Bess is once again torn a new one by an ecology tour guide when she says she doesn't like crocodiles, and torn a new NEW one when she asks to stay home and bake the next day.  I mean, Bess is being kind of annoying in this, but seriously?

Alright, I think I know what I need to do.  This isn't a Lifetime movie.  This is a Twitter dogpile:


@Bessluvscarbs: Hi, Twitter friends!  Luv u as always!  But, guys?  WTF with these alligators?  I mean, does anything need that many teeth?  And dontcha think they're a little too scary? I don't know about y'all but I'd rather stay home and bake my rockin' lemon nut cake.  But only after some cheese corn, amirite guys?!
         @GeorgenotGeorgia Hey, cuz.  Maybe put down the cheese corn and lose a few.  Also, it's                 CROCODILES not alligators.  Also, you suck.  Delete your account SMDH.
         @EcologyGuy OMG you're like Hitler only WORSE!  I can't believe you don't like crocodiles           (and YES that's a picture of a CROCODILE by the way). Kill yourself.  But also, wanna bang?
         @GeorgenotGeorgia [fat shaming GIF]
         @Bessluvscarbs Come on guys! Too mean. Nancy?
         @NancyDrewGD Sorry, Bess, I've got a mystery to solve.  Rain check?  K LUV YOU                        BYEEEEEE


I could go on forever, but I guess I won't because I need to point out YET ANOTHER horrifically racist element to the Nancy Drew books.  In this one, a Seminole American Indian named Joe Hanze, who seems like he could be an awesome and informative character if written correctly, is relegated to "entertaining" the girls with his differences.  Survey says RACIST.  But, wait.  What follows is a two page story told by a tour guide (pgs 113-115) about a Seminole tribe who gets blown up when they're trying to protect their land (NOT framed that way by the tour guide, by the way).  The story is told from such a white perspective that, when the Seminole men are blown up, the boy scout listening says "GOOD!" and then asks after the "poor" white hero, Mr Thompson is okay.  He is (Bess is relieved) but his assistant, simply referred to as "the black assistant" by the way, because even though he died protecting this rando white dude's lighthouse he can't have a name, was shot in the skirmish.  Oh, but also reminder: it wasn't the rando white dude's lighthouse but actually the SEMINOLE'S lighthouse though b/c it's on their land.  I'm pointing all of this out not just out of outrage (of which there is plenty) but because if anyone needs evidence of our history being taught to children through the lens of white colonization, read this book.  Pages 113-115. Revel in your discomfort.

After the most racist story ever told, the action picks up.  Ned, Dave, and Burt arrive, to the chagrin of Danny Cosgrove (who was definitely taking a shine to Bess despite her crocodile ignorance and constant screaming). Ned and Nancy end up on a submarine headed for Mexico with the criminal element siphoning money from the Crocodile Ecology Co. and the rest of the gang has to work from the island while Ned and Nancy find their way back.  In a nice turn (especially after a book filled with Bess being a total female stereotype and also falling victim to white savior propaganda), Bess convinces the bad guys to confess with her softer, good-cop style, and the day is saved.

So, this one was overall entertaining, but I had to take away a full two mags because of the racism.  It was just staggering.  But also, seriously read it because it SO illustrates what is wrong with us.

Head injuries: 0 (13 total)

2 1/2 out of 5 mags

End note: Has anyone noticed that Nancy, Bess and George are basically Blossom, Bubbles, and Buttercup?

Image result for powerpuff girls

Oh, and another end note: were you all wondering what happened to the live baby crocodile, who Togo scared back into the box and was taken back to the trick shop, after the first chapter?  Yeah.  So am I.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Book #54: The Strange Message in the Parchment

Like most Lethal Weapon movies, an unfortunate byproduct of the times in which Nancy Drew is written is that (as I've mentioned before) the villains end up being one race of people. While I was afraid this would be the case in The Strange Message in the Parchment, especially with the presumed villains being Italian (my people, yo) but I soon realized that there was a lot more to it than met the eye.

Our mystery starts out with Nancy receiving a gift from an old friend, Junie, who now lives on a sheep farm a few hours away.  Junie gives Nancy a fine sheepskin coat and an enticement to come solve a mystery at her parents' property, Triple Creek Farm.  Apparently somehting having to do with a parchment?  Nancy has barely shouted "Yes, yes...a thousand times yes!" to the mystery proposal when a young woman comes in through the back and snatches the sheepskin coat.

Okay, are these criminals insane?  Shouldn't there be a circulated picture of Nancy and her home so that your general no-good ruffian can avoid her getting mixed up in their crime ring/ swindling circle/ ill-conceived kidnapping scheme?  In any event, the girl turns out to be just some rando who saw Junie with the sheepskin jacket and couldn't stop herself from breaking and entering.  Totally unrelated to the forthcoming evil Italians [Spoiler Alert!]

Nancy calls her dutiful boyfriend Ned Nickerson and friends Bess and George but all are busy until the weekend so Nancy decides to go on ahead with Junie to start on the case.  However, Ned tells her to contact some (ITALIAN) artist named Vincenzo who might be able to help figure out the parchment's origins.  Nancy soon meets Junie's parents, who implore her to solve the mystery behind the 4-block parchment painting they recently bought from a rude neighbor.  A rude ITALIAN neighbor...duh duh duuuuuhhhhh!

Of course, several chapters into the mystery, and we're no closer to figuring out why this is a mystery at all.  There's no treasure or inheritance to be found, just a couple of stray initials on the back of the parchment.  Is the mystery where they should hang the parchment? Because Nancy's probably a bit overqualified for that.  Then we spend some time touring the sheep farm, with a woozy Nancy considering vegetarianism after her tour of the slaughterhouse but then coming to the "practical" conclusion that the countryside would soon be overrun with farm animals if we didn't eat them.  Yeah, keep telling yourself that when you choke down Hannah's lamp chops, Nancy.  I'm sure it will help you sleep better at night.  On their tour, they meet one of the Flockharts' shepherds, Eezy.  He's a bible quoting, harp playing shepherd because of COURSE he is.

After a long and oddly propaganda-like scene in which Nancy and Junie make up funny rhymes about slaughtering sheep, I'm kind of in the dark.  What are we solving here?  Is it a crime or is it NOTHING?  I'm starting to think it's nothing.

We finally meet our villain, Sal Rocco when he nearly plows into Nancy and Junie with his truck.  Soon the girls do some snooping and realize that Rocco may be underpaying and taking advantage of undocumented Italian workers.  In addition, a young boy named Tony lives on the farm, and Nancy has an odd hunch that he may be the young child depicted in one of the parchment paintings Mr. Rocco gave to the Flockharts.  It's a pretty wild guess, but I tend to bet on Nancy in these cases.

After agonizing pages of nothing, finally something happens.  A man slips into the Flockharts and snatches the parchment, while Nancy watches frozen in terror!  She immediately chastises herself for not catching the crook, her confidence plummeting in a way I've never seen (or, rather, read).  Nancy has almost given up the mystery (although at this point I still wonder what this case is exactly.  Is it the mystery of why Mr. Rocco is a total dick?) and decided to go home when Junie and a local police officer convince her to stay.

Determined, Nancy recreates the parchment paintings perfectly because of COURSE she can (Nancy is a practically perfect in every way android, don't you recall?), bemoaning the fact that she can't follow a slim clue all the way to Rome because it's "too expensive."  Uh, okay Nancy.  Can't remember that stopping you before.  Unfortunately, just as Nancy is finishing up the piece to show to Ned's Italian artist friend Vincenzo, two dudes run in and throw paint on it!

The robber who stole the original parchment, named Sid Zikes, is caught but much like any other criminal he's insisting "he's gots his rights."  Presumably, Sid is working for Rocco.  Why Rocco decided to sell this parchment thing at ALL is beyond me if all he wanted was to steal it back.

Nancy and Junie head back to Rocco's farm and try to interrogate the workers but they all speak a rare Italian dialect and cannot understand the girls.  They do manage to discover, however, that little Tony has run away after his uncle Rocco beat him for drawing pictures.  WTF, Rocco?!

Nancy and Junie find the boy, but decide to have him stay with the bible-spouting shepherd, who starts teaching him English right away (because he's got to learn if he's going to be in "these United States"  Ugghhhh.) and write a note to Rocco explaining Tony's location and threatening to go to the police about the beatings.

So, yeah.  This is the one where Nancy Drew kidnaps a child.

Don't get me wrong, it's in the best interest of Tony, but let's call a spade a spade here.  She's a kidnapper.  Two thugs also say as much when they show up with fake badges and try to arrest her for abduction, but they are working for Rocco.

After what seems like an eternity, Bess, George, Ned, Burt and Dave show up and start to pull their weight.  Junie seems nice and all, but a little green in the mystery department.  Within just a few pages, the gang has figured out that Rocco is running a fake union scam, collecting dues from workers seeking to earn higher wages, AND that Tony has a long lost mother in Italy.  Evidently, after this poor woman's husband died, her brother in law stole her money and absconded with her infant son as well.  She is also the painter of the parchment art, which depicted her husband's accident, her young boy and a self-portrait.  So Rocco stole that too.

Yeah, he's really a grade-A dick.  And also kind of stupid, or at least his muscle is.  When Nancy and Mrs. Bolardo (Tony's mom) go to find him, Rocco's men tie them up but then just sort of leave, saying they'll be back later.  Um, what?  These guys have NO follow-through!

Probably the best moment of the entire book other than when Bess is forced to tour the slaughterhouse is the climax, in which Rocco hears an angry mob outside his house.  He asks the police to protect him, but they're basically like "Sorry, dude, you made your bed."

After that I'm pretty sure he just got arrested, but I like to imagine the mob of duped Unioneers surrounding him and eating him like Ramsay Bolton's dogs.

This one was...okay.  Pretty middle-run.  Parts of it really dragged, and I felt like Nancy's characterization was sort of all over the place.  But, no fat shamings so plus!

3/5 mags

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Thursday, July 27, 2017

Book #53: The Sky Phantom guest reviewer MAREN ALESSANDRI LANE!

Nancy Drew: The Sky Phantom

Or as I like to call it: Nancy Drew: Romancing a Cowboy. And I imagine it’ll have a cover that looks something like this:

So I know there is an actual mystery that goes on in this installment, but I really feel as though the majority of the book is concern over Bess’ hot cowboy beau, and the classic soap opera decision of what she is going to do when Dave shows up! But until then, on to the actual mystery!
Despite the laughability of the Bess storyline (or maybe because of…), this is actually one of my favorite Nancy Drew installments in the original set. You open with, of course, Nancy doing something amazing (because of course she can!) In the opening scene she is flying a plane. Albeit she is taking a flying lesson, but still. And in perfect Nancy Drew fashion the mystery is alluded to within the first page of the book, even if it is semi nonchalantly. “That’s the mystery cloud, you can get lost in there it’s so big!” Of course the word “mystery” will have caught Nancy’s attention. Why is this guy seemingly ok with a “mystery cloud?” Doesn’t that seem like something they would have had someone investigate? Like, if a random cloud was in the same spot over my house all the damn time I think I would have tried to figure out what the eff was going on! I would have gotten Mulder and Scully stat!
Later, back at the farm they are all staying at, another mystery arises. Because when does a Nancy Drew novel only have ONE mystery. Spoiler: all the mysteries are ALWAYS linked. The second mystery is that the farm owner’s prize Palomino, Major, has been stolen. What dick goes around stealing someone’s horse? Hmmm the guy who stole the horse PROBABLY has something to do with the mysterious clous thingy, and also the notes sent to Nancy that, essentially, say “Hey Detective chick – GTFO!” Nancy, Bess, & George take it upon themselves to investigate by going on a horseback ride of their own. Which, of course, includes George making fun of Bess for wanting to make sure there are chicken sandwiches packed. Honestly, I tried keeping count in this book of how many times Bess gets fat shamed, but it hit like 4 in the first 23 pages and I decided it was kind of a depressing counter. But JOKES ON YOU GEORGE! Bess wins the heart of a hot cowboy. More on that later.
Most of this book finds the group on horseback tracking down parachute dudes that have gone missing, or missing planes. Which means Nancy does amazing feats like bringing down her plane in a forced safe crashed landing (why she was doing the landing while her instructor was there, I’ll never know!).
The book does take an upswing when, halfway through, Ned, Burt, & Dave show up. They say it’s because they’re jealous of all the fun the girls are having, but I’m convinced it’s because Dave is worried about the potential for a cowboy to steal his lady 😉. But again, I will get to that later.
Nancy must negotiate with a kidnapper, Ben Rall, for the return of another pilot who may have stumbled on the mysterious cloud. This cloud thing gets so glossed over for most of the book that it’s infuriating. More time gets spent on riding horseback and Nancy flying than anything else. After a lot of weird roundabout investigating, Nancy and Ned discover that the “mysterious cloud” is used as a cover up for a guy who has been burying rifles and bombs in the plains. As Ned put’s it “enough to blow up the whole country!” Ok Ned, let’s not get carried away, you drama queen. They find out this guy was doing it because he was part of some revolutionary gang thing….but it’s never really explained what his long term plan was. Which, honestly, disappoints me….
Bess, despite always being classed as the “overweight one,” is quickly sought out by a handsome cowboy that works on the same ranch. Bess TOTES appreciates that this guy is warm for her form, despite George and Nancy constantly asking about how this would effect Dave. The writing even points it out – almost painfully. When the girls find out that the boys are showing up Nancy and George happily tell Ned and Burt, respectively, that they are excited to see them. Bess kind of mumbles a response at Dave who is saying things like, “I’m counting the hours until I see you!” Man, poor Dave…When George confronts Bess about her poor phone etiquette and accuses Bess of the cowboy being in love with her. Bess shouts that maybe she’s in love with Chuck (oh yeah….cowboy dude totally has an actual name). Nothing happens with the cowboy really (maybe some light offpage kisses), but you can tell he totally digs her. Then the heat really gets turned up when the boys arrive at the ranch. Although at one point Bess reveals that Chuck wants her to stay behind at the ranch and marry him, a thought she gives some legit consideration. Whaaaat! What about Dave, Bess?!? Don’t break up the trio and trio dating happiness! Plus things get way awksies when other ranch hands start saying they are gonna “fix” Dave since he came to “steal Chuck’s gal!” Umm….dudes, Bess and Dave were a thing waaaay before, when Chuck was just a twinkling spur in his Mommy’s eye. Ok, maybe not that long, but still. Eventually Bess comes to her senses and realizes she needs to explain to Chuck that nothing will happen, that Dave is better for long term companionship. Basically, she just finds Chuck majorly hot.
All in all this really is one of my favorite NDs. But I honestly never remember much about the mystery, just what goes on in the soap opera….
Mystery Score: 3.5/5 Spurs
Romance Novel Score: 5/5 Spurs

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 to pay attention was the rampant and horrific racial stereotyping of Native Americans.  The insinuation is clearly 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 sequel...

Too Fat to Ride an Alpaca: 
The Mysterious Fat Shaming of Bess Marvin 2: 
Electric Boogaloo

     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 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?

Image result for barb stranger things icon

Okay, fortunately not.  She doesn't meet with the horrible foul play of the beloved Barb.  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 (again, minus 2 full mags for this) for me to enjoy it.  This one gets 1/5 mags.


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 Bartescue) 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

Head Injuries: 0 (23 total)