The Strangest Girl-Detective Stories On My Shelves
Posted 12 August 2009 in Books by Catriona
And these are only the pick of the bunch! Basically, any Nancy Drew story and most of the late Trixie Beldens qualify as “strange girl-detective stories,” but these are even weirder.
I may have mentioned this one on the blog before now, but the only reason it’s on my shelf is that it is hands down the strangest girl-detective story I’ve ever come across. Apparently, there are at least three Jenny Dean mysteries, but I’ve never seen another one.
Jenny is “a sixteen-year-old sleuth with a passion for solving some of the most extraordinary science fiction mysteries ever recorded.”
But only some of them. I guess she has to complete her homework sometimes.
In this one, Jenny and her friend Mike are troubled by the strange behaviour of their classmates: “What was causing those strange screams? Those disappearing acts? Those pale and shining complexions?”
I would suggest vampires, but that’s the wrong genre.
Still, “Jenny and Mike encountered danger at every turn—at the famous Mordern Institute, at an abandoned power plant, and at a scientist’s laboratory.”
Here’s my advice for teenage sleuths: nothing good ever came of an abandoned power plant. Ever.
Not that that bothers the young Nancy Drew, as she finds out who is “the champion of cheaters”:
I’m guessing it’s not Champion, the Wonder Horse, which is a shame. (He was a horse who solved crimes in his spare time. More or less.)
This is a version of Nancy Drew rejigged for younger readers, as you can tell from the blurb:
It’s so unfair! The Champions on Ice show is coming to River Heights, Olympic stars and all, and Nancy signed up early to be one of the skating flower girls. But she may be sitting on the sidelines instead.
Someone erased her name from the list, and she could just cry. Better yet, she’s going to find out exactly who did it. Nancy has just one clue, and it’s her only chance to learn the truth—and be a flower girl after all!
Someone erased her name from the list? Oh, the horror!
But what annoys me about this series is that it constructs Nancy as a natural sleuth, a girl who is just using her given talents to solve crimes. And that’s all well and good, but the professional female sleuth doesn’t have that long a pedigree: she only goes back to C. L. Pirkis’s Loveday Brooke, and we can’t really afford to have another professional slip away and be replaced with an amateur.
Still, anything is better than this next option:
Like the Nancy Drew notebooks, this one was designed to cash in on the popularity of Trixie Belden: neither this nor Julie Gordon: Exchange Student actually featured Trixie, but she endorsed them, in as far as a fictional character can endorse anything.
I don’t know who decided to engage Edvard Munch as the cover artist, but I think it was a mis-step.
I love the cover on this one, though:
All three characters seem to belong to a completely different storyline. I like to imagine they’re thinking the following thoughts:
JOE HARDY (BLONDE): Man, who hit me on the head? That, like, really . . . something. Hurt! That really . . . something.
FRANK HARDY (BRUNETTE): I wonder if Nancy hit Joe on the head? She’s certainly looking shifty.
NANCY: I think this brown lipstick was a mistake. I wonder if I can subtly change it before Frank gets around to asking me why I coshed Joe?
There really isn’t any justification for the next one:
“Awful” is, I think, the only possible descriptive term for this one. Apparently,
“Cassie B. Jones becomes detective Cassandra Best when her wealthy friend, Alexandra Bennett, sends her a ticket to mystery and adventure . . . at the Kentucky Derby.”
Gasp! Not the Kentucky Derby!
But, on a more serious note, why are rich girls always called something like Alexandra? If your father has millions, I suppose you need the extra syllables.
I also wonder why the blurb doesn’t mention anything about them finding a horse in their living room. You’d think that’s the sort of thing people would want to talk about, wouldn’t you?
Finally, there’s this one:
I don’t know if there were more “three Matildas” mysteries: I’ve never seen another. But I do like the way the author’s hook is to have three girls with the same name.
And, yet, she’s not satisfied with that alone, as the inside blurb shows:
If . . .
you can write your age upside down and backward and still have it come out the same, you’re off to a good start. [Query: a good start for what? That’s not the most useful skill, and it’s fairly fleeting.] There’s at least one girl called Matilda in this book who can do just that.
If you can go places wearing a dog around your neck and make people think that he’s only a fur scarf, you’re pretty lucky. [Query: Why? That doesn’t sound like luck by any definition I’ve ever heard, and I fail to see any real advantage to the process, either.] But there’s another Matilda in this book who’s been getting away with it for a long time!
If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to have a food faddist for a mother, an artist for a father, and a genius for a brother, there’s still one more Matilda in this book whom you should know about.
That’s right—three Matildas. But that’s not all.
Please, save us from the girl-detective book blurb that reads like an infomercial!