When asked to write about my favorite mystery or mystery author, I hadn’t a clue about how to start this article (pun intended). The list of suspects was daunting and included such notable names as Stephen King, Patricia Cornwell, Mary Higgins Clark, Agatha Christie, Janet Evanovich, Faye Kellerman, and Sue Grafton.
So, like any good detective, I decided to go back to the beginning, to the character who inspired my life-long love of mysteries.
Enter Nancy Drew and her creator, Carolyn Keene.
According to Wikipedia: “The character of Nancy Drew – ghostwritten and credited to the pseudonymous Carolyn Keene – has appeared in a number of series over the years. The first and longest-running of these is the Nancy Drew Mystery Stories series, begun in 1930 and ended in 2003. The first spin-off series, Nancy Drew Files, was begun in 1986. Since then, Nancy Drew has appeared in a number of other series and books, including a number of spin-offs where she investigates with the Hardy Boys.”
When I was in elementary school back in the 1960s, I loved the original series and read every Nancy Drew book in our school library. The Hidden Staircase, The Clue in the Diary, The Haunted Bridge, The Mystery of the 99 Steps, The Message in the Hollow Oak, The Secret in the Old Attic, The Clue in the Crumbling Wall are the names of just some of the mysteries Nancy solved with her best friends, George (short for Georgette), and Bess. Intelligent, inquisitive, and courageous, the three sleuths were drawn into a variety of situations, often in exotic locations, usually because they wanted to help a person in distress. While they might have been frightened or even in danger, they used their wits to overcome adversity. And at a time when women’s liberation was in its infancy, Nancy and her friends rarely, if ever, needed to be rescued by a man!
In addition to being a fun read, Nancy’s adventures sparked a lot of imaginative play in our small neighborhood. After arguing about who was going to be Nancy and the other characters, we would set out to solve our own local mysteries. A misplaced book or a stray cat were the challenges that sent us scurrying for clues to try to find the missing object or pet. (And it got us out of our mothers’ hair for a couple of hours!)
I wanted to know if Nancy Drew withstood the test of time, so I recently downloaded The Ghost of Blackwood Hall. While some of the language felt dated – not as much slang as we use now, and there was less reliance on technology, the story was still interesting and kept me turning the pages until the end. There may be more sophisticated detectives out there today, but Nancy Drew and her friends are still women I would want to help me out of a tough situation!
The Secret of the Old Clock book cover art: By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=22484930
The Ghost of Blackwood Hall book cover art: By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15168962
Terry Kish is a freelance writer in the Pittsburgh area. She has been an integral part of the writing team for This Awful-Awesome Life since September 2017.