Note: This is a general review of the whole series, not this specific volume.
The Nancy Drew Notebooks were a series of chapter books designed for youn...moreNote: This is a general review of the whole series, not this specific volume.
The Nancy Drew Notebooks were a series of chapter books designed for younger readers, starring a third grade Nancy with her pals Bess and George. Supporting characters Carson Drew and Hannah Gruen are also present. The series was later revamped and relaunched as Nancy Drew and the Clue Crew, and the Clue Crew books are generally better IMO.
The Notebooks mysteries are typically eight chapters each, about 70 pages. As with the parent series, Nancy does most of the actual sleuthing, and Bess and George provide moral support and act as audience surrogates, asking Nancy questions that prod her towards the correct answers. The mysteries typically revolve around school girl concerns--who took a locket, who erased Nancy's name from the volunteer board, is Hannah leaving for a new job, did Nancy's puppy steal food?
There are a few recurring supporting characters, most notable of whom is rival Brenda Carlson, who is generally an annoyance and leads to frequent mean-spiritedness.
The Clue Crew mysteries are better in my opinion for several reasons: Bess and George are promoted to full partners in "the Clue Crew" (though Nancy is first among equals); Bess is given more positive character traits beyond being fashion conscious (she likes to build and fix things)(George remains the athletic one but is also promoted to computer whiz); Brenda is thankfully removed and is replaced with a more consistent group of classmates (some of whom can be annoying but none of whom are as outright nasty as Brenda); the mysteries are slightly longer (100 pages, 10 chapters), the mysteries are slightly more diverse; and they are in general more positive in tone than the Notebooks series.
I'll note for the record that there's a corresponding set of young Hardy Boys books but we haven't tried any of those yet--Sophie hasn't demonstrated much interest. (less)
I tried reading a "regular" Nancy Drew with Sophie, but she just wasn't in to it. Discovered that there's now a Nancy Drew series for younger readers,...moreI tried reading a "regular" Nancy Drew with Sophie, but she just wasn't in to it. Discovered that there's now a Nancy Drew series for younger readers, Nancy Drew and the Clue Crew, and so we tried this one (the first). It was a big hit. We read two or three chapters a night and she was totally engrossed and wants to read more of them.
We've read several at this point. Some general observations: The books are real mysteries (albeit not terribly complicated ones), introducing kids to the tropes of the genre--a mystery is introduced, false suspects are introduced, clues are provided that allow a sharp reader to deduce the answer before the denouement, etc. The mysteries do not involve any danger, and in general do not involve people deliberately engaging in criminal activities--most mysteries are resolved as accidents or misunderstandings.
Like the original mysteries, these are also typical serial fiction--we have a regular cast of characters, a regular cast of secondary and often tertiary characters, a recurring setting. Characters do not age (all of the stories presume Nancy and friends are in third grade), and there's no character development. The mystery, its resolution, and the role the girls play in the resolution are the focus of the stories.
My four year-old finds them totally engaging, and they've proven an enormous hit at bed-time, making a nice transition away from picture books and towards longer stories.(less)
Eisner nominated, hmm? I've enjoyed Ellis on several things (notably Planetary) and Williams as well (notably on Promethea), but I didn't particularly...moreEisner nominated, hmm? I've enjoyed Ellis on several things (notably Planetary) and Williams as well (notably on Promethea), but I didn't particularly care for this collaboration.
Williams's art is certainly competent, but it lacks the innovative page design he displayed on Promethea and on his work with the Bat-franchise.
Ellis's story didn't really grab me in a big way either. The main plot of this first story arc reminded me a lot of a reworked version of Chandler's The Big Sleep, only seedier. The story was overshadowed by the larger mysteries of the sub-plot--who is Jones, what exactly was the Desolation Test that he and he along survived, exactly what effects did it have on him? Those questions are asked but not fully answered in this opening arc. And the supporting cast was also somewhat intriguing. But, honestly, not enough to entice me to read a second collection (if Ellis ever comes back to the series; I gather he's had it on hiatus for several years now).
Ellis and Williams have both done better work than this.(less)
The young woman of the title is already dead when we meet her, within the first few pages of the opening chapter. And it's clear early on she wasn't m...moreThe young woman of the title is already dead when we meet her, within the first few pages of the opening chapter. And it's clear early on she wasn't murdered. The initial mystery is why the protagonist's brother in law was falsifying Christine's cause of death--which Quirke, the protagonist, a pathologist working in the morgue of a Dublin hospital, caught him doing.
A very moody, evocative book, which has a great noir atmosphere and an unusual mystery at its heart. The book also has a number of things that set it somewhat apart. Quirke is a very unusual protagonist. He does not think of himself as particularly brave; and when given the chance, seems to prove himself right. And yet, to his own surprise, and to the surprise of many people around him, he can't seem to stop trying to find out exactly what happened to Christine Falls, even when it's clear he's in the middle of something way over his head, and that many people would rather he not be involved in.
It's also a novel about family--Quirke has made mistakes and had setbacks that had driven him to drink for many years and had all but alienated himself from his famiily--his adoptive father, his adoptive father's biological son, who is also his brother in law, by virtue of having married his dead wife's sister--the wife that Quirke himself had really wanted. And who, perhaps, had really wanted him; leading to a continual tension between all of them.
Years of drinking have allowed Quirke to willfully forget many unwanted memories from his past, but for some reason the fate of Christine Falls has struck a chord in him, and as digs into her past, he slowly, and at times unwillingly, finds himself confronting his own.(less)