Madeline's Reviews > The Bungalow Mystery

The Bungalow Mystery by Carolyn Keene
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Aug 09, 10

bookshelves: detective-fiction
Read in August, 2010

I will probably never get over my girl-crush on Nancy Drew, and this book just confirms that fact. Which is not to say that the series is flawless and beyond criticism - kinda the opposite, really. One thing I've learned from re-reading some of these books as an adult is that whenever you start one, you have basically a fifty-fifty chance of ending up with 190 pages of dated, stupid crap. But this time, I was lucky. This book rocked. That being said, it doesn't escape from the flaws that personify the entire series - at least it's good to see that Carolyn Keene had already established these issues early in the series, and dammit if she didn't stick to them.

Several things are to be expected from the Nancy Drew books, and I've taken the time to document them here:
1. We will be reminded, rather insistently, that Nancy is perfect. Over and over. She is skinny and pretty and brilliant and everyone loves her and the sooner we all just accept this the sooner we can get back to the mystery solving stuff.
2. Although Nancy lives in a time where teenage girls had about as many personal freedoms as trained dogs and were treated with a similar level of respect, she herself exists in a sort of bubble that makes her exempt from such social limitations. She has her own car, her own money (but, oddly, no apparent source of income), and doesn't seem to have any demands on her time such as a job or school. This is proved in this book, when Nancy decides on a whim to drive upstate for some investigating, and then when it runs long, checks herself into a hotel for the night. This is awesome, but I question the reality of it.
3. Carolyn Keene loves the words "sleuth" and "girl detective" and will use them as many times as she possibly can.
4. The bad guys are easily recognizable, because they are the only characters in the book who are ever rude to anyone.

These are the series' main flaws. In the good Nancy Drews, such as this one, these flaws can be overlooked as soon as Nancy starts being a badass. And there's a lot of that here. She survives a boat crash in a storm, breaks into not one but three houses, and manages to escape after the bad guys tie her up. She also taught me a valuable life lesson: if the hotel you're having dinner in leaves souvenir matchbooks on the table, take them, because you are guaranteed to need them in the next few hours.

As an added bonus, Nancy's boyfriend Ned Nickerson (affectionately known as "Candy-Ass" in my head) is not present, and in fact may not have been introduced as a character yet. Also conspicuously absent are Nancy's friends, Fat Bess and Butch George, so we don't have to listen to Carolyn Keene delivering backhanded compliments in her narration that would embarrass Regina George.

It isn't a great series, to be sure, and by all logic should not get such high ratings. But the fact remains that Nancy Drew is a literary heroine far ahead of her time, and even with all her books' issues, she's still a much better role model than certain contemporary literary ladies I could name.
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Kaethe Oh, well said. Like you, I continue to love Nancy, but when I was reading them aloud to my daughters we did a little critiquing. Yes, she's rich and resourceful and charming and good at everything. She's also kind to the poor and the aged and infirm. Most importantly to the series, there are no coincidences, everything is connected and pertinent, and her hunches are always right.

For a real good time, read the originals. The bad guys aren't just rude, they're swarthy. Meals and clothes are lovingly described in all their Depression splendor.


Madeline Yeah, I was very disappointed to learn that the original books were revised in the 1960's to be more contemporary, and I think my library carries those versions. I would really love to find an original version of this book and compare the two.


Kaethe Someone issued hardcover reprints of the first few back in 1991, like this The Secret of the Old Clock. The real old ones are extremely coveted by collectors, I think.


Madeline I actually found and purchased a Nancy Drew book from 1956 in an antique store several years ago - The Hidden Window Mystery. Unfortunately, it wasn't until I got home that I realized the book was sort of falling apart and 20 pages were missing from the middle. But I only paid about $2 for it, so I didn't feel too cheated.


message 4: by Michael (new)

Michael "if the hotel you're having dinner in leaves souvenir matchbooks on the table, take them, because you are guaranteed to need them in the next few hours."

So true.


Kaethe Do hotel still have souvenir matchbooks?


Madeline Probably not, what with smoking currently being socially verboten in the United States. You'd have to find some really old hotel that sells vintage matchbooks in the gift shop for $5 each.


message 1: by [deleted user] (new)

i like her too.


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