Elizabeth: Death by the Book

I have been a fan of mysteries since Nancy Drew found that old clock and the Hardy Boys uncovered that treasure in the tower.  Nancy, Ned, Frank, and Joe led to Beverly Gray, The Dana Girls, Ginny Gordon, and my favorite – Judy Bolton.  I collected the books at garage sales, flea markets, and the like, and many of the editions were from the early 1930s (and smelled like it too), with beautiful old dust jackets and the original story-lines.   I don’t think there were any murders, but many of the stories were dark and a little edgy.

In later years the Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys were revised and brought up to date a bit.  Nancy’s roadster morphed in to a sports car, she traded in her suit and hat for trousers, and the racial stereotypes in the Hardy Boys books were addressed.  Sadly, vocabulary words such as “ostensible” and “presaged” were also eliminated, as was slang and about 5 chapters from each book.

When I moved on to the ‘grown-up’ section in the local library, there were the romantic mysteries of Elizabeth Cadell, Phyllis Whitney, and Mary Stewart, not to mention my favorite, M. M. Kaye with her “Death in . . .” series – Kashmir, Zanzibar, Kenya, Cyprus, the Andamans – I visited them all (except Berlin – that one still creeps me out).  Unlike the early mysteries that I cut my reading teeth on, so to speak, these definitely featured dead bodies along with a nefarious villain or two.  I haven’t re-read any of them in decades, afraid perhaps that they won’t pass the test of time.  I’d rather remember them fondly than take the chance of being disappointed.

Fortunately, there is a whole wide world of mystery stories out there – old, new, cozy, suspenseful, contemporary, historic, and everything in between. Continue reading

Elizabeth: Celebrating Nancy Drew (and resilience)

The original cover for the first Nancy Drew mystery, “The Secret of the Old Clock,” published April 28, 1930.

The original cover for the first Nancy Drew mystery, “The Secret of the Old Clock,” published April 28, 1930.

Over the past few weeks, our own Nancy talked about series here and here. Her posts got me to thinking about the very first series I remember reading: The Nancy Drew Mystery Stories. You’ve undoubtedly all read at least some of them and maybe you even have a few of the familiar yellow bound books around the house somewhere.

This year marks the 85th year that the books have been in print. At a time when books can often fade into oblivion as soon as they’ve been read, these stories have shown remarkable staying power. Recent statistics I saw show that 80 million of the books have been sold worldwide and they have been translated into over 40 languages. That’s quite a feat.

For many young girls Nancy Drew launched a life-time love of reading and she inspired countless others to try their hand at telling their own stories. Show of hands – who has a smudged, hand-written attempt at the bottom of a drawer or box? The Clue in the Dusty Garage anyone? Continue reading

Nancy: Getting Away with Murder Mysteries

sherlock holmes silhouette

When I was in the second grade, I fell in love. The object of my affection? The Mystery of the Silver Spider in the Three Investigators mystery series by Robert Arthur. In the months and years to follow, I read not only every book in that series, but in the Hardy Boys  (Franklin W. Dixon) and Nancy Drew series (Carolyn Keene) as well. Years before I read my first romance or women’s fiction novel or even knew the fantasy genre existed, I discovered mystery novels, and I was hooked. Continue reading