Saturday, May 3, 2014

Nancy Drew Files #4

Writing blog posts is hard work when I'm sleepy. Let me just share my review of Nancy Drew Files #4. The video will be posted to Youtube someday.

---

Today's Nancy Drew book is one of the 1980's romance mysteries, which is supposed to appeal to older readers, but ironically, the reading level of this book is 7+, which is actually for younger readers than the normal series. Does that the romance in this book isn't mature?

Ha ha ha. Yeah, the romance is bad.

Nancy Drew Files #4 is "The Mystery of the 80's Perm", I mean, "Smile and Say Murder". It was first published in October, 1986. The premise of the book is that Nancy has been hired to work for Yvonne Verdi, the co-owner of Flash Magazine. Yvonne is a harsh businesswoman, who likes to have the upper hand in everything. She constantly interrupts other people, and when Nancy mentions mystery books, Yvonne dismisses them as "too predictable".

That's a mean thing to say to a detective you've just hired. Hey, Yvonne, if you hate mysteries so much, why are you IN one?

Yvonne started receiving death threats after a big company offered to buy Flash Magazine for ten million dollars. Yvonne believes the culprit is her partner and photographer, Mick Swanson. Mick is suspicious because he has a horrible, violent temper, but I'm more concerned about the fact that Mick doesn't know the difference between "you're" and "your". That is CULPRIT-level evil, right there. How is this guy the co-owner of a magazine, again?

Nancy worries that she's in over her head, so she calls her boyfriend Ned for help. Ned is a little bitter that she cancelled their Spring Break plans without consulting him, not for the first time, I might add. After giving Nancy a lot of grief, he reluctantly agrees to join the investigation.

Nancy's first job is to help Mick with a photo shoot. Here she meets Mick's younger sister Sondra. Nancy believes that Sondra is incredibly attractive and very nice. No, the author isn't questioning Nancy's sexual orientation; the author is doing a bad job of foreshadowing.

The next day, Mick summons Nancy to his office. It turns out that he is a nice guy under his rough exterior. In fact, he enjoys reading mystery books, like Agatha Christie and the Hardy Boys.

Woah. WHAT? Nancy is on a first-name basis with the Hardy Boys! That means the boys are real, but they still have fictional books about them and...my brain hurts.

After this, Nancy sees Ned talking with Sondra. Nancy has a complete meltdown, because it looks like Sondra is flirting with Ned. ARE they flirting? No. Doesn't matter. Nancy wants to slap that nasty girl. And Sondra, too.

With all the fury of an angry two-year-old, Nancy openly confronts Ned and starts insulting him. He tries to explain that she's jumping to conclusions, but she interrupts every sentence he says, and she has to run away in tears because of her faithless boyfriend.

In the next chapter, Nancy wonders if the situation is related to Daryl Gray, from the first book. Hey, let's talk about that. In "Secrets Can Kill", Nancy talks with Daryl Gray. Did I say "talks"? I meant Nancy MAKES OUT with Daryl Gray MULTIPLE TIMES. This culminates in a date with Daryl, where Nancy purposely decides to kiss him, even though she knows Ned is watching. Yeah. Nancy, you have no leg to stand on. You're a bigger cheater than Ned will ever be.

Back with the mystery, a gun is fired in Yvonne's office. Yvonne says an armed gunman attacked her, and she pretends to faint. Nancy SHOULD find it suspicious that Yvonne is clearly faking, but she's too distracted by the fact that Ned entered the room at the same time as Sondra. Oh, that horrible, cheating man!

A few minutes later, Nancy sees Mick inside his office, with a gun. Mick claims the gun isn't his, and a struggle ensues. The gun goes off just as the police arrive, and they are both taken into custody. After the forensics test, Nancy is allowed to leave, and Mick is formally arrested.

Sondra bursts into tears, because her brother is in jail. Nancy flies off the handle, because Ned tries to comfort her. How DARE he have compassion for someone whose family member was falsely arrested? Nancy decides to never talk to Ned again. That'll teach him to be nice to crying women.

Mick is only in jail for a day, before Nancy clears him of all charges. Not only is there photographic proof of his alibi, but the threatening letters to Yvonne indicate that the writer knows the difference between "you're" and "your". SAVED BY BAD GRAMMAR, Mick!

Nancy returns to the magazine offices, where Yvonne fires her. Aw, poor Nancy.

The next chapter begins with Nancy and Mick inside a limosine, openly flirting with each other. See, I told you she's a cheater. The two of them are dressed up in fancy clothes, because they're attending a magazine awards show. I had to re-read this section a few times, just to make sure this wasn't a dream sequence. It's not; the book randomly jumped ahead a week, to an event that was never mentioned ahead of time.

Mick mentions that Yvonne once wrote a mystery novel, and everything falls into place for Nancy. Yvonne wrote a mystery, so SHE must be the culprit! That...that's an illogical conclusion. Even worse, the book openly admits that Nancy's reasoning here is stupid:

"I see," Yvonne said. "Then it wasn't a flaw in my planning. It was just a silly coincidence--Mick mentioning that I wrote mysteries."

"Silly coincidences are a detective's best friends," Nancy said seriously. "I've rarely solved a mystery without one."

Nancy Drew: solving mysteries through dumb luck since 1930.

When Nancy arrives at the office, Ned is with Sondra. Sondra puts her foot down, and she forces Nancy to listen to them. To Nancy's surprise, and no one else's, there is no romance going on between Ned and Sondra! Nancy would have known that, if she actually bothered to listen to her boyfriend.

I'm serious, this is the first time in 60 pages that Ned has been allowed to speak a full sentence. Still, the book doesn't want to admit Nancy was in the wrong here, even though she CLEARLY was, so the blame falls on Ned, who must have been getting an ego trip from his jealous girlfriend. Right. Because guys LOVE getting yelled at for doing nothing wrong.

Nancy concocts a half-baked plan to get Yvonne's confession on audio tape, but Yvonne pulls out a gun. She explains the clever tricks she used to frame Mick, then she ties up our three teenage heroes in the photography dark room. She starts a chemical fire near the tape, then leaves.

Nancy unties Sondra's hands with her teeth, and once they're untied, they use a sink and a bucket to put out most of the flames. Nancy grabs the miraculously undamaged audio tape and takes it to the police.

The final chapter is Ned and Nancy, together again. They recap what happened at the magazine offices, while happily sharing kisses. It's supposed to be sweet, but it's incredibly unrealistic. Here's what happens:

Ned admits he kissed Sondra offscreen, even though the book already confirmed nothing romantic happened between them (CONTINUITY!). Nancy asks for a kiss comparison. Ned kisses Nancy and confirms that she is a better kisser. Nancy non-verbally decides that she and Ned belong together, but it's still okay if they cheat on each other occasionally.

Seriously people, you can't make this stuff up. For the majority of the book, Nancy is ready to dump Ned because he talked to another girl. But in the end, she does a complete reversal and decides that committing adultery is perfectly fine by her. THIS is supposed to be a successful relationship? No. A hundred times no.

Ned, you need to break up with Nancy immediately. She's cheated on you before, and she's going to cheat on you again. You deserve better than that. The book ends with Nancy deliberately lying to Ned about her future plans, so you know she's not going to change.

---

Post-Book Followup.

Normally, I don't like Ned, but I am 100% on his side here. Nancy Drew is a horrible girlfriend in this book. Simply put, she is incredibly immature. As I said at the start of this review, the book has a reading level of 7+, and I concur. Nancy acts likes a seven-year-old, with her constant temper tantrums over Ned.

It's true that the romance drama here is superior to the previous book, but jumping from "awful" to "mediocre" isn't enough to get my approval. I'm getting sick of the way that the Nancy Drew Files series forces Nancy and her friends to act out of character, for the sake of creating romantic drama.

The series also has the bad habit of including unimportant suspects who only appear for two pages. We have two of them in this book: Yvonne's boyfriend and Brenda Carlton, the amateur reporter who usually screws things up for Nancy. It's kind of funny, actually. Nancy spends two whole pages worrying about Brenda, and Brenda only talks for one paragraph. Talk about disproportionate.

I like continuity, so I was happy when they mentioned the love interests from previous books. George has a date with the guy from Book 3, and Bess doesn't know about her relationship with the guitar player from Book 2, because she hasn't seen him since he went on tour. Nancy mentions Daryl Gray from Book 1, but since his name is misspelled, it really detracts from the continuity nod.

All in all, this book probably deserves a 4 out of 10, because it's a tad below average. My final score will be lower than that, since the book is saddled with badly-done romance sections that make Nancy an unlikeable hero. I give Smile and Say Murder a 2 out of 10.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

........how did this get published?