Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Nancy Drew Files 5 - Review



Even though Hit and Run Holiday was first published in November, 1986, the premise is that Nancy and her friends are on Spring Break in Florida. Spring break in November? What?

Nancy stops to check up on Kim Baylor, the daughter of one of her neighbors. Nancy overhears Kim having a heated phone conversation with someone named Ricardo. Kim then rushes outside, where she gets hit by an unmarked car.

Kim blames Rosita, then slips into an 60-page coma. After taking Kim to the hospital, Nancy returns to Kim's motel. Someone broke in and ransacked the room! Amid the mess, Nancy finds some things that indicate a second person lives with Kim. She also finds a photo strip of Kim with a Hispanic woman, presumably Rosita.

Nancy's search is interrupted when someone breaks into the room. Including Nancy, that makes three intruders in five minutes. Wow, Kim does not live in a safe neighborhood.

Nancy hides in the closet while the intruder steals a few things. Later on the beach, Nancy sees the intruder again. His name is Ricardo, and he is a lifeguard. Nancy asks him about Kim, but he gets angry and refuses to say anything. Out of spite, Ricardo purposely lets Nancy step on a jellyfish.

That's a weird way to injure sometime. "Here, I'll trick you into stepping on my strategically-placed jellyfish!".

Also on the beach, Bess is flirting with Dirk Bowman, a hunky blonde with horrible taste in swimwear. Dirk works for a boating company that takes people to a nearby island for nighttime parties. The instant Nancy mentions Kim, Dirk attaches himself to her and begs her to meet with him, so they can discuss the case.

Nancy and Dirk set a date, and Bess isn't happy that Nancy has stolen her love interest.

Dirk takes Nancy to Party Island the next day, but they make no progress in the investigation. Nancy sees Ricardo, moments before she is almost killed in a windsurfing accident.

It's starting to sound like Party Island is badly named. Either way, Ricardo is now Nancy's prime suspect.

The owner of Party Island is Lila Templeton. Her family bought the island and party business, with the proceeds from their orange farms. Bess and George accepts Lila's invitation to visit Party Island that night, but since Nancy has seen the movie Pinocchio, she decides to pass.

Instead, Nancy tracks down the Hispanic woman in Kim's picture. Her name is Maria, and Nancy can only half-understand her, since Maria speaks Spanish.

The book takes a surprisingly serious turn at this point, as Maria tells her story. She is an illegal immigrant from an unnamed country which I like to call "Cuba". The Cubans pay a lot of money to be smuggled into America, but when they arrive, they are forced to work as slaves on a farm. The worst part is that they can't go to the police, for fear of deportation.

The slave traders arrive and knock Nancy out. When she wakes up, she's tied to a support beam on the dock. The tide is coming in, and she's going to drown soon. In a more desperate than usual struggle, Nancy manages to escape with her life.

Nancy decides to go the police, but she's interrupted when a corpse is found on the beach. It's Ricardo, and he was also killed by the slave traders. So much for Nancy's theory that Ricardo is the culprit.

Instead of going to the police, Nancy goes to her room and collapses. Bess happens to mention that Lila Pendelton's boat is named "The Rosita", and everything clicks into place. Party Island Boat Tours are just a front, so Lila can bring in Cuban slaves for her family's orange farm.

Great, so NOW Nancy goes to the police and, HA, no. Nancy, Bess and George decide that they're more than enough of a match for the murdering slave traders. Unlike the cover artist, the villains notice Nancy's distinctive reddish-blonde hair, and our heroes are captured and thrown belowdeck.

Dirk is assigned to be the guard, and Nancy escapes from the room by knocking him unconscious with her karate moves. Darn. I was hoping Nancy's magical karate moves from Book 2 would be a one-time thing, but it looks like they'll be a regular feature of this series from now on. If Nancy can easily knock people out in a few seconds, why doesn't she do that to the culprits in _every_ book?

The rest of Nancy's escape goes badly. She swims to Party Island, where she gets chased by Lila's guards. In a surprise twist, Nancy learns that Dirk got to the island before her, even though he was unconscious five minutes ago.

No, wait, that's not the twist. The twist is that Dirk is secretly an undercover cop who is working to bring Lila down. He managed to get Nancy's friends to safety on a speedboat, and now it's time to escape.

But...Dirk was unconscious five minutes ago! How did he have the time to do all of this, and still arrive before Nancy?

Nancy drives the speedboat to shore, while the villains give chase. She escapes by running full speed at a sand bar. The speedboat goes flying through the air to safety, while the villains' boat gets trapped.

In the end, Kim returns to full health, and Maria becomes an American citizen. Dirk visits Nancy before she leaves Florida. Logically, he should be mad because Nancy is an irresponsible teenager who ruined his investigation and blew his cover, but he's actually happy about that. He kisses Nancy twice, before she reminds him that they abandoned a bunch of people on Party Island. Oops!

The End

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Post-Book Followup:

The first third-to-half of this book is somewhat weak. Nancy's investigation makes very little progress, and it feels like all she does is wander across random tangents. For example, she doesn't look into Ricardo, who is her only suspect. Instead, she focuses on Dirk and Lila, who have no apparent connection to the attempted murder.

The turning point of the book is the introduction of the slave trade plotline. I never expected to see human trafficking come up in a Nancy Drew book, and the topic is handled quite well. It provided what was lacking in the first half of the book: an emotional connection between Nancy and the case.

It helps that the storyline becomes more focused at this point, too.

The quality of the escape scenes varies a bit too much for my tastes, but they're fine overall. The premise of the final third is a little tenuous. Nancy should have contacted the police, like she originally planned to do, instead of charging into a dangerous situation where she once again gets caught and needs to escape.

I didn't mention it in my review, but this book features a lot of random guys hitting on Nancy. As in, at least five different men start flirting with her. I guess they like her 1980's swimsuit or something. Nancy turns them all down, and upon reflection, it's a somewhat odd subplot.

Overall, the book is okay. The good parts sort of balance out the bad parts, and while I wouldn't put it on my "must read" list, it's definitely not on my "must avoid" list, either. I give Hit and Run Mystery--which pretty much ignored the hit and run mystery--a 6 out of 10.

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