Girl Detective Book #24 is so awful that I'm sharing my review with you all, ahead of time.
Today's book review will be extra-long. I want to describe EVERYTHING in "Murder on the Set", because it could be the worst book in the entire Girl Detective series. Worse than paranoid Nancy inventing kidnappings? Yes. Worse than the investigation that was the author's last vacation? Yep. Worse than the book where the culprit only spoke two sentences? Hmm...maybe not THAT awful, but it's still pretty bad.
The book begins with Nancy and her friends gossiping about movie stars, because everyone loves to read about fictional celebrities. Brett Harley is dating Fiona Gibson. Nancy says it's because Fiona has big blue eyes, big red lips, and big...Nancy pauses for a moment...blonde hair. *shocked look* Guh, did this book just start off with a boob joke?
Deirdre Shannon is there. Deirdre Shannon is always there. Only she's not! Deirdre Shannon has been replaced with DIErdre Simmons. Yes, they got her first name AND her last name wrong. It's like the editor hasn't actually read any of the previous books.
Dierdre announces that they're filming a movie in River Heights! The movie will star Brett Harley and Fiona Gibson. Best of all, the movie is hiring local townspeople to act as extras!
Nancy says she's too afraid to audition, which is a HUGE *continuity!* error. She signed a TV contract three books ago, she'll be on TV again in the next book, and what's this? She starred in a movie, in Books 5 and 6! So, yeah, why is Nancy acting like she's never been onscreen before?!
For the first time in this series, someone makes a joke about Bess being fat. Dierdre Simmons makes THREE jokes about Bess' weight. Bess starts to get sad and self-conscious, so Nancy cheers her up, by agreeing to join the audition.
We are not even finished with the first chapter, and I have at least four things to complain about. Better tighten your seatbelts, viewers, because it's going to get worse.
Nancy overhears her father talking with Police Chief McGinnis. Someone sent a death threat to the movie director, and McGinnis wants a professional detective to investigate. Um...why is McGinnis bringing this problem to Mr. Drew? I mean, I know he's doing it so Nancy can "accidentally" overhear all the details of the case, but it doesn't make sense that a police chief brings confidential matters to a random lawyer.
I don't know how movie auditions work in real life, but in this book, all the characters have to do is show up and get their picture taken. About thirty women are chosen to be extras, including Dierdre Shannon. Oh, hey, her last name is back to normal now! They're still misspelling her first name, though.
The movie producers suddenly realize that they forgot to get a stand-in for Fiona. By huge coincidence, *eyeroll* Bess and Nancy are right there. Director Gordon MacIntyre hires Nancy on the spot, since she has the right hair color, and she's the right height.
Bess doesn't understand basic logic, so she has a huge meltdown. "How could you do this to me, Nancy? I thought you were my best friend! How DARE you not be the same height as me?!" Bess is five foot two, by the way, and why have none of the books mentioned that she's a full foot shorter than Nancy's boyfriend?
To make the Bess drama in this book even weirder, Nancy purposely doesn't tell Bess about the mystery. She tells George, but not Bess. Why is Nancy keeping secrets from Bess? I dunno, the book never says! We're left to guess that Nancy doesn't trust Bess, because she's an airhead in this book.
The Bess drama intensifies, when George's car is hired as an extra. Yes, the car. Randomly, George has a car from 1978. I guess she bought it during "The Mystery of Crocodile Island"! [The Nancy Drew book from 1978] Weird car aside, I'm pretty sure the REAL reason George got hired is because she agreed to date the pyrotechnics guy.
Nancy meets the big movie stars. Fiona is a bigger airhead than Bess, if that's possible. Brett is a slimeball, who hits on Nancy, because she looks like his girlfriend. That is creepy on multiple levels.
Finally, Nancy meets the director. He agrees to let Bess be an extra, if Nancy goes out with him tonight. That's clearly sexual harassment, but Nancy agrees. She starts work as a stand-in, when Brett shows up. The director orders the two of them to make out with each other. Before Nancy can respond, Brett starts passionately kissing her. Again, that's clearly sexual harassment.
Nancy and Brett run through the makeout scene, six times in a row. This causes Nancy's boyfriend to run away, crying. Nancy makes a half-hearted attempt to apologize to Ned for cheating on him, then she immediately turns around and goes on her date with the director. *facepalm* The director starts the date by kissing Nancy, because she STILL hasn't learned her lesson about kissing men in public. The romantic date is interrupted by Dierdre, who spreads the news about Nancy all over town.
For once, I'm on Dierdre's side. Nancy is cheating on Ned, with two guys at the same time. You can't _accidentally_ start a double love triangle and claim the entire thing is a misunderstanding.
The next day, they film the scene with George's car. Nancy decides she wants to be in this scene, so she jumps in the car, and hey, now she's an extra. What? If becoming an extra is THAT easy, why was there such a big stink earlier about Bess not becoming one? Apparently, all you have to do is run in front of the camera, without permission!
The book has been pretty bad so far, but the final third is a definite improvement. That's 'cause the author finally remembered, "Hey, wasn't there a mystery to solve, or something? Oh, yeah, there were death threats! I should follow up on that."
The culprit tries to kill Brett, by sabotaging his car. Nancy saves his life, and he is so grateful that he promises to do ANYTHING she asks. Nancy hands him her phone, and tells him to explain things to Ned.
I'm kidding, of course. She asks Brett to write an autograph for Bess. Nancy doesn't want Brett to resolve the misunderstanding over the kiss. Nancy and Ned prefer to augment their relationship drama, by not talking to each other like normal people.
That night, Nancy breaks into the car junkyard, to examing Brett's sabotaged car. She hears noise coming from a dumpster. Inside is Dierdre Shannon, bound and gagged. The culprit kidnapped tied her up and threw her in a dumpster, because...um...the book never says why. All we're told is that she was in the wrong place, at the wrong time. That sounds like a cop-out explanation to me, but I'd be lying if I said I expected something else.
The culprit isn't very observant, because they open up the dumpster again, without noticing Nancy inside. The culprit throws a dead body on top of Dierdre, which could be the grossest moment of the entire series. Nancy waits a few minutes, then she leaves the dumpster and calls the police like this:
"Safely inside my car, with the doors locked, I called the police. In my best phony voice, I told them about Dierdre and the body in the dumpster. I knew the voice wouldn't fool Chief McGinnis, but I hoped that by the time he got around to me, I'd have solved the case myself."
Yes. Nancy reports a murder, by talking in falsetto. How is that NOT super suspicious? Either way, the plan works! The police don't realize it's her, and we never hear about the dead body again. Which is a shame, because I _really_ wanted to hear Dierdre try to explain the situation to the police.
The culprit steals a bunch of explosives from George's pyrotechnic boyfriend. Nancy realizes the police should know about this, but she doesn't call them because...I dunno, I guess she can only call the police once a night.
We're at the end of the book now, so it's time for Nancy to solve the mystery! She puts all her clues together, and realizes...oh, wait, she doesn't have any clues. She does a mad dash to get some last-minute evidence, which proves the director is the culprit. He's ruining the film as part of a misguided revenge plot against Brett and Fiona.
The director traps Nancy in the same room as the bomb. She gets rescued by George's pyrotechnic boyfriend. It turns out that he is secretly the private investigator, who Mr. Drew hired in Chapter Two. So...Nancy being on the case was 100% pointless. Her father hired someone else to solve the case, and they did.
Nancy and the detective get everyone to evacuate the area, before the bomb goes off. The director is arrested, and the book skips ahead to when the movie is finished. _Of course_, the new director decided to include the footage of Nancy making out with Brett. But that doesn't bother Nancy! Nancy and Ned are a solid couple again, after resolving all their problems offscreen.
Post Book Followup
Why is this book so awful? I mean, they couldn't even be bothered to get the characters' names right! That's a really special kind of awful.
It's possible that they rushed the book through production, to coincide with the release of the Nancy Drew movie. It's also possible that this was the point where they decide to reboot the series, again, and so they decided to show all remaining books out the door, as quickly as possible. That would explain why the series broke its regular release schedule and gave us five books in four months, instead of the usual two.
The first two chapters of the book are extended flashback. Interestingly enough, Nancy provides sarcastic commentary on the events. She says things like, "Boy, was _I_ wrong!" and "I have no idea why I said that." Snarky Nancy Drew was kind of interesting. It's too bad she didn't continue that, throughout the entire book. It MIGHT have made the book more tolerable, if Nancy pointed out some of her mistakes.
Overall, this is a really, really bad book. The relationship drama is completely horrible, Bess is out of character the whole time, and the author couldn't even bother to spell the characters' names correctly! Is there any doubt as to what my final score will be? I give Nancy Drew Girl Detective 24, Murder on the Set, a zero out of ten.