Nancy Drew: girl detective, Master of Mystery



Welcome to Masters of Mystery Monday, where each week we feature a fictional detective and examine his or her unique contribution to the mystery genre.  You are invited to challenge yourself with a short detective quiz, and see the answers to the previous week’s quiz.

I’ve just returned from a wonderful weekend at Malice Domestic, a convention for lovers of cozy mysteries.  I’ll be blogging about that on Wednesday.  In panel discussions and general chit-chat this past weekend, guess which detective came up most often as the original influence for these cozy mystery writers and readers?   (Sherlock Holmes was second, by the way).

Nancy Drew


She turned 80 last year, but you have to admit the old gal looks great for her age.

Some interesting facts about the Nancy Drew series:

1. Nancy was created by Edward Stratemeyer, of the Stratemeyer Syndicate; the first “Carolyn Keene” was Mildred A. Wirt Benson (who was sick of “namby-pamby” girl characters), and the first artist was Russell H. Tandy.

2.  Nancy’s creation in context: her first mystery, in 1930, was only ten years after women had been given the Constitutional right to vote.

3.  In 1959 the series was revised and updated, mostly to eliminate racist stereotypes and figures of speech.  Many scholars believe that Nancy’s character was toned down and made more lady-like, too.

4.  The Nancy Drew Mystery Series ended in 2003, with volume #175, Werewolf in a Winter Wonderland.  Other series have sprung up since then.

5. Much like the biblical creation story where man is created first and woman second, The Hardy Boys series debuted three years earlier than Nancy’s series.

Why is Nancy Drew so appealing?

1. She’s got a shiny red roadster.  You know you want one (still).

2. She’s got a cool dad who sometimes helps her in her cases but never hinders her.  He says “Be careful, Nancy,” and his parental job is done.  (Wish it were that easy).

3. She’s smart.

4. She’s daring, and gets into all kinds of physical danger.  To the best of my recollection, she’s been kidnapped, tied up, trapped or locked in a room, thrown down an old well with rats (love that one), and knocked out.  Feel free to contribute any others you can think of in the comments section!

5. Ned Nickerson is really handy, but doesn’t get all macho-protective of her.

6. Bess and George as super-cool chums to have around.

7. As a lone girl, she can do the same job it takes two (Hardy) boys to do.

Nancy Drew breaks out of the book:

Nancy Drew even goes paranormal:


More info:

Nancy Drew – history

Nancy Drew – fan site

Nancy Drew – fan conventions

Nancy Drew Blogs (there are many more):

Nancy Drew Sleuths

Around the World with Nancy Drew

The material out there on Nancy Drew is staggering, so this post is a feature rather than a comprehensive look at the girl detective.  I welcome contributions from readers – give us your tidbits of information!

Want the answers to last week’s quiz?

1. Perry Mason was a lawyer-detective created by:

  • G.K. Chesterton
  • Dorothy Sayers
  • Rex Stout
  • Erle Stanley Gardner

2. The detective Nero Wolfe was known for:

  • his obesity
  • his reclusiveness
  • his love of orchids
  • all of the above (oh, and I forgot his love of beer).  Psychologists and OCD experts would have a field day analyzing him.
  • none of the above

3. True or False: Agatha Christie went on archeological digs.  True:  Agatha’s second husband was archaeologist Max Mallowan; she accompanied him on most of his expeditions, and set several of her mysteries in the Middle East.

4. There was a mysterious incident in Agatha Christie’s life.  In her early adulthood, she:

T) was accused of murdering her first husband

U) disappeared for 11 days and when she was found had no memory of the time.  An excellent and detailed account of this episode in her life can be found here.

V) had charge of the hospital pharmaceutical dispensary, in which a large quantity of poison disappeared

W) was rumored to have an illegitimate child


Be your own “Master of Mystery: take this week’s quiz!

1. Where did Sherlock Holmes keep his pipe tobacco?

  • in an urn on the mantel
  • in his violin case
  • in the toe of a Persian slipper
  • he didn’t smoke, you moron

2. Conan Doyle couldn’t decide if Watson was shot in the arm or the leg while serving as a doctor in the war (each limb is mentioned in the stories).  In what war was Watson wounded?

  • Crimean War
  • Boer War
  • Desert Storm
  • Second Anglo-Afghan War

3.  Author Earl Derr Biggers created which fictional detective?

  • Charlie Chan
  • Judge Dee
  • Nero Wolfe
  • Hercule Poirot

4. True or False:  Miss Marple debuted in Christie’s The Mysterious Affair at Styles.

Hope you’re enjoying the quizzes.  Were you a fan of Nancy Drew in your younger days?  What was it about her (or her circumstances, or the mysteries) that appealed to you most?  I’d love to hear from you.

Thanks for joining me today.  See you soon!




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12 thoughts on “Nancy Drew: girl detective, Master of Mystery”

  1. Paul OwenPaul Owen

    Rats, you got me again! These quizzes are too tricky for me. But I love the crack about Nancy D. being able to do the job of two Hardy Boys.

  2. Tiffany WhiteTiffany White

    Okay, I don’t remember the series, but now I definitely want TVLand to air reruns! I loved reading Nancy Drew growing up; heck, I always wanted to be her! Maybe that’s why my dad gave me a red thunderbird when I turned 16? It wasn’t a roadster, but it was close enough. Maybe that’s why I want to write mysteries today? Nancy & The Hardy Boys….oh, memory bliss. Fabulous Monday Mystery post again!

  3. Paige KellermanPaige Kellerman

    Loved this post! I was referred over here from Kristen Lamb’s blog and so glad I was. Nancy Drew had been around a long time before I came around, but that didn’t stop me from reading every book and wanting to be At about twelve, I remember thinking Ned was the perfect boyfriend…hahaha.
    Keep up the great work!


  4. Nancy LauzonNancy Lauzon

    Thanks for this tribute, Kathy, I really enjoyed it! I’m a member of Nancy Drew Sleuths, and I could kick myself for having given away my original Nancy Drew volumes to a garage sale when I thought I was too old for them anymore – stupid! So I started collecting them again. I comb used bookstores and flea markets, but they are still difficult to find.

    Nancy wasn’t just about entertainment and adventure. I think what Nancy did for me as a young reader back in the day (we’re talking mid-sixties, yikes) was show me how girls could be independent, smart, brave and responsible. She was such an important role model.

    And she ended up inspiring me as an author – that’s how the Chick Dick Mysteries were born.

    Check out my blog ‘My Fair Nancy’, where I discuss the outfits she wore while sleuthing!

  5. Terri Giuliano LongTerri Giuliano Long

    Love this post, Kathy! I read the Nancy Drew series as a girl. The books were old and dusty, though the spines were intact. They’d belonged to my mom, so must have been first printings. I remember whipping through the books, and feeing that sadness for the first time, a book lover not wanting the series to end. Thanks so much for the memories!

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