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).
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:
Nancy Drew Blogs (there are many more):
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!