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Book DetailsISBN: 9781760527334
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Book Review: The Nancys by R.W.R. McDonald - Reviewed by CloggieA (19 Jun 2019)
The Nancys is the first novel by New Zealand-born Australian author, R W R McDonald. While her mother is away on a two-week cruise, eleven-year-old Tippy Chan’s Uncle Pike is in Riverstone with his boyfriend, Devon, to keep an eye on her. Pike is expecting a boring time in South Otago, but mere days into his stay, one of Tippy’s friends, Todd Landers falls off the bridge over the River Clutha. Making their own entertainment is meant to include fun things like making-over for neighbour Melanie Brown for a Show Queen contest, not falling off a balcony and breaking an ankle. And certainly not a decapitated teacher.
While her best friend, Sam Chapman isn’t interested, Tippy is determined to solve this murder mystery, and her collection of Nancy Drew books (formerly the property of Uncle Pike) has given her an exceptional deductive intellect for a girl of her age. Devon is an enthusiastic participant, and christens the team The Nancys, although he often seems more interested in creating a Nancys logo T-shirt than solving a murder.
Unimpressed with police handling of the case, the Nancys do their professional best: they improvise a whiteboard to collate their information; they hunt down pertinent clues (and not a few red herrings); they (subtly or less so) question suspects, witnesses and anyone who can provide information they need. And finally, they have their man! (don’t they?)
With a primary cast that includes a heavily-tattooed Santa look-alike hair stylist, a camp fashion designer who talks in emojis and smart, brave pre-teen with initiative, it would be impossible to avoid an element of farce, especially when props like reindeer costumes, radical hair-dos, carved bars of soap substituting for mobile phones, mysterious origami flowers, an unusual necklace and crutches feature. A small-town A&P Show Queen contest adds to the silliness.
Underlying the murder mystery is Tippy’s own mystery of how and why her father died, and why her mother had removed all pictures of her husband and won’t talk about him. Tippy learns a bit about friendship, loyalty and trust, and a blame-the-messenger lesson, as kids try to do their best while some adults behave very badly.
The voice that McDonald gives Tippy is effortlessly authentic, and her innocent interpretation of the abundant innuendo that peppers the novel is often a source of humour. The liberal use of expletives and sexual euphemisms, and other inappropriate discussions to which Tippy is exposed, are possibly realistic given their socio-economic group, although it may make some readers uncomfortable. Undeniable, though, is that those closest to Tippy do care deeply about her. Moving and (often blackly) funny, this is a heart-warming read. This unbiased review is from an uncorrected proof copy provided by Allen & Unwin.
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