Saturday, July 1, 2017

The Mystery at Lilac Inn by Midred Wirt aka Carolyn Keene

Rating: WARTY!

Having read about the women who fostered Nancy Drew's birth and healthy upbringing (Girl Sleuth: Nancy Drew and the Women Who Created Her by Melanie Rehak), I decided I wanted to read one or two of the novels. I grew up never having heard of her, and I'd had no desire to read them before. Now I know why: they're really not very good!

Or to put it more kindly, I listened to volume number two as an audiobook, and I found it so bland and dated that I could not listen to all of it, nor did I even try to listen to the second one I borrowed from the library. It was sad, but it was a different world back then, and it's not one I feel a part of. Had I been a juvenile (or lived in the fifties or earlier!) I might have enjoyed it more. This of course takes nothing away from Mildred Wirt's admirable work-ethic or her sterling ability to multi-task and turn in a novel on a deadline while caring for two different ailing husbands (not at the same time!) and a baby! She was much more heroic than ever Nancy was and she deserves a lot more credit than she's had.

The story is about ghostly happenings at an inn, which are quite obviously being staged by villains intent upon some scheme or other. It's also about identity theft long before that became an issue. And of course, it's about Nancy Drew, spoiled-rotten heroine, without a care in the world, who saves the day.

I didn't listen to enough of it to find out what the bad guys wanted. The writing was too bland for my taste and did not engage me, so I cannot recommend it. It's from a different age and I think it belongs there, although very young readers might find it entertaining. Laura Linney read this and did a decent job for what that's worth, but for me the problem with it, in addition to its blandness, is that Nancy Drew is such an institution in the US that people tend to give her a bye when they really should be more critical, and I mean critical in an analytical sense, not necessarily in a pejorative one.