Nancy Parker's Diary of Detection by Julia Lee
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|Nancy Parker's Diary of Detection by Julia Lee|
|Category: Confident Readers|
|Reviewer: Linda Lawlor|
|Summary: In nineteen twenties England a working class girl is unlikely to find fame and fortune, either as an actress or as a private detective. But irrepressible Nancy manages to find plenty of crimes to solve in her first post as a housemaid.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 256||Date: March 2016|
|Publisher: OUP Oxford|
|External links: Author's website|
Nancy is a bit of a dreamer. At fourteen years old she's happy to leave school (although she never quite mastered the fine art of spelling) and finds herself as a lowly housemaid to the very modern Mrs Bryce– a far cry from her plan to star in the movies, solve mysteries or even, if the worst comes to the worst, work in a shop that sells interesting things.
Instead, Nancy's stuck running errands, cleaning the house and taking the dog for a walk. Not that she gets much sympathy from her family: Gran cheerfully informs her that she must remember her place and not get above herself. Gran is full of helpful comments like that. Nonetheless Nancy is determined to keep a journal of all the momentous things she hopes are going to happen, especially once she realises that there is something odd going on in her new home. The household has moved to Seabourne for the summer and at first Nancy's excitement at travelling in a motor car for the first time and having a whole bedroom to herself, not to mention her delight at the elegant indoor W.C., occupy her time and stop her being homesick. But then she learns about all the small but valuable items that have gone missing in the local area, and – she is, after all, a girl who spends the little free time she has reading thrillers and murder mysteries – she's soon coming up with theories and suspects.
Nancy's not alone in her desire to catch the thief however. First of all there's confident, clever Ella, the daughter of a kindly but absent-minded professor of archaeology, who is left to her own devices most of the time. She has had an unconventional upbringing and this, plus the fact that she's really rather a lonely child, means she has no problem befriending a mere servant. Then there's Quentin, a shy moon-faced boy with horn-rimmed specs who's such a duffer at school that his parents have decided he must spend the whole summer being tutored by Mr Cheeseman, the vicar at Seabourne. After various squabbles and misunderstandings, the three young people make friends, discover that a far greater crime is being committed right under their noses, and agree to work together to catch the criminals before they escape abroad.
Nancy admits, in the privacy of her journal, that she worries a little about becoming a detective because she doesn't like blood. Fortunately, the crimes that rock the little sea-side town do not involve murder or serious injury, and the whole atmosphere of the story comes from a gentler, cosier era. The shadow of the Great War still hangs over Britain, and there are plenty of men around bearing the terrible scars of that conflict, but the horror is no longer fresh in people's minds. Indeed, attentive readers may well solve the various mysteries before our three heroes, but the strength of the story lies not so much in the plot as in the characters of Nancy, Ella and Quentin, and the way their lives differ from those of young people in the present day.
If you'd like to hear more about Nancy Parker we can recommend Nancy Parker's Spooky Speculations.
If you like reading about girl sleuths, you're sure to enjoy the adventures of Hazel Wong and Daisy Wells, two clever schoolgirls from the nineteen-thirties who manage to solve all manner of crimes (including murder!). Bookbag really enjoyed Murder Most Unladylike (Wells & Wong Mystery 1) by Robin Stevens and the sequel Arsenic For Tea.
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