Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Red Blazer Girls : the ring of Rocamadour by Michael D. Beil.

How many of you ladies out there used to read Nancy Drew novels when you were young? I read a few of them, but I knew girls who read one after another. Edward Stratemeyer who started the Nancy Drew series (Carolyn Keene was a pseudonym, the books were written by ghost writers) really hit on a formula that set the standard for girl detective novels ever since. Now every new girl detective series is compared to Nancy Drew. This is a girl detective book that, in many ways, feels like a modernization of Nancy Drew. There are important differences. In the Nancy Drew novels, Nancy really was center stage. She had some friends, but they were always in the background. In this book, even though the story is narrated by Sophie, her friends, Margaret, Rebecca and Leigh Anne play pretty equal roles in solving the mystery. In some ways the brainy one, Margaret, is the leading sleuth, and Sophie is along for the ride. In this first installment of their adventures they are asked by an old lady to solve a 20 year old mystery that will lead them to the hiding place of a valuable historical and religious artifact. Of course, there are those who try to stop them. The girls use their wits, and their considerable academic knowledge to solve the puzzle. One thing I like about this book is that the girls actually ask for help from adults that they trust. They don't do stupid things, like go into a dangerous situation without any adult knowing what they are up to. In so many children's detective novels, the kids go off and do things alone because they don't think any adults would believe them. The teacher in this book not only believes the girls, but is eager to get involved. The whole mystery in this book was a little contrived--OK, so it was a lot contrived-- but I enjoyed it anyway. It was intelligent and the girls in the book were likable. I will probably read more in the series some time. (299 p.)

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