But despite my undying devotion to the genre, I'd never so much as contemplated reading a Nancy Drew book until pretty late in my series-reader career. In fact, I'd never even seen one. Oh, I knew of their existence, sure, but mainly because I'd heard really old people (read: over 25s) reminiscing about them. As far as my teenage self was concerned, Nancy Drew books belonged to a time when people ate bread and dripping for supper and penny sweets actually cost a penny. In other words, bor-ing.
So when my sister borrowed Secrets Can Kill - book one of the Nancy Drew Files - from her BFF, I was in two minds. I mean, it looked like a series book. It was American. It had the number 1 on it, and on the front there was a picture of Nancy herself sporting an eighties blow dry, frosted lipstick and purple slouch leather jacket. This was a new, revamped and updated Nancy Drew. On the other hand, it was Nancy Drew. Could I really be that desperate for a series book fix?
As it turns out, yes, I could. And actually Nancy was, surprisingly, pretty cool. Of course, it helped that Secrets Can Kill is set in a high school and that eighteen year old Nancy, posing as a student, spends half the book going weak at the knees over a handsome senior with eyes like blueberries. Okay, the blueberry thing is a little weird. But the point is, it was just like a regular high school series book. Except that Nancy Drew also solved mysteries. Yay!
Rereading this book, I wasn't sure what to expect. My memory of Nancy herself wasn't especially strong, but I vaguely remembered her as a girl power hero with brains and attitude. If only. See, in addition to being a super sleuth, Nancy is kind of... vacuous. A few chapters in, all I really know about her is that she wears designer jeans that cost 50 whole dollars, and that when she looks in the mirror she's given to admiring the way those jeans hug her long, slim legs. Oh, and she's also a totally famous girl detective in her hometown of River Heights. So of course it makes perfect sense that she's picked to go undercover without so much as an alias at a high school fifteen miles away. Perfect sense. Ahem.
The mystery aspect itself is rather fun. It's action, action, action for Nancy. There's high school blackmail, a murder, an attempt on Nancy's life, and Russian spies. There's also a sparky rivalry with ace reporter Brenda Carlton, who is as eager to make the front page as Nancy is to
In what I can only assume to be an attempt to make Nancy seem like an independent woman, the weirdest aspect of Secrets Can Kill has to be Ms Drew's relationship with her on-off boyfriend, Ned Nickerson. He's away at college, but we're barely out of the first chapter before she's looking at his picture and 'shivering' at the mere thought of his arms around her. Strangely, we're only up to chapter three before she's wondering what it would be like to be in hunky senior Daryl Gray's arms instead. But that's okay! Because we're told right away that though Nancy and Ned love each other, neither one is ready for 'forever'. So they drift apart sometimes and see other people, but always get back together again. And... I don't get it. I mean, if it were left to the reader to discern that Nancy really loves Ned while she's off flirting with all these other boys, that would be fine. But the way we're literally told from page one that this is an open relationship because neither party wants to be tied down? It's calculated and it's weird, and I don't get it.
Verdict: I can't make up my mind on this one. Is it so bad it's good, or is it just... bad? If anything, it makes me want to read one of the original Nancy Drew titles to find out what the iconic character was like before her eighties makeover. Still, the tacky awesomeness of the cover alone is enough to earn this one a place on my bookshelf.