This is a hilarious riot of a novel and ideally suited if you want to take your mind away from our pandemic times. We have a tiny town in New Zealand with all the jealousies, quiet despair and idiosyncratic locals. We have those that have stayed, those that have escaped and those that really want to leave – all part of small town life and this really resonated with me as I grew up in very similar small towns in Australia.
It is a murder mystery and so much more. Central to the novel is Tippy, an 11-year-old girl who is coming to grips with the death of her father a year ago. Her mother goes off on a cruise and along comes her gay Uncle Pike, yes he is a hairdresser, and his partner, a designer, from Sydney Australia to babysit. One of her best friends falls from a bridge and is in a coma and then her teacher is murdered. Both her and her Uncle are devoted Nancy Drew fans and what starts as a way to lift Tippy from her grief and anxiety about her Mum being away turns into a full Nancy Drew investigation.
Complete with misleading clues, mistaken murderers and our Nancys getting way too close to the real murderer this novel seamlessly combines a little bit of dark, gritty reality with humour and whimsy. Our Nancys even have a designer t-shirt with a brand, work with the local goth to recreate her into the local anti-beauty queen and keep one step ahead of the police in the hunt for the murderer. It is a whodunnit but at its heart The Nancys is about family, about fitting in and about belonging. R.W.R. McDonald is a Kiwi, living in Melbourne and he has an extended rainbow family and this is his first novel. I look forward to the next instalment and hopefully The Nancys will continue to feature. He has done quite a lot of video chats and readings of The Nancys so if this review has not convinced you to give the novel a go you can see more about him and the novel here.
By Jane Cowell, CEO Yarra Plenty Regional Library