Sunday, 8 September 2019

The Nancys, by R.W.R. McDonald.

           Eleven-year-old Tippy Chan and her mother live in Riverstone, a South Otago town in New Zealand’s South Island that time seemingly forgot – absolutely nothing changes, ever, in Riverstone, especially in the opinion of successful gay Sydney hairdresser Pike, Tippy’s a-maz-ing uncle, who has returned to kidsit Tippy while mum reluctantly goes on a 10-day cruise.  He doesn’t want to be there, the scene of many bad youthful memories:  it was impossible to be oneself growing up in that baleful, constricted atmosphere, so he fled to Sydney to come out.  Now, he has returned with Devon, a lover who has miraculously survived the usual three-month duration of Pike’s relationships, and a desire to help Tippy and her mum through the terrible grief they feel at the accidental death of Joe, Tippy’s Chinese dad and Helen’s beloved husband.
            Pike (who looks like Santa Claus with tats – lots of them) and Devon certainly liven Riverstone up;  Devon loves spangles and sparkles, sprinkling them around like fairy dust, and they are thrilled to know that Tippy has read every copy of Pike’s boyhood collection of Nancy Drew novels.
            Nancy Drew, girl detective:  what a role model!  And what fun to pretend to use her detective skills on various unlikable locals – until Tippy’s friend Todd falls off a bridge and ends up in a coma in Dunedin hospital, and her despised teacher Jill Everson’s decapitated body is found on the riverbank:  suddenly, it’s not a game anymore.  Whether she wants to or not, Tippy becomes involved in investigating a genuine heinous crime, and it’s nowhere near as easy as she thought.  Nancy Drew has a lot to answer for!
            Mr Mc Donald has brought a small town beautifully to life in ‘The Nancys’ – especially Tippy’s neighbours, the Browns, who pop in and out more often than they should because neither family wanted to pay for a fence.  Which turns out to be a good thing, especially when Mrs Brown’s surly granddaughter decides to enter the A & P Show Queen competition to bring it undone and prove that it’s  ‘a Meat Market for the Ages’:  she has the perfect accomplices in Pike and Devon, who don’t believe in hypocrisy of any kind.  Tell it like it is, girlfriend, and solve that murder too!
            This is a most charming story, with great characters and poignant insights into grief and loss of every kind.  It is also Mr McDonald’s first novel; what a mighty debut!  The Rainbow Community will love it, and rightly so.  FIVE STARS     

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