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Girl Sleuth: Nancy Drew and the Women Who Created Her by Melanie Rehak

Publisher:  Harcourt, Inc. ISBN:  0151010412

Reviewed by Anne K. Edwards, New Mystery Reader 

A history of that famous mystery solver you remember as a girl--Nancy Drew!  This book tells how Nancy Drew came to be created. It is well worth the time to read it, a book that will appeal to any mystery buff.

Edward Stratemeyer created Nancy Drew to give girls stories about other girls. Nancy was just different enough to appeal to a wide range of girls who saw in her qualities they would like to have. Nancy set an example of independence, something girls had not had before.

Nancy and other similar heroines gave girls their own books to read as heretofore they had  had to read books written about boys for boys. Nancy was a challenge to the mindset of society about the roles of women..   

Talented Melanie Rehak gives the reader a look at the background of Harriet Stratemeyer and Mildred Wirt, two women involved in creating Nancy Drew tales. It was the backgrounds of these two women who helped create Nancy as we came to know her.

Girl Sleuth takes the reader behind the scenes of the creative process in writing a book and how they are published. An interesting, well written book that is more than a history. We step back in time to meet the living characters who provided us with so much enjoyment. Insightful and researched thoroughly, this is a book you won't want to miss.  Enjoy. Highly recommended.



First Drop by Zoë Sharp

Publisher: St. Martin's Minotaur ISBN: 0312341695

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

UK body guard Charlie Fox has come to America for her new assignment; watching over Trey, the teenage son of computer geek Keith Pelzner, a man who supposedly has invented a stock trading program that will set the industry on fire.  Arriving in sunny Florida, she's not too pleased with being stuck with the truculent boy, but her wariness soon enough turns to terror when an attempted kidnapping takes place at a local amusement park.  Fleeing in a hail of gunfire, the two barely escape with their lives and find themselves on the run from a gang of men who seem to want to see Trey and Charlie dead.  With no one to trust, and fearing her partner in love and work has already been killed, Charlie will fight with all she's worth to protect this young man, all the while trying to clear her own name in the deaths of several innocent bystanders.

This mostly exciting thriller of double crosses, numerous shoot-outs, and high tech shenanigans should please audiences who like that kind of thing.  But for those who prefer a more brainy approach to solving a puzzle, this comes up short, as does the character of Charlie Fox, who for the most part is a somewhat callous and brutal heroine who is all too willing to shoot first and ask questions later.  So this review comes with mixed feelings; the book is good for an adventure with plenty of brawn but little brains, and it reads quickly although not quite satisfactorily.



First Kill by Michael Kronenwetter

Publisher: St. Martin's Minotaur ISBN: 0312347375

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader 

Pierney Falls, Wisconsin PI Hank Berlin hasn't seen Elizabeth Drucker for over 20 years, and so when she knocks in his door, he's more than a little surprised, not to mention assailed by some all too uncomfortable feelings.  High school sweethearts, she was his first love, but it all ended when she chose his best friend Jack over him.  Now Jack is dead, murdered by a gunman in an isolated spot, and she wants Hank to find out who did it and why.  And in an investigation that will take Hank from dubious development projects, Viet Nam tragedies, and Wisconsin mobsters, Jack will have to face some ugly truths about his one-time best friend, along with some ugly truths abut the movers and shakers of the town who will stop at nothing to keep their secrets.     

For readers who like a detailed investigation, this one fits the bill easily.  Moving from suspect to suspect, Berlin systematically addresses each with plenty of smarts but with seemingly little passion.  The ingredients are all here for a much more heartfelt look at past loves, friendships, and dreams, but somehow in the end just falls short of hitting that mark, especially with the lack of further insight into Liz's reentrance into Berlin's life.  And while Berlin is close to being a fully realized character, there's a definite lack of excitement to his personality, so while interesting with some decent character quirks, he too falls just shy of inspiring.  Still, many should enjoy this mildly entertaining read for its well-rounded plot and surprising climax.   



Before the Last Lap by Joyce and Jim Lavene

Publisher:  Avalon Books  ISBN:  0-8034-9728-8

Reviewed by Susan Illis, New Mystery Reader 

On an early fall day in Diamond Springs, a cigarette boat roars out of the lake and hits a Honda.  The purse of Sheriff Sharyn Howard's assistant, Trudy Robinson, is found on board, along with her fingerprints and blood, but Trudy, who disappeared three days earlier, remains missing.

The boat's driver is presumed to be Gunther Mabry, whose body is found floating in the lake.  Mabry was a mechanic for Duke Beatty, the owner of the boat and the Stag-Inn-Doe, a local dive.  Duke is murdered just a few days later.  Did Trudy kill both men?  Or was it her husband, Deputy Ed Robinson, whose immediate (and absurd) confession horrifies Sharyn?

Sharyn doesn't believe that either of her colleagues—and friends—committed the crimes, so with the assistance of her array of deputies and her boyfriend/medical examiner, she searches for the real killer, while continuing to investigate crooked politicians and the murder of her own father several years earlier.

The prolific writing team of Joyce and Jim Lavene churn out the Sharyn Howard mysteries at an amazing rate—this one follows the tenth installment by a scant six months.  Before the Last Lap is another action-packed quick read, fortunately without the frantic pacing of Last One Down.  However, the Lavenes should spend a little more time on characterization and trying to create a believable spark between Sharyn and Nick.