“Nancy Clue” Mysteries Bring a Classic Genre Into the Modern Era

July 23, 2012

Those who read the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys mystery books as kids will note a lot of familiar tropes in the Nancy Clue series penned by Mabel Maney. All of the protagonists are clean-cut, well-dressed, and eager to do their very best in every aspect of life. They’re also throwbacks to a bygone era with the kind of wholesome ambitions and over-simplified world views prominently represented in literature from the 1950s. In short, lovers of this genre will no doubt delight in the familiar narrative style, plot, and characterization. However, Maney has put her own spin on the girl-detective category in a couple of ways. First and foremost, these books are set in the modern era, despite the many paradigms of the past that serve as humorous nods to a former generation of literary standards. And the second glaring difference is that these books feature a largely homosexual cast of characters.

In “The Case of the Not-So-Nice Nurse: A Nancy Clue and Cherry Aimless Mystery”, Maney introduces would-be detective Cherry Aimless, who finds herself diligently pursuing a career in nursing (while idolizing famous female sleuth Nancy Clue). She dreams of “being in charge of a ward of patients, ready to soothe their pain using her gentle bedside manner in combination with the most up-to-date medical equipment available.” And yet, she finds herself daydreaming about crime-fighting, clue-finding, mystery-solving Nancy Clue, imagining that under the right circumstances, the two could become “fast friends”, despite their many differences in appearance, upbringing, and personality. Oh, to be young, stylish, and untroubled by the hardships of modern life!

In truth, the narrative style of this audio book is presented in a nudge-nudge, wink-wink manner that makes it come off as a little campy, but that’s all for the fun of an adult listener being transported back to a familiar setting from childhood – only now all grown up. As the story progresses, Cherry finds her own mystery to pursue when a beautiful amnesiac goes missing from the women’s psychiatric ward, and it’s not long before she seeks the help of Nancy Clue (who is tangled up in her own mystery when her beloved housekeeper inexplicably cops to murdering her father with a bullet through the heart). The two do indeed become friends (and then some) as Cherry predicted. But even those not terribly interested in the “gay” adventures of girl-detectives should not shy away; the wholesome conventions of the genre don’t allow for too much exploration of sexuality, and the girls mainly focus on the mystery at hand.

Although Maney’s books were originally released in the early ’90s, they have only recently been re-released in the audio book format. And the timing couldn’t be more perfect, what with all the hype about gay teens being mercilessly bullied in school and homosexual couples lobbying for equal representation in the marriage arena. In truth, the “Not-So-Nice Nurse” serves as more of a campy romp down memory lane than a social diatribe or a complex medical drama (you certainly won’t need to obtain a masters degree in nursing online to understand the hospital scenes). For those seeking a light summer listen with a twist, Mabel Maney’s audio books can offer up a lot of laughs and a little edge.

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