Nancy Drew and The Ringmaster’s Secret: Girl Power and Mysteries for All!
A Review By: Amelia
I’ve spent this last year re-reading the Nancy Drew books. Why, you might ask. Well, I spent my childhood reading them and thought that for nostalgia’s sake I’d read them again. So far, I’ve gotten thirty five volumes into the original fifty six and the beloved series from my childhood more or less holds up. This review is for number thirty one in the series and the book I read most recently and very much enjoyed: The Ringmaster’s Secret.
In The Ringmaster’s Secret, Nancy Drew is given a beautiful gold bracelet, decorated with five performing circus horses, with one horse missing. When she learns of the story behind the jewelry Nancy sets out on an adventure that has her joining the circus and searching through the English countryside for the answers she needs to solve it!
Now for those of you who don’t know, Carolyn Keene–the author of the Nancy Drew series–is actually a pen name that was used by many different men and women over the years. Stratemeyer Syndicate, the company that created Nancy Drew, hired a variety of writers and used the pseudonym Carolyn Keene to assure anonymity of the creator! And now you know why I don’t have anything to say about the author–because I just can’t find one!
As you probably could have deduced by yourself (see what I did there? Deduce? Because it’s a mystery series!) Nancy Drew is the main character of the series. She’s an eighteen year old, intelligent, athletic girl that’s always handy to help someone in need. She’s a pretty intense female character given the time period that she came about in, but there are a few flaws to her design. For one, she doesn’t change from book to book: physically, mentally, or emotionally. Nancy’s beliefs never waver, she doesn’t learn lessons or anything about herself that help her grow as a person, she never even ages! She’s always eighteen even though if you take into account all the time she spends on her fifty six different adventures, there’s no way that less than a year passes! None of the other characters ever change either (besides Nancy’s friend George starting to say ‘hypers’ as a catch phrase about twenty five books in)! It comes with–not only–the ghost writers but also because it was a serialization of novels and it was meant for a younger audience. Because of those above mentioned factors the characters take a back seat to the plot.
All that isn’t to say that Nancy doesn’t have her strong points! She’s an independent girl with intelligence, integrity, and empathy. She was actually created by the same man that thought up the Hardy Boys because he thought that young girls should have a strong role model and that’s pretty amazing! Nancy is a character that thinks things through, figures stuff out before anyone else, and always lends a helping hand. Some of her dialogue and especially her father’s dialogue (ex: her needing to be escorted to certain places) might seem a little out of place or sexist, but it’s certainly not often and certainly never a plot point.
Nancy Drew and The Ringmaster’s Secret is an interesting Nancy Drew book. The plot takes Nancy through the daily life of a circus performer and across the Atlantic ocean to England where, up to this point, she’d never been out of North America! It’s also one of her more challenging mysteries and, as always, she does it without becoming discouraged. She’s a kick ass female character considering the time in which she was created and, although no longer one of a kind, she’ll always be one of the first!
My final thoughts on The Ringmaster’s Secret are that it’s one of my favourite Nancy Drew books. It has its problem of character development in the title character but that comes more from the fact that Nancy was written by ghost writers over a series of years. It has an interesting plot with Nancy joining the circus and the mystery she seeks to solve is a little more relatable with themes of love and loss. So if you’re in the business of mystery solving–on your own or reading to your kids–Nancy Drew and The Ringmaster’s Secret is the book for you!