R.W.R. McDonald's brilliant debut mixes murder and mayhem with its own special brand of fabulousness.
Eleven-year-old Tippy Chan's mother has won a holiday, a two week cruise. Enter babysitters Uncle Pike and his new boyfriend, Devon. Fabulous, fun and creative, they have descended on the New Zealand town of Riverstone. Uncle Pike fled Riverstone as a teenager and found refuge in gay Sydney. Now he's back with a vengeance.
Tippy and Uncle Pike share a love of Nancy Drew novels. When a grisly murder happens in the small town – Tippy's teacher is found dead, headless – Tippy and Uncle Pike form The Nancys, a crime solving club inspired by Nancy Drew. Their sleuthing opens up a new side of Riverstone: it turns out many of the locals are not what they seem and some of Tippy's closest relationships are forever changed once the real murderer is discovered.
R.W.R McDonald's The Nancys mixes brilliant comic writing with a carefully plotted whodunnit that keeps you guessing until the very last page. The cast of small town characters is vividly drawn and true to life – there's many an eccentric or annoying type you'll recognise in these pages. Most of all, it's Tippy's wry, self-deprecatory narration that wins the show. A truly original debut that charms from the first page to the last.
The Nancys, by R.W.R. McDonald. Published by Allen & Unwin. RRP: $29.99
Review by Chris Saliba