Something that has really surprised me in recent years is that when I pull a book out of my childhood collection for a quick read, there is a 90% chance – even if it’s a story I revered and loved as a child – that the book will be utterly, unbearably terrible.
Password To Larkspur Lane, the tenth entry in the series of Nancy Drew books by Carolyn Keene, is no exception.
I grabbed it off the bookshelf for a quick bedtime read a few weeks ago, after I’d put up the bookshelves in the bedroom. I thought it might be quite fun to read through my Nancy Drew collection again, as I’ve not done so for over twenty years. After reading Password To Larkspur Lane, however, I’m not sure I can stand to read any more.
First of all, the main character is ridiculous. Nancy is absolutely, unrealistically perfect. In the course of the story, she wins a flower-arranging competition, saves a child from drowning, knows the details of the American homing pigeon association off by heart when one happens to land in her garden, manages to escape from a completely dark and sealed cellar by climbing the wall with her bare hands and a scrap of broken wood, knows how to drain a plane’s fuel tank, and in the end solves two cases that – of course – turn out to be related. She hardly ever involves the police in what she’s doing, because she doesn’t want to worry them. When she does, they are – of course – laughably inept. Despite the fact that she is a teenage girl meddling with the plans of dangerous criminals, her lawyer father just lets her do what she likes, bows to her wisdom regarding the police, and seems to spend his time supporting Nancy’s efforts and buying her new cars rather than actually being a lawyer. I don’t like the term ‘Mary Sue’ because people in online fandom throw it around to mean ‘character I don’t like’, but Nancy is a Mary Sue if ever there was one.
Pretty much every other female character is utterly useless and petrified of everything, except for Nancy’s friend George, and that’s only because the latter is an extremely two-dimensional tomboy character.
The story is insanely unrealistic too – clues just fall into Nancy’s lap out of nowhere, and she always just happens to know someone who is an expert in whatever she needs to know about next. Usually, however, this isn’t necessary, as she’s an expert in most things herself. At one point, a character is declared by a doctor to have suffered a ‘slight heart attack’ (he’s perfectly fine and up and about the next day), which is the moment I nearly threw the book at the wall.
At the end, when the criminal gang is rounded up, they just explain their whole plan in front of the police, in true inept villain fashion!
Terrible as this book is, I will definitely read at least one more of these when I feel up to it, because I have to know if the others in the series are all just as bad.