The Nancys

R.W.R. McDonald

The Nancys
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The Nancys

R.W.R. McDonald

Tippy Chan is eleven and lives in a small town in a very quiet part of the world - the place her Uncle Pike escaped from the first chance he got as a teenager. Now Pike is back with his new boyfriend Devon to look after Tippy while her mum’s on a cruise.

Tippy is in love with her uncle’s old Nancy Drew books, especially the early ones where Nancy was sixteen and did whatever she wanted. She wants to be Nancy and is desperate to solve a real mystery. When her teacher’s body is found beside Riverstone’s only traffic light, Tippy’s moment has arrived. She and her minders form The Nancys, a secret amateur detective club.

But what starts as a bonding and sightseeing adventure quickly morphs into something far more dangerous. A wrongful arrest, a close call with the murderer, and an intervention from Tippy’s mum all conspire against The Nancys. But regardless of their own safety, and despite the constant distraction of questionable fashion choices in the town that style forgot, The Nancys know only they can stop the killer from striking again.

The Nancys is gripping and glorious, a heart-warming novel for anyone who’s ever felt they were on the outside looking in. At its heart it is about the family we make and how we must summon the courage to face the truth, no matter what the cost may be.


Eleven-year-old Tippy Chan lives in the poky New Zealand town of Riverstone with her mother, her best friends, a suitably acerbic teen neighbour, and too many memories of her father. This is all very normal and fine, but this little town is about to get quite a shake-up. Tippy’s spectacularly colourful hairdresser uncle, Pike, and his new fashion designer boyfriend, Devon, are in town to look after her while her mother is away, and while the three of them promise to be very almost sometimes good, things are about to get chaotic.

After Tippy’s best friend falls off a bridge and lands in a coma and her teacher becomes the victim of a grisly murder, the three Nancy Drew fans decide to band together and form their own detective agency, ‘The Nancys’, and figure out what the hell is going on, all without getting murdered themselves, or – worse – busted by Tippy’s mother.

This is an absolute riot. Queer crime is frustratingly thin on the ground and this is a sensational example of it that glitters with originality. Tippy is observant, honest and frequently mystified by what everyone’s talking about. She still struggles with the painful aftermath of her father’s death and uses distraction to stop thinking too hard about what happened. Tippy’s delightfully camp uncle lights up the page as he navigates his semi-conservative childhood hometown and the people he once knew. The characters are a scream, with the townsfolk harbouring much more interesting personalities than anybody expected. The Nancys is a cheerfully scattered tale of bad interior design, beauty pageants gone haywire, and haphazard but smart investigation all tied together in a saucy Phryne Fisher-esque package in which love and the families you make are everything.

Fiona Hardy is our monthly crime fiction columnist, and also blogs about children’s books at Fiona The Hardy.

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