The Nancys Review
An easily loveable read populated by vibrant and endearing characters, this is a murder mystery - but not as you know them. Instead of the typical murder mystery tropes, it’s set in small town Central Otago. Your characters are a quirky, flamboyant gay couple and their charge: a young girl who is both alarmingly precocious and adorably naive.
Tippy Chan, at eleven precious years old, is still reeling from the death of her father when the body of her school teacher shows up (sans head) at the only traffic light in town. Her mum’s gone on a cruise to “read books” (nudge nudge, wink wink) and left her in the care of her mum’s brother and his boyfriend who’ve come over Sydney. They’re wonderful, truly, but have no business caring for a child. So, without a proper adult to stop them, the three of them set about solving the mystery themselves - calling themselves The Nancy’s after Tippy’s much loved Nancy Drew books.
This is a book for anyone who knows what it feels like to be different. Riverstone is a small town in rural New Zealand - worlds apart from somewhere like Auckland or Wellington where nobody bats an eyelid at a septum piercing and pink hair, or (god forbid) a girl holding hands with another girl. Riverstone is your typical stoic southern country town, where the A&P Show is the highlight of the social calendar and there is exactly one (1) gay in the village. So here you have this little trio of misfits - Tippy’s a half Chinese tomboy in an alarmingly white town, Uncle Pike felt so out of place he skipped the country rather than come out of the closet, and then there’s Devon who’s far too Sydney for a place like Balclutha- sorry, I mean Riverstone. And though they’re all so different from each other, the fact that they’re all a bit miscellaneous in their own ways makes them so tight knit. It’s beautiful. They’re the friendship group equivalent of that jumbled drawer in your kitchen where nothing has anything to do with anything else, but they just make sense together because they don’t make sense anywhere else.
As for the mystery - well, I picked the murderer about three quarters of the way through, but the book gives you enough red herrings to keep you guessing. You most definitely go on a wild goose chase of suspects, so it makes for an entertaining read you won’t be able to put down. I found myself thinking about The Nancy’s a lot and trying to come up with excuses to skive off and read it. It’s the kind of book you’d take on holiday with you or read on a long flight because you’ll get so sucked into it, you’ll lose several hours without even realising.
How gay is it? I’m going to give it a 7/10. This is not a story about being gay (although, in a round about way it is since the theme of not fitting in comes up a lot). Which is nice, because not every gay book should be about coming out, right? We have enough of those. This is just a nice murder mystery featuring two very gay men, a bisexual murder victim, a lesbian murder suspect, and a few other colourful characters here and there. Tippy herself is queer coded. She gets accused of having a crush on different women throughout the book, she describes at length how attractive her teacher was, she has an obsession with her friend’s mum, she fixates on a pxt of some tits, and her best friends are two rambunctious boys (no female friends).
But, of course, she is 11 and this is not a story about her romance - it’s a story about her solving a mystery and finding where she fits in, in her weird little kitchen drawer family. A beautiful story, with a heartwarming ending, that you won’t regret reading.