Book Review: The Nancys by Rob McDonald

Reviewed by Taylor Donlon


‘Don’t tell your mother. She’ll kill me!’

Rob McDonald is an author from New Zealand, currently living in Melbourne. His 2019 debut adult crime novel, The Nancys, is a classic whodunnit murder mystery with a twist – and the twist is the eccentric characters who bring a bit of sparkle into solving a murder.

The story is set in Riverstone, a small town in New Zealand, and follows the protagonist, Tippy Chan, an eleven-year-old girl. When Tippy’s mother goes for a holiday on a cruise, she leaves her daughter behind with her brother, Pike, and his partner, Devon. Tippy’s life takes a dramatic turn when her teacher becomes the victim of a gruesome murder that shocks the town. Tippy, Pike and Devon join forces to form their club, ‘The Nancys’, based on Tippy’s favourite detective, Nancy Drew. What they discover will change the town. Everyone is a suspect.

I was immediately enraptured by the voice of Tippy and the eccentric characters that surround her, and enhance the story’s believability. McDonald perfectly captures the innocence during this phase in a child’s life, which is filled with excitement and adventure as Tippy and her uncles go about showing how lousy the local police are at catching a cold-blooded killer.

One component that I found compelling from the start of the story was the characters. Despite Tippy being only eleven, she shows immense maturity for her age but also has a great sense of humour. But underneath the surface of Tippy’s smiley demeanour lies the simmering trauma of her father’s death, who passed away nine months prior to the story taking place. Tippy learns a lot about herself on the journey she embarks upon with her uncles, which left me fully satisfied by the end. It is difficult not to root for a young Nancy Drew.

Pike and Devon are possibly the best characters to ever grace a page of a novel. Pike, a hairdresser, and Devon, a fashion designer, bring so much colour into Tippy’s world. These characters provide plenty of knee-slapping moments, such as some crude references that go right over Tippy’s head. This is brilliant writing on McDonald’s part.

Queer crime is difficult to come by, and this book is a demonstration of what is sorely lacking in the reading community, which is why the story is so fresh. McDonald does a wonderful job writing a young girl who is beginning to question her sexuality when thinking about boys and girls.

It is evident that McDonald poured everything into this novel, which resulted in a gripping mystery, but also a coming of age story that was utterly enthralling from beginning to end. The vivid characters and poignant themes produced a spectacular debut novel.



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