Yes, I was one of the slightly vintage women who let out a shriek when we saw it at Costco: The Nancy Drew Mystery Stories, a complete boxed set, fifty-six familiar yellow spines, shrink-wrapped. I can't remember now if it was $100 or $200 or $500, but I immediately paid it, with shaking hands. Surely my six-year-old niece or my preschool-aged daughters would eventually enjoy—indeed, would require—this treasure trove.
But that night it was I who jabbed car keys through plastic, removing the first five Nancys, a big fistful of them, like a furtive Costco glutton. I bent open The Secret of the Old Clock, and there it all was—titian hair, blue convertible, River Heights. But what I was flashing on most from pre-adolescence was the addiction. One lucky snatch at the corner Bookmobile and there you had it, your personal inhalant, whispering to you through an otherwise tedious afternoon. The Sign of the Twisted Candles, The Clue of the Tapping Heels, The Mystery of the Tolling Bell, The Secret of the Wooden Lady—Carolyn Keene's rhythms alone were hypnotic; I'd be clawing the shelves if she'd penned The Secret in the Old Hamper, The Clue in the Cat Box, or The Mysterious Handbag.
As I read, a calm came over me. Nancy Drew's household is such a perfect triangle. With Nancy at the apex, to the left is Hannah Gruen (chicken sandwiches, fresh apple crumble) and to the right is handsome, pleasantly distracted Carson Drew (always working, but never too busy to take a call). What post-feminist woman doesn't yearn for a Hannah and a Carson? In my own grimly equitable marriage I have a Hannah Gruen who disagrees with where I put the spatula and a Carson Drew who suspects that the professional quagmires I routinely wade into are all my fault. Worse still, unlike the titian-haired sleuth, I'm expected to earn money and do chores. Who can solve mysteries under these conditions? Who can hear herself think? Coordinated blue traveling suit plus heels? Forget it.