The Nancys (R W R McDonald, A&U)
In the poky New Zealand town of Riverstone—home of bad interior design, dull news cycles and not much else—11-year-old Tippy Chan’s mother is about to go on holiday. Tippy’s flamboyant uncle and his new fashion designer boyfriend arrive from Australia to keep her safe, but when Tippy’s best friend falls off a bridge and her teacher is found murdered, safety is pushed aside as the three instead dub themselves ‘The Nancys’, after Tippy’s literary hero Nancy Drew, and go on the hunt for a killer. What follows is a riotous, delightful mess of a case, with beauty pageants, cranky child witnesses and bitter minor celebrities, told from Tippy’s candid and occasionally baffled perspective. She has many skills, like her ability to distract herself to avoid thinking about her father’s recent death, and her preteen bluntness sees her plainly asking people why they’re acting so suspiciously. Tippy also understands honesty, justice and the value of rude jokes—three things this book has in abundance. Cheerfully scattered, this glittering, occasionally grisly and highly original novel is recommended for those who like the bawdiest parts of Phryne Fisher, but stands proudly on its own. Hopefully more queer crime fiction will follow.
Fiona Hardy is an author and a bookseller at Readings Carlton and Doncaster