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Girl Sleuth: Nancy Drew and the Women Who Created Her    by Melanie Rehak order for
Girl Sleuth
by Melanie Rehak
Order:  USA  Can
Harcourt, 2005 (2005)

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* *   Reviewed by Lyn Seippel

Countless readers grew up with the tales of Nancy Drew. The spunky girl detective was created by the Stratemeyer Syndicate in 1929, and her adventures have been entertaining young women for almost eighty years. Of more interest than even Nancy herself are the people who created her. Through meticulous research, Melanie Rahak begins with Nancy Drew's creator Edward Stratemeyer and follows Nancy's career though the depression, two World Wars, women's lib and the more recently published spin-off series. Nancy also makes appearances in Stratemeyer's Hardy Boys series.

In 1929, Edward Stratemeyer (also known as the father of Nancy Drew, although he never wrote any of those first mysteries) suggests to his publisher, Grosset and Dunlap, that he put together a series about a young woman sleuth from an upper middle-class family. His proposal includes outlines for the first four mysteries. Nancy Drew, the heroine, will be the daughter of a widowed District Attorney who often discusses his cases with her. When Edward dies in 1930, his daughter, Harriet Stratemeyer Adams, takes over the Stratemeyer Syndicate. Book outlines are given to various writers who pen the stories under the name of Carolyn Keene.

The syndicate is determined to keep Carolyn Keene's identity a secret, fearing that they'll lose readers if it becomes known that Nancy is written by ghostwriters, and that a host of people create her adventures through outlines. Mildred Benson writes many of the first mysteries. She has an adventurous, colorful, charge-right-in personality that works well for Nancy's character. Harriet Adam's take on Nancy is different from Millie's. She prefers that Nancy be less showy and outspoken, and more reserved.

Rehak has written a detailed history of both Nancy and the successful Stratemeyer Syndicate. Girl Sleuth is filled with interesting tidbits about Nancy Drew and her creators. Fans will also enjoy photos of the original book covers and of the most important players in Nancy's life.

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