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Not A Girl Detective [Mass Market Paperback]

Susan Kandel
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

March 9 2006 Cece Caruso Mysteries

"I spent my entire youth idolizing Nancy Drew. I'm pushing forty now, but some fantasies die hard."

Besides her beloved collection of vintage designer clothing, there is nothing Cece Caruso cherishes more than her childhood memories of Nancy Drew. Her near obsession with the fictional teenage sleuth led her to become a professional biographer of classic mystery writers. And now that she's working on a book about Nancy's pseudonymous creator, "Carolyn Keene, " Cece's in heaven.

At the L. A. home of another rabid Drew-ophile, Cece finds a treasure trove of useful memorabilia, including one unique and somewhat shocking collectible. Later she finds a dead body -- and a puzzle that would sorely test the skills of her spunky girlhood heroine. Now she'll have to channel her former idol and unmask a murderer, and the killer may be coming for Cece next.


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From Publishers Weekly

Kandel delivers on the promise of her first Cece Caruso mystery, I Dreamed I Married Perry Mason (2004),with this equally zany and engrossing riff on Southern California culture past and present. Secrets within secrets tantalize biographer Cece as she researches "Carolyn Keene," the pseudonym used by the unsung authors hired by the Stratemeyer Syndicate to write the Nancy Drew books. Invited to keynote the annual Nancy Drew fan convention in Palm Springs, Cece plans to weekend with girlfriends Lael and Bridget at the home of the biggest collector of Nancy memorabilia, Edgar Edwards. When Edwards turns up behind his Palm Springs house with a bullet in his forehead and his current boytoy disappears, the race is on for Cece to find the killer before she becomes the next victim. Cheerful Lael and conniving Bridget lend support, along with Cece's hot boyfriend, cop Peter Gambino. In addition to all the Nancy lore, Kandel weaves her knowledge of art into the puzzle and ties everything into a splendid bow. Readers will be anxious to know whose bio she'll tackle next. Agent, Sandra Dijkstra. (On sale May 24)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School–Hip, feisty Cece Caruso is back. Writing biographies of dead mystery authors tends to land her in odd situations, and, as she researches Carolyn Keene, the fictitiously named author of the Nancy Drew books, she is drawn into the murder of a wealthy collector of series memorabilia. Cece has something that the killer wants; while trying to figure out what it is, she finds herself crossing paths with several people who stand to gain from the victim's death. The characters are deliciously drawn, the pace is snappy, and the plot twists and turns will keep mystery lovers satisfied. As entertaining as Cece and the other characters are, the icing on the cake is the depth of Kandel's research. Readers who enjoyed following the teen sleuth's adventures will appreciate the insight into the history of the Stratemeyer Syndicate, the organization responsible for producing numerous children's series. Kandel provides an informative glimpse into 1930s and 1940s book publishing, introducing Mildred Wirt Benson, the author of 22 of the first 25 Nancy Drews; Russell Tandy, the illustrator of the early covers; and Grace Horton, the professional model who was her face. The author blends fact and fiction with assurance, using these real people to set up a plot that ultimately involves Salvador Dali's art. While those who grew up with the girl detective are the ideal audience, Cece's wit and tenacity as she breezes around Los Angeles and Palm Springs make the novel an enjoyable read for anyone in the mood for a lighthearted mystery.–Kim Dare, Fairfax County Public Library System, VA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Kandel (and Caruso) does it again! Oct. 4 2005
By Patrick
Format:Hardcover
I picked up Susan Kandel's previous Cece Caruso mystery "I Dreamed I Married Perry Mason' on a whim, and I fell in love with it. The style it was written in - the impeccable mix of mystery, wit and fashion - was addictive, and when I found out that there was another Cece book on the way I was very excited, but somewhat apprehensive. Could Ms. Kandel pull it off twice?
Well, I can easily say that not only does she do it again, she does it better!
'Not a Girl Detective' has a smoother flow, a quicker pace and fleshes out some smaller characters from the previous novel, as well as spicing it up with a slew of eccentric extras.
The subject matter was a bit more intriguing this time around -I've never read a Nancy Drew book, but I certainly want to now - and the many plot twists kept me guessing up to the end.
If you are looking for something heavy (say, Minette Walters or Kathy Reichs), this isn't for you, but if you like your mysteries full of laughter, wit, suspense (and vintage fashions!) - then look no further. (Aside from being a good mystery, it was also very informative about Nancy Drew - Kandel has done her homework).
Susan Kandel has created a wonderfully endearing character with Cece Caruso and I can't wait to see what happens to her next.

As an aside, I would say that this title stands well on its own, even though it's the second in a series.
Highly enjoyable - 5 Stars.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.7 out of 5 stars  19 reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fun, Fast-paced puzzler with plenty of Nancy Drew trivia June 21 2005
By booksforabuck - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Mystery-writer biographer Cece Caruso is in the midst of book on Nancy Drew author "Carolyn Keene" (actually a pseudonym for numerous authors) when her bookstore-owner friends ask her to deliver a vintage Nancy Drew book to collector Edgar Edwards. Cece is more than happy for an excuse to meet the eccentric millionaire collector. They strike up an immediate friendship, and after showing her his collection, he shows her something really special--a nude portrait of the model who posed for the original Nancy Drew covers.

Cece is scheduled to give a luncheon speech at a Nancy Drew convention in nearby Palm Springs, and Edward invites her to use his vacation house there. Delighted at her good fortune, Cece packs up herself and her two friends, Lael and Bridget, a boatload of vintage clothes (which she collects, though she told Edgar she collected nothing) and head for a fun girls' weekend. Unfortunately, someone throws a kink into their plans--a big kink. A dead body. Edgar's body.

The suspects are many, including Edgar's boy-toy friend and his majordomo; a wild-eyed Nancy Drew fanatic who wouldn't have wanted that nude painting made public; her less-than-honest, performance artist daughter; Bridget's new boy-toy boyfriend; a shi-shi art dealer. And, of course, Cece herself, who could have endeared herself to the police had she not insisted on solving the mystery herself. But her curiosity about the model in the nude painting, the artist who did the painting, and anything connected to Nancy Drew gets the better of her.

The second in the Cece Caruso series is a fun, fast-paced puzzler, and Cece and her "chums" give Nancy a run for her money. The Nancy Drew trivia is fascinating, and the many references to vintage clothing makes me want to learn more. My one beef--Cece leaves town, twice, and stays gone for hours on end without making arrangements for anyone to take care of her dog and cat. I mean, maybe she did make arrangements, but if it was mentioned, I missed it.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nancy Drew for Adults Aug. 2 2005
By Mary E. Henson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This is just one of those fun books...the heroine has no training other than the obligatory cop boyfriend. The book is one of those great summer reads. You can sit down and curl up with Cece and the wacky friends, family and acquaintances. I read her first book ("I dreamed I married Perry Mason"...who could say no to that title?) and became thoroughly hooked.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars a nice, light 3 1/2 star read May 31 2005
By tregatt - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Cece Caruso, biographer of dead mystery writers, is currently engaged in writing the biography of Carolyn Keene. Or rather writing about the many unacknowledged writers who penned the Nancy Drew (amongst others) mystery series under the pseudonym "Carolyn Kenne" for the Stratemeyer Syndicate. But Cece's real fascination is with Grace Horton, the young woman who modeled as Nancy Drew for the original book covers when they were first published, otherwise known as the Blue Nancy texts. A devout fan of the intrepid young fictional sleuth, Cece cannot be happier, especially when she's invited to give a key-not speech at a Nancy Drew convention, and gets to meet eccentric collector Edgar Edwards who just happens to own a world famous collection of Nancy Drews. Cece and Edgar hit it off so well that he even offers her the use of his Palm Springs vacation house while Cece's attending the Nancy Drew convention. Soon, Cece with her two best friends, Lael and Bridget, in tow, are off for weekend of fun. Except that amidst all the frolicking, Cece and her friends find their erstwhile host dead. The Palm Springs police are eyeing Cece with suspicion. But Cece has her own suspicions about who could have murdered Edgar and why, and she's determined to make her case and get her murderer, just like the fictional Nancy Drew that so inspired her when she was growing up...

While "Not a Girl Detective" is a much lighter follow-up to "I Dreamed I married Perry Mason," it still was a fun read. I thought that the notion of structuring "Not a Girl Detective" along the lines of a Nancy Drew mystery novel was a rather ingenuous one and worked rather well. As with "I Dreamed I Married Perry Mason," the dialogue in this latest Cece Caruso installment was snappy and rather droll, and added to the air of immediacy and smoothness that the book had. However, while "Not a Girl Detective" was an all round pleasing read, I couldn't help wishing that it had been little more intriguing and more complex. All in all, though, a nice 3 1/2 star read.
12 of 16 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not a GOOD detective! June 30 2005
By M. DeBaptiste - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Being a long-time Nancy Drew collector, I really looked forward to reading this book, but I found it to be very disappointing. I've read a lot of the 'tart-noir' wacky-gal mystery series, and this book seems to have all the standards - sexy, ditzy gal who just can't seem to get it all together, hunky boyfriend, obsession with glamorous flashy clothes, the need to keep secrets from the police, and on and on. But Cece Caruso just doesn't come off with any realism to me. She's too over-the-top, and she's not even a good detective. By her own admission, over and over throughout the book, she keeps missing the point, and the clues, and everything else that would lead her to understand what's going on and solving the mystery.

Cece is a biographer of mystery writers and in this book she is writing a book about Carolyn Keene, the author of the Nancy Drew books who was and still is a group of ghostwriters. There is a lot of Nancy Drew collecting info in this story that was, for the most, taken from some speculative fan-made guides, honored by some collectors as The Truth but frowned upon as hypothetical by the rest of the bibliographic world. It also seems the author made up some of her own. Her depiction of Nancy Drew collectors at their annual convention in Palm Springs is really unflattering. Believe me, they are not the strange, nerdy, boring people she makes them out to be. For some reason she found it necessary to compare their boring get-together with a wild swinging convention of golf-fan lesbians at the same hotel.

It's disappointing that the first major piece of fiction published about Nancy Drew collecting and Nancy Drew collectors is such a mediocre book that plods along for the most going this way and that in directions that lead nowhere or that Cece just doesn't 'get'. Her obsessions with vintage clothes, gourmet foods, alcoholic beverages, art, and on-again-off-again boyfriend are all pretty interesting, but she and her gang need more characterization, and need to be a little less fabulous-in-every-way to be believable.

Nancy Drew fans who read this book will probably be disappointed. It's less about Nancy and more about Cece and friends and how 'hot' and 'cool' and too-fabulous-to-be-true they are. Let's hope the next author who takes on the Nancy Drew mystique will give it a more interesting treatment.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Death of a Nancy Drew Collector June 22 2005
By Mark Baker - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Cece Caruso's latest biography is of Carolyn Keene, or more accurately, the women behind the pen name. She's been invited to give the keynote address at the annual Nancy Drew convention being held just down the road in Palm Springs. Even better, she and her friends Lael and Bridget have been offered the use of a vacation home while in the area. Cece's only met "blue" Nancy collector Edgar Edwards once, but she won't turn down a free place to stay.

Unfortunately, their weekend out is brought to a sobering conclusion when they find Edgar's body in the master bedroom. Combine that with the vandalism that Cece has been experiencing, and you've got a case that would make Nancy proud. Can Cece find the clues to solve it?

Ok, I confess, I'm a fan of kid's series mysteries. As a result, I couldn't wait to get my hands on this book. It did provide plenty of Nancy trivia, just enough to whet the appetite. I like the way the author used Cece's research to further the story. The biography wasn't just a gimmick but part of the plot. The story itself is a real puzzler. Once again, I didn't figure it out until the satisfying conclusion. There did seem to be a few snags were the story stalled a little, but overall it progressed well.

This series has a unique premise and some great puzzles. I can't wait to see where mystery author biographing takes Cece next.
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