She was 16 and everything I aspired to be: rich, attractive and smart.
With her gal pals Bess and George and boyfriend, Ned, she boldly stopped criminals in their tracks and then sped home in her incredibly cool red roadster. Justice always prevailed, and good overcame evil.
I have moved beyond Nancy Drew, but I still love mysteries.
Three of my favorite detectives are Louise Penny’s Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, Donna Leon’s Commissario Guido Brunetti, and Elizabeth’s George’s Inspector Thomas Lynley.
They are each law enforcement officers who live, respectively, in the French Canadian village of Three Pines, Venice and London.
Penny’s Gamache had a long and distinguished career with the Sûreté du Quebec before he is sent to Three Pines, the French Canadian village so small that it doesn’t appear on maps.
Gamache becomes fond of the residents and their eccentricities, but evil lurks in the picturesque community. Gamache and his opinionated assistant Jean-Guy Beauvoir ferret out the guilty parties whether they are in Three Pines, Montreal, Quebec or other Canadian locales.
While each of Penny’s books can be read as stand alone stories, the strong character development can be seen more clearly when read in order.
Leon’s Brunetti resides in Venice where he sees the tremendous beauty and immense corruption that live side by side.
His wife, Paola, is a Henry James scholar and feminist who both challenges and supports Brunetti.
Co-worker Signorina Elettra is a computer hacker; no technical security is too great for her if Brunetti needs the information to solve crimes.
Brunetti seeks solace in reading classical Greek and Roman authors as well as looks for truth in his Catholic upbringing while rejecting the dogma he was taught. He fights crime with compassion and perception rather than violence.
George’s Linley, 8th Earl of Asherton, and Detective Sgt. Barbara Havers are with New Scotland Yard.
Linley and Havers clash because of class and temperament, and yet they make a formidable team.
Handsome and urbane Linley represents the nobility, while unattractive and socially inept Havers is strictly working class.
George develops her characters so well that you feel like you know and understand the lives of people such as the Pakistani refugee father and daughter who are Haver’s neighbors, the black teen who commits a horrible murder that devastates Linley’s life, and the aristocratic Simon St. James who falls in love with and marries the daughter of his butler.
Character development is so strong in George’s books that to read them out of order would lessen the pleasure of the stories.
Penny, Leon and George have created detectives who are good-hearted, compassionate and brave. Each of these series creates strong characters and a strong sense of place. Gamache, Brunetti and Linley look evil in the eye and restore peace and justice in their worlds.
The opinions expressed in this book review are not necessarily representative of Read To Succeed but simply intended to promote the joy of reading. For more information and to find out to make a difference in Rutherford County’s literacy rates, visit readtosucceed.org.