The Hardys, Nancy Drew and Cherry Ames as you’ve never seen them before!

In short, this is probably the strangest book I’ve ever read.  In a good way. If, like me, you’ve never read a parody or gay/lesbian fiction, this is definitely a fun place to start – although you might want to go with the first one rather than the third, not that it mattered too much.

A Ghost in the Closet is the third and final in a series parodying the Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew and Cherry Ames series.  And when I say parodying, these are definitely not the detectives you grew up with – and I don’t even mean because they’re Nancy Clue of River Depths and the Hardly Boys, sons of Fennel P Hardly, of Feyport.

At least, not unless I missed the books where Nancy likes girls, and where Frank, about to be beaten up by someone, takes the time to notice the man is “very handsome” and then, after the boys have tied him up, hesitates to loosen his gag and put his glasses back on him to make him more comfortable.  And that’s not to mention Joe having eyes for the Chief (not Collig) and rather racy daydreams about him chasing down a suspect.

Note: The boys are gay.  For other people.  There is no incest.

The Story

There are actually several stories which more or less intersect by the end, just like the  books it’s parodying.

An ongoing issue is the love triangle between Cherry and the two girls who love her, Nancy and detective Jackie Jones.

The main case was topical for the time, but does require remembering when this was published, with its references to the Space Race and America wanting to be the first to get to the moon – and the Russia v. US rivalry over it.

The plot is space-related, but there’s nothing overly technical that makes it too complicated.  Let’s just say it involves poodles, an attempt to sully Fennel Hardly’s good name and a defective rocket.

Unfortunately, all is done with absolutely no moustache twirling whatsoever.  Or even an evil laugh.

Style

If I told you it was 59 chapters, you would probably expect it to be quite long: instead, it stands at only 244 pages, with chapter length varying from one page to nine pages. There are also small illustrations at the start of each chapter that rarely have anything to do with the content, I never did work out why…

If you are a writer and you’ve ever been told not to overdo exclamation marks or your descriptions, this is a good book to show you why.

“Oh no!” Joe shrieked as they raced into the informal cozy living room of the Hardly home.  “The overstuffed flower-patterned chintz chairs which blend happily with the ice-green walls have been turned over and their cushions tossed about in a disorderly fashion!”

Or, in other words, the place is a mess because there was a struggle during the kidnapping.  And the next two pieces of speech are much the same.  On the other hand, if you enjoy descriptions of décor, clothes and food, you’ll like it.

Of course, it is trying to be silly, so these aren’t necessarily bad things.  A nurse who likes to adapt her title to what’s happening (“she had never been a Kidnap Nurse before!”), is something you’re unlikely to see in many other places.  Unless that’s an in-joke I didn’t know, I haven’t read Cherry Ames.

Language

It was first published in 1958, which might have something to do with the style as well as the language.  I’m still not entirely sure whether all the references to things being “gay” or “queer” are intentional double meanings or they were still innocent words back then, but they seem far too frequent to be accidental.

You won’t find much in the way of swearing beyond an apologized-for “bosh” and a tense “goshdarnit”, and there’s lots of “mighty” and “manful” being thrown around – being gay doesn’t have to mean their hugs can’t be manful – not to mention the many “cried” speech tags.

The series and other works

A Ghost in the Closet is the third in the series, but the only including the Hardys; the previous two (The Case of the Not-So-Nice Nurse and The Case of the Good-For-Nothing Girlfriend) are just Nancy Drew and Cherry Ames (or rather, Clue and Aimless.)

Judging by this one, you should be fine if you aren’t familiar with any or all the books as it doesn’t assume prior knowledge, although you would miss some of the references; I’m sure there were a few Ames ones I didn’t get like possibly the “[insert role] Nurse” titles which, going by the titles in her series, does seem to be a thing of hers.

Maney has also written two James Bond parodies about James’ lesbian twin sister Jane, and she has a piece in the May Contain Nuts anthology.

Conclusion

Definitely one of the most entertaining books I’ve read, and not so dated that it’s hard to read (though this may or may not be due to mine being a second edition.)  There might be no mobiles but there are cars and plenty of other technology; even a few things I’d never heard of.

Despite the fairly simple storyline and the silliness, perhaps not a book for younger readers; it prefers innuendo over explicitness but there are some rather intimate scenes that are slightly disturbing if you haven’t read about lesbians being intimate before.


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