HomeAll postsThe Nancys by R W R McDonald

The Nancys by R W R McDonald

A review by Nalini Haynes

Tippy Chan’s uncle Pike comes to stay while her mum goes on a cruise that she won. Pike and his boyfriend, Devon, are colourful characters. Shortly after Tippy’s mum leaves, Tippy’s BFF falls from a bridge landing in hospital in a coma then someone murders and decapitates her teacher. As you do. So Nancy Drew fans Tippy, Pike and Devon form the Nancys, a club to investigate the murder.

At the ripe old age of 11, Tippy is the point of view character for this ADULT book. Don’t let the age of the primary protagonist fool you. ADULTS ONLY. Well, mature audiences, anyway. Or… um, you know what I mean.

Part of the charm of this murder mystery romance (Pike-Devon romance) is Tippy’s innocence and complete obliviousness when innuendo strikes.


While it can be argued that The Nancys falls into the “comical gay sidekick” trope, I felt that Pike and Devon were the true focus of this story, a bit like Columbo was the detective but the mystery was the focus. Tippy is just the lens through which we see them, with her innocence adding layers of humor. Pike and Devon are OUTRAGEOUS. I feel a teeny bit ambivalent about them being a hairdresser and fashion designer but damn they’re funny, they have some depth and history, and their relationship evolves. Tippy’s innocence and – for example – suffering racism provides the opportunity for Devon to – ahem – “assist” Lady Karma shortly after we meet him.

Furthermore, Pike’s hairdressing, Devon’s fashion designing and their industry contacts provide a key for the primary plot and are essential to the secondary plot, which is helping an “outsider” who enters the town’s beauty pageant.

The Nancys reminds me of books I read in the 80s like Fairy Tale and a few others, none of which can I name or cite the authors, so my apologies. However, this novel falls into the genre of “Gay and FUCKING FABULOUS FUN”, similar to My Fairy Godmother Is A Drag Queen although that’s not as risque as The Nancys and is aimed at a YA audience.

Any LGBTQIA+ readers with opinions about representation are WELCOME to comment!

The verdict

The Nancys is a rollicking risque murder mystery with fabulous gay characters who steal every scene and are, in my opinion, the true central characters. Representation of racism is great, with a gay diva giving Lady Karma a helping hand. I also love how the two gay guys are fairy godparents by implication, getting Cinderella to the ball. Or beauty pageant.

A fabulous fun escapist read, perfect for the beach or a couch during lockdown.

Book details

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
ISBN: 9781760527334
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Format: Paperback – C format, 400 pages
Released: 2019
Category: Fiction, mystery, comedy (emphasis on comedy), queer
Awards: Shortlisted Best Debut Crime Fiction, Ned Kelly Awards 2020 AU; Winner Best First Novel, Ngaio Marsh Award 2020 NZ; Shortlisted Best Novel, Ngaio Marsh Award 2020 NZ; Shortlisted Best Designed Commercial Fiction Cover, Australian Book Design Awards 2020 AU; Highly Commended Unpublished Manuscript, Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards 2017

The Nancys: rows of symbolised eyes surround the title

Nalini is an award-winning writer and artist as well as managing editor of Dark Matter Zine.


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