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Not a Girl Detective (Cece Caruso Series #2)

Not a Girl Detective (Cece Caruso Series #2)

3.1 8
by Susan Kandel

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"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


"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.

Editorial Reviews

Marilyn Stasio
“Entertaining quirks...Kandel also takes care to provide some intellectual stimulus for Cece.”
“A cool, refreshingly tart summer read.”
Washington Post Book World
“Not a Girl Detective...is as sparkling as a spilled packet of Sweet ‘n Low.”
“The action moves along smartly.”
Entertainment Weekly
“A funny, original, well-plotted murder mystery.”
Denver Rocky Mountain News
“Kandel offers up a race against time, a nail-biting chase and some unexpected twists and turns.”
New Orleans Times-Picayune
“There’s lots of fun Nancy Drew lore in this airy entertainment.”
“Page-turning...The story is gloriously nostalgic.”
Trenton NJ Times
“Full of comedy, intelligence and knowledge, this is a mystery you want to share.”
Sacramento Bee
The Barnes & Noble Review
The clever heroine of Susan Kandel's innovative I Dreamed I Married Perry Mason returns for another foray into fictional biography…and detection. Cece Caruso, a biographer of famous, dead mystery writers, has taken on a new assignment in order to finance her addiction to vintage clothes. She's going to chronicle the life of Carolyn Keene, author of the Nancy Drew books. Cece's choice of subjects is problematic, since Carolyn Keene was not a real person but a pseudonym used by several writers. However, the plucky biographer has unearthed enough interesting stories of backbiting and editorial politics to make a good start on the new book.

But, as Cece expands her research, her life turns into an adventure worthy of Nancy Drew herself! First, a collector of vintage Nancy mysteries learns that Cece plans to attend a convention in California. He offers her the use of his Palm Springs house, then promptly vanishes into thin air. Then, another Nancy (this one's last name is Olsen) disappears, leaving behind a clue that links her to the missing collector. All that's needed is a dead body...and, sure as shooting, doesn't Cece stumble across one at the convention! Mixing authentic details about the creation of the Nancy Drew series with a fun-filled fictional mystery, Susan Kandel scores a bull's-eye with her second Cece Caruso caper. Sue Stone
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 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Mystery biographer Caruso does some sleuthing of her own during a Nancy Drew convention. Los Angeles Times best-selling Kandel (I Dreamed I Married Perry Mason) lives in West Hollywood, CA. Southern California regional author appearances. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
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 2005 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Cece Caruso Series , #2
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
4.18(w) x 6.75(h) x 0.84(d)

Read an Excerpt

Not a Girl Detective

Chapter One

When I couldn't tell the rain from my tears I knew it was time to pull over. I laid my arms across the steering wheel and choked back a sob. I had gone through the first four stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression. Now I was stuck on stage five — damning the mechanic. But what good was that going to do? My Toyota Camry was dying. Not peacefully but spectacularly, with great plumes of smoke emanating from the rear and strange wails coming out of the airconditioning vents.

Yesterday, the tape deck shredded Frank Sinatra's greatest hits. The day before, the cup holder snapped off in my hands, sending Diet Coke all over my favorite beaded sweater. Hell, if I had known it was going to end like this, I would've leased a Jaguar in the first place.

If only I were the cheerful sort, like my best friend Lael. It's unseemly how cheerful Lael is. That's all I'll say. Or conniving, like my second best friend, Bridget, who knows just what to say when, and to whom. Scary. Or better yet, the resourceful type, like teenage supersleuth Nancy Drew. I spent my entire youth idolizing that girl. I'm pushing forty now, but some fantasies die hard.

If only I were Nancy Drew.

I'd pull some Vaseline out of my handbag and fix those windshield wipers lickety-split. I'd solve the mystery of the airconditioning vents with my superior knowledge of dehumidifi-cation, say. And if I couldn't get the car to stop smoking by any other means, I'd ask my daddy to buy me a new one. A pretty blue roadster to match my pretty blue eyes.

Self-recrimination has long been a favorite pastime. I couldkeep it going forever, but I had someplace to be. I opened the car door and stepped directly into a puddle. Damn. With my raincoat pulled up over my head, I waded around back and stared at the exhaust pipe in wonder. How could it betray me? Vexed, I gave it a kick. It belched, evil thing. Then it occurred to me that it could explode any second — the whole car, I mean. These things do happen. But I was such a sodden mess I probably wasn't combustible. And they say it never rains in Southern California.

I fished my cell phone out of my purse and was about to call for a tow when I realized the bookstore I was heading to was only a few blocks away. I decided to make a run for it. That would be the end of my spike-heeled boots, of course, but they were already halfway to kingdom come. Maybe I could claim them as a business expense. I'd been taking a more aggressive approach to tax deductions lately. My accountant's thinking was that I made so little money they'd never in a million years bother auditing me. I wasn't sure that was sound reasoning, but Mr. Keshigian had managed to keep all his gangster relations out of the hands of the IRS, so I could hardly question his expertise. And god forbid he should fix me up with one of the cousins again.

Dodging the mud puddles, I sprinted down Melrose Avenue. No one sipping organic coffee at the Bodhisattva Café today. What a neighborhood. On sunny days you could drop your car with the Bodhisattva's valet, pick up a soy latte to go, and in the space of a single city block have your palm read, buy a New Age tome, get your colon cleaned, and take a ceramics class — not necessarily in that order. It wasn't my thing. I grew up in New Jersey. I live for synthetics.

Frederick A. Dalthorp Rare Books and Bindery was just around the corner, and talk about synthetic. It had fake gothic spires poking into the sky, stained-glass windows, turrets. No serving wenches, however. Too bad. I could've used a tankard of ale right about then. Nope, just the Dalthorp twins. They'd inherited the business from their father, Frederick, a smooth operator who'd sweet-talked the building out of some morticians who'd been there since the thirties. The Dalthorps were cousins of my purported boyfriend, Peter Gambino. A few weekends ago we'd had brunch together and they'd made a big to-do over Gambino's mocha chip pancakes, which I found impossible to stomach myself. But those girls were clearly addicted to sugar. They were eating marzipan at their desks when I pushed open the massive wooden door.

"Heave ho!" I said.

"For god's sake, don't spray the books!" yelled Dena, the older of the two by seventeen minutes and accustomed to milking every one of them.

"What do you think I am, a Saint Bernard?"

"Oh, Cece," murmured Victoria, Dena's more politic sister, "look at your turtleneck! It shrank in the rain!" She handed me a wad of paper towels.

"It's cropped," I explained, drying off. "It's supposed to be that way. It matches my cropped toreador pants."

"Good god," said Dena. Dena did not appreciate fashion. She was wearing a shapeless woolen sweater, a longish kilt, and brogues. Perfect for stomping through the heather.

Victoria gave me a sympathetic look. "I'm sure you looked lovely."

"Thank you," I said, crushed by her use of the past tense.

"The seventies, right?"

"The fifties, actually. Gina Lollabrigida goes beatnik?"

I was used to being misunderstood. My mother, a rummage-sale diva, never met a pot holder she couldn't love. Or a TV tray table not worth saving. She'd happily plunk down five dollars for a moribund blender, ten dollars for a card table with three legs. Yet she was unable to figure out why I'd want to wear old clothes. Worse yet, somebody else's old clothes.

"So what's this about Nancy Drew?" Dena asked.

The chitchat was over.

"Cece's writing a book about Nancy Drew!" Victoria exclaimed ...

Not a Girl Detective. Copyright © by Susan Kandel. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

What People are Saying About This

Marilyn Stasio
“Entertaining quirks...Kandel also takes care to provide some intellectual stimulus for Cece.”

Meet the Author

Susan Kandel is a former art critic for the Los Angeles Times. She has taught at New York University and UCLA, and served as editor of the international journal artext. She lives in West Hollywood, California, with her husband, two daughters, and dog.

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Not a Girl Detective (Cece Caruso Series #2) 3.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Not worth it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Tasha Fuller More than 1 year ago
should i read this the reviews look low
Rola Kawak More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was not enjoyable in the least. The plot line was annoying to follow and the characters were dull and cliched to the fullest extent. I had to force myself to finish it just to see if the ending would redeem it and it didn't. Don't waste time or money.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was alright but it didn't keep my interest through the whole thing. A couple of times i found myself wanting to skip through a chapter and go on to the next. It was a good plot though
harstan More than 1 year ago
Cece Caruso has made a career writing biographies of dead mystery writers and while researching her last book (I DREAMED I MARRIED PERRY MASON) she solved a homicide. An obsessive Nancy Drew fan, she is now writing about the pseudonymous Carolyn Keane who was really a succession of ghost writers contracted to write under that name. Her focuses is the picture of Nancy Drew, the model Grace Horton. --- She meets fellow Nancy Drew collector Eagar Edwards who shows her a picture of a natural Grace Horton painted by Russell H. Tandy. The two hit it off so well that Edgar offers to let her and her friends stay at his Palm Springs home while she give a talk to the Nancy Drew Chums at their annual convention. Shortly after she arrives there, she finds his body with a bullet in his head. Somebody searches her home and her car looking for something making Cece determined to find out who that person is and why he killed Edgar even if it means placing her own life in danger. --- Readers will be reminded of Janet Evanovich¿s Stephanie Plum when they read Susan Kandel¿s Cece Caruso capers as both are funny, plagued by romantic problems and once on the scent of a killer, keep tracking like obsessed bloodhounds. There are many suspects who could have killed Edgar but what really keeps the reader interested is the urge to know what the killer is looking for. This is a very special amateur sleuth tale that will be a hit with readers who love a good puzzle to solve.--- Harriet Klausner