Bobbsey Twins. Sadly no one seems to remember the Bobbsey Twins. At our local bookstore, the only book of any of the aforementioned sleuths was a Nancy Drew novel, The Ghost of Blackwood Hall.
So I decided to introduce my daughter to the Nancy Drew series, though not to the mystery genre (she already reads a lot of Jigsaw Jones Mysteries). She seemed to enjoy it quite a bit, but perhaps it just seemed that way as she's a sucker for cliffhanger endings, and each chapter of The Ghost of Blackwood Hall seems to have one of those. "Read me the next chapter Daddy!"
As for me, I wasn't a huge fan. I haven't really been a fan of the genre since I was a child, but I think I could enjoy a good whodunnit if the clues were all presented before me and I could race with the protagonist to figure it out. In the Ghost of Blackwood Hall, it's impossible to figure it out beforehand and the story is a bit of a convoluted mess. Trying to cram it all into a nutshell proves to be difficult, but it's essentially about a bunch of con-artists who use seances to dupe people. Along the way, there's kidnappings, spying, quicksand, ghosts, and even a trip to New Orleans.
The pace was certainly exciting, and I love New Orleans so that was a pleasant surprise, but it all felt a little Scooby-Dooish, only more mature. Like Scooby-Doo meets Alan Bradley. Actually the maturity of the book was also a bit surprising. First off, I didn't realize that Nancy was an 18 year old who had her driver's license. Not that she's mature in any inappropriate sense (she doesn't as much as hold hands with her boyfriend Ned), but I think the topics themselves were sometimes on the adult side. The subtext of the book is that people who are having difficulty dealing with the loss of loved ones can sometimes be taken advantage of as they are in a fragile state of mind and believe what they want to believe. A child, most likely, would miss this subtext and the victims merely come across as none too bright and unsympathetic.
Mix this light social commentary in with all those implausible coincidences and dated slang (flimflamming!) and I think you'd have to be the most nostalgic of fans to suggest this is a good book. Or else you're an easy to please 8 year old who will still, most likely, be reading a Jigsaw Jones mystery next week.