Riverboat Roulette (Nancy Drew Diaries #14) by Carolyn Keene

I’ll admit it: I’m not the biggest fan of the Nancy Drew Diaries for several reasons. One is that the books are a never-ending series of Nancy solving cases of sabotage. I vowed if something didn’t change with the next book, Riverboat Roulette (Amazon) (AbeBooks), I might give up on the modern series and solely focus on the original series. Luckily, the publishers finally found a story that did not involve sabotage, but theft.

“Nancy and her friends only have a few hours to track down the donations for a charity gala that have mysteriously gone missing in this fourteenth book of the Nancy Drew Diaries, a fresh approach to the classic mystery series.

Bess’s mom is on the board of Pet Crusaders, a local rescue organization, and hosts the charity’s annual fundraising gala. Nancy, Bess, and George have attended the event ever since they were kids, and they’re excited for this year’s party, the theme of which is “A Night on a Riverboat.”

The gala will feature blackjack, roulette, and a high-stakes poker tournament, and all proceeds will go to help stray animals. But when the charity money goes missing mid-event, Nancy has to track down the thief—before the ship docks.

With three hours and over two hundred guests, Nancy faces one of her greatest mystery-solving challenges yet!”

Okay, this book has all the things that would make a tween girl want to read it. It involves raising money for a no-kill pet charity, there’s gambling (ooh, so adult of the girls, although I wish the writers would have picked something other than a gambling, which has ruined countless lives from addiction), and a trip on a riverboat, which I’m sure many kids have dreamt of being on since being introduced to Mark Twain. There’s even a little info on Mark Twain mentioned on how he got his pen name.

Nancy’s biggest challenges are that 1) George isn’t available at all times because she’s actually competing in the poker competition, 2) the riverboat is filled with the elite members of River Heights, so just walking up to each of them and searching them for the missing money is a huge NO, and 3) Nancy only has about 3 hours to solve the mystery before the riverboat docks.

One of the plusses of the book is the absence of Ned. I know, I know, many people like Ned in the series, and as a boyfriend, he’s always treated her well. In the modern mysteries, he’s more of a partner, too. But how many times has Ned been in a story for no particular purpose other than to save Nancy at the end because she can’t do it herself? That is one positive of the Diaries series in that Nancy usually doesn’t need saving as much, but that also means she’s rarely put in such a precarious position as being locked in a room/closet/cellar. The thrill of the original books just isn’t in the Diaries.

Riverboat Roulette (Amazon) (AbeBooks) has the usual: a short list of suspects, Nancy, Bess and George searching for clues and interrogating people, being led down the wrong path a time or two. In fact, Nancy’s guess at the bad guy is wrong, which happens frequently in this series. He’s a bad guy all right, but not because of the missing money. I figured out who the crook was as soon as the character was introduced; I thought it was so obvious. But maybe to a girl reading mysteries might not pick up on the subtle clues.

All-in-all, this book was better than it’s predecessors in terms of mystery, but I still don’t like the characterization of Nancy as a somewhat plain, average teen who solves mysteries. If anything, Bess and George shine in this series more than our favorite teen sleuth. But I’ll continue reading them until I’m caught up.

For my Nancy Drew book reviews, click here.

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