Kiss the Girls and Make Them Spy

Reviewed by andi Smart

The name is Bond, Jane Bond.

Mabel Maney, creator of those dashing 50s detectives Cherry Ames, Nancy Clue and the Hardly Boys, sets out to ensure that the classic spy novel never ever seems the same way again. 007 is out of action due to a nervous breakdown caused by drink, danger and women - and he has a royal appointment to keep. Niles Needlum (aka 'N') realises that the only course of action is to recruit his twin sister Jane to impersonate him with the aid of a good suit, a sharp haircut and lots of coaching from Agent Cedric Pumpernickel. Can she pull it off? Of course she can. However, unbeknown to them all the villainous 'Sons of Britain' are planning to kidnap the Queen, fake her abdication and bring back the Duke of Windsor in her place to ensure an end to progressive ideas and foreign food! Only the Powderpuff Girls ("makeup salespersons by day, secret agents by night") can stop them. Still smarting from her very messy breakup with the unfaithful and devious Astrid Jane falls head over heels for the gorgeous Bridget StClaire, unaware that Bridget is a top operative for the Powderpuff girls.

The men of British Intelligence exhibit precious little of it, whereas the women of British Intelligence (mainly confined to the typing pool and records office) have it in spades and without them the entire edifice of empire would crumble in seconds. One never realised that the British secret service depended entirely, not on firm-jawed clandestine operatives of public school background but on the advanced intelligence of the women who meet in the toilets at regular intervals to swap gossip and intelligence in equal measure. Miss Tuppeny, N's faithful secretary is of course the very hub of the enterprise!

I loved Maney's wonderful re-working of the classic children's 'ripping yarn' in the Nancy Clue books, they are both affectionate and very, very accurate; Novels aimed at children from the 40s and 50s are pretty much close to self-parody anyway! I came at Kiss the Girls at something of a disadvantage never having actually read one of the Ian Fleming originals so I couldn't both laugh and wince at the parody. Maney has actually done a service to Fleming's reading figures in that I now want to go out and read one so I can see how accurate it is! Even at that disadvantage though I loved Kiss the Girls and laughed a lot while reading it. I grew up in the sixties and I remember when women actually did wear a "pink vinyl cap" and "midcalf shiny white go-go boots" and were deemed to be the height of fashion. To a British reader there is also much humour to be had in the cringing adoration of the royal family, which perhaps does require an American to satirise it this effectively. In fact Maney does have a wonderful sense of 'place' in her depiction of Britain in the sixties which suggests that she might have lived here, or knows people who did?

You have to wonder what literary genre is going under the Maney hammer nextů....

Return to the Reviews index