The Penny Parker series was a collection of seventeen books written by Mildred Wirt Benson between 1939 and 1947 (two books a year except for 1945, which only had one). The heroine was the eponymous Penny Parker, a slim, blond young woman, an only child with a dead mother
who was raised by her father and the housekeeper, who was like family. She solved mysteries, most of which took place in her hometown, Riverview, but sometimes were in other locales. Her friends assisted her on her cases and she usually made new ones along the way. Does this sound familiar?
There were some marked differences from Nancy Drew, however. Penny's father, Anthony Parker, owned and printed The Riverview Star
, a newspaper, unlike Carson Drew, who was a lawyer. Penny's character is actually more similar to that of the original Nancy Drew, as she is terribly flippant and impulsive, which tends to get her into hot water. Penny (who, unlike Nancy, is still in school) also has only one close girlfriend her age, Louise Sidell, as opposed to Nancy's Bess and George. Her other friends included Salt Sommers and Jerry Livingston, a photographer and reporter on her father's paper. The latter was more of a Love Interest
. The cast was rounded out by Mr. Dewitt (later spelled DeWitt), the Star's
gruff city editor.
This was Wirt Benson's favorite of her series, and she is quoted as saying that she thought Penny was "a better Nancy Drew than Nancy was."
This series provides examples of:
- The Alleged Car: Leaping Lena.
- Alliterative Name: Penny Parker and Salt Sommers. Penny also called her car Leaping Lena.
- Bad Habits: In "The Cry At Midnight."
- Butt Monkey: Louise can be this at times.
- Catch Your Death of Cold: Mentioned in Saboteurs on the River, with "pneumonia" in place of cold.
- Creepy Doll: The eponymous one in Tale of the Witch Doll.
- Da Editor: DeWitt
- Fine, You Can Just Wait Here Alone: Penny does this to poor Louise sometimes.
- Friend on the Force: Sort of; they're newspaper staff members, not policemen, but they still help Penny get the inside scoop.
- Going for the Big Scoop
- Green-Eyed Monster: Louise in The Cry at Midnight: "Louise considered Penny her dearest friend. Though she would not have admitted it, she was slightly green-eyed whenever another person claimed any of her chumís attention."
- Implied Love Interest: Jerry to Penny. The Clock Strikes Thirteen says that she she "liked him better than any young man of her acquaintance", while The Wishing Well pinpointed him as having long been a "particular friend" of hers. Even though Penny pooh-poohed their relationship on at least one occasion, they still share many tender moments and several kisses throughout the series.
- Intrepid Reporter: Jerry and Penny. Salt could also qualify as an intrepid photographer.
- Just a Stitch: Mr. DeWitt sort of said this in Ghost Beyond the Gate: "Lately I've been having a little pain in my side—it's nothing though. Just getting old, that's all."
- Kid Detective
- Kindly Housekeeper: Mrs. Maude Weems
- The Klutz: Louise, sometimes.
- Love Interest: Mrs. Deline to Mr. Parker, until we find out she's a criminal and he was only pretending that she was a love interest to gain information.
- Missing Mom: Penny's.
- Mystery Fiction
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: In Signal in the Dark.
- Official Couple: Jerry and Penny pretty much became this in twelfth book when he declared her to be his "one and only." He was absent from the next two books, and by Whispering Walls (book fifteen) they were back to their Unresolved Sexual Tension.
- Parental Substitute: Mrs. Weems to Penny
- Punny Name: Salt Sommers
- Put on a Bus: Jerry was gone on military leave for a few books.
- The Bus Came Back: He makes a "guest appearance" in Voice From the Cave and by the time Whispering Walls rolled around, he was back, no mention made of his previous absence.
- Recurring Character: Salt Sommers and Mr.DeWitt
- Rugged Scar: Apparently, Salt Sommers has a deep scar on his left cheek.
- Ruptured Appendix: Mr. DeWitt got appendicitis in "Ghost Beyond the Gate."
- Scooby-Doo Hoax: Occurs in Hoofbeats on the Turnpike.
- Sleuth Dates Cop: Jerry Livingston wasn't a cop, but he did have a job that could get him inside the crime scene, which helped Penny.
- So Proud of You: Jerry and Mr. Parker toward Penny, the former especially in The Vanishing Houseboat.
- Spell My Name with an "S": Mrs. Weems's first name is Maude, not Maud.
- Spoiled Sweet: Penny
- Unresolved Sexual Tension: Jerry and Penny. See Implied Love Interest.
- Where the Hell Is Springfield?: Or Riverview, in this instance.