James D Lawrence - Shastrix Books

James D Lawrence

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The Disappearing Floor

The Disappearing Floor

Franklin W Dixon, John Button & James D Lawrence

28th May 2017

The nineteenth original Hardy Boys book (or at least my UK edition of the 1964 re-write) sees the brothers investigating a series of jewellery thefts, as well as a strange house which appears to be haunted, and not just one but several instances of floors that disappear.

The narrative is the usual, simplistic but engaging - perhaps more so than some of its predecessors, as I read though in just a couple of sittings (maybe just over an hour in total). However the plot is messy - in places not making much sense, and feeling more like a string of coincidences than an actual investigation.

I suspect that this book was heavily butchered in the re-writing process, as its focus is one on technology I think the original plot has been radically ‘updated’ and in the process some of the sense has been lost, leading to a slightly unsatisfying story that doesn’t hold up to too much thinking about.

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The Secret Warning

The Secret Warning

Franklin W Dixon, John Button, Leslie McFarlane & James D Lawrence

26th May 2016

The seventeenth book in the original Hardy Boys series, in its revised form, tells the tale of the brothers on the trail of an island inhabiting ghost, and a golden relic of ancient Egypt being imported too the United States for some sort of illegal sale (probably).

It feels like a bit of a mishmash of different plots, with many different mysteries tied together in a convoluted and unlikely web of intrigue. I'll admit to having taken a break from the story halfway (not through any specific fault of the book), but I didn't think this structure made it easy to keep up with everything that was going on.

Overall, fairly typical entry in the series. Didn't do anything special or notable and would probably have better served as a single sitting read.

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A Figure in Hiding

A Figure in Hiding

Franklin W Dixon, Leslie McFarlane & James D Lawrence

6th January 2016

The sixteenth novel in the original Hardy Boys series (in the 1965 rewrite edition) sees the brothers up against a mysterious glass eye which they discover when one of their acquaintances' boat goes for a test run. It features a number of the tropes of the stories that I've recognised over the course of my re-read so far, including experimental modes of transport, car chases, car crashes, gangs, mystery faces at windows, Chet having a weird new hobby, and so on.

While the first ten books feel comfortably as if they have had some effort to make them varied and interesting in different ways, since then the series has gone downhill, repeating similar situations and almost seeming to follow a formula rather than putting in a reasonable amount of imagination.

As such, it's becoming harder for the stories to grip my attention as I go on. Now admittedly this might be because I am not part of the target audience of young teens in the 1960s, but I think the change in my response since reading the earliest books again is to the change in quality of storytelling.

In this particular example the mystery is really wrapped up in a page of exposition right at the end rather than being uncovered as part of the drama, with the story feeling much more a thriller than a proper detective tale. Overall a fairly weak entry in the early original series and not one that I'd put on a must read list.

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Unreviewed books

The Ghost at Skeleton Rock
The Mystery at Devil's Paw
The Mystery of the Chinese Junk

Top books

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  2. The Secret Warning
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  4. The Disappearing Floor
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  6. A Figure in Hiding