Priscilla Baker-Carr - Shastrix Books

Priscilla Baker-Carr

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The Mystery at Devil's Paw

The Mystery at Devil's Paw

Franklin W Dixon, James D Lawrence & Priscilla Baker-Carr

13th September 2020

Book 38 of the original Hardy Boys series - my read through has slowed somewhat since earlier in lockdown as I’ve been distracted by more recent publications, and also because too many Hardy Boys adventures back to back is a little tortuous (not that it stopped me as an 11-year-old).

This time the brothers get caught up in an adventure in Alaska when their friend summons them to help out with his summer job. There are the typical dated stereotypes of native americans, and some extremely uncomfortable archaeological practices - and it fits the pattern of the ‘Hardy Boys go on holiday’ novels from this era.

Generally I was unimpressed by this entry - probably one of the weaker ones.

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The Ghost at Skeleton Rock

The Ghost at Skeleton Rock

Franklin W Dixon, James D Lawrence & Priscilla Baker-Carr

24th July 2020

Deep into the original run of the Hardy Boys novels, Skeleton Rock starts well - with a classic new hobby for Chet, a hometown mystery, and a collection of surprising family-owned vehicles.

But later on it falls down a bit, as the brothers head off someone remote, and get involved with yet another group of indiginous people to represent in a stereotypical and offensive way.

A mediocre entry in the series.

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The Secret of Pirates' Hill

The Secret of Pirates' Hill

Franklin W Dixon, John Almquist & Priscilla Baker-Carr

27th June 2020

The Secret of Pirates Hill feels like one of those novels where they kept the title, but in the 1960s rewrite replaced the bulk of the plot - because the hill itself feels far from the primary focus.

It’s a classic mystery for the Hardy Boys in some respects - a puzzle is brought to them by a random, they investigate around town, get roughed up a bit, learn a tiny bit about an entirely random topic, get a bit racist, and save the day.

I’ll admit that I don’t think I followed entirely some of the plot - there seemed to be some leaps in deduction that I missed, and some of the guest characters failed to be sufficiently distinct for me to work out which was which from chapter to chapter.

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Buy book: UK
The Clue in the Embers

The Clue in the Embers

Franklin W Dixon, John Almquist & Priscilla Baker-Carr

8th June 2020

This is one of those Hardy Boys stories that I know I had a child, because my copy has my name in the front in shaky youthful handwriting - and yet I didn’t remember it at all.

It seemed to start fairly well - a friend’s interesting inheritance that somebody wanted to buy on the quiet, and a story of potentially valuable medallions. And yet then it descended into some of the most absurd racism of the series so far.

I don’t really want to go into the detail because that’s spoilers, but suffice to say the boys break all sense of realism in their attempts at disguise, which is not only ridiculous but clearly offensive, while also trampling all over indigenous cultures and participating in a particularly notable act of profiling.

It was a bad week for racism when I re-read this novel, but I don’t think that made it stand out any more than it would have. It’s particularly surprising how these editions which are meant to have been rewritten in the 1960s to remove the racism have ended up still being so bad.

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The Hooded Hawk Mystery

The Hooded Hawk Mystery

Franklin W Dixon, Charles Strong & Priscilla Baker-Carr

24th May 2020

I’ve been rapidly making my way through the Hardy Boys original series during lockdown, and this one seemed like a solid entry.

The boys are mysteriously gifted a Peregrine Falcon, and of course find a way to make use of it to solve a mystery. It’s interesting that its them that gets a new hobby, as that has traditionally been the role of Chet through the series so far.

It’s much more of the classic vein, and partly that’s probably true in my head because it’s one that I read as a child - but it’s based in Bayport, involves lots of the common elements, and feels slightly educational too.

There are a couple of aspects that are a bit dated and likely wouldn’t be included in a novel aimed at the same target audience today, particularly around animals and hunting. There’s also some dated language that today would be correctly interpreted as racism - if not for the fact that the terms in question have died out and so many readers wouldn’t even understand what they meant.

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The Yellow Feather Mystery

The Yellow Feather Mystery

Franklin W Dixon, William Dougherty & Priscilla Baker-Carr

3rd May 2020

The Yellow Feature Mystery sticks in my head as one of those classic Hardy Boys titles. I must have read it in the listings hundreds of times as a child - and yet it wasn't one of the books I'd read, or which formed part of my collection. Until now.

The mystery begins when the teenage detectives are approached by a college student and asked to find his grandfather's will - which he believes will leave an entire school to him.

It actually proceeds to become a classic Hardy Boys story - with lots of sleuthing, solar plexus jabs, and suspects and friends all over the place. This all came as a pleasant surprise as preceeding entries in the series had become weaker and repetetive.

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The Secret of Wildcat Swamp

The Secret of Wildcat Swamp

Franklin W Dixon, William Dougherty & Priscilla Baker-Carr

25th April 2020

The ‘Hardy Boys Go On Holiday’ part of the series continues with this trip to the countryside to help someone find fossils in a swamp.

I’m again surprised at the prevalence of firearms - this wasn’t a feature of the books I remember from reading in childhood, and yet here Joe in particularly is totally happy wielding a gun. I’m don’t find this comfortable reading any more, although perhaps for the expected audience some fifty years ago that was an entirely normal experience.

I feel like the books have by this point hit upon a formula and they are sticking too closely to it. Every plot now has become the same, and the reliance of the coincidence as the Boys’ case and their father’s come together is breaking my ability to suspend disbelief.

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Other reviewed books

The Wailing Siren Mystery
The Sign of the Crooked Arrow
The Phantom Freighter

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