James D Lawrence - Shastrix Books

James D Lawrence

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The Mystery of the Chinese Junk

The Mystery of the Chinese Junk

Franklin W Dixon & James D Lawrence

11th October 2020

The Mystery of the Chinese Junk, thirty-ninth in the series, has an interesting setting for a fairly standard story.

The usual ingredients are present, Chet has a new hobby, people break into places, some racism, tons of coincidence, but with the unusual addition of gainful employ for the brothers and a lack of actual detection.

The story follows the usual format that I’m now immune to after so much exposure as I’ve re-read the series up to this point, and while the setting adds something unique and special, nothing else here seems to be.

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Buy book: UK
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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Buy book: UK
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 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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Top books

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  2. The Mystery of the Chinese Junk
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  4. The Secret Warning
  5. Filled StarFilled StarFilled StarFilled StarEmpty Star
  6. The Disappearing Floor
  7. Filled StarFilled StarFilled StarEmpty StarEmpty Star
  8. A Figure in Hiding
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  10. The Mystery at Devil's Paw
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  12. The Ghost at Skeleton Rock