The Hardy Boys Detective Handbook
Reviewed on 14th February 2021
I had no idea what this was going to be, but having read to the point in the listings of Hardy Boys novels where it tends to get listed, I thought it time to find out. My copy is the revised edition from the early 1970s.
It is a book of two halves - the first is a collection of short stories about the Hardy Boys, their father, and their friend Chet, solving mysteries using specific elements of the crime-solving skill set, including fingerprinting and surveillance.
The focus on the skills is very detailed, and mostly presented as a lesson from one character to another. What in a usual Hardy Boys novel might be summed up in the sentence “Frank dusted for prints” has become an entire story of its own, and that makes for quite a different experience, and one that is at least historically interesting.
The narrative style however differs from what I’m used to from reading the novels. The text is a bit more formal, and feels a little bit patronising to poor Chet. Fenton Hardy is present a lot more than usual, but in general the characterisation feels missing - there’s not really anything to distinguish Frank and Joe. We also get our first part of a narrative (I think) with neither brother present.
The nature of the crimes also feels different from usual - we see our first murder of the entire series, and it’s a particularly brutal and close to home attack which felt entirely unnecessary to the explanation of ballistics, as well as being totally unaddressed from a point of view of emotional impact. There is also a rather dogmatic attempt to denounce drugs which feels heavy handed and not in the least written for real youngsters.
The second part of the book removes the narrative, and just seems to become a set of lists. As a child I imagine I might have found interest in this, but as an adult reading 50 years after publication it feels a bit like filler material.
More interesting I think from an academic perspective than anything else, and probably not necessary for anyone trying to be a completionism on the storytelling like I am.