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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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The Crisscross Shadow

The Crisscross Shadow

Franklin W Dixon

1st May 2020

Continuing with my chronological re-read of the original Hardy Boys series, I came to this. I know it’s one I read as a child, as it’s got my name written in the front in wobbly young handwriting, but I didn’t find myself remembering much of the story, so it can’t have been one of my favourites.

It started well, with the Hardy’s organically drawn into a mystery free of some of the recent coincidence-heavy plotting, but then it moved back onto the going-on-holiday trope that’s been prevalent in too many of the books in this part of the series.

Overall though, pretty average - some dated references, but fairly well balanced I though with the characters expectations being upturned.

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The Sign of the Crooked Arrow

The Sign of the Crooked Arrow

Franklin W Dixon, Andrew E Svenson & Priscilla Baker-Carr

16th April 2020

Book twenty-eight sees the Hardy Boys dragged into one of their father’s cases - again. This time they are looking into some jewellery thefts that turn into something almost comically over complicated.

This is one of the worst plots so far - it relies almost entirely on coincidence to draw the teenage detectives into a plot which just happens to involve their own cousin in New Mexico. Nothing in this story seems to involve much detection - and too much of it relies on paying people and guns.

Frankly I was surprised by the amount of gun, violence, gore, and peril. It was not what I expected from a Hardy Boys novel - possibly the weakest in the series so far.

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The Phantom Freighter

The Phantom Freighter

Franklin W Dixon, Amy McFarlane & Priscilla Baker-Carr

16th March 2020

Another classic from the heyday of the original Hardy Boys (albeit the re-written version from the 60s in my case) sees the two detectives and their friends trying to help a random man they meet plan a holiday.

It’s an unusual setup, and there’s a surprising amount of different things going on - but it adds up into a good story that I enjoyed reading. I’m fairly confident this is one that I’ve not read before (although the line is starting to get blurry now as I fill in all the gaps in my collection).

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The Mystery of the Melted Coins

The Mystery of the Melted Coins

Franklin W Dixon, Leslie McFarlane & Andrew E Svenson

29th July 2019

This mystery is a classic of the Hardy Boys - seeing the brothers investigating several different mysteries which come along at the same time - a man with a missing memory, some counterfeit coins, and hidden treasure - but the greatest mystery might be the secret that Aunt Gertrude is keeping.

It contains all the key elements, cliffhangers, captures, Chet - that make the Hardy Boys books a pleasure to read - though a great deal of this is likely nostalgia value from reading them when I was younger.

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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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Other reviewed books

The Sinister Signpost
Footprints Under the Window
While the Clock Ticked
The Great Airport Mystery
The Secret of the Caves
The Shore Road Mystery
Hunting for Hidden Gold
The Secret of the Old Mill

Unreviewed books

Acting Up
Bad Chemistry
Blood Sport
Blown Away
Cave Trap
Clean Sweep
Cliffhanger
Competitive Edge
Mayhem in Motion
Moment of Truth
Mystery of the Whale Tattoo
Rough Riding
Sky High
The Arctic Patrol Mystery
The Clue of the Screeching Owl
The Haunted Fort
The Mystery of the Aztec Warrior
The Mystery of the Spiral Bridge

Top books

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  2. The Mystery of the Melted Coins
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  4. The Secret of the Caves
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  6. While the Clock Ticked
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  8. Footprints Under the Window
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  10. The Shore Road Mystery
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  12. The Secret of Pirates' Hill
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  14. The Phantom Freighter