Who Wrote It?: Franklin W. Dixon
C’mon, Who Really Wrote it?: George Waller Jr. in 1948. This is Mr. Waller’s only entry into the canon. Mr. Waller, step on down, this is your book.
Was It Revised?: Yes, in 1966 by David Grambs, and the first one he revised since #6, The Shore Road Mystery (which I liked a lot and gave a 9) and #12, Footprints Under the Window (which I thought was merely OK, and just gave a 6).
Cover: Rudy Nappi. Classic Nappi, great action moment with a landslide coming down the mountain, and Joe carrying a skull. All described in the book, folks.
Setting: Bayport, and surroundings. We never travel too far.
Where’s Fenton This Time?: Hanging around house waiting for word from Chicago, or headed to Chicago, because while the interesting crooks get to be rounded up by his boys, it’s Fenton who takes down an entire syndicate. Show-off. But he shows up at the end like the sheriff does at the end of each Scooby Doo episode. Speaking of which, isn’t this a classic Scooby Doo title, The Secret of Skull Mountain? Can you just see Shaggy’s legs quivering as he hears the gang’s plans to travel there?
Which Chums Show Up?: Chet, the third Hardy Boy by this point considering how often they include him, and how often he includes himself for Aunt Gertrude’s fine meals, making himself her personal gourmand. Then there is Biff and Callie and Iola. Fans of Callie Shaw: this is your book. She gets to do some detective work and does a fine job of it. I’m not kidding, she actually does well. Frank should be proud.
What’s Chet’s Hobby This Time?: No hobby this time. You’d think his fly fishing from the last book would come in handy by the lake in this book, but noooooo….
Aunt Gertrude’s Dessert: Your patience has been rewarded! Not one, not two, but three different specific desserts are mentioned here: “generous slices of cherry pie,” as well as apple cake and a seven-layer chocolate nut cake that the boys use to bribe Chet into coming to Skull Mountain. No, seriously, that’s how they convince Chet. What? It works. Meanwhile Gertrude gets in a snide remark about how the Hardy house is “worse than a railroad station! People racing in and out any time they please, expecting Laura and me to run a twenty-four hour restaurant service!” You tell ’em, Gertrude! You probably had to put down your copy of The Feminine Mystique to cook these beasts their food on demand — nah, she loves it, especially Chet who actually shows appreciation for the grub.
Plot: Something’s wrong with the water supply in Bayport, and the planned new dam that will be up on the lake by Skull Mountain is running into all kinds of resistance. And a suspicious plumber is up to something. And it’s amazing how people start acting all hillbilly just a few miles outside of Bayport which is, I remind you, in New York State.
Review: Good job, Mr. Waller Jr. and Mr. Grambs. This is classic Hardy Boys, a good mystery that is actually quite straightforward, a scientist is kidnapped, locals are threatening but of mixed motive, the bad guys are suitably rough, and the story moves along. Plus Frank gets to have a solo adventure in the bay that is quite physically challenging. And at the end the boys figure it out themselves, and they defeat the bad guys themselves. Plus the cover is good, and Callie helps out, and Chet does a good job. I will note that it’s always amazing how these boys will plunge into dangerous situations with little regard for personal safety, just as long as they can solve the mystery they will jump right in. I hope we never get The Dante’s Inferno Mystery or these boys will be plunging into something they won’t get out of so easily.