Who Wrote It?: Franklin W. Dixon
C’mon, Who Really Wrote it?: James D. Lawrence in 1957. His first of three in a row, plus one other one he wrote years later that will conclude this series. But Mr. Lawrence also revised three of the earlier books (16: A FIGURE IN HIDING, 17: THE SECRET WARNING, 19: THE DISAPPEARING FLOOR). I gave those three earlier books scores of 7, 6 and 8. But just to keep things odd, Mr. Lawrence revised those books in the mid-1960s. Yes, he wrote his original books first, and then revised earlier entries. Got it? Good, quiz at the end.
Was It Revised?: Yes, in 1966 by Pricilla Baker-Carr. Which was the same year Mr. Lawrence was revising Hardy Boys books. So as he did that, she revised his. Somehow there is a metaphor for life in there.
Cover: Rudy Nappi. A classic cover. Night scene, ocean in the background giving us our dominant blue color, the plane being shot at from crooks on the beach below. This is a realism cover from Mr. Nappi, and it’s a solid entry.
Setting: Bayport and Puerto Rico. Welcome, readers from that lovely island that I’ve visited three times so far. I enjoyed it as much as Frank and Joe did. More actually since no one was trying to kill me at the time.
But once again we get the absurd notion that crooks, needing money in Puerto Rico, decide to raise some by swindling the good folks of . . . oh, let’s say Bayport. Riiiiiight. That’s the first place I would think of if I were in the Caribbean. Nobody to swindle in Florida?
Where’s Fenton This Time?: Washington D.C., as usual. But then the boys get to play Deus Ex Fenton in Chapter XX and rescue him for a change.
Which Chums Show Up?: Chet, Tony, Callie, Iola. What, Biff was busy? But Tony gets to play a larger part then usual and does a great job. Fans of Tony Prito, this is your book.
What’s Chet’s Hobby This Time?: Ventriloquism. Who’s the dummy now, eh?
Aunt Gertrude’s Dessert: I’m so hungry I could nibble on the corner of this book. Aunt Gertrude evidently didn’t bake pies in the 1950s or something. But good stuff is going to show up before we’re through.
Plot: Lots of Hitchcock MacGuffins in this story. It’s about crooked fortune tellers. Nope. It’s about smuggling diamonds in ventriloquist dummies. Nope. This plot ultimately gets into the political (the bad guys are playing a very big game) in a way that would have resonated in the 1950s (mostly because this is just the sort of nonsense that was happening back then). In any case, the boys have to fly to Puerto Rico, figure out who to trust, and oh yeah, solve the Scooby Doo mystery of the “ghost,” if you catch my drift.
Review: Speaking of Scooby Doo (and I do this a lot here since so much of Scooby Doo derives from the Hardy Boys), check this quote out:
“We might have pulled it off if that important [MacGuffin] hadn’t been sent to the very town where the Hardys lived. Those nosy detectives and their pals upset our plans.”
Yup, Scooby Doo.
On the whole, this is a very good adventure. It has the usual cast of crook types, plus a bonus one who looks just like one of the boys (and when you find out why he does look like one of the boys, you’ll shake your head at the stupidity of doing what he did which would GUARANTEE Frank and Joe would never, ever stop until they got their man).
The ghost sub-thread is predictable, contains a bit of Carib racism that was probably typical of the time, and has a very Scooby Doo ending. But if it sounds like I am scoffing at this book, the bottom line is I enjoyed it very much. It moves, it’s fun, it’s a good entry.