Who Wrote It?: Franklin W. Dixon

C’mon, Who Really Wrote it?: James Beuchler in 1962.  The second of two originals in a row he would write, but we’ve seen Mr. Beuchler’s work before in 11: WHILE THE CLOCK TICKED and in 14: THE HIDDEN HARBOR MYSTERY, both of which he revised in the same years as he was writing his two originals.  I gave #11 a rating of 8 and #14 a rating of 6.  Then I gave his first original a rating of 7.  Lemme see, what number is missing in the sequence…

Was It Revised?: No.

Cover: Rudy Nappi.  Classic combination of realistic and symbolic cover art.  We have the red and yellow color, and a realistic setting, and we have a symbolic owl looking down on the action.  Well, it’s a real owl, but its size is symbolic.  And once you read the book, you’ll see how the symbolism is appropriate.  Hint.

Setting: The Poconos.  For my readers from around the world, these are a small mountain range in eastern Pennsylvania.  And if you read this book, you’ll never want to visit.  The Poconos Chamber of Commerce should sue.    

Where’s Fenton This Time?: Chapter XX, baby!  Here comes the Fenton-cavalry! 

Which Chums Show Up?: Chet.  Mr. Beuchler liked Chet a lot, and boy does Chet do great in this book.  Oh, Callie and Iola get mentioned in a phone conversation with Mrs. Hardy, but they don’t actually appear in the book.  Sorry, Callie Shaw & Iola Morton Fan Club.

What’s Chet’s Hobby This Time?: No hobby.  But let me rant for a moment.  In the last book — BY THE SAME AUTHOR ONE YEAR EARLIER — Chet says, “You know I can’t cook worth anything.  Eating is what I’m good at.”  Now in this book, again, same author, Chet is described this way: “Chet Morton busied himself getting supper . . . Chad had outdone himself to produce a meal of steak, friend potatoes, and hot vegetables.”  Later on he makes more meals, and does a great job.  So I’m sorry, that’s really, really poor form by Mr. Beuchler.

Aunt Gertrude’s Dessert: Who?  She doesn’t appear in the book.  The book does not take place in Bayport, so no doubt she made a lovely strawberry-rhubarb pie that Mrs. Hardy ate with her while they thought about their missing household inhabitants.

Plot: Another missing person story.  The boys and Chet go to the mountains and try to find him.  Lots of atmospheric doings go on while they do.  Plus a beagle puppy!

Review:  Don’t let the simple description fool ya, this is a great story.  Suspenseful, gripping, interesting characters, it’s a great mystery.  Yes, the clue of the screeching owl is significant, but it’s misdirection, and fun at that.

This is another one of those Scooby Doo plots, with hints of the supernatural that, of course, have a perfectly normal explanation.  As Joe correctly says:

“That’s how these stories get started.  Something mysterious happens, and instead of looking for a sensible explanation, superstitious people think of spells and witches right away.”

Well said, Joe.  And the bad guy would have gotten away with it too if it hadn’t been for you meddling kids.

Score: 9 (that’s 8 for the gripping story, and 1 for the cute puppy)