Sunday, August 3, 2014

Book Review: The Tower Treasure by Franklin W. Dixon (Hardy Boys #1)


Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Decent fast moving mystery
Cons: A few plot weaknesses and fairly flat characters
The Bottom Line:
Frank and Joe start here
Definitely flaws present
But overall fun




Meet Frank and Joe

Before I found Trixie Belden (who is obviously still my first middle grade sleuth love), I was a fan of the Hardy Boys and to a certain extend Nancy Drew.  I devoured all the books I could find in the library and even owned a few.  I've been meaning to revisit some of those books for a while, and finally sat down and reread The Tower Treasure, the Hardy Boys' first case.  While the flaws were more obvious to me this time around, I did still enjoy this walk down memory lane.

Frank and Joe Hardy are the sons of famous detective Fenton Hardy.  They occasionally make deliveries for him, and that is just what they are doing when they are almost driven off the road - twice - by a car they later find crashed on the side of the road.  When they stop to visit their friend Chet, they learn that his jalopy has recently been stolen.  Anxious to prove themselves detectives, they begin to investigate, but as they go along, even more crime begins to hit their town of Bayport.  Is there a connection?  Can they solve the crime?

I didn't remember much about this book when I sat down to reread it, and for the first third of it, I was confused.  What does Chet's car have to do with a treasure?  I promise you, there is a connection, but the result is a plot that feels a little episodic in nature.  I'll be curious to see if I feel that way with others in the series because the fact that this book could be split into three sections was a bit of a surprise to me.

I was also surprised that some of the key bits of the story happened off the page while Fenton is investigating.  However, don't misunderstand - Frank and Joe do play a significant role in the book and actually solve the case in the end.

Overall, the story is very entertaining with several good twists and actually a few set backs before everything is resolved.  Pieces of the story came back to me as I read, but a few of the twists surprised me as well.

The one thing I definitely remember about the series was weak characters, and that is still true today.  I didn't notice for years, but eventually I realized that these main characters just didn't have much depth to them.  That's still the case here as even when a friend is directly impacted by the main plot, I didn't feel much even if the rest of the characters did.  Probably the biggest surprise was that Chief Collig, who I remember supporting the Hardys, was actually on the other side of this case.  Also, Aunt Gertrude wasn't around, but Mrs. Hardy actually had a few scenes as a result.

I certainly found it interesting that, at least here, Frank and Joe's reasons for getting involved were to help out friends, something I find true in most of the cozy mysteries I read today.  While I don't seem to remember much in the way of their motives in later cases, I would bet this went away and they solved these mysteries just for the love of solving mysteries.

Today's kids will hit a few road bumps with the language, chums instead of friends for example.  They might or might not notice that the money discussed in the book is very cheap by today's standards.  Either way, these won't be an impediment to them enjoying the book.

And I think kids will still enjoy meeting Frank and Joe in The Tower Treasure.  While I can see the flaws better as an adult, the kid in me can still see why I enjoyed them when I was in middle school, and I think that combination of action and mystery will still entertain kids today.

This review is part of Marvelous Middle Grade Monday.

8 comments:

  1. WOW, I haven't read the Hardy Boys in forever, though I have gone back and read a few Nancy Drew books. I discovered pretty much the same things about Nancy's books as you did here. Thanks for this review and I think you are right in saying kids will still enjoy the Hardy boys.

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    1. It was actual the Nancy Drew books where I got tired of the formula and characters and then noticed it in with Frank and Joe as well. But there is still something fun to be had even if they aren't quite as good as I thought they were as a kid.

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  2. This series is what got me hooked on reading as a kid. I still have my copy of this one. Thanks for bringing back great memories.

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    1. I was reading my copy of the book as well. :)

      I loved these as a kid and they will always hold a special place in my heart even if they aren't as good as I thought they were as a kid.

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  3. I've heard about the Hardy Boys series obviously, but I haven't read any of them. I may now though. Thanks for the honest review!

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    1. I'd be interested to hear what you think. I'm sure my memories from childhood clouded my judgement some, but if you go in with the right expectations, I'm sure you'll enjoy.

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  4. Nancy Drew books are what really got me hooked on reading. Several years later, I read a bunch of Hardy Boys...they were either my cousins from when he was a kid or my uncle's. I think they were my uncle's. I may have read this one.

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    1. I actually read part of a Hardy Boys book in 3rd grade but stopped reading it in favor of Narnia. A couple years later, I tried the Hardys again and was hooked. From there, I went to Nancy.

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