Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Strong, fun story
Cons: Weak characters
The Bottom Line:
Smuggler in Bayport
But Hardys are on the case
It’s still mindless fun
Hunting for Smugglers
Just about every lover of mysteries as an adult started by reading teen detectives when they were a kid. While Trixie Belden is my first love, I actually started the genre by reading the Hardy Boys. They are still fun to revisit, which is what I did recently via The House on the Cliff.
Frank and Joe Hardy are anxious to help their father, famous detective Fenton Hardy, on another case. It just so happens that he is working on a case involving smugglers in the Hardy’s home town of Bayport. His assignment to his sons is simple, take his telescope and see what they can observe in the bay. He even recommends an abandoned house on a cliff that will give them a great view.
Frank and Joe grab their friends Chet and Biff and head out. They observe something strange happening in the bay, but before the can get back to report to Mr. Hardy, they hear a cry from inside the house, someone steals part of the telescope, and they witness an attempted murder. Is any of this related to the smuggling?
I’m sure I read this book as a kid, but it’s been years, and I didn’t really remember much of what happened. I found myself enjoying the story as it unfolded. Yes, it has some of the typical Hardy Boys weaknesses, like the characters always making the right deduction right away, but it’s fun. What really struck me with this book is how long the climax is. We pretty much have everything figured out by three quarters of the way through the book; it’s just a matter of seeing if the Hardys can bring the criminals to justice.
Another weakness of the series is the cardboard characters. There are attempts to give each character some personality, but it’s mostly superficial. Yet, I had probably read over 30 of them as a kid before this started to bother me, so obviously, it’s a minor issue. We actually see quite a few of Frank and Joe’s other friends in this book, at least for a scene or two. I was also struck by the fact that we get a couple of chapters from these friends’ point of view. This is the only time I can remember it not just being Frank and Joe we followed.
I’m mostly familiar with the edited versions of the story from the late 50’s and 60’s. The most dated thing in these version is the pictures. I can’t imagine any kids these days wearing ties on a regular basis. I doubt that any of the kids picking up the book today will care. They’ll get caught up in the action.
While these books will never be confused with great literature, they are still fun to revisit, and today’s kids will enjoy reading them as well. The House on the Cliff is another example of that.