Sunday, January 20, 2019

Book Review: The Missing Chums by Franklin W. Dixon (Hardy Boys #4)


Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Fun adventure
Cons: Thin characters; dated elements
The Bottom Line:
Bank theft; kidnapping
Lead Hardys on a wild chase
Light weight but still fun




Who Kidnapped Chet and Biff?

I know I never read The Missing Chums as a kid.  My library didn't have a copy of this particular Hardy Boys book (I think I read all the ones they had), and I didn't buy a copy for myself.  The title always intrigued me since I wanted to know which of the Hardy’s friends went missing and what happened to them.  Now, as an adult, I finally know.

The only thing that could make summer vacation better for Frank and Joe Hardy is a mystery, and one is handed to them by Chief Collig when he asks them to go undercover at the homeless encampment outside of town and find out what is causing the increased fighting down there.  Before the teens can begin their assignment, they witness a bank robbery, however.  Then, after a costume party hosted by Callie Shaw and Iola Morton, their friends Chet and Biff vanish.  Can the brothers figure out what happened to their friends?  Are all these events connected?

I was a little worried when I started reading this book and saw how many different plot threads the story was introducing.  However, by the time that Chet and Biff vanish, the book stops introducing new plot threads and instead works on weaving these plots into a coherent whole.  Yes, by the time we reach the climax, we see how everything fits together, and it all makes sense.

My biggest issue with this book is the usual in this series - the characters.  While I remember them being more robust when I was a kid, they are very one dimensional.  There are just the basics of personalities there.  But I didn't mind as a kid, and I'm sure today's kids won't mind either.

The story has already been updated once, and this version from the 1950's is very dated once again.  The biggest thing is the word choice.  I mean, who says "chum" any more when referring to their friends?  Honestly, I think I only know this word thanks to this book.  Of course, the characters don't have cell phones, either.  Honestly, I enjoyed slipping back into this seemingly simpler world, but some readers might have trouble with these changes.  Then again, some kids will get caught up in the story and not even notice the dated elements.

I do want to address the homeless encampment for a moment.  We actually learn early on that many of the men who are living there do work, they just can't afford a place to live.  This is just one of the many ways that the book goes out of its way to avoid any negative stereotypes.  If you are worried about your kids picking up negative views of the homeless while reading this book, there really isn't anything to worry about.

While I wouldn't want to read a bunch of these books back to back, I do enjoy occasionally revisiting the Hardys and their chums for another adventure.  The Missing Chums is a fun mystery that will keep readers engaged as long as the dated elements don't bother them.

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