Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Book Review: What Happened at Midnight by Franklin W. Dixon (Hardy Boys #10)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Fast paced action
Cons: Thin characters, coincidence in plot, dated
The Bottom Line:
Protect invention
While taking down some smugglers
Fast paced nostalgia

Nighttime Crime

I remember as a kid being intrigued by the title of the tenth Hardy Boys mystery – What Happened at Midnight.  For one thing, I never stayed up that late then, so the idea of being up so late was intriguing.  I remember enjoying it as a kid, and it is still fun as an adult.

Frank and Joe Hardy have just been given an unusual assignment.  They’ve been asked to break into a house and steal something.  And their dad has asked them to do it.  Famed detective Fenton Hardy is on the West Coast with his client, but the client thinks someone is going to break into his house and steal his new invention.  He doesn’t have a spare key, so he needs Frank and Joe to break in and get his invention first to make sure it is safe.

While Frank and Joe are able to get the invention, doing so puts them on the radar of a smuggling ring.  Why are they after the invention?  Can Frank and Joe help round them up?

I’ve only ever read the 1950’s version of this title, and I do wonder if midnight played a more important role in the original book.  Don’t get me wrong, several key scenes take place at midnight.  However, it doesn’t quite seem like midnight is as important to the story as the title suggests.  Minor complaint, however.

There is plenty of intrigue in the book with the Hardys and their friends being in danger several times.  As a mystery it is a bit light since we know who the villains are almost the entire time.  Instead, we spend much of the book trying to track them down.  Coincidence rules the plot, but I know this is a hallmark of the series, so I expected it.

The characters continue to be thin as well.  They have a little personality, but there is so much action we don’t get to know much about them.

As an adult, there is a particular plot point, encouraged by an adult, too, that absolutely bothers me.  Clearly, this book is written for kids.  It’s a minor issue, and it was more funny to me than truly upsetting.

Here’s the thing, however.  I know all of this going into one of these books.  So I sit back and enjoy them for what they are and the nostalgia they produce.  As a kid, none of this bother me that much, so I’m sure today’s kids looking for an action-packed story will be glad they picked it up.

Reading this now, especially, I had to laugh at some of the elements in the book.  It is clearly dated between the clothes they wear (a tie on a regular basis) to the technology involved.  But I think that is part of the charm.

Even with all the things I pointed out, there is still something about time spent with Frank and Joe Hardy that is fun.  If you want a nostalgia filled trip back in time, you’ll enjoy learning What Happened at Midnight.

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