My husband has a sizable collection of Hardy Boys mysteries from when he was a child. His grandparents gave him this first mystery in the series in 1978 (per the inscription on the title page). He’s often spoken about how there were little notes from his grandmother at intervals throughout the books, indicating that when he reached that page he’d get a dime. Well I read this entire book, God help me, and I didn’t get a single monetary reward for it, so that was my first disappointment.
That aside, this book is a slice of nostalgia. I should mention that The Tower Treasure was first published in 1927, but the version I have is the 1959 re-issue. A note on the copyright page indicates “In this new story, based on the original of the same title, Mr. Dixon has incorporated the most up-to-date methods used by police and private detectives,” which is hilarious in itself, because the methods in this book consist of visiting witnesses, asking questions, and shaking down two teenagers for information. What were the police and private detectives doing before 1959?
The novel opens with Frank and Joe Hardy riding their motorcycles on their way to deliver some important documents for their father. Frank ponders that, after the help they gave their father on his last case, he should set up a firm called “Hardy and Sons.”
” ‘Why not?’ Joe replied with a broad grin. ‘Isn’t he one of the most famous private detectives in the country?’ ”
That’s what we call. . .
On their way to drop off the papers, they are nearly run off the road by a speeding car. Then they find a similar looking car wrecked on the side of the road, Chet’s jalopy is stolen, they find a red wig, Chet’s jalopy is found, the local rich guy’s house is robbed, the kindly curator is accused. . . . look it doesn’t matter. Stuff happens and we’re not here for the plot, we’re here for random observations.
First of all, looking at the cover art, how did those youngsters become these guys:
And why were they considered heart throbs in 1977? I must ask my 8-year-old self what the deal was with the Shaun Cassidy obsession.
Though to be fair, the book versions of Frank and Joe were also players, considering they each had girls that they “often dated.” Like, how many girls do they have lined up? You know who probably doesn’t have a girlfriend? Chet, even though he’s got a yellow jalopy called the Queen. The author repeatedly refers to Chet as being “stout,” which I guess is the polite 1959 version of saying chubby?
That absolute chonker on the right is supposed to be stout Chet.
Of course, all the girls in the book are pretty, even if they do “clutch their throats” and “stare wild-eyed” when the boys receive a threatening phone call. But that’s nothing compared to Mrs. Robinson, the sweet wife of kindly caretaker Henry Robinson, who falls into a dead faint and needs to be revived with smelling salts upon learning that her husband has been arrested even though there is no evidence, not even stolen goods or fingerprints.
Where’s this guy when you need him? The town’s got an oversupply of private detectives and not a single defense attorney?
The most shocking thing to me is how quickly people can descend into poverty in the town of Bayport. Because Henry Robinson loses his job as caretaker, his son Perry (aka “Slim,” take that Chet!) has to quit school and get a job, dashing his hopes of going to college. This is like a day after the robbery, mind you. A couple of days later the Robinson family is living in squalor on the poor side of town. I can’t even get a U-Haul that quickly; how the hell did they find a place to live, pack up their belongings, and move in that time?
The boys realize that the only way they can help their friend’s father is to find the loot. With Mr. Hardy’s help, they track down important clues that lead them on a chase to find the stolen goods before the town’s other private investigator, Oscar Smuff, can find it. That’s easy enough, because Smuff is so incompetent he spends his time spying on two teenagers for their clues instead of making a couple of phone calls. Nothing can stop those Hardy boys, though, until they run into one final adversary. . . Hobo Johnny!
Every book needs a bad hobo, as one Goodreads critic observed.
So, the Hardy Boys: Tower Treasure is quite a trip. I don’t know whether I’ll be reading more of these mysteries any time soon. Truth be told, I liked Nancy Drew better anyway. They say reading is its own reward, but I would have appreciated a few dimes for my trouble.