Thursday, 31 March 2011

What Happened at Midnight - Franklin W. Dixon



Published : 1931
UK Price : Hardback Version £7.19 Here & Kindle Version £3.99 Here
US Price : Hardback Version $6.99 Here & Kindle Version $6.99 Here

Until a few weeks ago I had never actually heard about The Hardy Boys and the various novels that they star in. One of my facebook friends made a throwaway comment about me reviewing one of the books and I therefore looked it up and got a copy of the earliest one I could easily locate. For those who do not know, The Hardy Boys novels are basically about two teenage lads who go around having various adventures whilst solving mysteries. They are actually written by various different ghostwriters who were all published under the same pseudonym of Franklin W. Dixon.

As I never read these any of these books when I was a child I had no real memories to call upon as I read the book. Therefore, most of what I say here is going to based upon my views of the story from an adult's point of view.

The basic premise of  "What Happened at Midnight "which was the 10th Hardy Boy is that the two Hardy Boys, Frank & Joe are initially asked to break into the house of a scientist and retrieve a secret invention and keep it safe from being stolen by a group of smugglers whist he is away. After this, we get taken through stacks of ridiculous adventures that range from Joe being kidnapped to them both parachuting out of a crashing plane. Of course the Hardy Boys then manage to get through all these adventures and are involved in finally catching the smugglers, even though I am sure than any police officer would have told them to stay away after the third or fourth time that guns had been used.

To be honest, the whole portrayal of the police in my opinion is down right stupid throughout the book. I don't know how many times I wanted to throw the book away when the lads told the police or FBI about something and then they were left to go and actually deal with it themselves but it happened way too much for my liking. The example that really sticks in my mind is when they are following a man into a rail station, they stop quickly to tell a police officer what they are doing and ask him to contact HQ about it. The police officer doesn't try and actually do anything himself, he just lets these two kids head off onto the train to follow a man who was probably deadly.

One thing I did find amusing was being able to read the language portrayed throughout the novel. I can't remember ever reading a book in the past where a character would say "gadzooks" or "leaping hyenas". I kept expecting someone to say "golly gosh" next or something similar, I would really like to know if people really spoke like that back in the thirties. Or is this just the way the authors wrote a book so it was acceptable for children to read?

I also spent half the book imagining what teenagers of today would really be doing in these situations and I probably found that more entertaining than the book itself. One example of this was when the teens had a thermos with them full of milk, I couldn't help but imagine in my cynical way that nowadays it would probably have had a bottle of high strength cider instead.

Overall, I have to admit that I really struggled to make myself read the book to the end, it just seemed to be moving from one unbelievable adventure to another without any sort of realism. I am sure that pre-teen children may love this book due to this, but as an adult I have to say that I did not enjoy it as I expect more to reading than cheesy unrealistic frivolity. Maybe it is just me being an adult now, or maybe it is just a result when the book was written but I do not expect to be reading any more Hardy Boys novels unless I read this to my children when they are older and they love it.