Hardy Boys / Nancy Drew Franklin W. Dixon / Carolyn Keene

Default Smiles Imagine you’re a young sleuth. Not too young, you’re old enough to drive and get into all sorts of creative trouble that the kids just can’t. Which is just as well, because where you live is equal parts charming town with a thriving community and social life, and hotbed of often violent criminal activity.
Default Sharky And smugglers.
Default Smiles It’s always smugglers.
Happy Sharky2 That’s the basic setup for both Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys. A nice stepping stone between the more innocently sinister mysteries of Enid Blyton and grown up mysteries where people mostly die.
Surprised Smiles Weirdly, I have this strong memory of Nancy Drew mysteries, but we don’t have any of the books on our shelves. We managed to get one and read it, but it’s not at all what I remember.
Surprised Sharky 2 Then we worked out it’s because we only read The Hardy Boys, but Nancy Drew really took off in the video game market, so we’d played a couple of those.
Happy Smiles Those were fun games. And the whole reason I have fond memories of a series I’ve never actually read.
Default Sharky We grabbed a Nancy Drew and dug out one of our old Hardys after a long, long time for this review, only to find out that both series have been changed around, aged up, and modernised time and time again. Yeah, clearly we’ve been out of the loop a long while. This isn’t going to be a review about the millions of reboots. We never read them, so we can’t comment on them. We CAN talk about the early books, where it all started, so that seems like a good idea. So we did a quick reading of the first book in each series, as well as one further down the line.
Surprised Smiles Reading Nancy Drew for the first time… I guess it depends on which book you read first.
Surprised Sharky I’ll admit, I wasn’t a huge fan of the first book. It gets better later on, but at the start and throughout there’s these weird narrative choices. Like Nancy suddenly saying to herself ‘My father depends on my intuition!’ while driving, just so we know the fact. Or when she’s locked in a cupboard and the person on the other side thinks she’s the guy who knocked him out pretending to be a girl, she convinces him by letting out ‘a feminine scream’ and that works. It’s… very weird and distracting. Or every other book reminding us at the beginning that she is a ‘blonde, attractive teenager’ when surely there’s more subtle or more varied ways to say that sentence.
Default Smiles You liked the second book, though.
Happy Sharky2 Oh yeah, the second book was fun. We kick right off with a friend calling her up for help on a mysterious happening, and then some sleazeball coming around to not-so-subtly threaten her father, a lawyer, who might be getting used as a scapegoat in some corporate dirty dealing. That’s just the start, and I was already interested. Plus it feels like the writing style solidified since the last one. If you’ve never read anything in the series, The Hidden Staircase is a good place to start.
Surprised Smiles Coming to the Hardy Boys, the writing style of the first book is stronger, which makes for a better first impression. They’re more subtle with the ‘discussing stuff they already know just for the sake of the audience’, but even that doesn’t hold up too far. The conversation suddenly dissolves into ‘hey remember the thing’, ‘oh yes and then the other thing happened’, just so there’s a convenient way for the audience to know what’s going on so they can get backstory out of the way. I don’t know, maybe we’re being kind of hard on both series. As a kid I would have been pretty happy to get the background done with so we could have the action.
Surprised Sharky There’s limits. Now, on a quick glance it feels like the Hardy Boys are more charged up and prone to shooting and chases and punch-ups. Like the hardboiled style of detective novel, but for kids. The Nancy Drews are more about schemes and following the trail of mysterious leads. Both very worthy types of plot, so while you’ll inevitably prefer one series over the other, either because of the characters or the plots or the style, it might be worth your time dipping into both.
Happy Smiles And play the games!
Happy Sharky2 Sure. When Smiles is reading the books to review and I have to wait, I tend to get on the internet and do additional research. The tidbits we pick up are usually pretty interesting. Like the fact that both series were thought up by the same company and ghost-written so that they could keep going if one author got sick of doing it. Suddenly makes sense how easy it was to create a whole series where Nancy and the boys worked together.


Shocked Smiles The original author for the Hardy Boys was sick of doing it, which brings our count of authors who hated writing their detectives up to three. Another fact, since the books are tackled by different authors, the styles change. Some plots are more ridiculous than others, depending on whose writing it. Nancy even changes almost completely at a point when one author takes over from another.
Sassy Sharky And apparently every writer for the Hardy Boys was told to end every chapter with a cliffhanger. Reading the books knowing that fact, I can’t unsee the conscious effort. It’s actually pretty funny, because in the second Hardy we were reading, there was one spot where there wasn’t any excuse for a cliffhanger, so a character says she got a call from the hospital in a hushed tone to make us think something terrible happened to the patient there, and when the next chapter starts there was nothing wrong at all. Colour me disappointed when nobody called her out on being dramatic for no reason.
Shocked Smiles I’m going to be disappointed if she isn’t in the books a lot more. Everything else aside, Aunt Gertrude is amazing and there needs to be a series just about her. I’m so glad the book we picked had her. Every book that doesn’t have her is the poorer for it, and that includes the first one. This is a woman who provides a vital clue because she felt so insulted by someone on the street that she remembers the conversation perfectly. The one who responds to the boys saying they’ll be out all night on a case by setting the burglar alarm so they can’t sneak back in without her knowing if they’re hurt or hiding something.
Sassy Sharky Brilliant.

2 thoughts on “Hardy Boys / Nancy Drew Franklin W. Dixon / Carolyn Keene

  1. Excellent review! Who’d have known they were all ghost written? I do remember enjoying many of the Hardy Boys books as a teenager, and they are probably part of every reading person’s growing years. Certainly takes me back.

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