The Hardy Boys Volume 3 – The Secret of the Old Mill
Pros: Solid, straight-forward story
Cons: Too straight-forward
*Spoilers lurk ahead*
The Secret of the Old Mill is, in my humble opinion, one of the strangest (Grosset & Dunlap) Hardy Boys stories ever published. Surprisingly, this “strangeness” is not due to the story’s content, but rather, to the “staightforward-ness nature” of the story, itself. Very few nuances, to be sure. So, let’s get the house-keeping out of the way, and discuss this one in more detail….
*By the way, check out the cover. Does anyone else think Frank Hardy looks like Tony Dow/Wally Cleaver? Just saying….
Stuff I have said before
Frank, aged 18 with dark hair, and blond, 17-year-old Joe Hardy are sons of the famous private detective, Fenton Hardy, who made his reputation as a “crack” detective working for the NYPD. Frank and Joe live in the town of Bayport, USA–somewhere on the coast of New Jersey (hard to believe they may have grown up in the same town as Snooki, isn’t it?)–and are both seniors at Bayport High School. As you may have ascertained by now, they are following in their father’s footsteps as amateur detectives…and aren’t too bad in their own right, either.
Please note: As a child, Frank missed a full year of school due to an illness.
In addition to their father, Frank and Joe live at home with their mother, Laura (she is hardly ever given anything to do in these stories) and their irascible Aunt Gertrude who always has dire predictions of gloom and doom awaiting Frank and Joe…but “is secretly proud of their sleuthing abilities.”
Chet Morton is the Hardys’ best friend. He is a bit chubby, and quite fearful–but a loyal friend. Chet, in addition to providing comic relief, usually has some new hobby that always manages to tie in to the Hardys’ latest case. This week it is an interest in science (as long as the science involves microscopes).
Tony Prito and Biff Hooper are two other very close pals of Frank and Joe. Tony’s dad owns the Prito (how original) Construction Company and Tony, himself, has a boat: The Napoli. Biff (real name is “Allen”) is the nephew of a famous boxer–FWD forgot who, apparently–and provides much-needed muscle: “Many a criminal had felt the iron of Biff’s wallop.”
Jerry Gilroy is the “Wedge Antilles” of the Hardy Boys universe. I call Jerry “the Wedge Antilles…” because I have always (not really) thought the two characters have a lot in common: We do not know their respective back stories; they only show up every now and then–yet survive their series’ entire run. I still maintain Jerry has his own set of adventures that George Lucas, er, Grosset & Dunlap, have failed to cash in on. Maybe someday.
Detective wanna-be, Oscar Smuff, also makes a brief appearance in this story, for comic relief only. More on him below>
Finally, the Hardys’ romantic (if you want to call it that) interests are: blonde-haired Callie Shaw and Iola Morton (Chet’s raven haired sister). “Vivacious” and “fun” is what we are told about them. It seems to be true.
Pssst: If you want the inside scoop on Franklin W. Dixon, check out my review of The Tower Treasure, ok? But, I warn you, it’s not for the faint of heart.
The Secret of the Old Mill
Alas, no “Briefly” section this time out. There just isn’t enough material for more than 2-3 sentences, if that. And, it’s worth noting the only other time I skipped a Briefly section for one of these novels was for my Epinions review of Hunting For Hidden Gold. However, that was due out of respect to its being–by far–the most well-written HB story I have ever read.
There is a lot of stuff going on in and around Bayport this time out. Mr. Hardy is away on a case, so Frank and Joe get enlisted to check out the strange goings-on at the Elekton Corporation, located just outside of Bayport. It seems EC is working on rockets, and the evil foreign agents (once again) have descended onto Bayport. Frank and Joe investigate and ask the question: Could this case be related to Dad’s??
What do you think?
Meanwhile, back in Bayport, counterfeiters have also arrived, and Chet Morton is one of their latest victims (as he is on his way to purchase his new microscope). Oscar Smuff is on it! But, this just leads to yet another epic fail by OS so our intrepid heroes take over “his” case, too.
Where is Mr. Hardy?
We also have a 14 year-old kid, Ken Blake, riding around Bayport on his bicycle, and he manages to always show up at the wrong place at the wrong time. What’s he up to, anyway?
And, finally, an evil dude known only as “The Arrow” (no, not Stephen Amell) is on the loose, shooting arrow after arrow at our heroes. Fortunately, his aim is on the level of your average Star Wars villain.
Oh yeah, I almost forgot (which is telling) – an old mill also figures into this case, and said mill has a, er, secret. It seems something strange is going on at and around the old mill. How do Frank and Joe know this? They just know, ok?
So, after just reading all of the varied aforementioned goings-on of this story, one would think this would (work with me) make for a great read. Unfortunately, not so much. As I have said in reviews past, I still have my HB novels from childhood, and I will re-read them from time to time and it’s usually a very enjoyable experience. However, it has been so long since I last read this one, I pulled it out and gave it a re-read before writing this review.
And, I now know why it has been such a long while….
The story, despite a few exciting elements that mesh together fairly well, just isn’t interesting at all. FWD (perhaps he was sober) writes at a very methodical, matter-of-fact pace, and the story plods along its 180 pages or so to the conclusion…..yet never really takes on an identity (Re: charm) of its own. It’s serviceable, just not very interesting….
….oh, we get the brief humor with Oscar Smuff hot on the trail of the counterfeiters–and I do admit the hide-and-seek he plays with one of “them” is hilarious. We also get a chapter devoted to the HB’s getting their speedboat, The Sleuth, and that is entertaining, too. However, both of these sequences occur within the novel’s early chapters, and then it is as if the author just followed the outline given him to a “T” and didn’t try to stamp his personality onto it in any way, shape, or form.
This is what I believe happened, anyway.
So, in conclusion, I am rating this with three very unenthusiastic stars but please understand my rating of “barely passable” is geared only towards diehard HB fans. If this isn’t you, then you should pass on it. It is a decent, one time only, read for fans only. You’ve been warned!
Thanks for reading.
The Hardy Boys Volume 3 – The Secret of the Old Mill
*The Secret of the old Mill was first published by the Stratemeyer Syndicate in 1927, and written by Leslie McFarlane. The updated version reviewed here was published by Grosset & Dunlap in 1962, and written by Alistair Hunter. Thank you, Wikipedia.