Wednesday, June 5, 2019

The Melted Coins by Franklin W. Dixon

Better-than-average Hardy Boys adventure
The Melted Coins is the 23rd book in the Hardy Boys series of mystery novels. It was originally published in 1944, when the story had to do with a pirate’s buried treasure. Many of the early Hardy Boys books were revised for republication decades later, however, and in this case a totally different story was created with the same title. In this new version, published in 1970, the Hardys help to recover a sacred Native American artifact. My young son and I have read several of these books together (though not all 23), and The Melted Coins is one of the better mysteries we’ve encountered so far in the series.

This mystery commences in much the same way as most of the Hardy Boys books. The ever-absent detective Fenton Hardy is busy on a case somewhere. Since he can’t be in two places at once, he sends his sons to investigate a second case that has been brought to his attention. Someone has stolen a number of ceremonial masks from the Seneca Indian tribe in western New York State, including one particularly sacred mask that is made from melted gold coins. Meanwhile, the Hardys’ friend Chet Morton has enrolled in courses at nearby Zoar College, so they decide to check out the campus while they are in that neck of the woods. The more they learn about this institution of higher learning, however, the fishier it seems, and they begin to suspect it may be a sham school created to swindle unsuspecting students out of their money. Their investigations take the boys to Cleveland, Ohio and Niagara Falls. Everywhere they go, the boys face danger as the bad guys try to scare them off the trail with threats of violence.

As is often the case with these books, it features three or four different crimes that all end up being related. What makes this one better than most is that it actually all makes sense in the end. Whoever wrote this one under the blanket pseudonym of Franklin W. Dixon did a fine job of tying all the loose ends together. There are still plenty of unbelievable occurrences. In the very first chapter, for example, the boys visit a construction site, where they are allowed to take an elevator up to the top floor and walk around on the steel girders. This provides the opportunity for one of them to almost fall to his death, thus cheaply creating instant suspense. Such sensational happenings can be forgiven in a kids’ adventure novel, however, and at least the solution of the mystery follows a logical course.

The story imparts a good message through the treatment of its Native American characters, who are portrayed positively and about as realistically as one could expect from young people’s literature of this era. The Senecas still celebrate their traditional tribal rituals, but they also hold down modern jobs. The Hardys are welcomed into their homes, and a Native American teenager accompanies the boys as part of their investigative team. Prejudice against the Indians is addressed, and it is made clear that living conditions on the reservation are harsher and more impoverished than the Hardys’ upper middle class upbringing in idyllic Bayport.

Beyond that, there is nothing particularly exceptional about The Melted Coins. It pretty much sticks to the basic Hardy Boys formula, but within that formula it is at least competently written. It is neither as confusing nor as tedious as some of the other books in the series (The Shore Road Mystery comes to mind). Overall my son and I enjoyed it.
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