Wednesday, July 3, 2019

The Secret of the Caves by Franklin W. Dixon

Spies and saboteurs in Bayport
The seventh book in the Hardy Boys series, The Secret of the Caves, was originally published in 1929 but totally rewritten and republished in 1965. It is this later version that I am reviewing here.

The federal government is building a radar station on the coast near Bayport. A series of mysterious accidents at the site have caused officials to fear sabotage, so they call in renowned detective Fenton Hardy to investigate. Meanwhile, a teenage girl shows up at the Hardy home seeking a detective to find her older brother, a college professor who has gone missing. With Mr. Hardy busy on another case, his sons Frank and Joe offer to take the young lady’s case. As if that weren’t enough action for one book, the Hardy Boys’ chum Chet Morton has got himself a new metal detector and is dying to explore some seaside caves in hopes of uncovering buried treasure, even though there have been rumors of strange lights and shots fired in the area. Frank, Joe, Chet, and Biff Hooper take a camping trip to the caves, which leads to a spooky adventure.

Early in the book, when the possibility of sabotage is being discussed, a “foreign power” is alluded to but never named outright. Given the time period at which this later version of the novel was published, one can’t help but see this as a manifestation of Cold War paranoia and assume this foreign power is a stand-in for the Russians. It is never stated explicitly, however, and most of the bad guys who feature in the book are either French or American. To its credit, this novel has more memorable villains than many of the other books in the series. Another good thing about this story is that the female characters play a larger role than usual. At one point, Frank and Joe enlist their girlfriends Callie and Iola for some undercover work. Elsewhere, the boys’ lives are saved by a fisherman’s wife. Even Aunt Gertrude contributes to the plot as her request for the boys to buy her a spinning wheel leads to an important break in the case.

The Secret of the Caves is a perfectly fine but not exceptional entry in the Hardy Boys series. I read this with my son, and he enjoyed it well enough, but it seemed to inspire fewer thrills or laughs in him than some of the others, like The House on the Cliff or The Missing Chums. This mystery lives up to typical Hardy Boys expectations but does not exceed them.
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