As this fourth volume of the original Hardy Boys Mystery Series opens, Bayport Police Chief Ezra Collig asks brothers Frank and Joe to go undercover in Shantytown, a squatter colony on the ocean shore north of Bayport. It’s full of temporary or seasonal workers and the unemployed. There’s been some fighting going on and Chief Collig asks the boys to find out what’s behind it.
While they’re checking Shantytown out in their motorboat, the Sleuth, they are nearly rammed by a black boat named the Black Cat for no apparent reason. After another complication, it’s time to pick up their costumes for a masquerade party given by Frank’s girlfriend, Callie Shaw, and Iola Morton. (Iola is the sister of Hardy friend Chet Morton as well as Joe’s “favorite date.”)
On their way to the costume party, they witness a bank robbery. This makes for a side track.
Chet and another friend Biff Hooper attend at the Iola’s party, coincidentally wearing the same costumes as Frank and Joe. They leave the party a little later than the brothers, but they never arrive home.
A few days later, a postcard arrives from nearby Northport with Chet’s handwriting on it: “Having a wonderful time. Don’t worry about us.” No one is convinced.
Will Frank and Joe (maybe with some help from their father and the police) help nab the bank robbers? Will they find their friends Chet and Biff? What’s causing the trouble in Shantytown and is any of this related?
If the reader can set aside the ludicrous elements of the plot, the coincidences and idea that the Hardys can apparently see through walls and have their wild guesses pay off, this can be a fun little read. Don’t approach it with expectations of wonderment or enchantment, however.
Yet it is fun to watch Frank and Joe race around in their boat the Sleuth, even though the reader knows something bad is going to happen. It is fun to explore the islands outside Bayport with them.
The original version of this book was written by Leslie MacFarlane and published in 1928. It was revised by James Buechler and republished in 1962. The plot was changed slightly. One incident that was left out was the arrival of Aunt Gertrude probably because she appears in earlier revised books. When she shows up in the old version, she argues with taxi driver and demands Frank and Joe take her bags.
Who Wrote the Hardy Boys?