Found-Again Friday: The Hardy Boys Detective Handbook, Chapter 7

"Frank, are we being...followed?"
“Frank, are we being…followed?”

Why Found-Again? Because learning to follow people quietly is the one thing in this book most kids could do with no gear or prep. With a whole farm to practice on, this was my favorite chapter when I was a junior would-be crimefighter.

The Premise: The crime for this chapter is a triple threat: an arson occurs at a jewelry company as part of a distraction for a diamond heist, and all in service of the culprit’s drug habit. I’ve watched a jewel-heist movie or two in my time (and I may be the only one who remembers the one in the last link; the reason will become apparent in next week’s Friday post), so this was excellent.

Once again the suspect in “The Trail Beyond the Smoke Screen” is an employee of the business that’s been burgled—give the book credit for sticking close to real life here—and the process of tracking him largely falls to Frank, Joe, and Chet, who use their awesome three-man surveillance skills so adeptly they almost get murdered by drug dealers.

The drug plot ends about the way you’d expect:

I'll just be over here trying not to mention Dragnet—dammit.
I’ll just be over here trying not to mention Dragnet…dammit.

and the stones are recovered from the Fridge of Crime:

I wonder where he kept his Turkish cigarettes?
I wonder where he kept his Turkish cigarettes?

My favorite part of this story, though, was a pair of revelations—revelations to me, anyway.

The first one, and good news for the citizenry, is that Bayport PD is apparently big enough to have non-Hardy specialists.

So they probably have as many as 15 police.
So they probably have as many as 15 police. Whew!

The second is that, despite remembering Chet, Tony, Chief Collig, and even the unmentioned-in-this-handbook Aunt Gertrude from other Hardy Boys adventures, I did not remember that Mrs. Hardy is still alive. And this is where my reading went off the rails and into a new literary analogy:

  • Frank and Joe Hardy: Parents send them off to do good somewhere else with their special skills
  • Nancy Drew: Parent death, spends lots of time with family servant
  • …so Nancy Drew is Batman and the Hardys are Superman??

This is now likely to be my favorite chapter of The Hardy Boys Detective Handbook forever. Well done, pseudonymous author + FBI consultant!

The Verdict: More mixed than it sounds; this one was high on intrigue but, unless you have two friends to help, a little low on technique. That’s because the last few chapters of the handbook are storyless appendices about various aspects of crime and detection, and surveillance is covered in more depth there. This is also why we have a…

Special Note: Since the coming chapters aren’t proper stories, I’m going to try taking them two at a time, and the writeups will probably be shorter than our previous peeks into the handbook. On the upside, we’ll get to see how much drug slang has been around since the ’70s.


Next time: Are you ready to meet Pasha Peddler? If not, you’re going to really hate The Quest for Monday!

J. A.

It reads. It writes. It watches. It researches. It overdoes many of those things!

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