Sunday, February 21, 2016

Hardy Boys Adventures, Book 11 - Showdown at Widow Creek

As the title and cover intimate, this book is more about a "western" theme tale and less about mystery. Which is disappointing, because to date, these Hardy Boys Adventures have actually been better reads than the Nancy Drew Diaries. I suppose I was only fooling myself to think that Simon & Schuster would actually maintain a level of readability with these books.  In the last decade, S&S seems to have cared less about quality and more about just putting something out to keep the brand alive (although, at this point, these two series are more vegetables on life support than actually alive).

The writing itself is not bad, although with only 122 pages of story, there was very little room for characterization. That is really a shame, since there were character that really could have been fleshed out and made to be rather interesting.  Sarah Welch, the daughter of the showrunner and a talented performer, had potential to be not only more of a love interest for Frank, but also a possible suspect if played right.  The other three guests on the cattle drive are nearly non-existent in the story; yet, they could have taken a more active role to give the boys additional suspects to consider.  Lucky, the ranch hand who was aiming at taking over Sarah's role with her father's ranch, had very little build up in the story, despite his connection to the culprits.  It was mostly just one action sequence after another, leading up to the reveal of who was trying to sabotage a cattle herd being led home (gee, sabotage - there's a totally new idea for a Nancy Drew or Hardy Boys book!  NOT!). And the reveal is very disappointing, as there is absolutely no clues in the book whatsoever as to why the bandits continually harass the group (and if you're thinking the identity of the culprits might at least be something fun in this book, you'd be wrong - they are identified in the second chapter, so there is absolutely no surprise there).

At this point, to be quite honest, I am buying the hardcover, dust-jacketed Hardy Boys book merely because back in the '80s, I missed out on getting the hc/dj Wanderer books published by S&S, which sell for a pretty penny these days. So I figured, I wasn't going to miss out this go around (since neither the Hardy Boys, nor Nancy Drew, have been published in hardback since those days). I have to wonder how the sales are doing on the hardbacks, since I never see them in stores, and the only way to get them is special order them through the stores or buy them online (through Amazon, as I do).  And $17.99 for a 122-page story is, quite frankly, not worth the price any more.

The next book is listed as The Madman of Black Bear Mountain, so I'm hoping it will be more of a mystery and (hopefully!) be longer than a mere 122 pages.

RATING:  5 bucking broncos out of 10 for, at least, providing some entertaining characterization of Joe Hardy and his love for westerns.

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