Frank and Joe Hardy are back, and this time the mystery isn't stolen treasure or missing relatives or international smuggling - heck, it's not even about sabotage (pay attention, Nancy Drew writers - not every mystery needs to be sabotage!) - nope, this time around, the boys find themselves smack dab in the middle of ...
Yes, you read that right. The Hardy Boys are now solving a crime involving the ritual that always seems to make the headlines with frat boys, sorority girls, and sometimes even sports teams. For Frank and Joe, it's their basketball team at Bayport High. Only, they don't know that when the Principal without warning informs them that they are both being put on the basketball team in order to earn more "extracurricular" credits for school. It's not until they are grabbed from behind, have bags pulled over their heads, and taken to a dark basement do they realize that something very sinister is going on. The robed, masked individuals who threaten and torture them to leave the team don't realize that their actions have just the opposite effect on the Hardy Boys - all that does is make the brothers more determined than ever to find out exactly what is going on.
With only 138 pages of story, the mystery moves rather quickly. And while I admit that I wasn't overly thrilled with the idea for this mystery, by the time I finished the book, I found that I actually rather liked the plot. I do wish, however, that the author had been a bit more creative with the villain behind the hazing. It came somewhat out of the blue and was just a little too convenient for my taste. However, I do like the fact that there are a number of red herrings throughout the story in an effort to throw off readers from figuring out who the culprit really is, so I guess I should give the author some credit for that.
I have to wonder what this story would have been like if it had been more fleshed out, and if the boys were out of high school and posing as college students to address hazing within the college setting? It might have actually made for a much more intriguing story, one more worthy of the original Hardy Boys heritage. I also have to wonder where Chet Morton and the Hardys' other friends are hiding these days. For a story set in the boys' school, one would think their regular chums would be right there with them, but I guess they are another thing of the past...
And while the cover art is not really mysterious, it's definitely adventurous (albeit falsely so, as in the book, it is only Joe that is hanging from the helicopter, as Frank is being held captive inside the 'copter). I guess since this is "Hardy Boys Adventures," the more adventurous the cover, the more in line with the series title it is.
With the next book titled Attack of the Bayport Beast, I can only assume that S&S is continuing its move away from the "Mystery" and "Secret" and "Clue" in the titles once again, which is a shame, as that is part of what always made Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys stand out among children's mystery series.
RATING: 6 servings of Aunt Trudy's turkey meat loaf out of 10 for at least providing some variety in the types of mystery-adventures being told.