But, alas, it seems The Hardy Boys, like Nancy Drew, are doomed to the shameful idea that the brand name alone will sell the books, so why bother putting any effort into them?
There are two real mysteries here that the brothers must solve - figure out the true identify of Le Stylo and prove that he is innocent of what they believe to be a copycat art crime. The boys have their work cut out for them, as it seems the entire city of Paris has turned against the artist, and he now on the "most wanted" list. Frank and Joe end up have quite the adventure - from borrowing a car that ends up being able to fly (you'll have to read it to believe it!) to combing the underground catacombs of Paris, to the ultimate showdown with the villain behind it all (which is actually a nice surprise twist). The plot is well-devised, albeit rushed for the sake of brevity of pages.
What does bother me about the book is the fact, by pure coincidence, Chief Olaf is in Paris on a vacation of his own, so when the boys' father is delayed, he is asked to watch over them to make sure they don't get into any trouble. Seriously? Of all the places in the world, the Bayport police chief just happens to pick the very same city where the Hardys are vacationing for his vacation, and they happen at exactly the same time. Even that is a hard pill to swallow. That being said, there is one moment that I did enjoy with the Chief in this book - when the French police inspector snubs the Chief for "interfering" with his investigation, he gets angry, and in so doing, unwittingly helps the Hardys, if for no other reason than to see an American one-up the French police.
I keep hoping that sooner or later, S&S will wake up and realize that their books will sell better if they actually flesh out the stories and make them more enticing to the young readers, who (despite S&S's belief) are not so short of attention span that they can't read a book of more than 120 pages!
RATING: 7 Sky Ranger prototypes out of 10 for giving readers a unique mystery that wasn't yet one more tale of sabotage - and surprising readers with the reveal of the culprit at the end!