Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys Super Sleuths!

Every single Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys crossover seems to advertise it as the “first time”—Girl Detective, graphic novels, and even the Her Interactive games. Super Sleuths! really was the first time, though (not counting the TV series and tie-ins), published in 1981, over fifty years after the characters debuted. In some ways it seems funny to me that there was a time in the canon world when they didn’t know each other; I read my first supermystery when I was around 9, alongside of the classic series. As much as I love the Files/Casefiles universe, though, it’s nice to get a break from the romantic tension and just have three friends who love mysteries working together.

The volume features seven short stories in which the sleuths work on a variety of cases, including bank robberies, stolen artifacts, a carnival fun house, kidnappings, pirate treasure, mistaken identity, and a haunted opera house. The situations were creative, and consistent with those found in contemporary volumes of the regular series. Sometimes the sleuths worked alone; other times they had help from their parents or from the police. Although the later supermysteries seemed geared more towards Nancy Drew readers, this volume specifically states in the forward it’s intent to feature all three sleuths equally; both pen names are used on the volume.

I love the early Wanderer titles for Nancy Drew (Captive Witness and Secret in the Old Lace are some of my all-time favorites), though it’s been a while since I read them, so I was surprised at how poor the writing here seemed to me. Several times it felt like the characters were delivering lines that were meant to be funny, and they just fell flat. I’ve read better fanfiction. Part of the problem is that the style of the full-length mysteries doesn’t really adapt well to the short-story format. The coincidences seem more glaring, the villains more obvious and over-the-top in their stunts.

Rather than summarize all the stories, I just wanted to mention some of the moments that just didn’t work or were unintentionally humorous.

  • When the three sleuths are following a thief on a very poor road, the boys get out to chase the car ahead on foot while Nancy keeps driving. Since she couldn’t go over ten miles an hour, she soon loses sight of them. They must be impressive track stars, especially taking the rocky terrain into consideration, because a 6 minute mile would only keep pace with the car.
  • Five feet five, straight black hair parted on the left, very white skin, sharp features, glasses, thin, forty years old. Based on this police description, Nancy creates a sketch of the suspect so accurate that the sleuths recognize him immediately when they see him. The suspect himself panics when he sees his own picture while attempting to break into the Hardy house.
  • An old man gives the skeptical sleuths little bags of shark repellant to wear while they dive for treasure. Of course a shark charges after them unprovoked, and suddenly flees due to effect of the repellent.
  • The sleuths go backstage to look at a hanging cage where a ghost supposedly appeared. The stagehand tells them the cable holding it has been broken for two years, but a chest is kept beneath it so no one could ever be under it. At that very moment the cable breaks and the cage falls.
  • The Bayport gym team is so talented that they are on tour, and Frank and Joe are members. In fact, Joe is the one at the top of the five-level human pyramid they create.
  • The sleuths are on a roller coaster when their car stops right at the top. They are told the wait will be an hour until it is fixed. Frank and Joe, the expert gymnasts, climb down the framework so they won’t miss their special performance for the governor. They are shocked when Nancy and her friend do the same to follow a suspect.
  • When the sleuths find information about a planned bank robbery in Bayport, Joe and Frank beg to be hidden inside with the plainclothes policemen. Chief Collig relents, but says no to Nancy for her own safety. He does allow her to pose outside as a flower seller to take picture of potential suspects, but only if she is disguised as an old lady and has a friend lately. Conveniently, Bess is in town visiting a friend (Nancy is staying with the Hardys) and accompanies her. Regardless of all the precautions, later on in the story Nancy is the one that the thieves divert and attack. Bess is not mentioned again.

I do love the characters, though, and the short story format was the perfect way to read just a little bit each day. Otherwise, cliffhangers have a way of making you keep turning pages.

Published in: on May 6, 2012 at 11:21 am  Leave a Comment  
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