Baker Street Irregulars Square: The Hardy Boys, regressed to high school age, investigate a mystery while their parents are on vacation.
With their parents away on a long-overdue vacation, the boys are under the strict rule of Aunt Gertrude. While she approves of their skills and resourcefulness, she would never tell them she was proud of them to their faces. That would fill their heads up with air. So at every turn she is critical, demanding, and obstructionist, and I love her for it.
Aunt Gertrude turns a man away at the door when he comes asking to see Fenton Hardy. She doesn't tell him Fenton Hardy is away, because one doesn't let a man know you're alone in the house, however well dressed. I'd like to see Aunt Gertrude in a 'Fear Street' novel, she would straighten those kids out in a heartbeat.
In any case, the man comes back and theboys let him in - they wouldn't last a day on Fear Street - and tell him they'll try to wire their father, but they'd be happy to look into any mysteries. The man laughs, but gives them a hint and ultimately hires them. The man, Raymond Dalrymple, is a wealthy banker who bought the furnished Purdy Mansion along the Shore Road as an investment. The house had been built by a paranoid miser and contained a secret room with a time-locked vault door. Dalrymple is so harried by business he decides to use this room as a private office and uses it occasionally without exploring the rest of the house.
The mystery, he tells the boys, is that he's been receiving threatening notes that he discovers inside this locked room. There is no way in but through the vault door, even the chimney is too small for entry and barred besides, and the room itself is a closely guarded secrets. The immigrant laborers who even built the room were sent far away after construction was completed. Nice.
There is another appearance by Hurd Applegate, from 'The Tower Treasure', who has devolved into a man whose only passion left is stamps. Valuable, valuable stamps. The disappearance of some of Hurd's stamps gets him involved. The disappearance of his sister is of no consequence apparently. The police are also investigating 'River Thieves' who have been stealing goods for months.
This was a pretty lackluster mystery with some bizarre elements including a doppelgangers, screams in the night, mad inventors, time bombs, and even a crook named 'Indian Tom' who was likely expunged in the 1960s rewrite, but who can say? There's some serious bumbling police tropes that are more likely to have been cut, and perhaps, maybe, the boys should have a break from rescuing valuable stamps. I was disappointed that the forward momentum of the boys' lives - namely their high school graduation in 'The Great Airport Mystery' - was so abruptly cut short. I looked back and 'What Happened at Midnight' merely describes the boys as still being in high school as they head out to Morton Farm for a party. There must have been some reader backlash, or the editors realized by themselves - after printing - that it was a mistake to let the boys grow up.
It also seems that Chet and Biff are aware of my scrutiny, as neither of them obliged me with a scene for my slash fic of them, but those chums and the rest of the gang did make a fuss about the Hardy Boys not including them in this latest caper. For that realism, and Aunt Gertrude's curling papers, I give this an extra star.
Next: 'Footprints Under the Window'
Previous: 'What Happened at Midnight'