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Frank & Joe Hardy are the teenage sons of famous private detective Fenton Hardy & his wife Laura. Together, (& sometimes from help with family & friends) they investigate all sorts of crimes & strange occurences....
The Outlaw's Silver was published in the US in 1981 & was the sixty seventh in the series. The book first appeared in the UK in 1982 & was numbered 65 when it was published by Armada.
The book starts with Frank, Joe, Chet, Biff & Tony enjoying a lunchtime ice cream after spending the morning working for Tony's father. Frank feels a movement in his pocket & thinks that a pickpocket is trying to take something but then realises than the man has left a "devil doll" in his pocket. Another customer with a flat nose seems very interested in the doll as well when the boys are examining it. Later, as smokes billows through the restaurant Frank is attacked & an attempt is made to get the doll.
If that wasn't odd enough the boys then receive a copy of a letter written by an outlaw called Jem Taggart, detailing where he's buried some silver in the Pine Barrens area of New Jersey. It's dated 3rd March 1781. Not long afterwards a map detailing the area in which the treasure was buried is stolen from a local shop & a lawyer called Ambrose Verrill turns up demanding that Frank & Joe return the copy of the letter to him as it belongs to a client of his.
Then a man called Ogden Price turns up, asking if Frank & Joe can trace his cousin Rupert Price. Rupert was accused of murder years ago & fled justice. The real killer later confessed & Rupert's name was cleared. By sheer coincidence Ogden believes that Rupert fled to the Pine Barrens & that Rupert doesn't know that he's no longer a wanted man because the case didn't attract that much attention when the real killer confessed. Rupert's & Ogden's uncle has died, leaving a small fortune & Ogden wants to ensure that Rupert gets his share.
Then, if that wasn't enough, Fenton Hardy shows up & tells the boys that he's hunting for an international crook known as El Diablo. He think that El Diablo's gang may have their hideout in (yes, you've guessed it!) the Pine Barrens!
So, Frank, Joe, Chet, Biff & Tony venture into the Pine Barrens for a 3 way search involving Jem Taggart's treasure, the runaway Rupert Price & the wanted El Diablo & his gang. But somebody doesn't want them around. Their camp is raided, Jem Taggart's ghost is seen and Frank & Joe finds themselves hunted by a gang member with a vicious doberman.
Then, as they hunt fort the treasure Frank & Joe falls into the hands of El Diablo & face being spirited out of the country & being used as bargaining chips against their father......
The usual supporting characters who appear in this book are:-
+ Fenton Hardy
+ Laura Hardy
+ Aunt Gertrude
+ Chet Morton
+ Biff Hooper
+ Tony Prito
+ Iola Morton
+ Callie Shaw
+ Jack Wayne
+ Chief Ezra Collig (mentioned but doesn't appear)
The first thing that the reader of this particular novel needs to get over is that Jem Taggart's treasure, El Diablo's hideout & the place that Rupert Price may have run away to might all be one & the same:- the Pine Barrens. Once that rather large coincidence is out of the way we actually get a rather enjoyable book which is, for my money, better than both of the preceeding books:- The Stone Idol & The Vanishing Thieves.
The three plot threads are woven in well together &, in general, the supporting characters, particularly Ambrose Verrill, are reasonably well drawn. The Pine Barrens provide a nice isolated setting for much of the story, although I would have liked to have seen a bit more use made of Chet, Biff & Tony who are along for the trip.
Jem Taggart's letter makes for a nice introduction of that particular plot thread & it's nice to see Frank & Joe consulting their history teacher as well as a dealer in old maps & manuscripts to find out more information about the letter & the places mentioned in it rather than just pulling a book off a shelf as has happened occasionally in other books.
The story is reasonably well paced, not too fast, too too slow & there's enough happening to hold the reader's interest until the end. The end of the book is, as with a number of others in the series, a little contrived but, overall, this is one of the stronger entries that Simon & Schuster published. This is one potential book that could be used to introduce new readers to the series I think.
At the time of writing the new & used paperbacks are available from 1p upwards.
When I was 10 or 11, I started reading the Hardy Boys books, written by Franklin W Dixon. It is only more recently that I discovered that the name is actually a pseudonym for the publication of the books, with the heroes of the piece, brothers Frank and Joe Hardy, as well as the Dixon name, being the creation of the Stratmeyer Syndicate back in the 1920s.
The publishing rights for the first 50 years or so of the Hardy Boys' existence lay firmly with Grosset & Dunlap, until 1979, when Simon & Schuster took over. The Outlaw's Silver is the 9th book released under the latter publishers, but the 67th Hardy Boys overall. You may often see the story described as both numbers.
The Outlaw's Silver follows similar plotlines to previous Hardy Boys books. This is no surprise, as there are obviously a limited number of feasible things that a pair of teenage brothers can do in terms of solving crime, particularly when you consider that this is the 67th adventure. The boys themselves are in their late teens, and the stories feature them as captured in time. Each book sees them at the same age, and this is the marvel of fiction and what it can do. It enables the books to appeal to the intended audience of teenage boys, although they are readable and appealing to others, too.
The plot takes the boys on an adventure as they investigate the theft of antique statues from a museum. The trail takes them on a further quest as the myth of the Outlaw of the Pine Barrens rears his head to play a part in the story. The trail is fraught with danger, although it is all rather tame, particularly as the tale is intended for the younger reader and thus toned down a little from that which you may expect from a more adult read.
The characters have been well developed over the years in terms of those who are recurring book after book, but those who are new to the adventures and those who will feature in just this book are described in enough detail to give a good picture in your mind's eye as to what they look like and their actions.
The plot is an enjoyable one, and I have been very impressed with the run of form with this section of Hardy Boys books. The plots can be relatively unbelievable in their conception at times, and this one is guilty of the same thing, with the fact that a couple of teenage boys being recruited to investigate such an important event a seemingly unlikely occurrence. However, this is fiction and is no more unlikely than other books for teens such as the Stormbreaker series. The tale is perhaps not quite as up to date as such modern teen books, but it is in keping with the traditional storytelling of the Hardy Boys books since they began.
Overall, it is an enjoyable read, and one I am happy to recommend. The Outlaw's Silver, as with most of the Simon & Schuster Hardy Boys books, is harder to get in this country than the earlier Hardy Boys books, but is readily available for a low price from amazon.com.