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Young Adult Fiction

The Hardy Boys and the Clue of the Broken Blade

YA Fiction Review

by Lauren Alise Schultz

Of the Hardy Boys books that I have reread in the last year or so, I think The Clue of the Broken Blade qualifies as my favorite so far, for a number of reasons. The adventure manages to incorporate a number of fun, interesting elements – including fencing, the Hollywood movie industry, and “voiceprint” technology – without the disparate elements feeling too disconnected. For me, one of the things that always makes a Nancy Drew or Hardy Boys book more enjoyable is not so much the mystery and the action as the details that are included in the story. I like to play the cultural tourist and time traveler, visiting Hawaii, the Grand Canyon, a Horse Ranch, or a Flight School as I follow Nancy or Frank and Joe. In The Clue of the Broken Blade, the reader is able to travel to several different locales in California, join Frank and Joe on a movie set, and even witness a “gang fight” (a rather tame shoot out by today’s gang fight standards) in San Francisco’s Chinatown.

As a reader, the role of time traveler is particularly interesting to me. The original Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys series are so wonderfully dated. All of the original books date from the 1920s to the 1940s, and were then rewritten and updated in the 50s–70s. Both the originals and the rewrites have outdated elements that I didn’t catch as a child, but are practically unbelievable to me now. Some things are so blatant and jarring that I can’t understand how I missed them even as a young reader.

The Clue of the Broken Blade was originally published in 1942, but it’s more recent copyright dates are listed as 1969 and 1977, probably meaning that this particular novel was revamped at some point in the 60s or 70s. As I read the novel, I felt a bit like an archeologist because I could see the layers of the original story details, as well as the updated ideas about the “voiceprint” technology. One comment that caught my attention in particular was an observation that Joe made while he, Frank, and their friend Chet were flying cross-country from their East Coast hometown Bayport to California: “As the plane passed over Denver, Joe was commenting on the amazing speed of jet travel compared to the covered wagons of a hundred years ago.” I’m guessing that sentence wasn’t written in 1977. And all the information about voiceprint technology was really a hoot to read. I’m sure that it was truly cutting-edge technology at the time and I would love to find out more how law enforcement has recorded, measured, and identified vocal prints over the decades.

One of the more interesting aspects of the novel for me was that Frank and Joe’s mother Laura Hardy played a slightly bigger role, by which I mean she appeared for a chapter or two. But at least during those few chapters, she was actually in an undercover role instead of simply staying at home with the boys’ Aunt Gertrude and fixing snacks for Frank and Joe. I’ve always wondered why the heck Laura doesn’t get more involved with her husband’s and her sons’ detective work, especially since Aunt Gertrude seems to be the primary homemaker in their household. (It’s always Aunt Gertrude’s delicious pie that Chet is coming over to enjoy, not the baking of Laura Hardy.) So it seems Laura Hardy would have been free to go out and have a career of her own or become a part of the family detective business, without even having to worry about whether her husband and sons were getting good home-cooked meals. I wish she had joined the family’s investigations and gone undercover like this more often.

All in all, The Clue of the Broken Blade turned out to be a good reminder of why I started collecting and rereading the original Hardy Boys novels in the first place. The first couple that I reread weren’t all the great, beyond the appeal of my nostalgia for the series. But this novel was more entertaining in its own right, and I feel inspired to pick up another blue hardback from the shelf…

Hardy Boys Broken Blade
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Leslie McFarlane aka Franklin W. Dixon
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