For the hundredth book in the Hardy Boys series, The Secret of the Island Treasure, Simon & Schuster brought back Hurd Applegate, a character from the first Hardy Boys book (The Tower Treasure) and a recurring character in early books. I was hopeful S&S would do something unexpectedly retro with book #150, The Crisscross Crime, but I was disappointed.
It’s not like there’s nothing that recalls earlier mysteries. The title is similar to The Crisscross Shadow’s (#32), although the plots have nothing to do with each other. Bayport’s reservoir is important, like in The Secret of Skull Mountain (#27), but the reservoir in Crisscross Crime appears to be a new reservoir, as it isn’t located at Skull Mountain. (It's probably the same reservoir from Dungeon of Doom [#99].) The biggest rush of nostalgia comes when Fenton’s international crimesolving just happens to interlock with Frank and Joe’s Bayport case (The Mystery of Too Many Damn Times to Count). Still, I wish there had been more explicit references to the Hardy Boys’ past in Crisscross.
Well, I suppose you can count Joe being a headstrong moron and Frank being a plodding dullard being references to the series past — but I’ll get back to that.
The story begins on the baseball field — that’s something that hearkens back to the good ol’ days, but they were playing baseball for the Bayport Bombers in Danger on the Diamond (#90) as well, so it’s not unusual. Now, if they’d brought back baseball-loving chum Jerry Gilroy, who hasn’t been seen since 1966, then that would have been awesome. Anyway, Joe’s pitching, Frank’s at shortstop, and Biff takes Chet’s old spot behind the plate. The Bayport Bombers are an out from a win; Joe hangs a curve, but a diving catch by Frank seals the Bomber victory. Rather than head to Mr. Pizza, Frank and Joe need to pick up their mother’s car from the shop. While Frank pays, Joe spots a break-in at a nearby bank. The robbers take off when the alarm sounds, and when Frank drives by in Laura’s car, Joe has their video camera and tells Frank to follow that car!
The chase ends in a junk yard, where the robbers abandon their vehicle. But Frank drives Laura’s car into a car crusher — oops! — and as the car is turned into a cube, the boys narrowly escape with their lives and the video camera. I realize this is probably a traumatic moment for them; it would be for me. But our heroes are Frank and Joe Hardy, who have been in traumatic situations from (literally!) Australia to Zurich and everywhere in between, so why do they do so many stupid things afterwards?
- Joe’s first act after the car is destroyed is to break into the junkyard’s office and snoop around.
- Frank and Joe delay telling Laura that her car is no more, and she learns about it by watching the video Joe shot of it turning it into a large die.
- When the boys want to learn what happened at a successful robbery that happened just after the break-in they witnessed, Joe poses as a reporter for the Bayport Globe and grills the bank manager, even though the police have told the bank manager not to blab. Why not ask the police, Joe?
- When a suspect doesn’t want to talk to the boys, Joe’s reaction is to immediately hop her large wall to force her to talk to them.
- When Frank tells his brother to call the cops if he isn’t back from checking a potential bank robbery in ten seconds, Joe’s reaction is to get a couple of baseball bats, give one to Biff, then try to beat up the robber(s), who have guns.
- When Frank and Joe are captured, and Frank realizes the criminals are more likely to kill the boys the more they learn about what the Hardys know, Joe keeps blabbering, letting the criminals know exactly how much the boys have learned.
On one hand, the Hardys have always put justice above property rights or personal safety. On the other hand, Joe might be a nihilist thug, rushing headlong toward the hospital or the grave. (He might have discovered what all those concussions mean for him later in life and be determined not to suffer through the symptoms of CTE.) I realize the above acts are (somewhat) normal for private eyes in fiction, but Frank and Joe are kids with no reason to not cooperate with the police, given how willingly Con will feed them info.
But Frank and Joe never call the police! I’ve joked about the boys considering themselves a law unto themselves, but it’s hard to remember a case on which they have snubbed the five-oh so blatantly. After Laura’s car gets crunched and the boys break into the junkyard office, Frank and Joe don’t call the cops — even though it takes about three hours between the car’s destruction and the arrival of a concussed Biff to pick up the brothers. (A time warp might explain the abnormally long time it takes for a car chase and poking around a room or two, or the boys might have fallen into an alternate timeline: Joe calls Biff “Hoop,” and Biff’s drives a hatchback instead of his usual jeep.) Frank and Joe are determined to investigate, and it takes Frank’s near arrest — the boys’ van was spotted near the botched bank robbery — to get them to hand over their video of the chase.
But they don’t hand over the tape until after they’ve given it to Phil Cohen, who shouts “Enhance!” at his computers a few times and gets a clear look at the license plates. C’mon, guys! If TV has taught me nothing else — and it’s possible that it hasn’t — it’s that the police have a whole unit dedicated to shouting “Enhance!” at video, even though it’s impossible to improve a video past its original resolution.
I suppose the lack of police involvement cuts both ways. When Joe vaults the fence at a ritzy house on tony High Street — the same street the Hardys live on, although the book doesn’t mention that — and are caught, Frank and Joe don’t feel the need to use the police to justify their presence. Fortunately, the suspect lets them out of the trees in which her Dobermans have chased them and doesn’t call the cops herself.
Collig tries to give the boys their comeuppance, yelling at the Hardys for charging into a bank robbery with baseball bats, but his dressing down is interrupted by a grateful bank manager, who tells Collig the boys saved all that federally insured money and only drew a couple of bullets that hit only one bat. Still, Chief Collig gets his momentary revenge at the denouement: When Frank and Joe reveal the villains’ real, final target, he sneers at them, and his officers laugh. Serves you right, boys.
I guess I shouldn’t be too harsh on Frank and Joe. After they describe the initial robbery attempt and chase to Fenton, Fenton tells the boys to call Collig “if they find anything concrete” (30). Fenton: They are frelling eyewitnesses to an attempted bank robbery, and they have videotape of the criminals escaping. I’m not sure your sense of responsibility is everything it should be.
The independent streak he inspires in his sons ends up biting him in the ass, though. When Frank and Joe find the counterfeiter Fenton has been hunting is in Bayport, they ask for Fenton’s number; when Laura says she had already spoken that day to Fenton, who said he’s returning to Bayport, the boys decide their information can wait. Sure, why not?
And the boys definitely get their cavalier regard for information sharing from their father. When Frank and Joe try to “soothe” Laura and their Aunt Gertrude after they see Laura’s car being crushed, the women tell the boys to call the police (36). The boys refuse. No reason to listen to hysterical women and their completely legitimate concerns about your safety and the modern crimefighting apparatus!
Because Frank and Joe don’t share info with the police, it’s hard to blame Collig for his reactions. He thinks he’s figured out the pattern in crimes — or more accurately, he figures Frank has figured out the pattern, which he shared with the police in a rare moment of cooperation. Well, the book claims Frank figured it out, but let’s see if you can figure it out yourself. First, as Frank and Joe were getting their mom’s car crushed and the police were responding to the triggered alarm, a bank downtown was robbed. A day or so later, while Joe and Biff foiled the bank robbery with their wooden bats, the police were responding in force to an alarm triggered at a bank on Bayport’s outskirts. Frank’s cognitive breakthrough? He “explained the hunch he and Joe had about all the real targets being downtown and all the false alarms being on the outskirts of town” (108).
That’s not a hunch. That’s recapping what had happened in the book so far
Now, what don’t Frank and Joe share with Collig? In the junkyard office, Frank and Joe find detailed maps of Bayport’s utilities, including the sewer lines and storm drains. Also, Fenton is investigating a counterfeiting case for the government, and the printing plates and ink have already been stolen; one of the suspects tells them the paper U.S. currency is printed on is stored in Bayport. (Seems like Fenton should have been on top of that, really.) The boys — well, Frank, really — put 2 and 2 together, and even though they don’t bother to check whether they should be adding or multiplying, come up with the 4-1-1: The criminals are using the storm drains to move around town, and the last bank robberies will be a double fake. The real target will be the armory where the paper is stored.
The robbers use jackhammers to break into the armory from below, which our crack troops can’t hear, then escape through the storm drains on jet skis. It’s unusual; I’ll say that, at least. After Frank viciously “clocked” a criminal with a tire iron and steals his jet ski (138), the boys chase the other robbers to the reservoir, survive being tied up to drown in the storm drain (Frank flexes his wrists to escape his wet bonds), and pursue the last of the criminals onto the bay, where they prevent international counterfeiter Herve DuBois from escaping onto his speedboat and the open sea.
At no point do they call the police, but the Coast Guard does show up in time to keep the criminals from drowning.
The book ends with Laura and Fenton showing up at the boys’ next baseball game in her new car; Laura cheerfully tells her sons they will “never” drive it (150). Finally — consequences for Frank and Joe!