Thursday, September 18, 2008

In Plane Sight (#176)

 coverPlot: Frank and Joe accompany Jamal Hawkins to an air show, where the plane Jamal is to pick up is stolen, and the air show is continually sabotaged.

“Borrowing” from previous stories: Frank obliquely mentions he has his pilot’s certification, while Joe only recently got his. Frank first flew a plane (under supervision) in The Mystery of the Flying Express (#19). In The Short-Wave Mystery (#24), both he and Joe get instruction from a pilot named Stewart, but Jack Wayne — Fenton’s personal pilot — doesn’t start teaching them until The Ghost at Skeleton Rock (#37). They both have pilot’s licenses in The Mystery of the Chinese Junk (#39). Joe mentions it seems like “ages” since they’d flown. That’s true; I can’t remember the boys piloting a plane in any of the digests I’ve recently read.

The Hardys are back in the Jewel Ridge, Conn., area, although Jamal calls it the “sticks” rather than the technology hub it was in A Game Called Chaos. Jewel Ridge, a couple of hours from Bayport, was last seen in Trouble in Warp Space, which also featured the filming of a television show in Kendall State Park. The boys unwillingly explore the state park in Plane after skydiving in pursuit of a criminal and being shot at. Interestingly, there is a real Virginia Kendall State Park Historic District, but it’s in Ohio.

When Jamal comments on his footloose dating relationship, he comments, “You know how college girls can be.” Frank and Joe shrug, because no, they don’t; as the narration comments, “They’d been dating Iola Morton and Callie Shaw for a long time.” This is true. Frank and Callie have arguably been dating since The House on the Cliff (#2), when Callie was presented as an “object of special enthusiasm with Frank.” (“Special enthusiasm” has to be a euphemism for sex. It just has to be.) Iola becomes Joe’s “special favorite” in The Secret of the Caves (#7). Neither “date” or “girlfriend” is used until The Secret of Skull Mountain (#27), when Franklin W. Dixon admits Frank dates his “good friend” Callie whenever he can. For Joe and Iola, the word comes up in The Yellow Feather Mystery (#33), when Dixon admits Joe dates Iola for school dances. On the other hand, Frank and Joe accompany the girls to a school dance in The Crisscross Shadow (#32), which is a date in all but name.

Frank and Joe use their pocketknives to make torches. They used to have pocketknives in their pockets all the time, starting with The House on the Cliff, but they’ve fallen out of fashion in the digests. Their friend Phil Cohen, retrofitted into being a computer expert, is mentioned in the book and asked for a favor, but he never appears on the page, gets a line of dialogue, or talks to the Hardys, even behind the scenes. Phil first appeared in The Tower Treasure (#1) and was seen in about a third of the Stratemeyer Syndicate (#1-83 or 85, depending on who you ask) books after that.

Jamal Hawkins is: Tony Prito, Jack Wayne, and Chet Morton, all rolled into one. Tony, in that he works for his father (although Tony doesn’t work for his father in the later digests, he does in the original canon); Jack Wayne, in that he’s the Hardys’ pilot when they need to be somewhere; and Chet, because he worries about being punished for whatever the plot is supposed to be. In this case, it’s the plane he was supposed to pick up getting stolen, which is something to worry about, although it’s not his fault. He’s also dating a college girl, although not necessarily exclusively — which probably means she’s already told Jamal she will be having drunken hookups while on campus.

Because “Hardy” is such an unusual name: When Frank and Joe are introduced to the organizer of the air show, the first question she asks is whether they are related to the “famous detective” Fenton Hardy. She’s certainly not the “Son of Fenton Hardy” tattoos they have on their foreheads because the police don’t immediately make the same connection; they haul Frank, Joe, and Jamal in when they don’t have another viable suspect for the vandalism and thefts at the air show.

That word … I do not think it means what you think it means: The author frequently calls the control column, used to change an airplane’s pitch and altitude, the “yobe.” The correct term is “yoke.” From what I can tell, “Yobe” is an area of Nigeria, which would make it difficult for Joe to grasp it while flying.

At one point, Joe says another character doesn’t strike him as a “sharp whip.” It’s smart as a whip, Joe. Perhaps you’re not really a sharp whip either, which may help explain his anger issues as well; he threatens one of Jamal’s father’s business rivals with a beatdown after some banter, but when a security guard dismisses everything he and his brother claim about a break-in and lets a crook get away, he’s meek as a lamb.

Spooktacular? Prize? What the hell?: Frank says he’s glad they won a prize from a “Halloween Spooktacular,” which allowed Joe to finish his pilot’s lessons. This shakes the foundations of everything I know as true. First, Joe already has a license. Second, if he needs lessons, either he should dip into his reward money or Fenton should just have one of the millions of people he has aided over the years give him lessons. And thirdly, do I want to know what they had to do at the “Spooktacular” to win a prize? I assume it was a costume competition, but it never says. Maybe they investigated something and were given a … no, that’s a reward, something Frank and Joe are quite familiar with. Decoration? Scaring the candy out of people? I don’t know. Is this in one of the other digests or perhaps a Ghost Stories?

(ETA: It turns out this is a reference to the previous book, Trick-or-Trouble. Frank and Joe (and Callie) are awarded flying lessons as a reward for discovering who was sabotaging a Halloween prize contest, although they solved it only as the contest was ending and most of the possible damage was done.)

Mighty Mighty Housekeepers: Joe notes the run-down airport could use a year of cleaning from Mighty Maid. That might sound like a made up company, but there actually is a “Mighty Maid” in Woodbridge, Conn. There’s also “Mighty Maids” in Chicago. Can’t really blame the author (unless he / she were trying to put in a plug for the actual business): probably going for a play on “Merry Maids,” and the name’s certainly generic enough.

Hey, it’s the ‘50s, and Frank and Joe are late for the pep rally: Frank and Joe wear their letterman jackets on the trip. Since they were camping near the airport, you’d think they’d have parkas with down or some space-age material. But no, they go for the epitome of Eisenhower-era fashion and comfort instead. Way to keep it real, boys. I’m not even sure Frank and Joe wore lettermen jackets when they were common.

Outward Bound from the uterus: Frank and Joe use “their knowledge from years of scout camp” to build a fire. It shocked me that Frank and Joe went to scout camp; I figured they just came out of the womb knowing this stuff.

Frank and Joe are obviously mammals: They actually have to shave. I can honestly say I don’t remember them ever shaving before, despite being nominally healthy, pubescent males.

Opinions: Decent mystery, although the story of the missing airplane should have gotten better play. When you throw in a plot twist about a stolen vintage plane, a vanished criminal, and a fortune in missing coins, you don’t bury that in the middle of the story. You play that sucker to the hilt. But the solution’s satisfying enough, and there’s some nice action onboard planes and on the ground. I could do without the skydiving without a parachute — it was used in Extreme Danger as well, and it was even more ridiculous there. That silliness aside, it’s a solid, average mystery, with the plight of their friend Jamal giving the book a little extra oomph.

Rating: B. Could’ve been higher if Jamal had used his mack daddy moves on the young millionaire genius.

No comments:

Post a Comment