Book name: Countdown to Terror
Author: Franklin W Dixon
Publisher: Mega Books/Simon and Schuster
Genre: Detective fiction, vintage children’s fiction
Publication Date: 1989
Star Rating: 5/5
After the core series of 'Hardy Boys Mystery Stories', the Eighties and Nineties saw the publication of a number of 'Hardy Boys Casefiles'.
These books continue the traditional Hardy Boys feel, but were published by Simon & Schuster, having been produced for the publisher by Mega Books.
They were aimed at young-adult audience.
In Countdown to Terror, Frank and Joe fly to Halifax, Nova Scotia, to collect some insurance depositions for a modest case.
Neither of the Hardy Boys expects the trip to be interesting, although Frank reminds his brother that they take whatever cases they can get and are grateful for bread-and-butter work of this kind.
The expectation of unchallenging work is quickly dashed when the boys are shot at during their taxi ride from the airport.
Frank and Joe make contact with Sergeant Dundee, the local policeman dealing with the insurance investigation. He is ageing, and it clearly rankles that others in the force think him too old for the job.
The boys are followed into a steak restaurant by three men and have to slip out the back door. Four more trackers quickly join them.
To evade the seven men following them, Frank and Joe run towards Halifax Harbour and jump onto a ferry.
When they arrive at Dartmouth Terminal, they are able to alert Sergeant Dundee and he comes to pick them up.
Danger is not long averted, however, when Frank notices that brief, tiny blips of interference in radio traffic indicates that their car has been primed with a radio-controlled bomb.
Dundee drives the car to somewhere less well populated, and the boys leap to safety. However, the device explodes as Dundee is getting out of the car and he is seriously injured.
He does, however, manage to mouth the word ‘Fort’ before losing consciousness.
Detective Otley is the lead investigator of the explosion, though he struggles to understand why Sergeant Dundee would become a target when he was only investigating insurance matters.
The boys are not impressed!
Frank and Joe set off to investigate all the forts in the Halifax area. We learn that there are many, courtesy of times when the city was on the frontline between the Americans and the British in Canada.
The forts of history are a red herring, but by the time Frank and Joe now this another attempt has been made to kill them. Frank is able to defuse the bomb in time.
The boys team up with a local waitress, Shauna MacLaren, whose local knowledge and connections help their investigation.
Countdown to Terror pulled no punches when it came to putting the Hardy Boys in danger. Building on the mystery stories, where Frank and Joe are often physically in peril, it bumped the threat up substantially.
In fact, the US is in danger when Frank discovers a nuclear element to this story.
I liked the transition from the mystery stories to the casefiles. They support each other even though they are aimed at a slightly different audience.
Halifax was a brilliant location for Countdown to Terror. Much was made of the history and sights of the city, and it was interesting to see the boys outside the US.
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