Like many of the volumes prior, 'The Mystery of Cabin Island' begins with the Hardy Boys and Chet having a grand day out. It's close to the Christmas holiday from school and the waters of Barmet Bay have frozen up enough near the coast to allow the boys to take out their ice-boat.
I'm positive I'd never heard of ice-boats before. They make perfect sense, of course they exist, but they're a little dangerous for kids. There are several accidents and so many more near misses that I want nothing to do with them.
Chet suggests the boys go "camping" by renting one of the coastal cabins and make the most of their break that way. Later, the boys run into Biff who has a similar idea. It seems too good to be true when the Hardys get an invitation from the wealthy Elroy Jefferson to call on him. Jefferson's Pierce Arrow had been one of the cars recovered by the boys from the 'Shore Road' gang and he wants to give the boys a reward as he had been out of town when the crime spree had ended. He also happens to be the owner of one Cabin Island.
Cabin Island appears to be getting a lot of attention from a man over-eager to buy the property, mysterious noises in the night, ruffians on the ice, a cypher in an old journal, and a certain long-missing collection of rare postage stamps to be recovered. That's a lot of ground to cover, but throw in a fox hunt and you have an entertaining adventure story.
I was a little put-off by the pace of 'Secret of the Caves', but something about the mix of a leisurely pace that allows the boys to drop their sleuthing and hunt foxes for the garrulous owner of a general store worked here. There's a lot of joy in the book, not to mention my growing conviction that Biff and Chet are more than friends. I'm just saying that when the team splits up, they're always going off together and don't find anything in their section of the woods. Except each other. They even went in together on gifts for the Hardy Boys at Christmas. Total couple move.
The other nice point was that though clues are still being hurled at them, this is one of the first times since 'The Tower Treasure' that the boys had to work at an actual puzzle to solve the mystery. The cypher was a nice touch.
When this was revised in 1966 the plot stayed the same except there the ruffians, disreputable classmates of the boys, became high school drop-outs, and there were added subplots of a missing grandson and a foreign dignitary. Fancy.
Next: 'The Great Airport Mystery'
Previous: 'The Secret of the Caves'