It hardly seemed like I had started this story and it was over. Frank and Joe Hardy and their friends Chet Morton and Tony Prito encounter numerous ruthless criminals. The criminals are involved in scams, burglary, kidnapping, and even attempted murder! The criminals in this story are among the most vicious the Hardys have ever met.
The excitement begins immediately. Frank and Joe are scuba diving when they encounter a diver with a deadly aim. Frank and Joe escape, but their escape is narrow. Soon afterward the boys encounter a man named Bowden who asks the boys to search for a cannon called a demiculverin. As the boys search for the cannon they encounter others also looking for cannons and the others are very dangerous, injuring the boys and their friends more than once.
As the investigation continues criminals break into a local museum and steal swords. Unfortunately for the criminals the sword they really want is at the Hardy's home. The crooks eventually get the sword through a clever ruse.
The excitement heats up as the boys realize that Bowden may not be on the level. One of the more interesting aspects of this story is the number of crooks involved. We do not learn for sure who the good guys and the bad guys are until the very end of the story.
One intriguing aspect of the story is the research the author performed relating to cannons. The research appears to be accurate, based on a limited sampling on the internet, but the author had to do his research the good old-fashioned way, in the library. The unfortunate side effect of this research is that the author uses the technical name for the various cannons more than once, and words like demiculverin tend to slow the story when used too often.
This story seems to speed up as the story nears the end. The danger increases, and one of the criminals destroys a valued possession. Even as the Frank Hardy, Joe Hardy and Tony Prito try to keep from drowning, they still do not know whether the culprits are ready to pounce on the boys in the final exciting pages of this story.
The Hardy Boys series is recommended for ages 8 to 12 because the series is relatively tame for the previous target audience of ages 10 to 14. This particular book is a good fit for both age ranges. I think this Hardy Boys story is above average and I would recommend this story to a first time reader of the Hardy Boys.