The Clue of the Silver Scorpion, by Bruce Campbell
Four out of five stars
This book is one in the series of books starring a pair of young men that work as reporters in their real jobs and solve crimes as part of their job. There were several such series written for adolescent boys and girls with the best known the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew. Therefore, any analysis of this book or the Ken Holt series in general almost requires a comparison to the Hardy Boys.
As a person that devoured the Hardy Boys books when I was young, I have a great deal of experience with those books and how they varied from the early years of the 1920’s up through the 1960’s. For the comparison in this review, I will reference only the Hardy Boys books that were published in the 1960’s, the timeframe within which this book was published.
The most significant difference in the characters is that Ken Holt and his best pal Sandy Allen are men well out of high school and gainfully employed. Therefore, they do not engage in the teen activities that were so often a component of the Hardy Boys story plots. Ken and Sandy also do not seem to have girlfriends, in contrast to nearly every Hardy Boys story where Callie Shaw and Iola Morton were at least mentioned, if not contributors. Finally, in the Hardy Boys series, the local Police Chief and his right-hand man are often depicted as buffoons. That is not the case in this story.
Outside of these major differences, the plot to this story could have been used for a Hardy Boys story. Almost by accident, the main characters become the targets of a ruthless criminal gang that is after something that was passed into their possession without their knowledge. While they manage to outwit the gang at first, there is the inevitable moment of great danger, where they must find a way to get out of the situation where the gang members have guns and appear willing to use them.
While some of the language and tactics of the story appear quaint, one of the most significant aspects is that the main characters and the gangsters are all depicted as being clad in coats and ties. It is an interesting story and one that is illustrative of how textual entertainment for adolescents has changed since the sixties. Written well for the times, many aspects are now dated.