Here is my review of Nancy Drew Hardy Boys Supermystery #36: Process of Elimination:
And here is the script for the video.
Sometime in 1997, Simon and Schuster made the decision to cancel all their various Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys spinoff series. Only the series for eight-year-olds survived the mass cancellation. Instead of immediately throwing out everything, some of the partially-written books were brought to completion, while others were repurposed into different books.
The Nancy Drew / Hardy Boys Supermystery series officially ended with Book #36, Process of Elimination. This book was published in April, 1998, which technically makes it the last series to die, since Hardy Boys Case Files and Nancy Drew on Campus both ended in January.
Once again, the cover artist is Franco Accornero. That's his Facebook profile picture. It's been over six months since my last Supermysteries review, and he still hasn't added me on Facebook, so I'm going to make him today's victim.
The book starts with Nancy Drew and Bess Marvin, along with Anthony Green, Bess' man of the month. The three of them are in a restaurant, waiting to meet with Carl Dubchek. Dubchek is one of the leaders of the environmental conference they are attending in Los Angeles.
Anthony receives the bad news that Dubchek has been murdered. He is incredibly shocked, and he leaves to call the police. Even though he hasn't said more than three sentences, Nancy thinks he's suspicious, so she spies on his phone call. She overhears Anthony tell a person named Cinder that he's quitting the team.
Cinder? Like Cinderella? Oh, man, this plan goes deeper than I thought.
Meanwhile, the Hardy Boys are in the San Diego Zoo. They're about to visit the panda exhibit, when a robbery takes place. A pair of Chinese thieves with guns are stealing a truckload of bamboo. Joe jumps on the back of the escaping truck, while Frank sets up a barricade with picnic tables. It's a close call, but the thieves manage to escape.
Joe and Frank are uninjured, after being shot at six times. Good thing, too. "Killed during a bamboo heist" is an awkward thing to put on someone's tombstone.
Nancy investigates at the police station, then returns to her hotel room and confronts Anthony. He confesses that Dubchek was killed because he's a CIA agent. Anthony wants to protect Bess from Cinder and her evil step-sisters, so he quit and...
Before Anthony can say anything more, there's a drive-by shooting. Nancy dodges out of the way, while Anthony and Bess are shot multiple times. This raises a question. What is a worse tombstone: "killed by Cinderella" or "killed during a bamboo heist"?
Bess survives the drive-by shooting, because Anthony used his body to shield her. However, she is now in intensive care. Nancy does some detective work and confirms that the same group killed both victims.
The Hardy Boys search the Internet for information on pandas and bamboo. This attracts the attention of one of their CIA buddies. Huh? The CIA contacts everyone who looks up pandas on Google? Jeez, I wonder how many third grade research projects the CIA has shut down because of this.
The CIA warns the Hardys to stay off the case. Undeterred, the Hardy Boys enlist the help from their father, AKA the Hardy Man. Hardy Man gets a news report on Carl Dubchek, Nancy's CIA victim.
The Hardys travel to the scene of the murder, where they find a gas canister. An unknown villain attempts to steal it from them, when Nancy arrives. The three teens overpower the villain, knock him unconscious, and steal his wallet out of spite.
More villains arrive, and we have a car chase. Joe loots through the wallet, hoping to find some cash, and he finds the address of an abandoned warehouse. Inside, our heroes find the car from the drive-by shooting, and a glass container filled with the stolen bamboo. The villains arrive, and our heroes spy on them by hiding in the roof beams.
It turns out that the unknown villain is actually Cinder, and the Chinese thieves are the evil stepsisters. They use the gas canister on the glass cage. The deadly gas kills the bamboo in three minutes flat. Uh oh! Bamboo-killing villains!
The villains leave and set the building on fire. Nancy and the Hardy Boys barely manage to escape by climbing to the roof and jumping off the three-story building into some shrubbery.
Our heroes check in with the police and Bess, then they go to Carl Dubchek's home address. Here, they meet the REAL Carl Dubchek. Dubchek is retired, but he has a good idea of what's happening. During the Cold War, he helped the CIA create a gas compound that destroys bamboo. It was going to be used to kill all the panda bears in China.
The villains show up at this point, and they helpfully explain how they stole the formula from Dubchek. They tie everyone up and set off a three-minute Grammler bomb.
Dubchek breaks out of his bonds, since he was tied up with only one piece of rope. He frees the others and they escape seconds before the bomb explores. Everyone goes to the police, and Dubchek reveals his plan for stopping Cinder: a $50 million bribe.
In what I like to call "the least believable part of the plot", Nancy and the Hardy Boys work with their parents to get $25 million, in less than an hour, on a weekend when banks are closed. Really? I don't care if Hardy Man has a friend who works for the President. There's no way they can exert that much pull over the government, without the government getting involved with the case.
Nancy and the Hardys decide that Dubchek is secretly working with the bad guys. That house explosion was a setup, since there's no such thing as a Gammler bomb, and there's no reason the culprits would tie up a CIA agent so poorly, unless they wanted him to escape. And since our heroes know Dubchek is a double agent, they can foil his plans.
The villains lead our heroes to a well-hidden dropoff location. A confrontation ensues, where the storyline gets explained in more detail. Joe Hardy gets the last laugh, as opens up the case with $5 million cash. It's empty! Joe threw all the money away earlier!
Cinder shoots Joe, seconds before the police arrive with Air Force. The criminals are caught, and since Joe had a bulletproof vest, the shooting only bruised his ribs. In the end, Joe and Bess are found in the same hospital bed, kissing passionately--I mean, having a pillow fight. It looks like they had a quick recovery!
Post Book Followup
The first two chapters are a bit forced, but other than that, the writing in this book is great. There are many action scenes and the complex plot avoids becoming convoluted, despite some twists and a neat cross double-cross.
My only complaint about the plot is that the criminals put Nancy and the Hardys in a lot of unnecessary danger, considering that they needed the teenagers alive to drop off the money. But that's not much of a problem; you can argue the criminals were just trying to make their fake plan look realistic.
Still, when researching teenagers with access to huge cash, how did they come across our heroes WITHOUT learning that Nancy and the Hardys constantly catch criminals? Even two minutes of research should convince you not to center your crime around them.
I'm glad they published this book, instead of ending the series with the awful book, Operation Titanic. Fans of the series like this book, but they're a tad disappointed the book didn't do anything special to close things off. Specifically, there is no closure to the Joe/Bess and Frank/Nancy romance. That _does_ seem like a missed opportunity, but I've only read the last two books, so I can't judge.
My score is a 9 out of 10, but since this is the series finale, I'll be generous. I give Process of Elimination a 10 out of 10.