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Book Review

Secret of the Red Arrow by Franklin W. Dixon has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine. It is the first book in the "Hardy Boys Adventures" series.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements


Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Teen detectives Frank and Joe Hardy have solved a lot of mysteries over the years. But without investigators' licenses or insurance, and with threats of legal recourse from bad guys they've put away, the boys have been forced into retirement. "The Deal," agreed on by the boys, states that as long as the boys stay out of trouble and stop sleuthing, they won't be sent away to a behavior modification school. Their father, Fenton Hardy, the school and the police have agreed to it.

As the book begins, the boys find themselves on the scene during a bank heist. They later learn the robbery was a prank orchestrated by classmate Seth, who enjoys making movies for shock value. Principle Gorse, the boys' friend and ally, suspends Seth. He and the boys bemoan how the culture increasingly craves shock and danger.

A cheerleader named Sharelle stealthily approaches the boys with a plea for help. Her brother Neal, a linebacker known as Neanderthal, has been receiving creepy videos. Someone has put a camera in his room and is taping him while he sleeps. Frank and Joe sneak out one night to watch Neal's house. They see someone beat Neal up, and they call the police. Though Neal looks terrified, he won't comment about what has happened except to call it a harmless prank.

Frank and Joe see a symbol, a red arrow, painted in Neal's room. Everyone they ask about the mark seems too terrified to tell them anything. Neal ends up in the hospital when a car hits him, and Seth gets a red arrow on his vehicle. The boys finally learn the red arrow is like a curse. Anyone who finds the mark on his possessions finds himself in serious danger.

The boys share some of what they've learned with the police, but Officer Olaf deeply dislikes them and disregards their information. After a restaurant with a red arrow blows up, the boys find a note urging them to look in the wreckage. There, they find what appears to be an umbrella handle. When they return home, their angry father shows them the red arrow painted on their own door. He tells them they've gone too far. Not only have they broken The Deal, but they've put the family in danger.

Frank is slated to give a school presentation the next day. As he stands in front of his classmates, he sees Principle Gorse enter the auditorium with a new cane. Everything comes together in his mind. What they'd thought was an umbrella handle in the wreckage of the explosion was actually the remains of Gorse's cane. He was the one leaving red arrows and instigating violence in an attempt to get back at students who have given him grief. Gorse takes the boys aside, telling them he will explain everything. Instead, he beats them with his cane and places them in a watertight tank, which he begins to fill. Sharelle, who has followed them, calls the police. The boys are rescued just in time. Gorse goes to jail, and the boys reiterate their promise to stop sleuthing. As the book ends, however, another classmate approaches them asking for help.

Christian Beliefs


Other Belief Systems

Fenton Hardy wonders aloud what demons were possessing him when he decided to start his writing career. Frank says he has a premonition of what it would be like to have Sharelle as a sister. The red arrow symbol the boys investigate is considered a curse. When Frank and Joe hear that Aunt Trudy is on her way to get them at the police station, they wonder if it's a bad omen.

Authority Roles

Dad has always supported the boys' detective work. He now urges them to stay out of trouble, especially when the family is placed in danger. Officer Olaf demonstrates his dislike for the Hardy boys by mocking them, discounting their theories and saying their successes are just luck. Principal Gorse appears to support the boys' efforts, showing friendship and concern for their well-being. Readers ultimately learn he has instigated terror and violence in the city for years.


The words crap, heck, darn and gosh appear several times. The boys' classmates get beat up. Gorse beats the boys with his cane and blood splatters everywhere.


Neal suggests a guy named Pett may have been involved in attacking him since Neal ended up kissing Pett's girlfriend at a party.

Discussion Topics

Get free discussion questions for this book and others, at FocusOnTheFamily.com/discuss-books.

Additional Comments/Notes

Lying: Since Frank and Joe aren't supposed to be sleuthing, they keep all of their detective work confidential and deny everything. They say they don't consider it lying, just being prudent. Frank says they feel a little guilty for not being straight with their dad. They sneak out late one night to investigate at Neal's house, later telling their parents a friend was in a car accident and they went to see him. When their dad asks if they're investigating again, they say, "Of course not." When Olaf catches the boys sleuthing, they lie and tell him they're working on a civics project. Frank dramatically fakes an ankle injury so he and Joe can distract Aunt Trudy and return to check out a crime scene. When Trudy sees him walking, he says he bent it another way, and it was miraculously healed.

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Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. The inclusion of a book's review does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

Episode Reviews



Readability Age Range

8 to 12




Franklin W. Dixon






Record Label



Aladdin, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing Division


On Video

Year Published





We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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