Saturday, April 2, 2016

The Lance Todd Series by Budd Westreich

The Lance Todd series consists of two books written by Budd Westreich.  The first book is Lance Todd at Mystery House, and the second is Lance Todd at Mystery Island.  The books were published in 1959 by Lantern Press.  They have not been reprinted and are hard to find.  The first book is more scarce than the second book.

In Lance Todd at Mystery House, Lance's father has inherited a house in New Mexico from his old college roommate who didn't like him.  Lance is sent to New Mexico to attend to the inheritance.  Lance soon finds himself enmeshed in mysterious events.  Lance is followed as he leaves New York, and upon his arrival in New Mexico, he discovers prowlers near the house.

The atmosphere is tense and foreboding at the beginning of the story while Lance is followed by a mysterious stranger.  Even when Lance becomes friendly with the stranger and decides to trust him, the reader is left with a lingering unease that all is not as it seems.  The opening chapters of this story are outstanding.

A government base is located near the house, so this story has to do with government spies and foreign agents.  This is a typical boys' story, but it is handled so much better than in the typical Hardy Boys book.  The number of characters is kept to a bare minimum, which makes the story easy to follow and much more interesting.

This is an excellent book.

In Lance Todd at Mystery Island, Lance's friend Eric asks Lance to join him on Swallow Island, where a glowing serpent has been spotted in the ocean near the island.  Lance soon suspects several of the island's inhabitants of being involved as he tries to determine how and why someone is trying to scare others away from the island.

The point of view shifts between Lance and Eric, sometimes abruptly in the middle of scenes, which makes the reading experience rather odd at times.

I started to get a little bored with the story halfway through, although it did regain my interest later.

I was annoyed about how Lance keeps his theories from the other characters and from the reader.  I never like it when the author and main character keep information from me and not in a way that I find intriguing.  A story can still be suspenseful when I know what is going on.  When Lance finally reveals his suspicions, I found I had already guessed, in spite of having been given only meager clues.  It wasn't that hard to figure out, and less secrecy would have been better.

I found it strange that the boys are called men.  Normally, books for juveniles and children refer to the characters as girls and boys even when they are past the age of 18.

I greatly enjoyed most of this book, although I feel the story is not quite as good as the previous book.


Phyl said...

You are always introducing me to new series :) These sound like something I should keep an eye out for!

Michael Nabholz said...

The illustrations from the two books show a female character. Who is she?

Also noticed that the jacket art for Lance Todd at Mystery House (on your facebook post) looks similar to the jacket art on the World reprint of Ghost Gables by Mildred Wirt, however, the illustrators appear to be different.

Jennifer White said...

In Mystery House, the girl is Mona Clark. In Mystery Island, the girl is Alice Daniels. In both cases, the girl lives in the area where the mystery takes place.