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The Galloping Ghost

January 31, 2009

The Galloping Ghost is the second book I’ve read by Roy Judson Snell. The first was The Blue Envelope, which was an adventure for girls set in Alaska. I thought it was okay, but I questioned Snell’s choice of title: the blue envelope is largely irrelevant.

Can I say he’s got a problem with irrelevant titles after only two books? Because the ghost of the title is just a deus ex machina that occasionally drops by to give the detectives a clue to the mystery, and he’s not even as helpful as the detectives’ boy assistant Johnny, who basically provides the solution to the mystery by accidentally stumbling on clues near the local florist at every opportunity. His luck is so good that the book would only be half as long as it is now if he didn’t keep withholding information for no apparent reason.

So, the mystery part was pretty stupid. Johnny’s two detective friends are called Drew Lane and Tom Howe, and they are brilliant young police sergeants. Tom is the scientific one, and Drew is the man of action. His straight shooting from the hip is the despair of all evildoers. Or something. Snell also likes the refer to guns as “things of blue steel,” although in one case he describes one as Drew’s “blue steel pal.”

Drew and Johnny and Tom only take up about half the book, though. Their scenes alternate with ones from the point of view of Red Rodgers, whose kidnapping they’re investigating. Red is a nice character, a star football player who is kidnapped a week before the Big Game, but who only wants to get back in order not to let the coach down. He doesn’t even really like football that much. His favorite thing is working in a steel mill during his summer vacations. Anyway, the kidnappers make the mistake of putting Red in a room next to that of Berley Todd, a steel magnate’s daughter who has also been kidnapped.

They escape together, and the island they’re being held on turns out to be next to the one where she stays every summer. Red and Berley are both kind of simple and naive, but they’re the best characters in the book, and their relationship actually works on several levels. Also, if Snell spent the whole book following the detectives, I never would have got through it.

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