Review of ‘Flash Evans and the Darkroom Mystery’ by Frank Bell

I had no idea, when I read this book, that the author Frank Bell was a pseudonym of Mildred Benson, who wrote many of the early Nancy Drew stories. It’s an excellent novel for older children, action-packed, exciting and contemporary for the era (it was published in 1940).

Book cover of Flash Evans and the Darkroom Mystery, showing Flash Evans rescuing an older man from a fire.

The narrative follows 16-year-old Jimmy ‘Flash’ Evans, an intrepid photographer for a newspaper, The Brandale Ledger. As he begins to make a name for himself, risking his life for a great story, someone appears to be sabotaging his photographs in the darkroom. The head photographer is jealous and seems to have it in for Jimmy, could he be the culprit? At the same time, he is drawn into investigating a criminal gang.

In addition to being a great read with a likable main character, the novel is now of historical interest for its representation of journalism, newspaper production and photography. There is also remarkably little in it that would today be deemed politically incorrect. A sequel was published, but there the series ends.

The book was this month’s Project Gutenberg random read.

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