"Dead on Target" was the beginning of a new era for the Hardy Boys. This is the first volume of the new (in 1991) series "The Hardy Boys Casefiles", and it is a more adult and action packed series than the original series. This is never more evident than the first two pages of the book. Whereas the original series (started in 1927 and it is still running today) would have various plots by criminals, nobody ever seemed to get killed or nothing too serious would ever happen, but "Dead on Target" opens with the killing of Joe Hardy's girlfriend (and sister of good friend Chet) Iola Morton. For a series that has been known for its lack of actual murders of any on screen character, this was a shocking and explosive (no pun intended as it was by a bomb that killed Iola) moment. It marked the different direction that the Casefiles would take the reader, as well as the Hardys, on.
A car bomb was the cause of death for Iola Morton. Frank and Joe, as well as Iola and Frank's girlfriend Callie Shaw, were at the mall preparing for a political rally. Iola ends up returning to the Hardys' car to pick up more campaign materials when it explodes, killing her. Joe blames himself because his flirting with another girl made Iola mad and this is what led her to be at the car by herself. At the funeral, "Dead on Target" takes another twist by introducing the character of The Grey Man. The Grey Man is a member of a secret government organization called "The Network". "The Network" believes that an international group of terrorists, "The Assassins", were responsible for Iola's death and are planning something big for the political rally the following week.
The rest of the novel finds Frank and Joe traveling to London, fighting several members of the Assassins, being in the midst of gun battles and defusing a bomb. "Dead on Target" is fast paced with a tighter story than what is found through most of the original series. For fans of the Hardy Boys, "Dead on Target" is likely to be a favorite. It is not for the purists of the series, though. This book takes the brothers down a different timeline than we find in the main series. Since the main series continued to be published at the same time as the Casefiles, these books (Casefiles) are either set at a later date than the continuing series or is part of some alternative timeline since Iola is still alive in the main series.
"Dead on Target" has more violence than the "classic" Hardy Boys, but this is a very interesting story, even if it is a bit far fetched. For the first time, terrorism and murder have been introduced to Bayport and the Casefiles bring the reader a new style of story with the Hardys. As an introduction to the Casefiles as well as a new episode in the lives of the Hardys, this is a good place to start. Fifteen years after first reading this book it remains a fun read.