Friday, 24 January 2014

The Mystery Of The Green Ghost, by Robert Arthur

Since 2014 marks the fiftieth anniversary of The Three Investigators being published, I thought it’d be enjoyable to re-read and compile my Top 10 (which might be subject to change in years to come, of course).  I previously read all 30 of the original series from 2008 to 2010 (a reading and reviewing odyssey that I blogged here), but this time I will concentrate on my favourite books and try to whittle the best ten from that.

So here we go.
Collins Hardback First Edition (printed between 1968 and 1971), cover art by Roger Hall 
Eerie screams from an old house - and a dangerous mystery awaits The Three Investigators.

When they discover the coveted Ghost Pearls, with their weird, unearthly powers, Pete and Bob are kidnapped and fear for their own lives.  Their fate depends entirely on their partner, Jupiter…

Armada format A paperback (1970),
cover art by Peter Archer
Bob Andrews and Pete Crenshaw decide to investigate Green House, an old mansion in Rocky Beach that is being torn down.  Hearing a ghastly scream, they bump into a group of men from the neighbourhood, who are also there to look at the house.  Together, they investigate and see a green ghost moving through the old, dusty hallways.  After they leave, the ghost is spotted around Rocky Beach by several eye-witnesses, one of whom happens to be Chief of Police Reynolds.  When the house is investigated by the police the next day, with the Three Investigators and Bob’s father in tow, a hidden room is discovered, which contains a skeleton - the remains of Matthias Green’s wife - and a string of ghost pearls.  Bob & Pete are then invited to the Verdant Valley winery, near San Francisco, which is run by Matthias Green’s only living relative where, very soon, they encounter a mysterious aged Chinaman called Mr Won, people who aren’t who they appear to be, scary caves and the re-appearance of the green ghost.

This has one of the better opening sequences on the series and manages to maintain the pace and intrigue well, with a good supporting cast and excellent use of location (the ‘haunted house’, the desolate canyons, Chinatown).  Splitting the team is a masterstroke, giving each character a chance to shine and show their strengths, right up to the climax and the interplay between the three lads is well handled.

Well told and constructed, this is one of the better Arthur novels and follows the timeline nicely (it mentions Bob having his brace removed just before the story begins and this is the book where the Investigators get their ‘Volunteer Junior Assistant Deputy’ cards from Chief Reynolds).  My only niggle is the final chapter, which can’t seem to decide if it’s part of the story or just a simple catch-up of action, though it does end on a high in Hitchcock’s office.

Good fun, with a cracking pace, this is highly recommended.
Armada format B paperback (1980-1983), cover art by Peter Archer

The internal illustrations for the UK edition were drawn by Roger Hall.

Thanks to Ian Regan for the artwork (you can see more at his excellent Cover Art database here)

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