So here we go.
|Collins Hardback First Edition (printed in 1975), cover art by Roger Hall|
Suddenly there was a loud crash and the houseboat lurched violently.
“We’ve broken loose!” cried Bob. To their horror, the three boys saw they were already ten feet from the shore - and gathering speed rapidly.
“The dam!” Bob yelled.
A low roar grew louder. Straight ahead the racing water of the creek surged over the dam in a thunderous mass. There was nothing to stop them being swept to their deaths.
|illustration from the Collins/Armada|
editions, by Roger Hall
This is the sixth entry in the series by William Arden (the pen-name of prolific mystery writer Dennis Lynds) and is, to my mind, pretty much perfect with a very sturdy mystery at its core. Though hidden by good use of rhyming slang (something that I, as a kid, wasn’t aware of), the clues are clever and well realised and it’s fun to see how Jupiter cracks each one (though Billy manages to do a couple himself).
Staying close to home (often a benefit), this sends the boys all over Rocky Beach and the city is well described, with a great use of location in several sequences. One of these is the key set piece (and the basis of all the cover art I’ve ever seen), where the boys are trapped on an old houseboat on the dam of the Ynez Creek. It’s tightly written and exciting, allowing Pete to shine and builds the suspense up superbly (though the book makes it clear they’re ten feet from the bank, the artwork has them much further out).
There’s a lot of bright characterisation - especially Billy Towne, Dingo’s eight-year-old grandson who knows all about the Three Investigators and ends up a fourth partner (and wears a cape and deerstalker), Turk & Mr Savo and Dingo’s niece and nephew, the awful Winifred & Cecil Percival, two nasty piece of work English villains - along with some nice interplay between the boys. The book also has a good sense of humour about it, typified by Pete’s eating habits and it runs at a cracking pace (I read the first half in one sitting and the time just flew by). After opening on Bob writing up their last case (the search for Mrs Hester’s ring), we see the boys at school (and find out that Jupiter is president of the Science Club) and old favourite the Ghost-to-Ghost hook-up makes another appearance - and is used again by Billy, at a critical point of the story, where he makes his headquarters a phonebooth.
Featuring a well realised climax on the SS Queen Of The South, this is a cracking read, with a great sense of pace and I highly recommend it.
|Armada format B paperback (printed between 1982 and 1985), cover art by Peter Archer|
(cover scan of my copy, 1983 impression)
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)
US illustration, by Jack Hearne, thanks to Philip Fulmer at the T3I Readers Site