So here we go.
|Collins Hardback First Edition (printed in 1976), cover art by Roger Hall|
The legend of a ghostly hound...
"It was a huge half-starved brute with glowing eyes," the art collector told Jupiter Jones. "On dark nights it roamed the streets, howling. Some say it was the evil spirit of a nobleman." His voice shook. "I've had a statue of it for years - but last week it disappeared. Its ghost has come back to haunt me!"
When Jupiter Jones and his friends investigate the mystery, they find themselves tackling not only a demon dog, but some other far more fearful apparitions...
|Armada format b paperback |
(published in 1981, reprinted in 1982),
cover art by Peter Archer
In the week between Christmas and New Year, the boys are hired by eldery patron of the arts Fenton Prentice, who believes he is being haunted by a shadow that appears in his apartment. When Jupiter sees the same shadow, having mistaken it initially for Pete, it appears that Mr Prentice does indeed have a problem, made worse when it’s discovered his statue of The Carpathian Hound has been stolen. Before long, the boys are drawn into the hunt for a burglar and need to find out what’s behind a poisoning, a fire-bombing, an explosion and the appearance of a ghostly apparition in the local church whilst the pressure is on to find the invisible dog.
This is the fifth M. V. Carey entry in the series and has long been one of my favourites, for a whole variety of reasons. Although they’re hired to investigate the shadow, the real mystery kicks in once they’re on the scene at Paseo Place and the burglary of the late Edward Neidland’s house takes place. He has created a unique crystal sculpture for Prentice, The Carpathian Hound, “a heavily muscled dog with a square massive head. The wide round eyes were rimmed with gold, and gold froth flecked the crystal jowls” and now it’s being held for ransom. At the same time, a lot of apparently separate incidents are happening around the apartment complex - the church next door is broken into, one neighbour is poisoned and hospitalised, another is in his apartment when there’s a fire that hospitalises him and the building supervisor has her car blow up when she’s on the way to the market (after the bombing, a policeman remarks “Things have been really weird on this block the last couple of days.”)
There are some terrific set pieces - the encounter in the church, Gwen Chalmers being poisoned, the CCTV, the business with Mrs Bortz’s car, the fire at John Murphy’s, Jupiter in the pool - whilst the first, with the burglar fleeing through Paseo Place being followed by the cops and then the crowd that gathers at the church to see what’s going on, sets the tone perfectly. The characters are well realised across the board - from those already mentioned, plus Sonny Elmquist (who appears to be the shadow), Alex Hassell and his cats, Father McGovern, Earl the caretaker and Mrs O’Reilly over at the church and there’s a nice cameo from Dr Barrister (who first appeared in “The Mystery Of The Singing Serpent” and cameo-ed in "The Secret Of The Haunted Mirror"). Gripping and well paced, this has a superb sense of location - 402 Paseo Place, off Wilshire Boulevard - with the apartment complex vividly created, from its flagstone courtyard, pool, staircase and back alley, whilst nearby St Jude’s rectory and church is another inspired creation though thankfully (and I’d forgotten this before my re-read), Headquarters does get a mention - Jupe creates some ‘magic’ ointment there. Helping the tone of the book is the wonderful sense of atmosphere - it’s in the lull of Christmas and it’s cold - with quite a lot of the action taking place after dark and there are some nice touches, such as when Jupe is investigating Prentice’s flat - "Through the open curtains Jupe could see the church next door. The organ no longer boomed and children's voices could be heard in the street; apparently choir practice was over.” Even better, this features supernatural elements - an out-of-body wanderer (which is what Dr Barrister helps out with) and the cover-star phantom priest - and presents them as “just so”, with no attempt to explain whether they are real or not (and the priest inspires the great last line too).
The boys have some good interplay, the mystery is sound and the plot builds well and there’s a real sense of a crisp December in the air. Great fun, from start to finish, this is a superb read with well-developed characters, a vividly created location, a nicely realised atmosphere and a strong pace. I highly recommend it.
|Back cover of the format a paperback shows the boys rescuing Mr Murphy, artwork by Peter Archer|
(cover scan of my copy)
|Armada format a paperback (published in 1979, reprinted in 1980), cover art by Peter Archer|
(cover scan of my copy)
Thanks to Ian Regan for the hardcover artwork and details (you can see more at his excellent Cover Art database here)