Monday, 7 November 2016

The Mystery Of Monster Mountain, by M. V. Carey

2014 marked the fiftieth anniversary of The Three Investigators being published and, to celebrate, I re-read and compiled my all-time Top 10 (safe in the knowledge that it would be subject to change in years to come, of course).  I posted my list here, having previously read all 30 of the original series from 2008 to 2010 (a reading and reviewing odyssey that I blogged here).

During 2015 I decided to re-visit some of the books I'd missed on that second read-through, without any intention of posting reviews but, as is often the way, it didn't quite work out like that.  I'm happy to say that's continued into 2016 and so here's an additional review...
Collins Hardback First Edition (printed in 1974, never reprinted), cover art by Roger Hall
The Three Investigators crept stealthily through the undergrowth.

Suddenly, somewhere to Bob's left, a branch snapped.  Then Bob heard something else - something horribly close.  Behind him, almost at his shoulder, there was the sound of breathing.

Bob jumped, twisting in mid-air, to face the being that had come out of the woods.  He had an impression of hugeness and matted hair.  Then he was staggering, slipping on the earth at the edge of the crevice...

Illustration from the Collins/Armada editions,
by Roger Hall
Following a sudden decision by Aunt Mathilda and Uncle Titus to shut the salvage yard for two weeks and take a holiday, the boys accept an offer to go and stay with Hans & Konrad at their Cousin Anna’s place in Sky Village, Sierra Nevada.  She runs the Slalom Inn there and is doing very well for herself, though she hasn’t seen the Bavarian brothers for a while.  When they arrive, they discover she’s newly married - to Joe Havemayer - and that she won’t speak German in front of him since he doesn’t understand it.  On their first night, a bear gets into the garden but another guest, nature photographer Mr Jensen gets hit in the back of the neck and suspicion seems to fall on the other guest, naturalist Mr Smathers who believes he can communicate with animals.  Havemeyer enlists Hans & Konrad to help him build a swimming pool with no shallow end and takes daily visits to the high meadow with a tranquiliser gun and very quickly, Jupiter realises there is something very wrong at the Inn.

The third book in the series by M. V. Carey, following the excellent “Mystery Of The Singing Serpent”, this works well in general and has a good pace.  Sky Village is well realised (Rocky Beach doesn’t appear at all) with the high meadow and forests particularly atmospheric  and the story is populated with a colourful cast of characters, especially Gabby Richardson who runs the local petrol station and doesn’t miss a thing.  There’s also a very brief part for Bob’s dad, by phone, who supplies the Investigators with a key bit of information.

The story has two strands and the main mystery - why is Cousin Anna very different from how she used to be - is well handled though it does suffer from a denouement that relies heavily on a big coincidence.  The secondary mystery, the monster of the mountain (which Gabby originally tells them about), is cleverly used, keeping in the wings - though Bob gets a brief glimpse - until his scene in a key set piece that is well put together.

The tone of it, coincidence aside, works smartly and the main mystery is cleverly constructed.  Joe and Anna are well realised characters, who arouse suspicion without really seeming to do anything to warrant it whilst Hans & Konrad get to take centre stage, which doesn’t happen often.

As well written as we’ve come to expect from M. V. Carey’s work, this has some good set pieces - I liked the crevice sequence, the bear incursion and the fire on the meadow - and I particularly liked the way the monster is used (and the fact that it’s left hanging as to what anybody actually saw).  The plot is solid enough, it has a great atmosphere and sense of location and the boys have some nice interplay.  A good and entertaining read, I’d very much recommend this.
Format A paperback, first printed in 1977, last reprinted 1980, cover art by Peter Archer
There was no format B edition
cover scan of my copy

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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