Monday 24 February 2014

The Mystery Of The Whispering Mummy, 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
"How can a 3,000 year old mummy whisper?" 
Pete, Bob and Jupiter couldn't believe it! But the Professor swore he’d heard the mummy's curse - 
"Woe to all who disturb my sleep..." 

Then a series of 'accidents', and the theft of the mummy case change the investigators' minds!

Professor Yarborough is almost crushed
by a statue of Anbus (artwork by Roger Hall)
The boys receive two letters, which Bob attempts his powers of deductions on and Jupe manages to play a trick on Pete regarding their contents.  The first is from Alfred Hitchcock and concerns his friend Professor Yarborough, an Egyptologist who has a small museum at his canyon-side house.  Currently researching the history of the mummy Ra-Orkon, he is troubled by the fact that it whispers in a strange language when he is in the room with it alone.  The second letter is from Mrs Banfry, who wants them to help find her missing Abyssinian cat, Sphinx.  Not wanting to get involved with a talking mummy, Pete goes to see Mrs Banfry whilst Jupe & Bob go to Professor Yarborough’s house but the boys are soon back together for a case where nothing is quite what it seems to be.

This has long been one of my favourite books and I can remember reading it over the course of an afternoon back in the late 70s and being thrilled by it.  I’m pleased to say that it still holds up - the characters are well drawn, the mystery has a good foundation and there’s plenty of history to absorb and add verisimilitude to the story.

Well told and structured, this is superbly written and drops clues for further in the timeline (“Two and two don’t always make four,” Jupe said, his manner mysterious. “And fifteen and fifteen don’t always make thirty” after Worthington mentions that it opens on the fifteenth day of their thirty days use of the Rolls Royce) though it does niggle me there’s a chapter not told from an Investigator-led POV (which probably troubled me more as an adult than it did as a kid).  That aside, this is a great book with a good sense of location and atmosphere and further proof - should it be needed - that it’s a shame Robert Arthur didn’t write or plot more of the adventures.

Great fun and highly recommended.

Format a paperback, printed between 1971 and 1980 (it never appeared in Format b),
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)


  1. You like this book more than I do. I think it is okay. All of Arthur's books are well-written. If I listed the original 43 in order this would fall somewhere in the middle. I like the idea of a talking mummy but overall there are several titles that I prefer.

    1. Which ones? In my favorites I would say Vanishing Treasure and talking skull