Tuesday, 16 December 2014

The Mystery Of The Invisible Dog, by M. V. Carey

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 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
“It was twilight - the abrupt, chill twilight of late December - when Jupiter Jones, Pete Crenshaw, and Bob Andrews first came to Paseo Place”.

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)
Aside from the story itself, part of my love for this book is definitely nostalgic - published in 1979, this and The Mystery Of Death Trap Mine were the first two 'brand new' books I had of the series, in that I bought them as soon as they were published.  This perhaps explains why those two paperbacks have slightly beaten up covers...  The other aspect is the fantastic cover art by Peter Archer, who has created a vivid image, from the misty, moonlit cemetery to the shock on Jupe's face and the priest captured in the glow of the candle (though the ghost appears to have vampire teeth for some reason).
Armada format a paperback (published in 1979, reprinted in 1980), cover art by Peter Archer
(cover scan of my copy)
There were no internal illustrations in the UK editions which is a shame, as I'd love to see Roger Hall's version of the phantom priest!

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


  1. The changes made to the German second edition of ‘Invisible Dog’ (renamed ‘The Three Investigators and the Carpathian Hound’) are of particular interest, removing, as they do, all paranormal activity present in the original text.

    In this revised version of the story, art collector Fenton Prentice is haunted by mysterious flashes of light in his den (as opposed to a shadowy presence).

    Dr. Barrister, of Ruxton University, refers the boys to Professor Nora Arbiter, head of Neurology and Psychiatry (rather than Professor Eugenia Lantine, head of parapsychology). Professor Arbiter speculates that Sonny Elmquist is a somnambulist (sleepwalker), carrying out post-hypnotic commands issued to him by an unknown third-party.

    As events transpire, that third-party is none other than the scheming Mrs. Bortz, who upon noticing Elmquist’s sleepwalking habit, decided to take advantage of his impressionable disposition for her own busybody ends, and ordered him to sneak around Prentice’s apartment, giving the young man the key she’d had made.

    Elmquist himself is unaware of this manipulation, but on one of the rare occasions he suddenly awoke in the middle of a sleepwalking trance, he witnessed the Carpathian Hound being lowered into the pool. However, he was unable to identify the perpetrator.

    He also confessed to causing the light flashes in Prentice’s apartment by accident; his real intention was to take a closer look at the Tibetan mandala hanging in the art collector’s den, and attempted to do so by shining a flashlight in through the apartment window facing the church.

    The ‘phantom’ priest, in actual fact, was Father McGovern himself. An ardent pipe smoker, he was forced to smoke away from the rectory because Mrs. O'Reilly detested the smell of pipe tobacco. On the evening of the burglary, he had left his pipe behind in the church, and his furtive attempt to retrieve his smoking apparatus spooked both the burglar (Murphy) and Jupiter. To avoid provoking the ire of his housekeeper, Father McGovern locked himself in the vestry, only to re-emerge when the police arrived.

    1. Thanks for that Ian, though I'm glad I've never read that version which seems to shift away everything that makes the novel stand-out. And losing the priest (it's Father McGovern) strikes me as very odd.

  2. You're welcome Mark: I'm also glad that the British editions were never sanitized in this manner. I'm guessing the conservative readership in Germany balked at the paranormal-themed first edition, and so a revised text was hurriedly cooked-up in its place.

    1. Me too. Have they been further revised (as I've read the US versions have been, taking out Hitch and some of the other aspects)?

  3. Yeah, off the top of my head, STUTTERING PARROT and DEAD MAN'S RIDDLE had major changes necessitated by the riddles not translating well; SILVER SPIDER was relocated to a Swedish colony in Texas (!); the fictional country of Lapathia in FLAMING FOOTPRINTS was changed to Romania; the second edition of SCAR-FACED BEGGAR brought back Hitchcock from the dead, and turned Sebastian into a friend of Hitch's (all subsequent titles up to and including DANCING DINOSAUR had Hitchcock introductions and epilogues).

    1. Some of those, linguistically, make sense I suppose. I can't remember much about SCF and only got up to about book 36 so I haven't tried DD, though it'd be nice that they had Hitch in the introductions (I think it's Sebastien that puts me off, to be honest).

  4. Hi Mark. I just wanted to let you know that, based on the comments and links you left on my review of The Secret of Skeleton Island, I read this one and reviewed it on my blog.

    Once again, thanks for the recommendations! Much appreciated.