Monday 9 March 2020

The Mystery Of The Fiery Eye, by Robert Arthur

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).

Following this, I decided to re-visit some of the books I'd missed on that second read-through, without any intention of posting reviews of them but, as if often the way, it didn't quite work out like that.  Happily, this is on-going and so here's an additional review...
Collins Hardback First Edition (printed between 1969 and 1971), cover art by Roger Hall

The Black Moustache Gang are after ‘The Fiery Eye’.  So are the Three Investigators and they manage to outwit the thieves, or so they think...  

But when Jupe holds the gem at last, four gunmen emerge from the darkness!  Black Moustache has caught up again...

illustration from the
Collins/Armada editions, by Roger Hall
At the suggestion of Alfred Hitchcock, The Three Investigators agree to help English lad August August (who’s called Gus by his friends) try and crack the riddle he’s been left by his great Uncle Horatio August.  Horatio (who Gus never met) went sailing on a ship to the South Seas and wasn’t seen again but now a lawyer has been in touch with the family, to pass on a letter he left for his great nephew.  As they try to figure out the riddle - it’s a race against time, since Horatio’s old house is being knocked down - the boys come into contact with ‘Three Dots’, Rama Sidri Rhandur of Pleshiwar in India and his sword cane, who is searching for The Fiery Eye, a fabulous ruby that was stolen from his temple.  They also come into contact with the Black Moustache gang, who appear to be on the trail of the jewel themselves.

This is the seventh book in the series by Robert Arthur and features the pay-off for the use of the Rolls Royce (“thirty days of twenty-four hours each”) which was set up in The Secret Of Terror Castle.  Pete points out that “the thirty days ran out while we were back East tangling with the mystery of Skeleton Island”, which means that the first six books took place in the space of a month!  The dilemma stumps the boys for a while but the resolution, mentioned in several of the books after this but not in detail, is nicely played.  In further continuity, there’s also mention of Blackbeard, who still appears to be in his cage in Headquarters.  The central mystery is convincing - Arthur wrote a good riddle - and the processes of detection are smartly made, with a couple of decent twists along the way.  Bob ends up at the library a couple of times, cutting him off from the action but he does end up discovering some clues and his Dad also helps out again.

Although a lot of the book takes place at The Jones Junkyard, it also encompasses Hollywood and Dial Canyon, just north of the city, which is atmospherically described and well used, especially after dark.  The book also briefly features a young called Liz Logan, who is desperate to be an investigator and thrilled to meet Bob.  Arthur clearly has fun writing her and, in an interview, his daughter Elizabeth confirmed that Liz is based on her.  I wish we’d seen more of Miss Logan, she certainly shows potential here.

The characterisation is as strong as ever from Arthur, with the menacing Three Dots balancing up the rougher Black Moustache gang (their horn-rimmed glasses and fake moustaches are pretty silly disguises) who are barely distinguishable other than by name.  The boys enjoy some good interplay, though with less humour than usual, Hans & Konrad have decent parts, but we get an ‘Alfred Hitchcock Speaking’ end chapter, rather than the normal meeting, which doesn’t work so well.  The book does, however, allow Arthur to show his appreciation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (Horatio apparently met him as a young man) and the plot pays homage to The Adventure Of The Six Napoleons, which Jupiter mentions.  Well constructed, with some great set pieces (Jupe and his chair, especially), this is a great read and I’d highly recommend it.
Armada format a paperback (printed between 1971 and 1979), cover art by Peter Archer
(cover scan of my copy)
Armada format b paperback (printed between 1981 and 1984), cover art by Peter Archer
(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)


  1. I wish a publisher would reprint the original hardback editions, complete with covers and endpapers. I'd certainly buy them.

    1. Absolutely! I've been lucky enough to pick up most of the original hardbacks, but reprints would be lovely!