According to their business card, The 3 Investigators investigated anything. Over the years they made good on their promise. From Sinister Scarecrows to Laughing Shadows, three teenagers from Rocky Beach in California took on the strangest cases. What’s more, they cracked them! These books were immensely readable, scary enough to make you hide them under your bed next to your brother’s machete that may or may not have been used to rob the local supermarket (or was that just my brother?) and above all else – great fun. My first Three Investigators book was The Secret of Terror Castle. There was a shelf full of them in Cumbernauld Library. There was also a shelf of Nancy Drew and also a Hardy Boys shelf. These days, there are only a handful of those books in libraries. Times have changed. That’s why I’m writing this blog.
The edition of Terror Castle I read back in the early 90s looked like this:
The name Alfred Hitchcock jumped out at me, of course. A unique selling point back in the 60s when these books were first released, by the 90s no kid in the world knew about Hitchcock. But I did. I was that weird kid who loved horror movies and since my Mum couldn’t get Ritalin for me, she prescribed horror videos to shut me up. The introduction of the book, written by Hitchcock (actually Robert Arthur, the creator of the series) warned the reader NOT to read this book. What a genius! This ties in with the plot, because Alfred Hitchcock is looking for a haunted house for his new movie. Jupiter Jones, the leader of The Three Investigators, decides to force Hitchcock to hire his new detective agency. He does this by blackmailing the director. I tried that on my brother, but it didn’t work. The castle of the title is the home of a dead actor who lost everything when ‘talkies’ took over. He retreated to his scary castle and is said to haunt it. Zoiks! Jupiter, constantly fat shamed throughout the series, is a former child actor. Then there’s Pete Crensha, the brawn of the group. Athletic yet cautious, he also provides the comedy. Then there’s Bob Andrews, whose job in the local library gives him the power to research and provide facts for each case. Together they were unstoppable. I immediately adored all three of them and hoped against all odds they would survive the horror of Terror Castle.
Spoiler: They win! And despite references to silent movies and talkies (probably gone from later editions) I completely ate this book up. I had to read more. MORE. The next on my list was The Mystery Of Stuttering Parrot.
It’s about a parrot that stutters. Incidentally, there was a kid at my school with a stutter. For years I thought he invented rap, but it was just a stutter caused by a murder he witnessed back in nursery. But that’s irrelevant to this blog! After The Mystery Of The Stuttering Parror I read as many of these books as I could get. More. More. MORE. The librarians of Cumbernauld Library constantly got them in for me, feeding my addiction. In tribute to my heroes, I too became a teenage detective. Oh yes, I was the Nancy Drew of Cumbernauld. Trying my best to stop shoplifters (my brother), armed robbers (my brother), and dope smokers (yes, my brother) I cracked every case I took on. Until I was accused of being a grass, then I had to stop.
These books weren’t as successful as the adventures of Nancy or Frank and Joe Hardy. But they were quirkier fare, which is why it’s so sad to see they’re no longer in publication. In the late 80s, they were rebooted for a mature audience. The Crimebusters books were good too, even though Jupiter Jones was treated like a fool by the writers. But a generation of kids deserve these books. Their faces when they read The Vanishing Treasure, which feature gnomes terrorising a pensioner in her home! Or The Moaning Cave. Or…argh, there are so many more.
A cursory check on Amazon.com shows these books are still in print. Just not here in the UK. However, there’s twist in this tale. These books were massive in Germany. A huge smash. They’re toured by actors in the roles of Jupe, Pete and Bob. As big as Sherlock Holmes, they’re a cultural phenomenon over there. I can’t speak German, so it doesn’t help me very much. I have a German friend and we used to work together. When she saw my vintage Three Investigators books, she cried out in joy. Then she went back to boiling her eggs for a particularly exciting lunch.
Every now and then, I re-read these books. For the most part they’re still cracking reads. I’d love to write one. Goodness, how about The Three Investigators as adults? I could do it. If publishers are interested, contact my agent and let’s sort it out. The idea of it is thrilling! What are they doing now? Are they still solving weird mysteries? Are they still friends? Did Jupiter ever lose weight? Does he have an eating disorder because of all the fat-shaming comments he had to endure? There’s so much for them to do, so many cases to investigate!
What happens next?
That’s one mystery I’d like to see solved.