Monday, July 22, 2013

Another excellent series-The Three Investigators #1-The Secret of Terror Castle

   Now don't worry-i will go back to the New Bobbsey Twins, but here is a series that i liked even better-the Three Investigators! Starting in 1964, 43 books were published until 1987, and then a new series started for only about 10 books in 1990. The Three Investigators (or T3i) are three teen detectives kind of like the Hardy Boys. To me, the stories were much more original than the Hardys and usually the trio were called on to investigate mysterious doings that some believed to be supernatural (there was NEVER any supernatural aspect to the stories-it was always bad guys a la Scooby Do that tried to scare people for some villainous reason).

  The trio consists of:

-Jupiter Jones, the "1st investigator". Jupiter (or "Jupe" to his friends) is the brains of the trio. Overweight, he isn't as physically active as the others, especially Pete. But here is a note on childhood obesity-even though Jupe is supposed to be "the fat one", the artwork on the covers show him as only being what we would call stocky. I guess in the 60s, there really weren't a lot of people as heavy as there are now.

-Pete Crenshaw, the "2nd investigator" Pete is the athlete of the trio. By no means a caricature bumbling sidekick, Pete isn't as smart as the other two, and sometimes his courage isn't the greatest when they face things that can't be easily explained. However, Pete is loyal, and faithful to his friends

-Bob Andrews "records & research" Bob is a bookish young man (who today many would call a nerd). Since in the early books he is recovering from a fractured foot, he is usually assigned to research. His part-time job at the library helps with this as well (You know, the place people used to go to research things before the internet!)

   The first book has Jupe winning a contest to guess the number of jelly beans in a jar. The prize is an all-expenses use of a vintage limousine complete with English chauffeur Worthington! Now that these boys (who are too young to drive) have their own wheels, they start the firm of the Three Investigators. Jupe, an orphan lives with his Uncle and Aunt. They own a salvage yard full of all sorts of interesting junk. Jupe has buried an old trailer in the centre of it with old pipes and refuse which the boys cleverly can enter without anyone knowing about it. This serves as their headquarters

  For their first case, Jupe finagles his way to visiting famous movie director Alfred Hitchcock (yes, A.H. allowed his name to be used in these stories-he is the one who writes up the cases for the investigators. After his death, they befriend a fictional writer who does their cases. In later editions of the early books, the director is a fictional name as well (probably because when the early books were reprinted in the 80s and 90s, youths didn't know who Alfred Hitchcock was!) at his Hollywood studios (the rolls-royce with English chauffeur does seem impressive)

   The famous director says that he wants a spooky house that he can use in his next film. Jupiter immediately thinks of "Terror Castle", an old house purported to be haunted and formerly owned by an actor of the silent film era who made horror films.

   Well, so this review won't get TOO long, i'll say that the trio have many adventures, and eventually prove that:


   As i was saying, they prove that, the old actor is really still alive and he is the one "haunting" the old castle. But he really is a nice man-when talkies started, he was out of a job. And since he couldn't afford to keep the castle, he faked his death, and scared any who would try to enter the place. Jupiter helps him make the money he needs to legally keep the castle by having him open the castle to the public. Then he can scare people and they'd pay admission! Also, Jupe suggested he use the old theater room in the castle to show the old reel films he made in the silent era which no one has seen for decades.  Mr. Hitchock didn't get to use the place, but he is still impressed enough with the Investigators that he agrees to introduce and conclude their stories for them

   Ah, T3I series! An absolute favourite of mine! While this still is a product of this system with its faults, it was written during a much more moral time. When kids were kids, this series has no foul language, no sexual innuendo, or even intense violence. (I think a sock to the jaw is as violent as i can remember-the only death in the series that i remember off-hand was someone who died of an illness) It is such a shame that even books for young adults these days have such things in them. As far as spiritistic elements, there is nothing supernatural in the series-like i said before, everything it seems so, it is really bad men trying to scare or fool someone.

   The Three Investigators always had a "cult" following-it was never as universal as the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew, which i think is a shame, but it is a lot better known than the "New Bobbsey Twins" series. I will be reviewing these as well as NBT books in the future

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Spies and Techno-thieves! New Bobbsey Twins #9 The Clue in the Classroom

    This is another of my favourite books of the series!  This one starts with older twins Nan and Bert walking to school. They notice a tall man nervously looking over his shoulder as he walks across the street. The twins stop behind a tree to watch him, and see a shorter man with spiked hair and a trench coat stealthily following the tall man. Later, Nan discovers that the tall man is none other than her new science teacher!

     He seems a decent sort of fellow, but as he is new, he doesn't know how to let the movie screen up that covers the blackboard. When the students help Mr Newman (the new teacher) retract the screen, they are all surprised to see a sinister message on the blackboard directing Mr Newman to "give up (his) plans"! Mr. Newman's pale face and over-the-top reaction shows that he has at least some idea of the meaning behind this message.

     The next day, Bert and Flossie decide to go to Mr Newman's house and see if he can find anything. Bert hears odd sounds coming from his house, and sneaks over to the side of the house to investigate.

     He sees a tall stocky silhouette behind the curtain. It keeps falling to the fall. Then as Mr Newman comes home, he sees his tall figure engaged in what looks like quite a brawl with the stocky one. Bert goes around and knocks on the front door, but Mr Newman answers, curtly assures Bert that everything is all right, and quickly closes the door!

    When he rejoins Flossie on the sidewalk, they are approached by a middle-aged woman who says that Mr. Newman used to work for her at DataComp industries. She noticed Bert speaking with the teacher and asks him a few questions. Bert is a bit taken aback, and can't answer most of her questions anyway.  She goes back to her limo and a big guy gets out to open the door for her. They confer briefly as they climb into the car, but Bert and Flossie can't hear much of what they are saying. Then the car drives away.

     The twins still aren't sure what Mr Newman is up to, but it seems that quite a few people are interested in him!

     That night, Mrs. Bobbsey receives a phone call from her editor (she's a part-time reporter for the local paper) that the middle school was broken into and the science lab was turned upside down.  She is assigned to go to cover the story, and the girls persuade Mrs Bobbsey to take them along.

     Nan and Flossie are allowed in by a kindly police officer and they investigate the crime scene thoroughly

          In addition to another sinister message on the blackboard ("Time is running out!" it says), they find a button that looks like it comes off a trench coat

     The next day, the Bobbsey girls are walking down the street when they spot the short, spikey haired, trench coated figure who was following Mr Newman when they first got involved in the mystery. He is walking quickly, and doesn't notice something fall from his pocket. Nan picks it up, and sees that it is an employee badge from DataComp (complete with picture). It identifies the spikey-haired man as Rick Aaron, an engineer at Data Comp Industries. When they look up, the man is approaching them with a wild look in his eyes!

     Not sure whether to run, Nan and Flossie are frozen for a moment until Mr. Aaron approaches and thanks them for finding his badge.  They ask him if he works for Julie Burns (the middle-aged woman in the limo), and he readily confirms this.  He seems a bit twitchy and nervous, but friendly enough, and the girls note that his coat is NOT missing a button (they are trying to match the button found in the ransacked science lab)

    Later, the younger twins bake cookies and go over to Mr Newman's house with the cover that they are selling cookies door-to-door.  Mr. Newman is a bit preoccupied, but he kindly buys a few goodies from them. Flossie manages to see a blueprint titled "LSJ-33" and has a schematic of a robot on it.

     The Bobbseys try to figure out what is going on. They think that Mr. Newman must have stolen the robot from DataComp and Rick Aaron, Julie Burns, and her huge sidekick must be trying to get it back. The plans must be so sensitive that they aren't calling the police yet.

     They decide that while the boys are searching his house that Saturday, the girls will go to the school (where Mr Newman is doing some extra work) and keep an eye on him and keep him busy.

     When the girls get there, they discover more threats against Mr Newman and confide in him. It seems the other way around. DataComp is trying to get ahold of Mr Newman's plans of his new robot invention!  They confide in Mr Newman since if the boys are discovered, they could be in great danger without even realising who the crooks are!  Mr Newman can believe that ruthless Julie Burns might be behind this, but feels that Rick Aaron (an engineer who was one of his best friends at the company) is too honest to be involved in this.

    As they drive back to Mr Newman's house, the girls and the teacher spot Mr Aaron lurking around.  Mr Newman decides to approach his old workmate and find out why he has been following him

     Mr Aaron explains that Mz. Burns told him that Mr Newman stole super-secret plans from the company and asked him if he knew anything about it. Rick Aaron is an absent-minded scientist type, and he decided that his friend couldn't be a crook and was following him to prove to himself that Mr Newman is innocent. They decide that if Mz. Burns is trying to turn her employees against Mr Newman this way, she is probably going to try to steal the robot and claim that Newman stole it from her. They rush back to Newman's home!

     In the meantime, Bert and Freddie enter the house and find cool credit-card sized badges. Freddie is examining one, when a robot bursts into the room! "Intruder!" he booms and heads for Bert.

     Freddie realises that he isn't being attacked because he has a badge. He throws one to Bert, and the robot stops. They then find a switch and turn him off.

     A moment later, Julie Burns enters with Mr. Caroll-her muscleman. They say that they are here to retrieve their stolen property, the robot. Bert notices a button missing on Mr Caroll's coat. As the two adults try to lift the robot, Freddie says that they can just turn him on and command he follow them to the car. They do so, and the robot lifts the two crooks off the ground! The boys tell them that without badges, the robot will capture them, and they call the police to take them away.

    The book ends with Mr. Aaron asking if he can work with Mr Newman, and the twins happily declaring another case closed

     I really like this story. Robots and techie stuff-all the things a young tween boy like me would love as a kid! Also, the story is a fine mystery-with the red herring of Mr. Aaron, it really keeps you guessing as to who the crook is. In fact, for awhile, it looks as if the villian is Mr. Newman himself. I hope you enjoyed reading this review, and look forward to the next book soon

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Dogs, and Thieves and Twins-oh my! The New Bobbsey Twins #8-The Secret of the Stolen Puppies

     Now i should mention, i am NOT a dog person, nor a pet person in general (besides insects, but that's another story), so this may be why i didn't like this book, but of the really neat first 10 books in the series, to me this one kind of stood out as a stinker. That's not to say it is horrible, it's just that at this point, the bar is VERY high in quality in the series. If this book came out as say, #25, i'd say it was about average with the rest of what was being published.

     Ok, so the story opens with Nan, and the younger twins trying to talk to their mom about their desire to own a puppy (of course they waited until Mrs. Bobbsey was busy and didn't mention it until Bert was actually on his way to the fire hall to pick up a puppy, but that's kids for you!)  Mrs Bobbsey is still on the phone planning a party, and speaking with her neighbours about the catered parties they recently held (i guess this is the season for catered affairs since they all seem to be having them right after each other)  As Mrs Bobbsey is still occupied listening to a friend on the phone speak of the ups and downs of their event (the caterers were perfect, but the party ended in tragedy), the kids continue prepping a dog house and making a list of chores.

     But, soon the Bobbsey kids are startled to see Bert approaching, haggard and out of breath. The puppies have been stolen!

     Bert said that he saw mean buggy Danny Rugg and his sidekick Ronald Jameson hanging around the fire hall quite a bit and thinks they might have something to do with this, but the others want to go to the fire house, look for clues and talk to the chief. The twins split up, and the younger twins and Nan comb the fire house while the old dalmatian (who was the puppies mother) watches

     Nan finds a coupon for dog food and remembers that there is an old hermit who feeds the neighbourhood strays. She thinks he clips this same coupon so she wonders if he was involved.  Surly Danny and Ronald act suspiciously, and it seems as if there has been a rash of puppy-nappings lately. The police have better things to do than investigate this, and Mr and Mrs Bobbsey are very engrossed in the party they are planning, so the twins are on their own.

     Lakeport being the small town that it is, word gets around about the Bobbseys investigations.  It seems that Ronald and Danny are around when mishaps happen too. Freddie is pushed down a hill in his wagon, and Bert & Flossie are locked in the fire hall.

     Not finding any clues, the Bobbseys do some research.   They discover that pedigree puppies can cost big money-meaning that the thief might not be bullies like Danny who would pull cruel pranks, or senile older men who like dogs, it's possible adults committed the thefts for monetary gain

     This puts a new spin on it for the twins when they think about the logistics of the thefts. All the dogs were expensive ones, and they were stolen during times when they wouldn't be missed until later.  In fact, it was during fancy catered parties when houses are in the most chaos and the puppies are sometimes locked away.

     Finally the day arrives for the Bobbseys own party. As adults mingle, the younger twins talk among themselves and think that the new couple that does catering seem to be in a position to know when parties will be held and could whisk away the dogs.

     They go to the Mulligans home/office (the caterers), and after a bit of breaking and entering, careful investigation, they find the puppies!  They are almost caught by the Mulligans as they were returning, but fortunately, the older twins figured out the culprits too, and called the police.

     The story ends with the twins getting a puppy of their own. A sheepdog though instead of a pedigreed dalmatian.

     Like i said earlier, in my opinion, this is the worse book so far of the series. Granted, stolen puppies don't interest me as much as the earlier plots, but also, the book didn't seem as coherent as ones before it.  If the dogs were only stolen during parties hosted by the caterers, it would seem obvious that they were involved and they would have been stopped much earlier. The crooks don't seem too smart, which gives the book that Scooby-Doo feel that i really hate. Sorry, i really don't have much good to say about this one

Monday, July 1, 2013

Framing Huck Finn-NBT #6-Mystery on the Mississippi

    Book 6 finds the twins on vacation on a vintage steamboat chugging down the Misissippi river! Their cruise will take them to Mark Twain's hometown and the whole family is looking forward to the historic trip. They start off as carefree tourists exploring the 4 deck steamboat and meeting the crew of the ship.

     Soon though, they find out that the son of the cook is about the age of the older twins as is a bit of a mischief maker. He plays practical jokes on the crew, and runs around undisciplined since the death of his mother.  He even sometimes dresses the part of Huck Finn, and sure acts like him!

      Things seem to come to a boil when Mr. Ford, a passenger on the  boat says that young Larry stole notes he was taken on the works of Mark Twain. Larry secretly tells the twins that he indeed did take the paper as a joke. He shows it to the twins, but it's just letters and numbers that they can't decipher. They try to convince him to return it regardless.

     To make matters worse, a few hours later, an autographed copy of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is stolen from the ship's library! This is more serious-since this 19th century copy is valued at $50,000!  Larry's pocketknife is found at the crime scene, and it is apparent that the display case's latch was broken into with a knife. With Larry's history of pranks, Captain Collins, and even Larry's father, the cook, Mr. Granville doesn't believe Larry when he denies stealing the book.  Everyone is inconvenienced-the Captain says that Larry previously stole some rare books from his private collection, (which Larry admits, but reminds the captain that he returned them the same day), Mr. Granville worries that he will lose his job, and Mr. Ford says that he can't use the book as a reference for his essay, so it won't be finished when they reach Hannibal, Missouri.  The captain decides that if the book isn't returned by the time they reach their next port, he's calling the police!


     The twins believe that Larry is innocent, and search the boat for the book, but when they can't find it, and go back to Larry's cabin to tell him, they discover that he's gone!  The captain has the boat come to a dead stop and they search for him-finally the Bobbseys find him hiding out in their rooms. He begs for their help, which they agree to, but say that he must give himself up.

     Since the book wasn't found, Captain Collins has no choice but to call in the law, and Larry and his father are taken to the police station. They return him a few hours later, and his father locks him in his cabin, but Larry escapes and runs away!

     The Bobbseys realize that this time he would have left the boat (since it's still docked), and they leave the ship to find him (to the displeasure of their parents that don't want them to get involved).

     They have several misadventures including a graveyard search and a spooky cave.

     During these evening searches, the twins encounter Mr. Ford who says that he followed them since they seem to have a better feel for Larry's way of thinking then the adults do, and maybe they can find him and he can get his notes back. He explains that he isn't really writing an essay-he's an undercover policeman. The force received a tip on thieves who steal rare books and sell them, and so he was guarding the Mark Twain book on the boat.

      The twins and Mr. Ford approach a cave that's opening is too small for an adult to fit in, and so the twins enter alone.  They know they are on Larry's trail when they spot Mr. Ford's notes that Larry must have dropped in the cave as he passed.

     In the cave, Nan and Bert get a chance to examine the notes carefully:

and discover that it has a list of buyers for the book on it. Things don't add up, and the twins figure out that Mr. Ford is really the one who stole the book, and the notes he so desperately wants contain the buyers for it!

     The twins were able to stay on Larry's trail by following Huck Finn's hiding spots. They realize that if Larry knows that someone found his graveyard and cave hiding spots, he may have rowed to one of the small islands on the river.  In a final showdown on rowboats, the twins find Larry, and capsize Mr. Ford's boat (he is chasing them as he now realizes that they are wise to him). This showdown makes Captain Collins believe that Larry is innocent and Mr. Ford is the crook as the twins tried to tell him.  They find the antique book, amid Mr. Ford's things, and the captain praises and rewards the Bobbseys for solving the case
This book was ok, but I didn't like it as much as the prior books in the series. Maybe because the Mark Twainish plot doesn't interest me as much as glamourous movie stars, visitors from space, sabotage of an amusement park, and the other plotlines in previous books. But the mystery is appealing, the plot is well constructed and the way everything plays out seems believable. It also does teach the lesson of not crying wolf. Larry's antics make it very difficult to believe in his innocence. If the Bobbsey Twins didn't have such a feel for people, they wouldn't have believed he was framed either, and Larry would have been in REAL trouble.
     I misplaced book #7, so for now, I will skip it and review book #8 next. Please feel free to let me know what you think, and i'll see you next time