The Secret Of Terror Castle ( The Three Investigators #1) by Robert Arthur

First published in the mid 1960’s, this mystery/adventure series of approximately forty books were written for 8-15 years olds and would be hard to beat if you want to find thrilling and original tales that don’t talk down to kids. Some of the plots pertain to ghosts, whispering mummies, talking skulls and other spooky or eerie themes although the stories always climax in some scheme in which a band of thieves, rustlers, con men or other non-supernatural element are attempting to snatch a lost or hidden treasure. I loved reading them as a child, and find that after all these years, they are still entertaining and packed with adventure. 

The first book in the series, The Secret of Terror Castle introduces the reader to the three teenage sleuths, Jupiter Jones, Bob Crenshaw and Pete Andrews, collectively known as the “Three Investigators” and how they made the acquaintance of Alfred Hitchcock, who wrote the forward for most of the books until his death. (He lent his name but never contributed as an author to this series) But you will only encounter Mr Hitchcock’s guest appearances in early editions as Hitchcock’s estate demanded more money from the publisher for the use of his name after his death. Random House instead replaced the character of the famous director with a poor man’s fictional detective-turned-writer in newer tales. When earlier books were re-issued, they were feebly rewritten to replace Hitchcock as well. Avoid the new editions if you can; some of them sadly exclude the original illustrations by Harry Kane.

Robert Arthur had a gift for knowing what fascinates a boy, although girls should be able to appreciate these stories too. I don’t think any child who has read the book will ever give up wishing for their own “Headquarters”, a damaged mobile home hidden under piles of junk with secret tunnel entrances, a telephone, a darkroom…and a lab. The characters are well-drawn, the locations ably described and the genuine sense of fear and spookiness is well evoked. The story does feel a bit slight, but that’s only to be expected as the book needs space to set everything up. Well worth a read and the only thing that dates this (1964) is the fact that a silent film-star plays a major part in it. So turn off your mobile phone and join intelligent fat boy Jupiter, athletic Pete and bookishly shrewd Bob as they make their way through the mist into Terror Castle. The free use of a rental Rolls Royce comes in handy too, which really helps them get from A to B in their adventures. This first one is not the best but it was the template for a wonderful series of stronger plots that followed. Recommended.

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Comments

  1. Brilliant review. Thanks for the reminder about The Three Investigators – they’re fantastic books, I haven’t read them in yonks (def enjoyed them as a kid)!

    Like

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