Laura's New Favorite Book
You know you're in for a treat when the book you're reading begins as follows:
"How are you lads at Scuba diving?" Alfred Hitchcock asked.
So begins the saga of Alfred Hitchock and the Three Investigators in the Secret of Skeleton Island (Robert Arthur, Random House, NY, 1966). Like Nancy Drew, Bess Marvin and Georgy Fayne, or Frank and Joe Hardy (and sometimes Chet! (like how the set of vowels ends with "and sometimes Y!"?)), the three I's are chums who solve mysteries; unlike Nancy or Frank or Joe, they seem to have some bizarre connection to the famous 20th century director best known for such films of suspense and intrigue as Rear Window, Rope, Psycho, North by Northwest, The 39 Steps, Rebecca, Suspicion, Strangers on a Train, Notorious... I could name more, but you'd get sick of me.
The characters and their complex interpersonal relationships can best be described with a brief passage from page 17:
Bob felt Jupiter stiffen.
Ha ha! I kid. But it doesn't help that the only female characters in this book are a matronly lady who starts every sentence with the word "Lands" and a woman who died twenty-five years ago.
The popular belief was that Sally Farrington was doomed to haunt the island, waiting to finish her fatal ride on the merry-go-round.
Rather, to get to know the titular boys, I refer you to the note "from" Alred Hitchcock at the beginning of the book. The memo, which first warns you not to read if your "of a nervous nature," also goes on to differentiate the characters in plain English, so we don't have to worry about any of that nasty character development breaking up the action of the story:
"Jupiter Jones, the First Investigator, is the brains of the firm. Pete Crenshaw, the Second Investigator, is tall and muscular and excels at athletics. Bob Andrews, the most studious of the three, is in charge of Records and Research."
This seems like an imbalanced group already, two brains and one jock. To add insult to injury, I think the author got his character chart (fields: "Name" and "Only Trait") mixed up. Observe page 33, as Pete takes offense at something "Jupe" murmurs out loud:
"That remark," replied Pete sleepily, "does not reflect the sentiments of the rest of the Three Investigators!"
Anyone who can use such stilted language "sleepily" is not the jock. He's the brain. Deal with it.
So, they're just all the brain, which explains passages like this, after the boys encounter a talking skull:
"Skulls can't talk," he informed the aged death's head, "because to talk you need a tongue and larynx. Therefore logic tells me you did not speak."
Somehow, though, logic doesn't tell him that talking directly to the skull is probably not the most effective use of his tongue and larynx; after all, to hear you need a hammer and anvil, so logic... Aw, skip it.
(I was hoping that adventure would lead to Murray-the-talking-skull-from-Monkey-Island-Three-style antics, by the way, but unfortunately, it just turned out that the voice that seemed to be emanating from the skull actually belonged to a handsome and muscular Greek boy with a smooth tan almost as dark as his gleaming teeth are white.)
The story starts out with Alfred Hitchcock assigning the three boys to go to Skeleton Island under cover as actors in a short film about boys diving for pirate treasure, while really investigating a petty theft and mischievery mystery that's plaguing an entirely different film on the same island.
Interestingly, Hitchcock himself isn't involved in either film; he only shows up only at the very beginning and end to assign the boys on their mission, and then to listen to them crow about how they solved it and, in the last pargraph, to wonder to himself what kind of crazy adventure they'll get mixed up in next. I guess that's his traditional role in these stories, though I must shamefully admit that this is the first and only Alfred Hitchock / Three Investigators story I've ever had the pleasure of reading.
This seems like kind of a waste of a famous director. I mean, why write a story about a mystery on a film set, in which Alfred Hitchcock is a minor character, and not have him direct the feature or the feature they invented to cover up the fact that their are people investigating the first feature? I suppose both films are beneath him; the main picture, the production of which involves the resurrection of an abandoned amusement park on Skeleton Island, is called Chase Me Faster, a trashy title if I ever heard one. The other movie, the boys' cover, just sounds like a train wreck; after all, its success is dependent upon three hometown boys with neither acting experience nor desire to be in a film, and who are all likely to be distracted solving a goddamn mystery during shooting.
Somehow, even with both of those full-time tasks on the docket, the boys manage to do nothing but Scuba dive for lost pirate treasure which every adult on the island assures them doesn't exist. Of course, the adults are wrong, and when designated divers Bob and Pete show up with their handsome Greek boy toy and their shining Spanish doubloons, nobody seems to remember that they were supposed to be investigating/shooting a movie. Even Jupiter doesn't mind that a cold cheated him out of the treasure-hunt, not to mention shirtless time with the prettyboy, and that the biggest adventure he had was talking to a doctor on his lunch break. In fact, even in the climactic final scene, it's Bob and Pete that are tied up and Greekboy who comes rushing to their rescue in all his well-oiled deus ex glory; Jupiter's stuck sneezing in some rowboat somewhere. Poor Jupe always gets the shaft (or never, depending on whether he wanted it or not).
The Business Card
Nice cover, Jupe. I'm sure it's just a coincidence that your logo is ASCII.
ConclusionAlfred Hitchcock and The Three Investigators in The Secret of Skeleton Island is a wonderful book. If you like Alfred Hitchcock, three investigators, and a skeleton island, you will love Alfred Hitchcock and The Three Investigators in The Secret of Skeleton Island. Go to your library and beg the board of trustees to seek out a copy of Alfred Hitchcock and The Three Investigators in The Secret of Skeleton Island today!