Much like last week, the intention had been to bring you another episode of the Men Who Explain Miracles podcast today, but, well, it seems we won’t get to that this month. And so let us return to the world of Jupiter Jones, Pete Crenshaw, and Bob Andrews and another mystery requiring their attentions.
This time, we begin with the local display of the fabulously expensive Rainbow Jewels, of undetermined origin but nevertheless great cultural renown. And Jupe — Holmes-esque restless and distracted with no case to occupy him — is engaging in the thought experiment of how one might pilfer them:
“There are several guards always in the room with the jewels. A closed-circuit television set trained on the Rainbow Jewels is watched at all times from the main office. At night the room is criss-crossed by beams of invisible light. If anybody broke a beam, it would set off a loud alarm.
“In addition, the glass in the cases has fine wire worked into it, which also work the alarm system. If the glass if broken, the alarm goes off. It has its own special electric system so even if a big storm, for instance, knocked out all the power, the alarm would still work.”
“Nobody could steal those jewels!” Pete said positively.
So, yeah, someone steals them. Not Jupe, thankfully, though it does appear to be accomplished with the aid of someone from his Baby Fatso days: a distraction, lights out, glass casing smashed — the alarm does indeed work — and a bejeweled belt vanishes. We edge here into impossible disappearance territory, too, since everyone is detained while order is restored and then every single patron of the museum displaying the jewels is searched as they leave, but no-one has anything on them.
Don’t get too comfortable, however, since the boys them receive a phone call from Alfred Hitchcock (now a “famous motion picture director”, where before he was mentioned only as a producer) requesting that they pay a visit to his friend Agatha Agawam — a surname unfortunately bringing to mind Mrs. Doyle trying to force a cup of tea on an unsuspecting visitor — who is apparently being menaced in her home. By gnomes.
It’s fair to say that in this fifth book series creator Robert Arthur has started to embrace the loopiness that three intelligent and brave juvenile investigators sent on missions by Alfred Hitchcock can encompass. We saw flashes of it with The Mystery of the Stuttering Parrot (1964), but Arthur drew back from making that a truly inventive case, and The Mystery of the Green Ghost (1965) started well with its eponymous emerald spectre but then backed away from this far more interesting idea to focus on a bunch of grown men chasing pre-teens through the desert. Here, with the brand established, and perhaps with one eye on having to write quite a few of these and so looking to broaden the possibilities, we get gnomes turning cartwheels in the moonlight, a variety of simple-but-at-least-he’s-trying false solutions, and dialogue cranked up to Full Hoke:
“No-one digs anything at midnight. No-one except—”
“Gnomes!” Pete finished her sentence.