January, month of rebirth and self-recrimination. For every resolution to improve there must be some frank assessment of what debilitated you in the first place, and so the month can take on a curiously Jekyll-and-Hyde aspect for some. So my Tuesday posts for this month will be a mixture of what is good and bad in my reading, and where better to start than a celebration of the previous 12 months?
No discussion of children’s literature is complete without at least a passing reference to the 14,762 books Enid Blyton wrote in her career. Somehow I’d heard of this one and its implied impossible disappearance, and it seemed perfect for my Tuesday posts in November on precisely this type of book. Generally you know what to expect from Blyton — a poorly-dated whiff of imperialism, comfortable middle-class adventures, ginger beer — but prepare for a bit of a shock: the rigour of the detection in this is something to behold.
Tuesdays, themed posts, November = mysteries for younger readers, and Ellen Raskin was a name that appeared in the comments a little while ago promising riddles and word games and puzzles and all sorts of other joys…so what to make of this, her debut novel?
Each month I’m picking a topic or a theme for my Tuesday posts, and for November — inspired by my recent discovery of The Three Investigators, Robin Stevens, and the excellent Mystery & Mayhemcollection — it’s going to be detective novels for younger readers. I have what I hope will be four very different books lined up, starting with this impossible disappearance.
The following will discuss specific details of the plot of The Mystery of the Stuttering Parrot (1964), the second novel in the Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators series. I suppose you could consider such details spoilers. However, it’s a book with many flaws that I can’t believe the average reader of this blog would get much from, and the need to go into specifics is necessary in order to have a more interesting discussion. Nevertheless, I’d hate to drop spoilers on you without warning. Thus whether or not to continue reading is, as always, your choice.
The mere existence of The Guggenheim Mystery is almost a piece of mystery metafiction in itself: the title was discovered among Siobhan Dowd’s papers following her untimely death in 2007, implying its intention as the follow-up to her impossible disappearance novel for younger readers, The London Eye Mystery (2007)…but no more was known. It fell to Robin Stevens to puzzle out a plot from these waifish beginnings and so continue the adventures of Ted Spark, his sister Kat, and their cousin Salim. So here we are — a painting disappears from the eponymous art gallery, the police jump on the most likely suspect, and it falls to this intrepid trio to hunt out the truth, recover the painting, and save the day.
Immediately prior to interviewing Robin Stevens for The Men Who Explain Miracles, I discovered that she had written a short story for 2016 YA anthology Mystery & Mayhem. And then I discovered that the first three stories in the collection were impossible crimes and, well, you can guess what happened next…
My inability to walk past a secondhand bookshop without at least having a “quick glance inside” recently resulted in me purchasing a stack of the Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators titles, books I was aware of but have not previously read. So buying 22 of them in no way counts as a spontaneous over-commitment, oh no. Anyway, The Secret of Terror Castle is the first of the series and here are some thoughts on it.