Monday, November 8, 2010

Maddie and I agree: Jupiter Jones is our hero!

Some things in life are either black or white - no shades of gray in between. People feel so strongly about a particular choice that a middle ground ceases to exist and the issue becomes polarizing. They can't imagine anyone choosing the other side and fights have been known to break out. I've heard this in several different forms:

The Beatles or The Beach Boys?
Captain Kirk or Captain Picard?
Windows or Macintosh?
J. R. R. Tolkien or C. S. Lewis?
Edward or Jacob?
The Hardy Boys or The Three Investigators?

Okay, that last one was voiced by my good friend Jeff R. and he and I both agreed there was no question: The Three Investigators, hands down! In spite of the sad fact that the Hardy Boys are generally better known, I've heard from numerous people who agree with me that Joe and Frank were really boring - and how much better the Three Investigator's mysteries were. But for those who were deprived in their childhood, a little enlightenment may be in order.

Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators in the Secret of Terror CastleThe series began in 1964 by Robert Arthur and is about three boys around 13 or 14 years old who live in Rocky Beach, California (a fictional town near Los Angeles and Hollywood - maybe Malibu before it was overrun by wealthy celebrities?). When Jupiter, who lives with his aunt and uncle at the Jones Salvage Yard (Jupiter convinced them not to call it a "junk yard"), wins the use of a Rolls Royce with chauffeur for 30 days the boys start their own detective agency. Jupiter, heavyset and highly intelligent, is the leader, and his friends Pete Crenshaw and Bob Andrews are more or less reluctantly dragged into it.

Their first case is to find an authentic haunted house, and this is how they become connected with the famous movie director, Alfred Hitchcock. Although he doesn't solicit their help, he grudgingly agrees to let them try as he wants a real haunted house for his next movie. An old forgotten castle deep in the Hollywood hills built by a silent film star, Stephen Terrell, is reputed to be haunted and no one has been able to spend a night there since his untimely death many years earlier. "Terrell Castle" became known as "Terror Castle" and Jupiter thinks it is a good possibility.

Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators in the Mystery of the Stuttering ParrotI first read this book over 30 years ago when I was a kid and the series became a favorite of mine. I've since read them (or most of them) to the boys, and Maddie and I recently read The Secret of Terror Castle - and she LOVED it! The adventure and excitement are kept up throughout the story, and she frequently begged me to keep reading (even past bedtime) and would scoot in closer when it got scary. Now we just finished the second book, The Mystery of the Stuttering Parrot, which is just as exciting but with a truly puzzling mystery to solve added in.  It starts rather quietly with a request to find a missing parrot - a parrot that stutters!  But the case quickly goes from mundane to exciting, as they find that it involves 7 birds all taught to repeat a part of a riddle that leads to a treasure. And it soon becomes dangerous when they realize that others are interested in the whereabouts of the parrots and will stop at nothing to get them, including kidnapping.

Just a note, when Mr. Hitchcock died in 1980, the original books were republished with a fictional detective story writer named Hector Sebastian taking his place. I prefer the older versions, but it's hard enough to find copies of either books now and one can't be too picky. But it's a great series for kids who enjoy an intelligent mystery (in contrast to those Hardly boys).

(And for the record, the correct answers above are: the Beach Boys, Picard, Windows, Tolkien, and Jacob.)


  1. I'll have to get Jesse some of these the next time we are at the library. I've been looking for something interesting to get him away from diary of a wimpy kid!

  2. Yeah, I thought about Jesse when I wrote this. They're getting kinda scarce, so you might want to go online and see if they have it. You might have to get it through intra-library loan. But let us know what he thinks.