Book #22 – A book from your childhood – The Secret of Terror Castle by Robert Arthur (Alfred Hitchcock and The Three Investigators #1)
Genre: Young Adult/Mystery/Suspense/Adventure
Confession: Until a couple of years ago, I used to think that The Three Investigators’ series was actually written by Mr. Alfred Hitchcock himself. My mistake was justified since the couple of books that I possess from this series have the name Alfred Hitchcock on the cover (they don’t even say Alfred Hitchcock and The Three Investigators as it is named), and all the books of course have introductions by him as well. However, I just found out from Wikipedia that the actual author Robert Arthur used the famous director’s name as one of the main supporting characters in the series’ to draw attention to his books. I was also under the impression that the protagonists were at least 16 or 17 years old when in fact they were about 13 or 14. So many revelations!
The Secret of Terror Castle is the very first book in the original series of 43 books which was published from 1964 – 1987. In this exciting debut of the three investigators, we are introduced to three young teenage boys who live in Rocky Beach, a few kilometers away from Hollywood. Jupiter “Jupe” Jones who is the ‘stocky’ (read: chubby) main brains of the group, Peter “Pete” Crenshaw who is the most athletic and Robert “Bob” Andrews, is the nerdy, studious one in charge of records and research. Their business cards say that they “investigate anything”.
Using initiative, ingenuity and his superbly crafted grey cells, Jupiter secures their very first case as investigators from Mr. Hitchcock himself. The three are employed or rather ‘reluctantly permitted’ to find an authentic haunted house for Mr. Hitchcock’s next film. In return, Jupiter asks Mr. Hitchcock to introduce their very first case should they be successful in solving it (aah, that cleared up my earlier misunderstanding). Mr. Hitchcock is not happy dealing with the three boys but agrees to do it to get them out of his….errrr…hair, whatever little he has of it.
Even though Pete and Bob are not keen to mingle around with ghosts, they are duty-bound by Jupiter whose curiosity and the thrill of a challenge gets the better of him. And so the three set out to investigate a haunted castle which Jupiter has found, aptly known as Terror Castle. The castle, which was owned by a silent movie actor Stephen Terrill, now deceased has been abandoned for several decades and whoever has tried to inhabit it since then, has been driven away in sheer terror by various freaky paranormal incidents. It is up to the three to find out if it is in fact a real haunted castle or not.
Now, I have loved The Three Investigators since my early teenage years so I was quite eager to revisit this series because somehow I had never read the first book which started it all. There’s a right mix of excitement, suspense, thrill, fear, adventure and Jupiter’s cheekiness and intelligence to make it a good young adult mystery of the 60’s. The main supporting characters are all well etched – Mr. and Mrs. Titus Jones, Jupiter’s aunt and uncle who are owners of a salvage yard, Worthington, who is the proper, polite British chauffeur of a Rolls Royce that Jupiter has won the use of and of course Mr. Hitchcock who needs no introductions.
As a lover of secret hidey-holes like sheds, tree-houses, islands and caves as mentioned in The Famous Five, The Secret Seven and The Five Find-Outers, I have obviously loved the Headquarters of The Three Investigators as well. I mean, who wouldn’t want to have an office made up of a rusty old trailer fully equipped with a printing press, a telephone, speaker system, microphone and accessible via more than one secret entrance which no normal person can find? It was always a childish fantasy of mine to have a little private cubbyhole or nook where I could hold my own meetings and plan adventures.
Why should you read this book? Because it’s short, it’s snappy, there’s lots of thrill and excitement to keep you satisfied and it’s reminiscent of a much simpler time devoid of mobile phones, laptops and other modern technology. If your childhood memories were filled with Enid Blyton, Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys, you’ll definitely love this one. If not, you should still give it a go.
Book Rating: 4 stars out of 5