The Mystery of the Stuttering Parrot - Robert Arthur

The Three Investigators (#2)

22nd July 2014

My one unfulfilled childhood dream was to be a real detective or private investigator.  The closest I got was investigating some ultra-minor crimes in my area, as well as looking for some missing pets, dressed in my trench-coat and dark glasses, to no success whatsoever!

So it goes without saying that I have always loved reading crime/mystery books, of which my all-time favourite series is The Three Investigators mysteries.  Sure, the Hardy Boys were more popular at my school, but then I have always favoured brains over brawn.  This book is actually the second of a long-running series featuring The Three Investigators, and it is also one of the best pure mysteries they encounter in my opinion.

For the uninitiated, the boys who make up The Three Investigators are: Jupiter Jones, first investigator; Pete Crenshaw, second investigator; Bob Andrews, records and research.  They operate out of a salvage yard owned by Jupiter’s aunt and uncle, in the fictional town of Rocky Beach, California.  Their HQ is inside an old caravan/trailer now surrounded by junk and kitted out with all their investigative needs such as a telephone, filing cabinets for cases and a dark room.

The boys are hired by the famed film director Alfred Hitchcock to locate his friend’s missing parrot.  Hitchcock appeared in the first book when the boys solved the Secret of Terror Castle, and now respects the abilities of the boys after a difficult start to their relationship.  It transpires that the missing parrot was actually one of seven birds, who were all trained by their deceased owner Jim Silver to repeat a specific message. 

All 7 birds are named after classic literary characters, such as Sherlock Holmes and Blackbeard, and their message seem innocent enough at first, especially as they seem to tie in with their name.  For example Robin Hood’s message is “I shot an arrow as a test, a hundred paces shot it west”.  However the messages when put together in the right order, may be the clue to the hiding place of a valuable item, which is sought by a number of dangerous individuals. 

The fact that the birds have all been sold really complicates the mystery.   We follow the boys as they hotfoot it around the Rocky Beach and Hollywood areas, piecing the clues together and trying to locate the missing birds, while also staying one step ahead of the crooks who include the famous art-thief (and re-appearing character in the series) Hugenay.

It is in this book that the characters of Bob and Pete really step out of Jupiter’s admittedly large shadow, and we get a head-scratcher of a riddle which requires a lot of investigation and research to solve, as well as some instinct in the face of danger.  The limitations of being a kid and trying to solve crimes is still relevant, for example not being able to drive themselves anywhere, as well as adults always doubting the ability of the trio.  The age-old satisfaction of triumphing over someone older or apparently more experienced, is a theme prevalent throughout the series.

I have read all of The Three Investigators mysteries, enjoying them all, but this one along with 4-5 others are a class above the others in terms of the mystery at hand.  It was only in adulthood I finally completed and read the complete collection of the series, through exhaustive trawls of second-hand book stores and internet sites, as well as having the means to get those last few rare books. 

Each book now only takes me about an hour to read (I’m a fast reader) but it is a magical way to spend an hour, transporting me back to my childhood again.  I still picture the salvage yard in my head when I read the books, transposing the image onto a place special to me in my own hometown, and imagine myself entering the investigators HQ and assisting them on a case. 

Maybe I could have used their help with my own “cases” in my short PI career….

Rating: 5/5 stars


For further reading, I recommend:

  • The Mystery of the Fiery Eye (#7)
  • The Mystery of the Dead Man’s Riddle (#22)
  • The Mystery of the Talking Skull (#11)
  • The Mystery of the Screaming Clock (#9)

About the author:

Robert A. Arthur, Jr. (1909-1969) was an American mystery and speculative fiction writer best known for The Mysterious Traveler radio series, and his Three Investigators series of novels.

Between 1930 and 1940, his stories were also published in Amazing Stories, Black Mask, Collier's, Detective Fiction Weekly, Detective Tales, Double Detective, The Illustrated Detective Magazine, The Phantom Detective, The Shadow, Startling Stories, Street & Smith Mystery Reader, Street & Smith's Detective Story Magazine, Thrilling Detective, Unknown Worlds and Wonder Stories.