Sunday 21 March 2010

The Black Camel. 1929. Earl Derr Biggers.
Academy Chicago Publishers. ISBN: 9780897335850

Just finished the fourth of Earl Derr Biggers six Charlie Chan novels.

Like the first three in the series, the words sparkle with a level of wit I would best associate with 1930s Hollywood screwball comedies. Like most pulps, these are quick and easy reads but these ones are so well written the words just sing themselves off the page.

Unlike the first three, this one eschews the global locations of the earlier novels and places Charlie firmly in his own locale for once. The island of Honolulu where he lives with his wife and eleven children on Punchbowl Hill serves as a sleepier and lazier backdrop for the murderous shenanigans which make up the plot of this novel.

The only slight dampener in the whole affair is the fact that I remembered whether one of the prime suspects in this whodunnit, did or didn’t do it, because I remembered how it ended when Bela Lugosi played a particular character in the 1931 movie version of the same name. In fact the excellent cover to this edition, and the covers of all these Academy Chicago editions are superb, seems to be based on a publicity shot of Bela Lugosi playing the role of Tarneverro the Great from the movie version.

This one is definitely recommended reading for anyone who likes recurring fictional characters to sink their teeth into.

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