Keeper of the Keys. 1932. Earl Derr Biggers.
Academy Chicago Publishers. ISBN: 9780897335959
Keeper of the Keys is the sixth and final of Earl Derr Biggers novels featuring his most cherished character.
It states, quite boldly on the cover, “a CHARLIE CHAN mystery”... but perhaps the biggest mystery of all about this particular novel is why, out of around 50 Charlie Chan movies made, none of them have ever been based on this last novel. I can’t fathom why not because after having read it, it’s a pretty good one and would have made a good contribution to the Warner Oland movies. Perhaps its time as a very short lived stage adaptation deterred Hollywood from having a go at this one? Although it’s formulaic qualities should have been enough to bring it under consideration I would have thought. Or perhaps the rights usage for the stage play added an unnecessary complication when the writing on the film series was obviously good enough to warrant that the adaptation of this final chapter was not worth bothering with.
Either way, the book is excellent in it’s own right and has some nice considerations for the general Charlie Chan fan. In this novel he swaps the heat and malaise of Honolulu for the snow covered pines of Lake Tahoe and much is made, all through the book, that this is Chan’s first sight of snow and his enjoyment and satisfaction of his own exposure to such an atmosphere is celebrated by this character at every opportunity. For example, this is the first time that the character has had the pleasure of finding the clue of footprints in the snow and much is made of this.
Like a good giallo, there is more than enough credible suspects in this novel for the reader to accurately guess (or frankly have any idea of) the identity of the murderer... at the denouement I was trying to remember which character had actually done it from the name given and I had to backtrack a little to remind me of that character’s place in the narrative.
As usual the book is peppered with optimistic Chanisms and I shall leave you with a direct quote from the great man himself from this novel...
“Three things the wise man does not do. He does not plow the sky. He does not paint pictures on the water. And he does not argue with a woman.”