Sunday, March 26, 2017

The Green Turtle Mystery

I read The Green Turtle Mystery (1944) by Ellery Queen, Jr. long ago and far away (while still in elementary school). I'm quite sure that I picked it out from the school library entirely based on the fact that I had been glued to the television every Sunday when the Ellery Queen series was on. I didn't know then (and it wouldn't have mattered to me, anyway) that Ellery Queen, Jr. was a house pseudonym and didn't really have much to do with the authors of the Ellery Queen novels--or the TV show, for that matter. 

When I found this lovely 1946 Comet digest edition of the book last year at Half Price Books, I decided I needed it--and that I would need to re-visit the story since I had very little recollection of it. This mystery, aimed at children, is really quite enjoyable. Djuna has been sent to the city to stay with Mrs. Silvernails, a friend of his guardian's, while Miss Annie recovers from an illness. While in the city, he makes friends with a newspaper boy named Benjamin Franklin and a reporter by the name of Socker Furlong. Socker is assigned to investigate a deserted house that is rumored to be haunted and to discover whether there's a newsworthy story to be told. Socker's main ambition in life is to do as little as possible in as leisurely a manner as possible and he asks the boys to just make sure the house really is deserted and then he'll just write up what he thinks he would have found because, after all, he "can write a much better story if I don't look at it."

But to their surprise, the boys discover that the house isn't empty. When they stop by there that evening, there are lights shining off and on all over the house. Djuna is brave enough to go right up to the door and knock--and it's opened by a frightened girl who tells him she lives there with her father and shuts the door in his face. The boys go and tell Socker, who is upset to find that his spectacular story won't be able to run and who insists on going to the house. It is now dark and no one answers the door. The girl and her father have disappeared. 

Ben's turtle Waterbury, who was with the boys on the first visit, also disappears into the house and the next time the boys go looking for him, they discover a Spanish-speaking parrot instead. But that's not the oddest thing going on in that house. Djuna will have a run-in with a man with a green feather in his hat, will meet a Secret Service agent, and he and Ben will narrowly escape being run down by a car before he manages to solve the mystery of the haunted house--and to help the Secret Service capture a couple of big-time crooks.

The mystery is pretty obvious--once all the elements are introduced--but all of the main characters from Djuna and Ben to Socker & his managing editor and the Secret Service Agent Sandy MacHatchet are engaging and well-drawn. Even Champ, Djuan's dog, who arrives mid-way through the story to help our heroes, has a distinct personality of his own. There is a great deal of gentle humor and a good atmosphere of thrilling adventure just right for young readers. ★★★★

[Finished on 3/19/17. Still playing catch-up.]
This fulfills the "green item" on the Golden Vintage Scavenger Hunt card.

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