Thursday, June 20, 2024

The Dragon Boat Mystery

 The Dragon Boat Mystery (1943) by John Bechtel

Doreen Matthews, Mary Chan, and their group of friends are visiting Mr. Chan's Golden Dragon Curio Shop. They are discussing the upcoming Dragon Boat Festival, an event where they plan to hand out tracts and copies of the Gospel. They ask Mr. Chan for details about the Festival--especially details about what a dragon boat looks like. To give the girls an idea, he takes them to the back of his shop to show them a replica and when a rat startles Mary the boat is dropped--revealing a hidden message. And when the message is translated from Chinese, it indicates that there is a treasure waiting for the one who will diligently seek it. 

 The boat originated in Ng-chow (Wuchow), city on the river where the festival runs, and the group decide to take their tracts there and then when the festival is over they will hunt for more clues to the hidden treasure. Along the way, they will run into an unscrupulous rival antique dealer as well as a notorious pirate named Scarface. The girls and their parents face danger and are imprisoned in the secret hiding place, but their faith never wavers and they're sure that good will triumph and the treasure will belong to its rightful owner.

John Bechtel, an American missionary, developed the plot of this mystery for young people while he was interned in a Japanese concentration camp at Stanley, Hongkong, China. Later, when he was repatriated to the United States, he wrote the book as part of his recuperation process. Given his missionary roots, the book is steeped in Christian themes--focusing on a group of Christian girls, their parents, and the Chinese girls they have shared their faith with. Bechtel uses these particular characters to spread the Good News while telling a mystery/adventure that will keep kids interested. It's a fairly simple mystery for adults and, keeping the time of writing in mind, there are stereotypes that wouldn't go down well today--despite the author's best efforts at keeping a respectful attitude. A pleasant story on the whole, particular for those who share the religious viewpoint.★★

First line: Doreen gave a mighty tug, extracted a copy of The Hongkong Evening Star from the pocket of her school jacket, deliberately unfolded it, and read: "These men were drowned and a number of others were seriously injured Wednesday afternoon, when, during a practice contest, a dragon boat was overturned in a swirling whirlpool caused by the rapid, swollen waters at the juncture of the Cassia and West Rivers.

Last line: "Of all the treasure we found in haunted house, most valuable treasure were two Precious Jewels--Mr. Sin and Mr. Pan."

Deaths = one drowned

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