Today I reread The Secret of Skeleton Island (by Robert Arthur), the sixth in the great series of YA detective stories involving The Three Investigators. They are the classic triumvirate of youthful boy detectives: the pudgy smart one (Jupiter Jones, “First Investigator”), the athletic one (Pete Crenshaw, “Second Investigator”), and the quieter booky one (Bob Andrews, “Records and Research”). I loved the series as a boy and I like to go back and reread one every now and then.
Here’s a tip: once you’ve read the first two or three to get the feel of the series, look for ones by William Arden, which was a pseudonym of Dennis Lynds, a very fine crime writer. He put things into his entries in the series that grown-up readers will notice and appreciate.
The first chapter is exciting: the boys fly from California to the east coast of the United States to join a film shoot (where Pete Crenshaw’s father is working) and investigate some mysterious circumstances at the suggestion of Alfred Hitchcock. They are picked up at the airport by someone who knows who they are, so they think it’s all right, but then he drives them to to a boat and takes them to an island—but not the island they were expecting to go to the next day—and abandons them there. They are stranded on a small island in the Atlantic, at night, in a storm! That’s a heck of a first chapter.
There are two nice pieces of wisdom in the book.
“One kid can generally tell when another kid is sneaky” [said Jupiter].
“Adults don’t like to listen to kids when their minds are made up,” Bob observed.
The cover of the paperback, at the top, is by Stephen Marchesi, and I don’t know who did the cover of the hardcover edition, just above. That’s Jupiter in front, then Pete, then Bob (the booky one, wearing glasses and a sweater vest) in the back.