Then with sudden dazzle, light begins to dawn." -- Charlie Chan to Bob Eden Charlie's first trip to the Mainland is a sparkling adventure full of mystery and old-fashioned romance. As in the first Charlie Chan novel, The House Without a Key, Biggers writes a mystery and romance in which Charlie plays an integral part while not being the main focus. In The Chinese Parrot, it will be young Bob Eden who works hand-in-hand with our favorite Hawaiian detective from China, finding adventure and romance in one of Charlie's most perplexing cases. Just as John Quincy was at the heart of the action in The House Without a Key, so Bob Eden finds adventure and mystery far from home.
Why did writer Earl Derr Biggers have to die in 1933 with only 6 Chan mystery stories under his belt? A smart, witty and engrossing murder mystery that takes the reader to the 1920's California desert and keeps them there interested for 270 pages.
The Chinese Parrot, published in 1926, was the second of Earl Derr Biggers Charlie Chan mysteries and was even more successful than its predecessor. Detective-Sergeant Charlie Chan of the Honolulu Police has been looking forward to visiting the mainland US for years. Another old friend of Sallys, Alexander Eden, is a successful jeweller in San Francisco. When Charlie Chan and Bob Eden agree to deliver the pearls to P. J. Maddens desert ranch just outside a town named Eldorado they spot further disquieting signs that all is not quite as it should be. There are colourful supporting characters and theres a love interest in the shape of Paula Wendell, a location spotter for the movies (the sleepy desert town of Eldorado is about to be invaded by a Hollywood film crew, a fact which will also have an unexpected bearing on the plot).
Millionaire Madden offers her a bargain price, but she is willing to take it.
So it's sort of horribly offensive that Biggers was trying to write this dynamic progressive Asian lead character and making up this fucking stupid way of talking WITHOUT SPEAKING TO AN ACTUAL FUCKING ASIAN OBVIOUSLY. (Actually I did have a Russian student who did this once, but he just did it to fuck with me.) Anyway, I don't know if stereotypes are real or our horrible ideas about Asian culture have somehow rubbed off on Asian college students trying to assimilate into Western culture or what, and none of it excuses Charlie Chan, who is a fucking detective from Honolulu and would seriously never talk about a lotus blossom. Just stupid and entitled and bosses Chan around and is trying to marry this woman the whole book and just sort of objectifies her and tries to protect her and leads every single one of their conversations through a series of microaggressions and again, it's interesting because Chan and Paula (the woman) are obviously, obviously way more interesting characters and they spend a lot of the book sort of leading Bob around by the nose and being smarter than him, but he's still the star of the book. The entire time I was reading this book I was, from the start, rewriting it as a movie directed by David Fincher, in which Charlie talked like a normal person and solved everything while leading Bob around by the nose, Charlie sort of maintaining the wall between himself and the audience, but as an act of careful planning rather than Othering. As I'm typing I'm getting another idea about Charlie and Paula as the main characters while Bob just fucks around in the background. Racism is so obvious it's boring, this book was written 100 years ago and less has changed than hasn't changed, that's the mystery, that's your zen koan, that the lotus blossom, someone call me Honolulu, someone hook me up with Charlie Chan.
The Chinese Parrot (1926) is the second in Earl Derr Biggers's mystery series featuring Charlie Chan. The Charlie Chan stories were first serialized in The Saturday Evening Post. Charlie Chan, formerly a houseboy in the lady's home and now a detective with the Honolulu police, is asked to transport the pearls to San Francisco where he will join the jewler's son, Bob, for the journey to New York to deliver the pearls. It is decided that the two will travel separately and Chan will disguise himself as a man in need of work in order to get into Madden's home.
That happened to me in The Chinese Parrot by Earl Derr Biggers, the second in the Charlie Chan series.
Add to the mix a young lady who is a "front girl," whose job it is to find backgrounds for silent movies and who wants to use the villa for said backgrounds...also add a newspaperman who has an acute nose for sniffing out fishy and mysterious shenanigans....and more and more nefarious characters who had something to do with either the owner or his butler in their previous lives........add them altogether and you've got a really juicy mystery, despite the very dry and dusty environs of southeastern California. As with his previous book which took place in Hawaii, Earl Derr Biggers sets a perfect scene in an environment that is the antithesis of Hawaiian shores: that of the dry, dusty gulleys and desert landscapes dotted with cholla cactus that are scattered throughout the southwest. All of Biggers' characters are spot on in their portrayals, too: from the various shifty bums, who seem to get seedier and seedier as we meet each new one; the old and tired newspaperman who sets his own type in the tiny town of Eldorado and who wants to go back to New York City but knows the city is too fast for him these days; the young woman who enjoys her freedom and doesn't go out of her way to pour on the charm for Bob Eden, who isn't exactly looking for a girl but who can't keeps his eyes off of her; and, of course, the two personas which Charlie Chan must present, which are lowly cook and his Detective-Sergeant of the Honolulu Police Department. The more I read Biggers' Charlie Chan mysteries (I'm on my 4th as I type this), I find that his writing style is much the same in wit and atmosphere as are Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes adventures, despite the difference in locales.
Classic drawing room mystery. Charlie Chan has depth The third Earl Biggers mystery and his second Charlie Chan Novel Bottom Line: An honest who-done it, with more than enough clues for you to beat the detective to the solution. On advantage of reading the old classic mystery novels is that stock clichés had not yet become stock. Having previous read Charlie Chan #1, The House Without a Key: A Charlie Chan Mystery (Charlie Chan Mysteries)one is struck by Bigger's vastly increased sensitivity to the racist aspects of his Chinese hero. I read this in E book form and so quickly does it move I thought it to be about this length.
Quite a clever book, this second in the series of Charlie Chan mysteries. And that is where The Chinese Parrot fails to live up to the first book, The House Without a Key. Bob Eden is annoying.
But before arriving at the ranch of millionaire P.J. Madden, Charlie and Bob Eden (son of the jeweler who is sending the pearls) decide to delay the delivery of the pearls so they can investigate what seem like suspicious circumstances. But and this is the interesting part neither Charlie nor Bob Eden can figure out exactly what has occurred at the ranch.
I'll admit that if this had been the first book in the series, I wouldn't have rushed into reading the second one. In fact, it is what I would have expected in style from a mystery of this period.
It was at this time that he met Elanor Ladd, who would later become his wife and who would have a marked influence in his writing.