The junior detective firm of The Three Investigators— Jupiter Jones (first investigator), Pete Crenshaw (second investigator) and Bob Andrews (records and research) receives two letters seeking their services. One is from a Mrs. Mildred Banfry, a friend of a previous client, seeking help in finding her lost Abyssinian cat.
The other is from Alfred Hitchcock, with whom the boys have formed an association, asking them to help his friend, Professor Robert Yarborough, determine how a 3,000-year-old mummy could possibly be whispering to him.
Pete is in favor of searching for the lost cat, but Jupe, who has the tendency to outvote his partners 1-2, decides that the Three Investigators’ time is better spent determining the reasons why Professor Yarborough— and only Professor Yarborough— should hear a mummy whisper.
Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators in The Whispering of the Whispering Mummy is the third book in the Three Investigators mystery series. Written in 1965 by series creator Robert Arthur, it was inspired by his wife, Joan Vaczek, who’d lived in Egypt from 1935-1940, according to a Three Investigators website run by Arthur’s daughter, Elizabeth.
Professor Yarborough has in his private museum the mummy of Ra-Orkon, which he’d discovered 25 years earlier. He wasn’t able to study it then because of other commitments, but now has the time and has arranged to have it delivered to his home so he can examine it in detail and perhaps learn who Ra-Orkon was. The last thing he expected was for the mummy to talk to him.
And it isn’t his imagination, because Jupe also heard the whispering when he disguised himself as the professor.
But there’s more to Ra-Orkon than his alleged postmortem murmuring, including a supposed curse. Professor Yarborough dismisses it out off hand, but something causes a statue of the jackal god Anubis to topple, almost striking him, a boulder rolls down a hill toward him and the boys and his butler is confronted by what appears to be Anubis in the flesh.
Shortly afterward, the mummy turns up missing. Was Ro-Orkon stolen or did he pull a Boris Karloff? The Three Investigators are determined to discover what’s become of him.
And Pete’s going to find out what happened to that cat.
One of the great things about the Three Investigators books is that Jupe, Pete and Bob were depicted as independent detectives, seeking out cases on their own or being actively recruited, rather than being associated with (and sometimes getting cases from) a famous adult detective.
They were also clever and inventive, especially Jupe. He lives with his aunt and uncle, who operate the Jones Salvage Yard, and he repairs and/or repurposes various items that come into the yard but can’t be sold. One of Jupe’s inventions debuts in this book and comes in handy over the course of the series. More on that in a bit.
Jupe, Pete and Bob are capable investigators, but they’re also ordinary boys who enjoy messing with each other.
Case in point: Jupe isn’t present when the two letters arrive at Headquarters, a mobile home trailer in the Jones Salvage Yard that’s cleverly hidden under piles of salvage and only accessible through a variety of secret passages. Bob and Pete conspire to show him the letter from Mrs. Banfry, get him interested in the search for the lost cat and then show him the letter from Hitchcock. They’ll then insist they can’t work on the second case until they’ve solved the first.
Which would suit Pete just fine.
They also use the See-All, a make-shift periscope Jupe devised to see outside of Headquarters, to check if Jupe has returned from his errand. Pete spots him walking his bike and he and Bob decide to impress Jupe with their “deduction” that he had a flat tire.
When Jupe arrives at Headquarters, he seems suitably impressed at their “deductions.”
“Very good,” he says. “Such ability should not be wasted in looking for a lost cat.”
Which leaves Pete and Bob utterly discombobulated.
All the more so when Jupe suggests his partners’ “advanced ability in the art of deductive reasoning and ratiocination” be used to go after bigger game, “such as the mystery of a 3,000-year-old mummy that whispers cryptic languages in an unknown language to its owner.”
How does he do it?
Mind reading, he claims.
In good time, Jupe explains his “trick”, which he suspects might also answer the question of the mummy’s ability to speak.
Except it doesn’t.
When Pete spied on Jupe with the See-All, he assumed Jupe was listening to a transistor radio as he walked back to the salvage yard. He wasn’t. Jupe had built some walkie-talkies (relative rarities in 1965), one of which he’d built into the loudspeaker attached to the phone in Headquarters. He’d heard everything Pete and Bob were saying.
Those walkie-talkies would come in very handy on multiple occasions.
Jupe’s logical conclusion was that someone had hidden a small radio receiving set in the mummy’s case in order to make Ra-Orkon appear to whisper. However, there’s nothing of the sort in the mummy’s case.
Yet something is creating the illusion that the mummy is whispering.
Unless of course a 3,000 year old Egyptian citizen actually discovered a way to speak from beyond the grave and chose to talk to just one man rather than, you know, holding a press conference.
But then maybe he’s shy.
It’s been years since I last read The Mystery of the Whispering Mummy, so I didn’t remember all the details. Turns out I was right about the character I pegged as the guilty party, but was wrong in thinking there was someone behind him (I was thinking of another book in the series in that regard).
And I’d completely forgotten the clever solution to the mystery of the mummy’s mumblings.
The Mystery of the Whispering Mummy is one of the best books in the Three Investigators series and an enjoyable read.
Copyright 2017 Patrick Keating.