this is the 109th in my series of forgotten or seldom read books
The Chinese Parrot by Biggers, Earl Derr © 1926, this copy: Bantam Books mass market paperback, mystery, 2nd Charlie Chan
I decided to read (or re-read in some cases) the Chan books after mention of one of them in a comment to this blog by J.F. Norris of the Pretty Sinister Books website. I’d read The House Without A Key a few years back, so it was time for this one, which I hadn’t read before.
A woman whose son has run through most of the family money decides she must sell a highly valued string of pearls, and asks a prominent San Francisco jeweler to broker the deal. The sale is made to millionaire J.P. Madden, and he asks that the pearls be delivered to him in New York. Then a phone call changes the delivery location to the millionaire’s ranch in the California desert. Chan, an old family friend of the seller, has brought the pearls from Hawaii, and now accompanies the jeweler’s son to the desert location to deliver the pearls and collect the money for them.
Fearing foul play and an attempted robbery attempt, Chan masquerades as a pidgin-speaking cook named Ah Kim and works underground to solve the murder of a mysterious man and a Chinese speaking parrot.
There is a lot more going on than it first seems, and the pearls are withheld until Chan feels it’s the right time to deliver them. Meantime the jeweler’s son makes friends with the local newspaper publisher and a beautiful young woman in the area to scout movie locations.
This one features the usual clever Chan insights, a raft of interesting characters, several puzzles and a satisfying, if not completely surprising, ending. I enjoyed it. During my reading of the book I had a lot of distractions and read it in fits and starts, which caused me to feel I was plodding through. Reading a book one or two pages at a time will do that. However I read the final third of the book straight through and that was much better. The book isn’t as dated as might be expected, especially, as J.F. Norris mentioned, the motion picture aspects. If you haven’t read this one or are just in the mood for some real Charlie Chan (as opposed to the films) try this.