Yesterday I was at a very special event. An event which, I guess, is very difficult to explain for non-fans, but I’ll try.
Once upon a time, there was an American children’s book series called “The Three Investigators”. It was reasonably successful and consisted of 46 books, in which three young boys solved mysteries. But that wasn’t seen as “cool” enough any longer. So the publisher decided to age the protagonists for a follow up series called “The Crimebusters”. Now teens the three investigators got more dangerous (but also less complex) cases. It didn’t work, the series was ended, end of story.
Well, not really. You see, said series was very popular in Germany. Partly because the German versions had really cool covers, but also because parallel to the book series, you could buy the stories as radio plays on tape. Back then, a lot of children owned a tape player, and kept hearing those plays – and everyone had The Three Investigators. So when the series ended in the US, the German publisher decided to hire German writers and the series was continued. And continued. The readers and hearer became older, a lot of them gave up on tapes and children’s books, but not on The Three Investigators. Partly because the series never really changed that much. German writers (sometimes fans themselves) added elements from the original series in the stories, repairing the damage the crime buster series did. The voice actors of the boys stayed the same. It’s like the series just grew up with the fans, but still has the element of nostalgia which is difficult to resist.
Now, 34 years after the first radio play was published, the number of books is going towards 200, and the voice actors went on tour for the third time. Meaning, they go in front of a giant audience of fans and perform. Who would have thought back then that this would one day happen? As always it was a big event.
But why do I tell you that? Well, while I was waiting in the rain for more than an hour in order to get a decent seat, and then on my seat for two hours for the show to start, I kept thinking that this series was, though I didn’t know it back then, my first contact with Sherlock Holmes. Those who know the “classic” three investigator series might know what I am talking about. Looking back on it now, it is obvious where the original creator of the series, Robert Arthur, got his inspiration. Let’s summon it up:
There are three boys. Jupiter is the “Thinker” of the group, which does remind me of a certain other guy with an odd name. Like Sherlock Holmes he likes to experiment, and is tinkering with all kinds of stuff he finds on the junkyard of his aunt and uncle. Unlike Holmes he isn’t physically fit though, that is the “job” so to speak of Peter, the second one in the group. The third is Bob, responsible for research and archive. Or you could say he is Watson, the guy who writes down all the cases. When in danger, they tend to leave question marks written in chalk as messages for the others, because nobody, especially no adult would think much of some scribbles on a wall – a concept straight from the dancing man. There are also two cases which are nods to “The Six Napoleons”, a testament riddle which reminds me a little bit of “The Musgrave Ritual”, another case in which the fact that a dog didn’t react is an important clue (complete with nod to the original Sherlock Holmes case), and various quotes from the Sherlock Holmes stories. In short, the series is basically Sherlock Holmes for children. In the English original series, every case was even named “The Secret of” to mirror “The Adventure of….”.
It was more or less the first children books series I read, and it ruined me for pretty much all the others. The cases were often very complex, making the books way more challenging than other series of this kind in which one is usually able to identify the villain immediately because, well, he acts and looks like one. So even though I wasn’t aware of it, this series was the very beginning of me being a Sherlock Holmes fan. And I admit – even though there are still really good books in the series, it’s the classics I still like the most.