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The Chinese Parrot A Charlie Chan Mystery [Paperback]

Earl Derr Biggers

RRP: 19.95
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The Chinese Parrot A Charlie Chan Mystery + The House Without a Key (Charlie Chan Mysteries)
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Published in 1926. The character of Charlie Chan was based in part on the experiences of two Chinese detectives, Chang Apana and Lee Fook, who Biggers had read about in a Honolulu newspaper while on vacation. Biggers wrote six Charlie Chan mysteries. "The Chinese Parrot" is the second book in the series and begins: Alexander Eden stepped from the misty street into the great, marble-pillared room where the firm of Meek and Eden offered its wares. Immediately, behind showcases gorgeous with precious stones or bright with silver, platinum and gold, forty resplendent clerks stood at attention. Their morning coats were impeccable, lacking the slightest suspicion of a wrinkle, and in the left lapel of each was a pink carnation, as fresh and perfect as though it had grown there.

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Amazon.com: 4.6 out of 5 stars  31 reviews
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Derring-Do in the Desert 10 Dec 2008
By Jeannie Mancini - Published on Amazon.com
In the dry desert region of Southern California, Bob Eden, the son of a famous San Francisco Jeweler, travels to the dusty town of Eldorado accompanying Earl Derr Biggers famous Chinese sleuth, Charlie Chan. Charlie and Bob are to travel to the desert to hand deliver an expensive string of pearls to a wealthy millionaire named P.J. Madden. As the author slowly introduces a large host of interesting and shady characters, Bob and Charlie begin to suspect foul play and that something is seriously amiss on Madden's ranch. With those gut feelings they decide to hold off delivering the goods. Charlie goes undercover posing as the ranch Cook, and Bob continually invents many creative ways to stall the millionaire so he doesn't have to give over the necklace until the detective and himself try and uncover more information. This story has many levels of convoluted plots to keep the reader always guessing. The story really kept me going and wondering at every turn just who the culprit could be and why. The very surprising ending upped my four star review to a five!

The character of Charlie Chan that Biggers created is one that you just can't help fall in love with. His manner of having the patience of ten saints that most others find frustrating, and his unusual concoction of backward English grammar and Confucius like phrases, will often put a smile on the reader's face.

Written in the simple and melodramatic style of the 1920's, this second Charlie Chan mystery still holds up to today's standards as a very engaging and enjoyable crime novel. With a lighthearted pen, humor, romance, action and adventure to blend with murder and mischief, The Chinese Parrot is a delightful mystery that would be enjoyed by all.

This is the second Charlie Chan mystery in the series, and also the second I've read. The only thing I might warn others about if they know nothing of the character is that Charlie Chan is not the lead in these books. He plays a rather second-fiddle in solving the mystery and is a helping hand in the background to seeking out clues. There are other key players in the books that solve the crime WITH Charlie, and not a case of Charlie Chan investigating solo. Once the reader realizes this is the case and goes with the flow, it becomes unimportant that he is not always the hero of the day. In fact, I think I like this formula a lot because it IS such a different approach for a lead character series and just adds more to the lure and charisma of the books. I am told by the publisher of these great new trade paperbacks that the next two stories will be released in the Spring of 2009 and I for one can't wait!
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Something's not right at the Madden ranch 29 May 2009
By Patto - Published on Amazon.com
Charlie Chan, being sensitive as a camera, can feel it. He's carrying next to his stomach a string of pearls worth $300,000, but he can't bring himself to hand them over to the buyer, the fabulously rich P.J. Madden.

His partner in the delivery is a young man named Bob Eden, the inexperienced but likeable son of the jeweler who's handling the deal for an old friend. Charlie and Bob have been instructed to deliver the pearls to Madden at his ranch deep in the California desert.

Just to check things out, Charlie poses as a job seeker and gets hired by Madden to do the cooking. Meanwhile he and young Bob secretly try to make sense of the nervous secretary, the disappearing daughter, the missing gun - and a parrot that suddenly screams, "Help! Help! Murder!"

And there's a love story to sweeten the mystery, as Bob pursues a young woman who's scouting locations for the movies.

Published in 1926, this is the second Charlie Chan mystery and I, for one, want more.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Romance and Mystery in the Purple Desert 24 April 2010
By Bobby Underwood - Published on Amazon.com
"Trifles sometimes blossom big. Detective business consist of one unsignificant detail placed beside other of same. 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 that will take Earl Derr Biggers' Honolulu detective from the exciting San Francisco of the 1920's to the purple desert. As in the first Charlie Chan novel, The House Without a Key, Biggers wrote a wonderful mystery and romance in which Charlie was an integral element yet most decidedly not the focus. Beginning with Behind That Curtain, Charlie would be more at the forefront with the romantic style of Biggers used to frame the mystery rather than the other way around. While they are wonderful, I must confess a special affection for the first two Charlie Chan novels featuring Charlie as the secondary lead. In The Chinese Parrot, it will be a 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.

San Francisco's Bob Eden has been a young man about town until his father brokers Sally Jordan's expensive string of pearls and he is sent to meet her former houseboy, Charlie Chan who is bringing them across the ocean on the President Pierce. From the moment he's shadowed at the dock, the young man without a care in the world finds himself in the greatest adventure of his life. He and Charlie will head to the desert to meet the buyer, famous and powerful businessman J.P. Madden. With Charlie posing as a Chinese cook, they decide to stall rather than part with the pearls after the words of a Chinese parrot indicate something terrible may have happened prior to their arrival, despite outward appearances to the contrary. Charlie is sure of their course when the parrot expires suspiciously, and has Eden hold off the insistent Madden long enough to investigate further. Harboring suspicions that a man has been murdered in this purple desert, the difficulty for Bob and Charlie rests in discovering who the victim was and who did the deed.

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 with help from Charlie Chan. Romance is found as well with Paula. She is a location scout for the movies and their romance is breezy and old-fashioned in that way of the 1920's and early 1930's. Biggers always had a fascination with the movies and it is interesting in The Chinese Parrot he has the murder weapon be a pistol given Madden by silent western star William S. Hart. A male secretary who has something on Madden, a gambling house, a dead man's clothes, and a second murder with a tangible body make up a complex and confusing mystery which has Charlie and Bob Eden stumped. Reporter Will Holley becomes an ally but just when they think they know who was killed at the ranch, and why, their theory is turned upside down and there seems to be no course of action but to hand over the pearls.

The exciting twist which follows, augmented by the only trick Charlie was ever to learn from the Japanese, make for a fine and surprising end to all the intrigue and mystery in the desert. The epilog with Charlie advising Bob Eden and young Paula has a romantic aspect readers could always expect from Earl Derr Biggers. It is a blend of romance and mystery perfected by the former Boston theatre critic no modern writer has ever come close to attaining. The Chinese Parrot is a delightful mix of fun for mystery fans.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sharp and witty, even better than the first book in the series 10 Nov 2009
By C. Ebeling - Published on Amazon.com
The first Charlie Chan mystery novel was such a delightful surprise, I wasn't sure I wanted to read the subsequent books and be let down by what often happens in series, a reliance on the first to do all the interesting stuff. Also, the brief description advertises that in The Chinese Parrot, the second book, Charlie Chan ends up in the California desert, far from his beat in Honolulu--going off a setting with which a character is highly identified and who in turn defines that setting is always risky. However, I'm glad I went on to read The Chinese Parrot because it expands on all the strengths of the first, The House Without A Key.

Biggers is a terrific writer. Although some of the characters are stock, most are shrewdly drawn. He evokes settings in a way that underscores the human preoccupations and society of his time. The books, published in the 1920s, are as much documentation of the era as Huxley or Fitzgerald's classic novels. In the Chinese Parrot, a visit to a ranch in the southern California desert reveals a lot about an America that has catapulted from the late Victorian era, through a World War and into the Jazz Age: the iconic self-made man, the racial bigotry of the age, the dreams of turning real estate into shining cities--or subdivisions, self-possessed professional women, and the sense of purposelessness plaguing young men. The book reveals how comparatively new technologies like radio and movie making shape modern life and yet the past asserts itself in unpredictable ways. Biggers uses setting to great effect. He captures the streets of San Francisco at night as evocatively as Dashiell Hammett did some years later, and his portrayal of the timeless desert is atmospheric and knowing.

The wit and irony run rich in this book. Charlie Chan goes undercover as a white man's idea of an Asian houseboy. His innate patience wins out over his dislike of affecting pidgin English and subservience to an arrogant man. He is as much a successful self-made man as the white financier.
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars CHARLIE CHAN CARRIES ON... 27 Dec 2005
By Lawyeraau - Published on Amazon.com
In this, the second of the six Charlie Chan books that the author wrote, the enigmatic Detective Chan of the Honolulu police, undertakes a special mission for Honolulu heiress, Sally Jordan, now down on her luck. Ms. Jordan has just sold a string of valuable heirloom pearls through the venerable firm of an old friend, Alexander Eden. She entrusts Detective Chan, along with Mr. Eden's son, Bob, to deliver the pearls to its new owner, millionaire businessman, P. J. Madden, who has bought the pearls for his daughter, Evelyn. Along the way, things do not appear to be what they seem, so delivery is delayed and another mystery is thrust upon Detective Chan.

This is not one of the best of the Charlie Chan mysteries, but it is, nonetheless, still enjoyable. The problem with the book is simply that those hungry for Charlie Chan will find that in this book he plays more of a secondary role. The focus tends to be more on Bob Eden, who is busy doing some investigating himself, as well as falling in love with the lovely Paula Wendell, a location finder for the film industry. There is also a murder to be solved, but the question is whose?

This book was written in 1926, so the reader should keep in mind the historical context out of which it arose. Some of it is a little anachronistic, as well as politically incorrect, reflecting the social mores and customs of a bygone era. While fans of Charlie Chan may be disappointed at his somewhat secondary role in this book, they will still find it worth reading, as Charlie Chan is one of the best fictional detectives ever created.
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