Wednesday, 10 November 2010

The Secret Of The Crooked Cat

A superb entry in the series, this has a deceptively simple plot but works in some really good set pieces, detection and intrigue along the way. The lads are in the right place at the right time to witness a dispute at a local carnival and things quickly escalate from there - bad luck, a human fly, a robbery, this has it all. There’s an underlying pathos to it - similar to the freeways in “Talking Skull” - about the waning carnival life and people wanting something for nothing and, coupled with some great imagery - the human fly, the rotting fairground - elevates this into something quite special. This also marks the introduction of the tracking devices and features several characters saying “The Jones Salvage Yard has everything!”, which I thought was cool. Highly recommended.

In addition to being one of my favourites, this also has the distinction that each piece of artwork is completely different, focussing on a fresh set piece each time. The 1973 edition is on the left, the 1983 version on the right. I love the 1983 editions (did I already mention that?), so it gets my vote as the best.


  1. While MV Carey loved fake countries and paranormal phenomena, William Arden loved very detailed descriptions of the countryside and crooks in rubber masks. In Moaning Cave the mask was obviously a fake from the start, but here the crook gets away with it for nearly the whole story. Quite funny.

  2. One of my favourites this, I loved the whole carnival atmosphere.

  3. I reread Crooked Cat yesterday for the first time in years and years and had mixed feelings about it. The carnival and carnival atmosphere in general were fun and it was nice to see Pete getting a chance to put his physical prowess to good use when he and Jupiter are cast adrift on the old boat and he has to get them home again. But the plot in general was weak and so was the bad guy. When you think back to Huganay, Laslo Schmidt, Professor Freeman, Rawley and the Black Moustache Gang, you realize that these were crooks that really made an impression on the reader. But in this case, the red herrings are more fun than the crook himself. Worst of all, once again we see William Arden and his penchant for rubber masks. This time it’s a clown who wears his make-up on top of a rubber mask! The solution to the mystery is pretty weak too, and the ending could have been lifted right out of Scooby Doo, with the mask being pulled off and the clown complaining about “those stupid kids”. It wouldn’t have surprised me if he had said “meddling kids”. And, of course, he said it “with a snarl”! In this book, Jupiter is at his pushiest and haughtiest, making giant leaps of logic and overindulging in his flair for the dramatic. However, he also adds a new gadget to the firm, the famous directional finder. All in all, not a bad story by William Arden, but also a bit disappointing. I would say that the lack of a really strong and memorable villain put a damper on this one.