This is the third book about the Carson Street Detective Agency, the creation of teenagers Neil and Swede housed in the loft over Neil’s garage in their small central New Jersey town. Sadly, all these fine books are long out of print and hard to find, they deserve new printings. The first book, “The Mystery of Burnt Hill” is impossible to find at any price, the others are out there on the used book market, but pricey.
This time, Neil has a pet crow, Hector, who is entertaining in his own right, and becomes a crucial element of the story when he steals a valuable chess piece belonging to a new friend of Neil and Swede, the ornery Captain Wudge, who is a collector of rare chess sets and an authority on them. Neil and Swede are fascinated by his collection, and convince the Captain to exhibit some of his sets at the town library. That’s when Hector steals the castle, and Neil and Swede must try to track down his hiding place and retrieve it before the Captain finds out it’s missing. Their detecting skills are no match for the crow. Another chess expert is also very interested in this set for a different reason. He believes its history includes the hiding of a valuable ruby in one of the set’s castles, and he and his somewhat inept henchmen capture Neil and Swede to try to get at the missing castle, which might hold the ruby. There’s plenty of action and thrills as this villain, the Captain, the henchmen, and the two clever boys all try to find where Hector has hidden the chess piece, and who will get there first?
As always, Robertson’s books are believable and exciting while including a good dose of humor and intriguing information. The human characters are appealing, even if the crow does steal the spotlight. Highly recommended if you can find it, check local libraries.