EARL DERR BIGGERS – Behind That Curtain. Charlie Chan #3. Bobbs-Merrill, hardcover, 1928. Reprinted many times in both hardcover and paperback. Films: Fox, 1929; Fox, 1932, as Charlie Chan’s Chance.

   This one  begins almost immediately after the previous book in the series ended (The Chinese Parrot, 1926). It finds Sergeant Chan of the Honolulu Police still in San Francisco after aiding the police there conclude a case they needed his assistance for. Charlie is anxious to get back home again, as he is about to become a father again – for the eleventh time.

   But as things happen in detective mysteries such as this one, fate conspires against him, and he finds himself caught up in helping solve the murder of a retired Scotland Yard detective at a dinner party at which both he and Charlie were honored guests. Although retired, as it turns out, the dead man was still working on a case he had never solved – that of a young married woman who had completely and mysteriously disappeared  after a picnic party in faraway India many years earlier.

   Was he closing in on a solution? Apparently so, and he had also apparently baited a trap for someone whose secret that person did not want revealed.

   There is no shortage of suspects, including a world famous explorer, any number of female characters,, one of whom may even be the missing woman, and of course, a butler whose past he has managed to keep hidden until now. That all of these people have connections with Sir Frederic’s case is amazing but not (as it turns out) purely coincidental.

   Working against a self-imposed deadline to return home, and confronted by a homicide detective who, quite naturally, resents any kind of assistance or other threat to his authority, Charlie works quietly and efficiently to bring all of the threads of the plot successfully together. Or at least so it appears: the plot is supremely complicated in a most exquisitely excellent fashion.

   Add in a female assistant district attorney, almost unheard  of at the time,  a bit of 1920s romance, and a charming Chinese detective who continually speaks in the way of all the actors who ever played him in the movies did, and what you get is a Grade A novel that’s been the most fun I’ve had all year in reading.


NOTE: Biggers wrote only six Charlie Chan novels before his relatively early death. Later on, two other authors have added two more to the total:

Charlie Chan Returns, by Dennis Lynds (1974)
Charlie Chan and the Curse of the Dragon Queen, by Michael Avallone (1981)

   I’ve owned both over the years, but have not read either. Has anyone?