Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Chinese Parrot by Earl Derr Biggers

This is the first Charlie Chan book I've ever read.

I found it easy to read and surprisingly ahead of its time.  

It was ahead of its time (1926) in a civil rights way. The legal authorities look down upon the smartest man in the novel, Charlie Chan. They see him as a dumb oriental.  

When the criminals murder an oriental servant, the sheriff's department simply dismisses the murder because the man is of a different race.  Even more than that, he suspects Chan (who is disguised as another house servant) because (to paraphrase) orientals are known to kill each other.

On the back cover of the book, Rex Stout says, "I would put Charlie Chan among the ten best fictional detectives."

I don't know if I'd go that far, but who am I to argue with Rex Stout?  I see him as one of the geniuses of the genre.

When Chan solves the murder of a Chinese parrot who has witnessed a crime and then of the oriental house servant, Chan shows how smart and patient he is.  

Patience is his forte.  A wealthy woman who has come on hard times hires him to deliver a valuable string of pearls to an impatient buyer.  

When Chan does so, he comes upon a scheme to defraud the woman and the buyer of the pearls.  His patience and intelligence lead him to the truth.  

I have to admit.  I read this book for two reasons.  I thought I should read at least one classic Charlie Chan book before I part this earth.  And I liked the cover.  

I probably saw the cover on one of the blogs I look at which feature book covers.  

In any case, I found the story clearly written, readable, and worth the read.  I will probably read the other five Charlie Chan books.


Naomi Johnson said...

That is a stunningly beautiful cover. Is that the original?

Joe Barone said...

I don't think so. It is just a cover I saw on someone's blog and thought, "I'll read that book."

As I understand it, the Charlie Chan stories were originally published serially in Saturday Evening Post in the 1920's and perhaps beyond.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I've seen the movies but never read the books. Didn't even know there were books.

Joe Barone said...

I hate to tell you, but the books came first (actually, from what I've just learned, the Saturday Evening Post serials which then became books).

Reading the book was an education for me. It reminded me that back in the 1920's the radio and magazines like Saturday Evening Post were the entertainment, probably especially for more rural folks like I have been all my life.

You could tell a leisurely story like the Chan stories are, and people would look forward to every episode.

Richard Robinson said...

I read the first one in the series, The House Without A Key a few years ago and liked it a lot. Based on my reading of this one book, and having seen a half-dozen of the films, the books may be better. The next one in the omnibus volume I have os this one, Chinese Parrot, and I'll be reading it soon.

Joe Barone said...

I now have the omnibus volume too. I'm looking forward to tackling the first one soon.