I liked the first Charlie Chan book so much, I figured I should have a go at the second one. I rather liked it as well. I'm still a bit abashed at the racism in the book, but in a way, it's a product of its time, and in its defense, Charlie Chan is always portrayed as a good a competent person.
This story involves the sale of a very
expensive string of pearls from a rich old lady, whose son has pretty much squandered her wealth, to a Wall Street tycoon. The tycoon wants the pearls delivered to his office in New York. Then a day or so later, he insists they be delivered to his ranch out in the Southern California desert. Charlie Chan, who used to be the house boy for the rich old lady, brings the pearls from Hawaii and agrees to deliver them to S. California in concert with the jeweler's son, Bob Eden. Well, one thing leads to another and they get suspicious about the whole deal. Charlie and Eden, travel to the ranch by separate ways. When Eden arrives, Charlie has gone undercover in the guise of a Chinese house boy, complete with all the shuffling around in pajamas and the "no tickee, no shirtee; chop chop" kind of talk common to Chinese in our racist caricatures of them.
Although Charlie and Eden's suspicious were arroused before their getting down to the desert, once there other strange things happen. Tony, the parrot on the ranch, who speaks both English and Chinese, squawks out, "Help, help! Murder! Put down that gun!" Well, except for Polynesia in Dr. Doolittle, parrots only can recite what they've heard. So it would seem that the parrot heard someone being murdered. As a vague confirmation of that, they find a gun missing from the rich man's prize gun collection, and a bullet hole in one of the walls, hidden behind a picture that had obviously recently been moved from its original location. So they think they have a murder, but they have no body (they also never found any signs of blood. They didn't even look
for blood. WTF?).
Charlie, tries to learn what other things the parrot might have learned to say, in Chinese or English, but the people in the house chased him away from the parrot. Next thing you know, the parrot is dead and they figure out it's been poisoned. Strange, slightly shifty people begin showing up at the ranch. The rich guy's daughter is due to show up, but then disappears. The rich guy is suddenly withdrawing huge sums of money from the local banks. And so forth. All the while, Charlie and Eden keep having to find ways to stall the handing over of the pearls until they figure out what's going on.
Then, of course, there has to be some romance, right? There's a lovely young woman in the area who spends her time hunting up filming locations for the movie studios. Eden, of course, is smitten by her. She thinks marriage is for the weak minded. She much prefers her freedom to being chained to a stove in the corner of a kitchenette. Does a touch of feminism make up a tiny bit for the racism?
So anyway, if you can shrug off the occasional racism, it's really an intriguing tale with lots of twists and turns and lots of interesting side issues to explore. I'm definitely going to hunt up more Charley Chan