The Three Investigators: The Mystery Of The Laughing Shadow by William Arden

Laughing ShadowAnother dip into my past reading – The Three Investigators. This time, our intrepid trio – Jupiter Jones, Pete Crenshaw and Bob Andrews – are on the trail of buried Native American treasure. When Pete and Bob are passing the Sandow estate, they overhear a commotion and a small statuette is thrown over a wall. It is clearly valuable but before the boys can decide how best to return the item, they are scared off by a terrifying apparition – a shadow belonging to nothing human, with an unearthly laugh that sends chills up the spine.

Soon the boys are being menaced by strange knife-wielding “dark” men, desperate to get the statuette back, while the owner of the estate mysteriously shows up at the boys’ junkyard looking for them. But can they get to the bottom of the mystery and cast some light (see what I did there?) on the laughing shadow itself?

After the last Three Investigators review – The Mystery Of Monster Mountain – I bought a fair few collections of their books. Do forgive me, by the way, for this trip down memory lane for me, but these books are fun, quick reads. So far, I’ve reviewed three books in the series, all by the author M V Carey, but there was more than one author of the series. Robert Arthur created the series, writing ten of the first eleven books, and the majority of the rest were by Carey or William Arden, so I thought I should have a look at one of Arden’s this time.

And it’s fun – not much of a mystery, it has to be said. There’s a vital clue to the villain of the piece that appears half a page before its importance is explained and, to be honest, it’s pretty obvious anyway. And you might want to overlook the repeated use of the adjective “dark” to describe the possible villains and the occasional reference to “Indians”…

But what you need to read this book for is the explanation of the shadow. It’s so utterly hilarious – and I don’t think intentionally so – and the notion that it gives a clue to the identity of the villain is so funny… To be honest, I’ve never been so close to spoiling a book to explain this to you, dear reader…

It’s just so ridiculous…

Right – due to the fact that hardly any of my readers are going to seek this book out, I’m going to switch off the spoiler policy.

Brace yourself…

… still time to remain unspoiled…

… last chance…


The laughing shadow is caused by…

…final warning…

…and if you’re drinking a hot drink at the moment, please put it down…

…all sorted?

Right. The laughing shadow is caused by a man with a kookaburra on his head. It’s a clue to his identity, as he’s Australian. He tried to get rid of it but it kept coming back – so it’s a homing kookaburra. Part of me hopes that he tried to get rid of it before leaving Australia and it followed him to California – after all, how do you put a kookaburra into your hand luggage? I know it’s a kid’s book but even so…

Right. Spoiler policy re-instated but I had to share that – it’s been amusing me ever since finishing the book yesterday. Hope it made you smile to. Recommended for nostalgic reasons.

Other Three Investigators Reviews:

20. The Mystery Of Monster Mountain

21. The Secret Of The Haunted Mirror

27. The Mystery Of The Magic Circle

And there’ll be more in the future – it’s nice to take a break from thinking too hard about things…


  1. I learned to read as a child so I could read Nancy Drew books all by myself. I re-read them because I had a happy childhood and re-reading them makes me feel less anxious and more relaxed. I’ve never read the Three Investigators books, in fact never heard of them, but they sound similar.


      • Yes, after the death of Alfred Hitchcock in 1980, Random House decided to remove his name from the texts. His name was replaced by Reginald Clarke in the first book and by Hector Sebastian in the remaining. His name was also removed from the cover. This decision was taken most probably to avoid paying the large percentage to Hitchcock’s estate.
        By the way, the last date in the wallpaper seems to be wrong.


      • For information – Hector Sebastian was the character who assumed Hitchcock’s role in the books from number 31 onwards. I presume as the point of the first book is the search for a haunted house for a film location, it was much harder to retro-fit Sebastian into that one.


      • I read somewhere that the guy who created the series had worked on Hitchcock’s television show. Because of the show, which he hosted, Hitchcock was a well-known figure in the U.S. during the ’60s when the book series was launched. By the time he died, the show had been off the air for around a decade and a half, so I suspect that many kids would not have known who he was. At that point, the publishers probably didn’t think it was worth it to continue to license his name and image.


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