Three Investigators

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The Three Investigators
Author Robert Arthur, Jr.
Language English
Genre Mystery literature
Juvenile literature
Crime fiction
Publisher Random House
Published 1964-1987
Media type Print (hardcover )

The Three Investigators is an American juvenile detective book series first published as "Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators" . It was created by Robert Arthur, Jr., who believed using a famous figure such as movie director Hitchcock would attract attention. Random House, which is owned by Bertelsmann AG, is the U.S. publisher and still holds some of the rights to the books. Other rights are held by the heirs to Robert Arthur, Jr. and the German publisher Kosmos. The "three investigators" are: Jupiter Jones, Peter Crenshaw and Bob Andrews.

Most of the mysteries involved investigation of baffling phenomena (e.g. an ancient Egyptian mummy that apparently whispered and a human skull that seemed to talk).

Introduction and history[edit]

The original series ran from 1964 to 1987 and comprised 43 books. Books number 1 to 9 and 11 were written by the creator, Robert Arthur, who also sketched out ideas for a few of the other stories. Arthur had been an editor for several Hitchcock book collections. The other authors were William Arden (Dennis Lynds), Nick West (Kin Platt), Mary Virginia Carey and Marc Brandel (born Marcus Beresford). All of the authors wrote their own introductions and epilogues, which purportedly were dictated by Hitchcock and later in the series a fictional writer, Hector Sebastian, was introduced, who supposedly recorded the adventures of the Three Investigators from their words. The illustrators in the series began with Harry Kane and Ed Vebell and include Jack Hearne, Herb Mott, Stephen Marchesi, Robert Adragna and William A. ("Bill") Dodge.

In the original series, the specific ages of the investigators were never revealed, but contextual information indicates that they were likely 13 or 14 years old. They were not old enough to drive a car, but were said to be just a few years younger than their nemesis Skinny Norris, who had a driver's license from a state where the required age for a license was lower. On one occasion it was mentioned that Pete was on the high-school wrestling team. In the later Crimebusters series, it was stated once that the Three Investigators firm was founded when the boys were 13.

The investigators were typically introduced to a mystery through a client or by accidentally stumbling upon something unusual in the scrapyard of Jupiter's Uncle Titus Jones and Aunt Mathilda, who run a salvage business. The boys encountered baffling, sometimes misleading clues and danger before finally solving the mystery. The series was organised around one major theme: however strange, mystical, or even supernatural a particular phenomenon may appear at first, it is capable of being traced to human agency with the determined application of reason and logic. Most mysteries were solved by Jupiter Jones, a supreme logician who implicitly deployed the Occam's Razor principle: that the simplest and most rational explanation should be preferred to an explanation which requires additional assumptions. The boys were able to solve their mysteries with relatively few resources: they generally could get by with little more than a telephone, bicycles, access to a library and - in a nod to the peripheral Hollywood setting of the series - a chauffeur-driven vehicle. The last chapter of each book was an epilogue in which the investigators sat with Alfred Hitchcock (and later, "Hector Sebastian"), reviewing the mystery and revealing the deductions through the clues shown earlier in the book.

In 1989, Random House revamped the series, calling it The 3 Investigators — Crimebusters Series. The investigators were now 17 years old, could drive cars and were far more independent. The stories continued to contain an abundance of detecting, but with the addition of more action. The series was well-received, but was halted in 1990, when legal disagreements between Random House and the heirs to the Arthur estate could not be resolved. By 2005, the disagreements were still not settled.

At least eleven novels were published in the CrimeBusters series, which was launched by one of the series' favorite authors, William Arden, pseudonym of Dennis Lynds, who wrote the Dan Fortune mystery series for adults under the pen name of Michael Collins. The other authors were: Megan Stine and husband H. William Stine, G.H. Stone (Gayle Lynds), William MacCay, Marc Brandel and Peter Lerangis.

Random House has reprinted several of the original books in two paperback reprint series, partly to assure their legal rights.

International publishing[edit]


The Three Investigators books have been published in Lithuania and were popular among teenagers.[citation needed]


The Three Investigators books have always been very popular in Germany. They are known there as Die drei ??? (Die drei Fragezeichen, meaning "The Three Question Marks"). Jupiter Jones was renamed as "Justus Jonas", a German adaption of his original name, while Pete Crenshaw is called "Peter Shaw". Bob Andrews retained his original name. The chauffeur's name is Morton.

While the American authors' novels in the series have been published there, German writers have added more, contributing about six new novels per year, with the count being 167 books in 2012. Taped radio dramas (Hörspiele) of the novels have been especially popular in Germany with most of them having been certified Gold or Platinum by the German Federal Association of Music Industry. In total, the radio dramas have sold over 45 million and the books about 16 million copies in Germany (2013).[1] A study conducted by the series' publisher Europa suggests that nowadays, most fans are between 20 and 40 years of age.[2]

The radio actors, who have been narrating the plays since 1979, toured the country multiple times to perform plays in front of a live-audience. They broke their own Guinness World Record when performing The Mystery of the Screaming Clock in front of 15,000 people at Berlin Waldbühne in 2010.[3]

In the booklet of the German audio play "The Mystery of the Invisible Dog", the episode upon which it was based is erroneously credited to Nick West. Moreover, in Germany there are different revised editions of "The Mystery of the Scar-faced Beggar": one using Alfred Hitchcock as their patron, one using Alfred Hitchcock and Hector Sebastian, and another one using only Hector Sebastian.


Sixty-one original stories (including Crimebusters) have been published in Poland (by Siedmiorog), where they were recently still very popular.[citation needed]


The books have also been very popular among children and grown-ups in Slovakia where the books are published by Mladé Letá. 66 books were translated, but not in order of original release.[citation needed]


In Italy, the Three Investigators novels have been published in paperback by Mondadori, in the 1970s and 1980s, within their "Giallo per ragazzi" series, which included the Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew and other juvenile sleuths' adventures. The cover author for the Three Investigators books was always Alfred Hitchcock, whereas the inner copyright notice correctly reported the real author (although saying "Text by ..."). No other publications of the novels are known.[citation needed]


In France, the original nine books were published in the 1970s by the Bibliothèque Verte collection of books for young readers under the title "Les Trois Jeunes Détectives" ("The Three young detectives").[citation needed]

New English-language Three Investigators titles were released in 2005 for the first time since 1990. The German 'American-English' series saw the release of Poisoned E-Mail and The Curse of the Cell Phone. As of May 2008, a total of seven German stories have been translated and published in this format, and an eighth title was planned for publication in October 2008.[citation needed]


The Three Investigators books have been published in India, in addition to the original American versions, under the name of "Bal Secret Agent 555 Ranga, Ganga & Shirazi". Ranga is Pete, Ganga is Jupe and Shirazi is Bob. These were published by Khel Khiladi Prakashan, West Patel Nagar, Delhi in the 1970s.[citation needed]


The Three Investigators have been published in Pakistan, in Urdu, as "Teen nanhay suraghrasaan" since the 1980s by the "Ferozesons" publications. They have also been published in the monthly "Taleem-o Tarbiat" magazine for children. The names of the characters are "Umber" (Jupiter Jones), "Naseem" (Pete) and "Aaqib" (Bob). The name of their Mercedes driver is Allahdad. They live in Karimabad. Umber is tall and lanky as opposed to Jupiter's character, who is stocky. Naseem, like Pete, is the most athletic of all. The translators are Saleem Ahmed Siddiqui and Maqbool Jahangir. They have done an excellent job in adapting the stories to match the Pakistani culture and geography.[citation needed]


The Three Investigators has also been published in Bangladesh by Sheba Prokashoni as Teen Goenda (translated by Rakib Hasan) since the 1980s and gathered a large following of young Bangladeshi readers up to the late 1990s. In the Bengali editions, Jupiter Jones is known as Kishor Pasha (a Bangladeshi American). The other two are named as Musa Aman (African American) and Robin Milford (Irish American). Other characters include Gina and her pet dog Rafian, the chauffeur Hanson, Bavarian brothers Boris and Rover, and movie director Davis Christopher (in place of Alfred Hitchcock). The character "Skinny Norris" appears as "Shutki Terry" and the famous French thief appears as "Shopa". The character Victor Simon in the Bangladeshi edition appears in the place of "Hector Sebastian". The stories are generally set in Rocky Beach, California, although the investigators travel to exotic places like Africa and Bangladesh on occasions. Nearly 125 books have been published by now.[citation needed]

Southeast Asia[edit]

In the French, Vietnamese, Thai, Indonesian and Italian version of the series, the books were at one point published with Alfred Hitchcock listed as their author. The same error was made in some German paperback editions published at the beginning of the 1980s.[citation needed]

Similarly, all British Armada paperback editions of the title "The Mystery of the Moaning Cave" are erroneously credited to Robert Arthur. Moreover, the British series reversed the order of #42 and #43, meaning that the Armada original series ends with "Wreckers' Rock".[citation needed]


In Spain, "The Mystery of the Moaning Cave", "The Mystery of the Laughing Shadow", "The Secret of the Crooked Cat", "The Mystery of the Coughing Dragon", "The Mystery of Monster Mountain" as well as "The Mystery of the Headless Horse" are erroneously credited to Robert Arthur. The new Latin-American edition takes the name of "Los tres detectives" instead of "Los Tres Investigadores", which was used in Spain for earlier editions. Catalan translations were also published.[citation needed]


The Three Investigators books have been published in Indonesia under the name of "Trio Detektif". These were published by Gramedia Pustaka Utama (the biggest book publisher in Indonesia), Jakarta from the 1980s to 1990.[citation needed]

Series background[edit]


The Three Investigators[edit]

Jupiter "Jupe" Jones, First Investigator — A former child actor named "Baby Fatso", he hates when people bring it up. Jupiter is intelligent and stocky, and has a remarkable memory and deductive skills. Jupiter's parents (professional ballroom dancers) died in a car crash when he was four years old, so now he lives with Uncle Titus Jones and Aunt Mathilda, who run a salvage business.

Jupiter is not very fit and a bit plump. Jupiter's past acting ability benefits him frequently in mysteries because he can act older than he is, perform imitations of people when necessary and act less intelligent to extract information from potential suspects.

Jupiter is a prolific reader and inventor and frequently invents a device that simplifies solving a mystery. Jupiter has a knack for usually seeing clues at the right angle to solve an otherwise unsolvable mystery. He also likes to play pranks on the other two investigators. Because of his intellectual side, Jupe is adept at using big words and frequently uses them to his advantage, particularly to seem older, annoy Pete, and startle adults. Jupe hates to let go of a mystery, which frequently means that he drags Bob and Pete along for the ride.

Peter "Pete" Crenshaw, Second Investigator — Pete is an athletic youth who dislikes dangerous situations, but is nonetheless reliable as the "action member" of the team. Pete loves and cares for animals, and is fond of uttering the exclamation "Gleeps!" His father is a special effects man in Hollywood.

Pete is a frequent companion of Jupiter on stake-outs and other field trips, particularly in the earlier mysteries, when Bob is unavailable. While he may not have the intellectual ability of Jupiter, Pete is nonetheless viewed as an equal in the stories and is able to point out Jupiter's own shortcomings (usually in a comical fashion). He is also capable of making deductions and sometimes serves as the clue-bearer instead of Bob. He has an excellent sense of direction, as in The Mystery of the Stuttering Parrot.

Robert "Bob" Andrews, Records and Research — Bob is studious and meticulous, and wears glasses. His father is a newspaper man and occasionally gives Bob helpful hints.

Early in the series, Bob is hampered physically by a leg brace he wore, due to multiple fractures inflicted when he rolled down a hill. This handicap relegated him to a more studious and less physical approach to investigation. Bob works part-time in the local library, suiting his role as data collector. Bob also serves as the clue-bearer for many of the adventures, because of his research at the library. Bob's leg brace is removed between the end of Whispering Mummy and the beginning of Green Ghost.


Headquarters is the office of the Three Investigators. It is a house trailer, hidden among the piles of scrap in the salvage yard. It has many secret entrances. The headquarters has a small lab, a darkroom and an office with desk, typewriter, telephone, tape recorder, and reference books.

The books[edit]

The American series of The Three Investigators

There were 43 published books in the original series, and one The Mystery of the Ghost Train that was never finished. There are four books in the Find Your Fate books that feature The Three Investigators. Random House created the Three Investigators Crimebusters series between 1989 and 1990.

German editions of the Three Investigators

As a result of the series remaining popular in Germany, German publisher Kosmos started in 1993 to publish new books written by German authors. These books, along with the American ones, are the basis for the German radio dramas, which are more popular than the books.[citation needed] As of August 2009, 94 books would have been published in German, of which 73 books have been produced as radio dramas. All in all, this would result in a canon of 176 books and 168 radio dramas published up to May 2014.

The movies[edit]

In 2007, a Three Investigators movie, The Three Investigators and the Secret of Skeleton Island, was released in Austria, starring Chancellor Miller as Jupiter, Nick Price as Pete, and Cameron Monaghan as Bob. It was followed in 2009 by The Three Investigators and the Secret of Terror Castle.[4]

As German schoolbook[edit]

The German love for the adventures of The Three Investigators has produced another offshoot. Ulrich Krauße translated The Curse of the Dragon into Latin with three German Latin teachers working as the publisher's readers. In 2011, Krauße's translation, De Tribus Investigatoribus et Fato Draconis,[5] became a bestseller among Latin students.[6]

Further reading[edit]

  • Björn Akstinat, Das ABC der drei Fragezeichen (ABC of The Three Investigators), Baden-Baden: Humboldt-Verlag, 2008.
  • Armin Paul Frank, Das englische und amerikanische Hörspiel. München: Fink, 1981.


  1. ^ Umsatzbringer "Die drei Fragezeichen" : Da sieht Lady Gaga alt aus. Spiegel Online, 30 November 2013
  2. ^ Lauter große Kinder. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 30 October 2009
  3. ^ Drei Fragezeichen schlagen eigenen Weltrekord. Hamburger Abendblatt, 22. August 2010
  4. ^ "The Secret of Terror Castle at the Internet Movie Database",
  5. ^ Ulrich Krauße: Die drei ??? – De Tribus Investigatoribus et Fato Draconis, Editio Latina, 9,95 Euro, 182 S., ISBN 978-3-9813892-0-3. EAN 9783981389203.
  6. ^ Ruhrnachrichten, Jan 3rd, 2011 (German) retrieved Jan 15th, 2013

External links[edit]