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The First Mystery I Ever Read

He wears a deerstalker hat and trenchcoat.  Equipped with a magnifying glass and his trusty detective manual, he searches for clues and solves cases.  No, not Sherlock Holmes.  It’s Detective Mole!

I’ve long remembered that very first mystery story I ever read.  Well, bits and pieces.  I remembered it was a Detective Mole story.  He was investigating a crime at a inn near water.  There was a boat house.  Something about a treasure.  And raccoons were involved.  Recently, I determined to track down said story.  And…

Book by Robert Quackenbush

Success!  Though it was the third in the series, Detective Mole and the Tip-Top Mystery, published in 1978, was the very first mystery story I ever read.

In it, our intrepid sleuth is indeed called in to investigate a string of “occurrences” that are driving customers away from the Tip-Top Inn.  Emery Eagle, the Tip-Top’s manager, takes Detective Mole to the inn owned by Mr. & Mrs. Goat.  When they arrive, they discover that Mr. & Mrs. Pig, the last paying guests, have been trapped in the elevator.  Shortly after someone shuts off the water.  Determined to get answers, Detective Mole gathers the suspects.  He learns about a break-in at the boat house.  Then he hears a story about buried treasure.  Someone wants the place to themselves in order to find the legendary treasure of the inn’s first owner.

Back in Kindergarten—and the first grade—I went on to read the original Detective Mole (1976), a compliation of short story sleuthings; Detective Mole and the Secret Clues (1977), and Detective Mole and the Seashore Mystery (1979), though not necessarily in that order.  These easy-reader format books established an early love of mysteries that continues to this day.

Detective Mole, the first book, is a collection of five capers that the intrepid sleuth must solve.  A ghostly appearance, missing toe shoes, watery mysteries, and a kleptomaniac stranger, Maynard Mole sets about solving them all.  The first four mysteries are actually part of the last one, involving all the animal characters and a newcomer to town.

In Detective Mole and the Secret Clues, Mr. Rooster and Mrs. Hen have inherited their eccentric Uncle Ebenezer’s mansion.  However, they must find all the hidden keys to the mansion.  Detective Mole assists them in their search—following various cryptic clues—and uncovers a mystery with similarities to the classic fairytale, The Princess and the Pea.  This one will appeal particularly to those who love a good scavenger hunt.

In Detective Mole and the Seashore Mystery, sea gulls Captain Bill and his daughter Cindy have lost a valuable pearl.  The only other person living on Land’s End Island is Morris Sea Turtle.  Did he steal the pearl or is someone else lurking on the island?

These classic children’s easy reader books, written by Robert Quackenbush, are relatively hard to find nowadays.  They can still be found in some libraries.  A shame they’re not more readily available as they would most certainly still appeal to children, especially budding mystery writers!

Detective Mole gathers the suspects.

Upon re-reading Detective Mole and the Tip-Top Mystery, I am amazed by how many detective story conventions are packed into this 62 page book!  The detective interrogating the suspects, Emery Eagle’s role as sidekick, and a tell-tale clue, among others.  There’s even a recipe—for Dr. Mole’s Banana Crunch—included in the back of the book!

It was wonderful having the opportunity to re-read what is very likely the first book I ever read—at least unassisted.  I’ll always have a fondness for it.

Do you remember the first book you ever read?

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Categorised in: Mystery, Prologues, Reviews

2 Responses

  1. Dear Editor,

    Thank you for your exciting review of my Detective Mole mysteries. It is very gratifying for me to know that one of the books in my Detective Mole series was the first book you read as a child and that the good detective launched you into reading.

    I thought you would like to know about two other books in the Detective Mole series. Because of Detective Mole’s popularity with young readers, the publisher, Lothrop, Lee, & Shepard, published two large, full color picture books that I wrote and illustrated for the series titled “Detective Mole and the Halloween Mystery” and “Detective Mole and the Haunted Castle Mystery.” In the first book every jack-o-lantern in Detective Mole’s town is stolen from the front porches of the local citizens and it is left up to him to find them by that night, which is Halloween. In the second book titled “Detective Mole and the Haunted Castle Mystery” the Rabbit family dig a hole in their back yard to plant sweet peas and strike oil, making them rich overnight. The are so rich that they have a castle shipped over from Spain and placed in the center of their oil fields. The castle turns out to be haunted and once again Detective Mole called into action to solve the mystery.

    “Detective Mole and the Halloween Mystery” went on to win an Edgar Allan Poe Special Award, which caught the attention of Simon & Schuster Publishers. I was asked to create a mystery series with a new character for their children’s book division by their editor, Barbara Francis. Thus, I wrote and illustrated the “Miss Mallard Mysteries,” which have been made into an animated film series by Cinar (now Cookie Jar Entertainment) in co-production with Shanghai Animation Studios for children’s worldwide television programing. The films are being shown in five languages in 70 countries around the world. In France, Miss Mallard is the toast of Paris, and in China twenty-two million children refuse to eat Peking duck out of respect for their beloved ducktective, Miss Mallard. And all because of Detective Mole.

    I am happy to say that Detective Mole is still alive and flourishing in this new age of publishing. The very first book in the series, titled “Detective Mole” has been published by the Author’s Guild program in co-production with iUniverse. Details about that can be found on my website: I expect other books in the series to be available soon in digital format for E-book and Kindle distribution. Viva Detective Mole!

    Thank you again for telling your readers about your connection with Detective Mole. I am very moved by your enthusiasm for the series.

    Sincerely yours,

    Robert Quackenbush

    P.S. By coincidence, I learned about your site and your review of the Detective Mole book series on my facebook through Gordon Martin of Gordon Martin Productions, Montreal, Canada. Gordon helped to launch my Miss Mallard mysteries into animated films. He is a fan of Detective Mole, too!

    • It is a pleasure to hear from you! I really do think my love of mysteries stems from that early read. It’s wonderful to know these books will be getting a new life in eformat. Tracking down just which Detective Mole book was the one I remembered was a bit of a challenge. My local library system had copies of the first Detective Mole—likely the reprint edition—and, of course, the two award-winning volumes. Fortunately, I was able to obtain the books I wanted to review through special loan.

      I have vaguer memories of reading the Miss Mallard series, though, and I had no idea they’d been made into an animated series. Any chance for Detective Mole to make the same transition?

      Again, thank you so much for taking the time to comment on my humble post. It means a lot to hear from the first author I ever read!

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