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…
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!
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?