Shelah Fane didn't know what to do. The Hollywood star had arrived by ship in Honolulu, along with other members of her cast and crew, on their way back from Tahiti to Hollywood. On the ship, a very attractive man had fallen for Shelah Fane and wanted to marry her - and she was very attracted to him. But she also knew a terrible secret which could make that impossible. What to do? Shelah summoned her favorite Hollywood mystic, a man known only as "Tarneverro," to come to Honolulu from Hollywood, so she could ask his help.
And then Shelah Fane was murdered. And Honolulu police inspector Charlie Chan is left with few clues in The Black Camel, by Earl Derr Biggers. Written in 1929, it was the fourth book to feature the Chinese-American sleuth - and it's a wonderful story. The title comes from one of Charlie Chan's many sayings in the book: "Death is the black camel that kneels unbidden at every gate." The Black Camel is the subject of today's audio review on the Classic Mysteries podcast, and you can listen to the entire review by clicking here.
Inspector Chan quickly discovers that the murder of Shelah Fane may have been linked to another murder, this one in Hollywood a few years earlier. According to the fortune-teller Tarneverro, Shelah Fane claimed to know who had carried out that earlier murder - and had indicated that the killer was present in Honolulu. Could that have been the reason why she was killed? Tarneverro offers to help Charlie Chan investigate the case - but why does he even make that offer? Who is Tarneverro, and what connection did he have to the murder victims?
Earl Derr Biggers only wrote six novels featuring Charlie Chan. Among the ones that I have read so far, I would rate this as one of the best. The characters are memorable - especially Charlie Chan, of course, along with the mysterious Tarneverro. There are enough surprises along the way to make The Black Camel a particularly strong entry in the series.