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Item - The Three Investigators in: The Case of the Weeping Coffin

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(First paperback printing)
(First paperback printing)
(First paperback printing)
(First paperback printing)
(Paperback printing, no barcode)
(Paperback printing, no barcode)

Combined Summary

Series: Find Your Fate - Random House — no. 1
Authors: Stine, H. William
Stine, Megan
Illustrator: Hulsey, John
Dates: March 12, 1985 (First paperback printing)
March 12, 1985 (Library bound edition)
ISBNs: 0394867254 / 9780394867250 (First paperback printing, Paperback printing, no barcode)
0394967259 / 9780394967257 (Library bound edition)
Length: 124 pages
Number of Endings: 18 (only one victory)
User Summary: You enlist the help of The Three Investigators to discover who is behind the robbery of a work of art in a deceased man's house.
Demian's Thoughts:

I loved the Three Investigators as a kid, yet these gamebooks made very little impression on me at the time; I just have a dim recollection of boredom (which may or may not have had anything to do with this particular title). That, combined with Stine and Stine's penchant for gratuitous silliness, led me to write this book off without even attempting to spend any time with it. Fortunately, Guillermo's review prompted me to give it another look, and I have to concur that it's an above average adventure.

I find that it's been so long since I read the original Three Investigators novels that I can't reliably comment on how well the tone matches. Certainly the obligatory characters and trappings of the series are present, but I think the Stine and Stine silliness and fourth-wall-breaking make this feel a bit different from a "real" entry in the series. That could annoy a purist, but some of the humor is genuinely amusing, and even the bizarre non-sequiturs (like the game of Dungeons and Potatoes, or the discovery of a Neanderthal grapefruit) are really bizarre.

Mechanically speaking, the book offers about as many novelties as you can expect from a "basic" gamebook: a little bit of coin flipping, an early choice that has an impact on a later choice, and some choices that let you naturally loop back and try again instead of arbitrarily ending the story. None of these mechanisms are especially important to the story or used in particularly impactful ways, but a little variety keeps things interesting... and that is perhaps the book's greatest strength: because the solution to the mystery is challenging to reach, and because some of the unsuccessful paths are well-fleshed-out, it doesn't get boring to go back in and try another route through the book. When you finally succeed, you will have seen a lot of options, and they won't have felt tedious.

That being said, the book is not without flaws, the most serious being the fact that, while some of the humor is funny, not all of it is welcome. Stine and Stine always push the boundaries of how much arbitrary silliness you can pack into a book without undermining the more serious elements, and in this one they also occasionally push the boundaries of good taste. I'm pretty sure, for example, that jokes about Asian characters mixing up their r's and l's and eating unappetizing foods, while not unheard of, were already recognized as tired and offensive in 1985 when this was written; it certainly doesn't play well today. To be fair, the stereotypical character providing this "humor" is part of the pre-existing Three Investigators supporting cast, but that doesn't really excuse the cheap laughs.

Obviously, one needs to set one's expectations appropriately when encountering any form of entertainment. In that context, this book achieves more than one might reasonably expect. It's not a work of staggering genius, and it has some problematic elements, but on the whole it offers a surprisingly engaging read that makes the most of what could have been a very limiting combination of simple mechanics and a pre-existing property.

More reviews by Demian

Guillermo's Thoughts:

(Review based on the Spanish translation.)

Like the next entry in this series (The Case of the Dancing Dinosaur) this includes more text between choices than is usual for a Find Your Fate book. Clearly one of the aims for much of this series was to make it more interesting than your typical CYOA by having the books resemble juvenile adventure novels. The experiment is made even more noteworthy due to Stine and Stine's signature use of humour throughout the story. The writing works in good part because the jokes are actually not that lame by gamebook standards. Unlike in the next entry, the reader does not make choices for The Three Investigators, but rather controls a youngster who gets to work with them. The interactions between the player character and the title characters are full of suspense and humour, making this an enjoyable read.

Regarding gameplay, the book is actually quite challenging for a systemless adventure; there is only one path to victory, and it took me several tries to find it. Rather than leading to abrupt endings, many of the non-victorious paths actually direct the reader on to somewhat detailed subplots which are unrelated to the main mystery (though he or she will not realize it until it's too late). This structure almost made me feel like I was reading a Fighting Fantasy book. Overall, I enjoyed this book quite a bit.

More reviews by Guillermo

Users Who Own This Item: Ardennes, Crazyscotsman, Demian (first printing), Erikwinslow, exaquint (1st), jdreller, katzcollection, knginatl, mlvoss, tonk82 (Spanish Edition), waktool (TBA), Yalius
Users Who Want This Item: Aldrin23, exaquint (no barcode), kinderstef, NEMO, Randomdays
Users with Extra Copies: Demian - first printing

Known Editions

First paperback printing
Paperback printing, no barcode
Library bound edition

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