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The House Without a Key
 
by
Earl Derr Biggers
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The House Without a Key (Charlie Chan #1)

3.76 of 5 stars 3.76  ·  rating details  ·  596 ratings  ·  94 reviews
This is the classic novel in which Charlie Chan makes his debut as Inspector of the Honolulu Police Department. Earl Derr Biggers brings Honolulu to life with deft descriptions of the landscape and of its hybrid ethnic communities. With the creation of Detective Chan, Biggers also shatters stereotypes and is ahead of his time in highlighting the positive aspects of Chinese ...more
Hardcover
Published by Holiday House (first published January 1st 1925)
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Hannah
50 years before the suave and dapper fictional TV detective Steve McGarrett policed the streets of Honolulu in "Hawaii 5-0", writer Earl Derr Biggers (what a great name, BTW) gave us the equally dapper (but alas not suave) fictional book detective Charlie Chan. Chan became so famous and beloved by his fans that Hollywood jumped on the bandwagon and made a series of black and white movies featuring this fat and canny Oriental detective.

In Biggers' 1925 debut whodunnit featuring Chan, it really sh
...more
Amy
I thoroughly enjoyed this first Charlie Chan mystery, and can't believe that I never picked one up before! I imagine this will be a series that I'll tear through.

The mystery itself was good, of course, and it probably stands on par with any number of Agatha Christie mystery novels, but for me the mystery wasn't what made this book so enjoyable. It was the subtle humor, and the wispy strokes of humanity that Earl Derr Biggers gave to his characters that made me fall for this book. Charlie's way w
...more
Casey
I went on a mission to read at least one book featuring every literary detective who was satirized in the 1976 movie Murder by Death, which is one of my favorites. Having already read novels featuring Poirot, Marple, Nick & Nora Charles, and Spade, this was my last stop. My verdict?

Best detective (character): Nick & Nora. Their sarcastic banter put them at the top of the list for me.
Best plot: Poirot. Agatha Christie was a great storyteller.


That said, I simply loved the setting AND the w
...more
Dfordoom
The House Without a Key, published in 1925, was the first of the Charlie Chan mysteries by Earl Derr Biggers. The six Charlie Chan novels were immensely successful but the movies based (loosely) on them were even more so - in fact there were no less than 40 Charlie Chan movies!

The movies have been attacked for supposedly promoting racial stereotypes. I haven’t seen the movies but the intention behind the books was to overturn racial stereotypes by having a Chinese hero at a time when Chinese vil
...more
Mary Ronan Drew
1925 Hawaii was an idyllic sort of place, a place where a straight-laced New England Puritan could lose himself in the heady scent of night blooms and the sunset gilding of the sea. And that’s just what happens to John Quincy Winterslip, a Boston bond dealer who is sent by the family to fetch home his aunt, who left months ago for a visit and hasn’t come home.

His ship arrives in the evening and because of bureaucratic red tape (yes, even in Hawaii Territory in 1925) the ship has to sit outside t
...more
Susan Ferguson
This is the book that started it all - the movies, etc. Charlie Chan is a respected detective in the Hawaiian police force.
John Quincy Winterslip has come to Hawaii from Boston to get his Aunt Minerva to return home. She has been in Hawaii for quite some time staying with the family blacksheep, Dan Winterslip. John Quincy is not happy as he arrives in San Francisco - but he has a feeling of homecoming at San Francisco, like he's been there before. He meets an uncle in San Francisco who he stays
...more
Debra

Young Bostonian, John Quincy Winterslip, has been dispatched to Honolulu, Hawaii to bring his Aunt Minerva home. She’s been visiting relative, Dan Winterslip, for many weeks and was supposed to have returned by now. But Dan’s murder changes everything, and as John Quincy becomes embroiled in the investigation, he too begins to succumb to the charms of Hawaii.

I’ve never watched a Charlie Chan movie for more than a few minutes. Something about them didn’t hold my interest, but when I found a copy
...more
Bogdan
в данном случае – нет причин сомневаться, что это по-настоящему легендарная детективная серия о китайско-американском детективе чарли чане, ставшая началом не менее успешной в 30 – 40-е годы разросшейся киносерии о его же приключениях, где нет и намека на то, что с ним происходило в сан-франциско, шанхае и прочих городах. пять романов открываются вот этим, «дом без ключа», в котором действие совсем ненадолго переносится в сан-франциско, а потом все время сопровождает героев (среди которых чарли ...more
Raquel
This book is the first of the Charlie Chan mysteries and I was quite excited to read it. I'm a big fan of the Charlie Chan movies and wanted to read the novels that inspired them. I was a bit disappointed with this one for a few reasons. First of all, there is not enough Charlie Chan. As one of my Goodreads friends pointed out to me, Earl Derr Biggers didn't realize that character would be such a sensation. So perhaps subsequent books will have more Charlie Chan. Another thing is that I didn't r ...more
Elizabeth
The story takes place in the early 1920's Hawaii in Honolulu surrounding the murder of a wealthy man. A side story is that of a young man who has come from the chilly Boston area to the lovely tropical islands that are either buffeted by Kona winds or soothed by trade winds and he finds a a new world. I had a great time reading this book easily finding myself transported back to the era described in the book even as they bemoaned the fact that Hawaii had changed beyond recognition !! That damned ...more
Lisa Kucharski
First Charlie Chan mystery, and a very fun book it is to read. It is of it's time and gives some really interesting views of society at that time. It is wonderful to follow Chan and John Quincy Winterslip work together and develop a respect for one another that transcends many others in the story. Nice mystery as well, very visual, and let's face it... you'll want to go to Hawaii after reading of its beauty. The story follows John Quincy for the most part and he moves from a man raised and ready ...more
Jayaprakash Satyamurthy
I enjoyed this a great deal, it's a clever, well-paced mystery with an engaging enough romantic drama weaving in and out of the actual whodunnit.Surely I should be able to say more than that about a book I enjoyed so much? Not necessarily. I always try and say something about theme, style and resonance, but in this case it's simply a case of a book that sets out to do one thing - entertain the reader with a breezy, absorbing story, and everything within works to achieve just just that end - no m ...more
Alaina Sloo
Throw away everything you ever thought you knew about Charlie Chan from the Charlie Chan movies of the 1930s and 40s. Earl Derr Biggers' Charlie Chan books, written in the 1920s and 1930s, are much more interesting, putting on view the commonly held stereotypes of Chinese Americans during this period and the racism they encountered. The Charlie Chan of the books is an intelligent and subtle opponent of those attitudes. The mystery is clever and great fun, and like all of the Charlie Chan books, ...more
Don
(FROM MY BLOG) "The 'eighties'," he sighed. "Hawaii was Hawaii then. Unspoiled, a land of opera bouffe, with old Kalakaua sitting on his golden throne." ... "It's been ruined," he complained sadly.

It is mandatory for anyone who has visited Hawaii more than once to tell everyone within earshot, "It was so much nicer [or "uncrowded" or "romantic" or "authentically Hawaiian"] last time I was here!"

You won't be cured of such comments -- for of such is human nature -- but you may gain a little perspe
...more
Angela M Sanders
What a fascinating peek into time The House Without a Key is! In the novel, the characters regularly ruminate on how much Hawaii has changed since the glory years of the '80s and '90s--and they weren't talking about the twentieth century, either. The descriptions of Honolulu in the 1920s are enough to warrant a read of the book. The story's characters are strong, if a little predictable, and the mystery takes second seat to the novel's spectacular setting. But all in all, it was a great read.

Lot
...more
Gilbert M.
Charlie Chan is one of the most famous fictional detectives, but almost everything I knew about him came from poorly remembered black and white movies seen on television in my childhood and from the Hanna Barbara cartoon, Chan and the Chan Clan (also poorly remembered). So it was with great delight that I discovered the first Chan adventure, A House Without a Key. It’s a delightful read with a solid and well-developed mystery, interesting characters, good subplots and constantly building tension ...more
Cristina
The first Charlie Chan book from the 20s. Set in Waikiki, the Honolulu police department solves a murder mystery with the help of both recent and long time visitors to the area. I loved each characters impressions of the island and having cocktails at the former home that was the setting of the book under the century-old Kiawe tree from the story was dreamy. I will definitely be reading the rest of the series. Did I mention I may now be obsessed with Hawaii.
Larry Piper
While I was rummaging around at Gutenberg/Australia, looking for Philo Vance books, I discovered that they also had Charley Chan. I remembered seeing some old Charley Chan movies with my dad when I was a kid. So, I figured I should check it out. Also, the author's middle name was an entry in a crossword puzzle I did. I'd never heard of him before. So, even more reason to check out Charley Chan. This is the first of what eventually was a series of six or seven books (and something like 30 movies) ...more
Sherry Leffert
After reading the biography of Charlie Chan, I wanted to read a Charlie Chan mystery. This was a wonderful engaging story. Aside from the whodunit, it is a coming of age story of a young man from a Boston Brahmin society who finds a new identity in the free romantic atmosphere of Hawaii. Charlie Chan is a key figure with all the charm and wit that I remembered about him.
Jim Dooley
I recall that many people enjoyed reading the classic mystery novels because they offered a brisk storyline while delivering an escape from the daily routine. Having just read this first novel in the Charlie Chan series, I fully understand and appreciate that sentiment.

Having grown up watching the various Charlie Chan movies on television, I was very pleasantly surprised that this one features not only a crackling good mystery with clues and twists aplenty, but it also fosters very strong charac
...more
Eileen
I can remember watching old Charlie Chan movies on late night TV and enjoying them very much. I had never read any of the books however until now. I started with this one where the great detective is introduced for the first time. The focus of the book, however, is on John Quincy Winterslip, his investigation into his relatives murder and not on Charlie Chan which was a surprise and somewhat of a disappointment. John Quincy's character is well developed while Charlie is kept in the background. I ...more
Bobby Underwood
You can almost feel the gentle trade winds of Hawaii during the 1920's in this classic novel by Earl Derr Biggers. Romantic and full of atmosphere, this is a most enjoyable read that was our first introduction to Charlie Chan. Biggers was always a great romance writer who simply incorporated mystery into his books to propel the story forward. This was never more evident than in The House Without a Key.

The story centers on young and proper John Quincy Winterslip of Boston, who has been sent to re
...more
Tracyk
I have seen many of the Charlie Chan films, and I have always enjoyed them, but I had not read any of the books. I was pleasantly surprised that I found this first book very enjoyable.

The book has a complex plot that held my interest. A family originally from Boston, the Winterslips, has some members living in Hawaii. One of the wealthy Winterslips living in Hawaii is murdered. A younger member of the family, John Quincy Winterslip, has been sent to Boston to check up on his Aunt Minerva and pe
...more
Cheryl
I loved this. It was a well-plotted, classic mystery. Biggers's characters are wonderful, and the Hawaiian setting is evocative of a long-lost time. Like all mysteries of the 1920s, the author trades in ethnic types to add local color, but I found the characters fully-formed, not simple stereotypes. What strains belief is not the multi-ethnic cast, but the fact that the Honolulu PD would allow a relative of a murder victim just off the boat to participate in the investigation as an equal. I thin ...more
PenNPaper52
This is Charlie Chan's first mystery... I had to look this up on wikepedia though since I had no idea who Charlie Chan was. He isn't as popular as Hercule Poirot and Sherlock Holmes... or perhaps that's just me. Minerva Winterslip is visiting the Hawaiian islands after a long time. She is a vibrant elderly woman who has dashed societies norms while staying in Hawaii which doesn't sit well with her family back home. Her nephew John Quincy, the prim and proper, is dispatched immediately to retriev ...more
Ed Mestre
What grabbed me with this book is it's the very first in the Charlie Chan series. That brought back fond memories of watching the old B movies as a kid on L.A. TV. Even as a kid I knew there was something oddly wrong with having a Western actor playing the Chinese detective. Ironically, these movies always cast the very Americanized jitterbugging #1 son with an actual Asian actor. One advantage of the book is that kind of miscasting is impossible. Surprisingly Charlie Chan is only a side charact ...more
Alexander Inglis
The Ohio-born novelist and playright, Earl Derr Biggers, following a stint of writing for Broadway after graduating from Harvard in 1907, headed to California to enjoy seeing his early writing turned into silent films. By the early 1920, his health was in decline and spent some time convalescing from stress in the US territory of Hawaii; here he had an opportunity to meet Chang Apana of the Honolulu Police Department. Apana is the model for Charlie Chan, who made his first appearance in The Hous ...more
Tim
I thought it was okay. Having been a fan -- and seen most -- of the Charlie Chan movies with Sidney Toler (I don't care for the Warner Oland Chan movies, and I haven't seen any with the one who replaced Toler after Toler's death), it was a disappointing step down. I noticed an error in the site's writeup, though: Chan didn't solve the murder with his son. In fact, his son made only a single cameo appearance: when John Quincy Winterslip happened to visit the Chan household and Charlie was playing ...more
Mark Bruce
The first appearance by Charlie Chan, the controversial detective who speaks in broken aphorisms but who seems to put it all together perfectly. Told from the point of view of a vapid Boston Brahman, this is a book of adventure and mystery the way they did it in the 20s. Great looking women, menacing big men with and without guns, strange dealings in the night. It's dated, but in a very fun way. I know, I know--some Chinese Americans see Chan as a racist figure created by a white man. For these, ...more
Patrick
I started reading this book, the first in the Charlie Chan series, in Honlulu after having drinks at the House Without a Key! I really enjoyed the book but, as others have noted, Charlie Chan actually is not in much of the book. Rather, the main character is John Quincy Winterslip, and it is his story, including his unraveling of the mystery, that is the real narrative. Nonetheless, I loved the mystery, if was very well written, and I learned a lot about Hawaii. Highly recommend it for myster lo ...more
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Earl Derr Biggers was born in Warren, Ohio on August 24, 1884. Years later, while attending Harvard University, Biggers showed little passion for the classics, preferring instead writers such as Rudyard Kipling and Richard Harding Davis. Following his graduation from Harvard in 1907, he worked briefly for the Cleveland Plain Dealer and at Bobbs-Merrill publishers. By 1908, Biggers was hired at the ...more
More about Earl Derr Biggers...

Other Books in the Series

Charlie Chan (6 books)
  • The Chinese Parrot (Charlie Chan, #2)
  • Behind That Curtain (Charlie Chan, #3)
  • The Black Camel (Charlie Chan, #4)
  • Charlie Chan Carries On (Charlie Chan, #5)
  • Keeper of the Keys (Charlie Chan, #6)
The Chinese Parrot (Charlie Chan, #2) Behind That Curtain (Charlie Chan, #3) The Black Camel (Charlie Chan, #4) Charlie Chan Carries On (Charlie Chan, #5) The Agony Column

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“He turned to Miss Minerva. "I'm relying on you, at any rate. You've got a good mind. Anybody can see that."
"Thank you," she said.
"As good as a man's," he added.
"Oh, now you've spoiled it!”
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“he dragged his words painfully from the poets” 1 likes
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