Earl Derr Biggers. The Chinese Parrot (1926) 316 pp.
Sally Jordan, née Phillimore, had it all. She was the scion of Hawaii’s most wealthy family with interests in agriculture, land, shipping, and commerce, and her father had given her a fabulously expensive string of perfect pearls when she was a teenager. Now her fortune has been dissipated, with the substantial assistance of her dissolute son, and the pearls are her only remaining significant asset. She comes to San Francisco where an old friend, Alexander Eden, runs the biggest jewelry store in the west. He brokers a deal for the pearls with one of the foremost business tycoons of the day, P.J. Madden. Madden drives a hard bargain and stipulates that the pearls must be delivered to him in New York after his stopover in El Dorado, where he has a ranch in California’s high desert. Charlie Chan, a detective with the Honolulu Police Department who, as a boy, had worked for the Phillimore family, is taking some vacation days to bring the pearls from Honolulu. As he is making arrangements, Eden is surprised by a call from Madden directing that the pearls be delivered to El Dorado instead. Being cautious, Sally and Alexander prevail on Alexander’s son Bob and on Charlie to take the pearls to El Dorado and scope out the situation. On their arrival, they suspect something is wrong—in part because the household parrot screams about murder and is soon itself murdered. They stall Madden on the turnover of the pearls while they try to find out if anything is amiss, and, if so, what it is. Charlie goes undercover as an uneducated cook, and together with the local paper’s editor and a beautiful, witty Hollywood location scout to whom Bob is attracted, they investigate and find themselves in the midst of a gang of shady characters and old west style danger.
Setting: San Francisco; Southern California (Mojave Desert)