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Literature / Secret Agents Four

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Secret Agents Four is a 1967 book written by Donald J. Sobol, the author behind Encyclopedia Brown and Two-Minute Mysteries. The book concerned four high schoolers who, over summer break, become mixed up in espionage in their hometown.

The protagonist is sixteen year old Ken Mullins, son of the assistant chief of the Miami bureau of Mongoose, a government agency. He and his friends Orv ("Dade City's top boy inventor"), Bo (a seven foot tall athlete), and Horseshoes (whose real name is Jerry...but they haven't called him that since he won the horseshoe-pitching contest at the State Fair in eighth grade) pursue a man they believe to be a car spy - but who, in actuality, is a low-level Cobra agent.


This book provides examples of:

  • Children Forced to Kill: Horseshoes has to shoot a guard and struggles with himself over it. Fortunately, it turns out he didn't actually kill the guy.
  • Cranial Erruption: During a fight, Horseshoes has a can fall on his head that leaves him in no shape to take part in the final pursuit.
  • Cute Bruiser: Mary, who's trained in numerous kinds of martial arts.
  • Deep Cover Agent: Discussed, and indeed the bad guys do have one.
  • Five-Man Band:
  • Four-Temperament Ensemble:
    • Sanguine: Horseshoes
    • Chloreric: Ken
    • Phlegmatic: Bo
    • Melancholic: Orv
  • Fun with Acronyms: V.A.C.U.U.M. (Volunteer Agents Cruising Unsteadily Under Mongoose). Mary's full title is V.A.C.U.U.M. B.A.G. (Beautiful Assistant Gangbuster).
  • Gadgeteer Genius: Orv. So much so that even Ken's father says that he's promising.
  • Advertisement:
  • Gate Guardian: The lion
  • Homemade Inventions: Orv reigns supreme in this area.
  • Island Base: Cobra's headquarters on Mystery Island.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • The spy organization that Ken's dad belongs to is called Mongoose. The organization they're fighting is called Cobra.
    • Orv's full first name is Orville. He's an inventor. Who has his own plane.
  • Near-Villain Victory: Cobra. Their on the very edge of success until Orv realties: They were Tricked into Escaping.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: The book starts out with the boys tipping off a Cobra agent.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname:
    • Horseshoes. His "real" name is Jerry, which in turn is a nickname for Jeremiah.
    • None of the four boys go by the full form of their first name: Bo is short for Booker, Ken is short for Kenneth, and Orv is short for Orville.
  • Slipping a Mickey: The boys feed a lion some hamburger with sleeping pills mixed in to knock it out.
  • Stuff Blowing Up: The members of V.A.C.U.U.M. have another nickname: The Volcanoes, which was given by the neighborhood adults after Orv's rain-making machine blew up four times in a short time period.
  • Teens Are Short: Wildly averted by Bo, who's seven feet tall.
  • Tricked into Escaping: Orv realizes this when he remembers that a guard at a window facing west remarked to his relief on the sunrise on his way out. The other guard "looked" at it, thus purposefully giving the boys the chance to knock him out and get away so they could spread the false information they'd been given.
  • Violently Protective Girlfriend: Mary delivers a real beatdown on the guy whose been besting Ken and his friends (although the fact that Ken was the one he'd been beating up might have been incidental).
  • Water Source Tampering: Initially, Cobra tricks the protagonists into thinking they plan to put a drug (causing its victims to relive the last 24 hours, rendering them helpless) into the city milk supply. But their real scheme is to taint the water supply instead.