The Missing Mongoose

The Missing Mongoose


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The third delightfully funny detective story and puzzle book featuring the mystery solving guinea pig duo

It's a national emergency! A rare and extremely valuable mongoose is missing and the legendary Buenos Aires zoo is in chaos. But with rabbits in the Tigers' Taj Mahal and hippos in Panda's Palace, the zoo is a very confusing place. Coco may be the Chief of Police, but solving crimes can be very stressful. Only the calming presence of his brainy cousin Alberta can help. Can Alberta and Coco follow the clues and deduce the whereabouts of the missing mongoose?

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781743312605
Publisher: Allen & Unwin Pty., Limited
Publication date: 09/01/2015
Series: Cryptic Casebook of Coco Carlomagno and Alberta Series , #3
Pages: 84
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 7.50(h) x 0.30(d)
Age Range: 6 - 8 Years

About the Author

Ursula Dubosarsky is an award-winning author of books for older readers. Her previous novels include Abyssinia, The Red Shoe, Theodora's Gift, and the 2012 CBCA shortlisted The Golden DayTerry Denton has written and illustrated many books.

Read an Excerpt

The Cryptic Casebook of Coco Carlomagno (and Alberta)

The Missing Mongoose

By Ursula Dubosarsky, Terry Denton

Allen & Unwin

Copyright © 2013 Ursula Dubosarsky
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-74343-040-8


Alberta was perched on top of a ladder in the living room, hanging a picture on the wall, when she felt a letter poking out from under the picture frame.

'Ah,' she said to herself. 'I bet that's from Coco.'

Coco was Alberta's cousin. He was Chief of Police in Buenos Aires, a big city in South America. Alberta had been expecting to hear from him. It was about time for another emergency.

She climbed carefully from the ladder and sat down to read the letter. This is what it said:

Dear Alberta,

Something so dreadful is going on here, I cannot [??] it any longer. Please come and help me– I'm desperate! BTW the weather is breezy, so don't forget your cardigan. Kisses and hugs.

Your devoted cousin;


Alberta read the letter through twice, while her enormous brain wondered.

'I think,' she decided at last, 'that I will hang the picture another day. I'd better get over there, on the double!'

She folded up the ladder, and packed some lettuce leaves and a game of chequers in a brown-paper bag – and a cardigan, just in case.

Then she left a note for the piano tuner, locked the door behind her and headed off for South America.


By the time Alberta arrived in Buenos Aires, the sun was blazing high in the sky. She made an urgent stop at her favourite fruit-salad stall and ate a lovely plate of frozen strawberries.

Feeling refreshed, she headed for Coco's office at the top of the Obelisco, the tallest monument in the city. After climbing all 206 steps she was quite pink with heat again. How glad she was to see the familiar door with its splendid shiny sign!

'Alberta! You're here at last!'

Before she could knock, the door opened wide and there stood Coco, looking as if he was just about to go out. He kissed Alberta on both her furry cheeks, which is the custom in South America.

'I came as soon as I received your letter, Coco,' said Alberta.

'I am so glad you did, Alberta,' replied Coco. 'I'm desperate for your help. A dreadful calamity has befallen the city – perhaps the most dreadful in all its history!'

'I am sorry to hear that,' said Alberta calmly. 'What is it?'

'You cannot imagine.' Coco clutched at his heart. 'Something so terrible, so horrible — '

'Is it to do with animals?' interrupted Alberta, thinking of the letter.

'Alberta, that brain of yours!' Coco gazed at her in admiration. 'I don't know how you do it. It is to do with animals. In particular, the wonderful Buenos Aires Zoo. And it's so ghastly, so horrifying — '

He sank down on his knees and his voice dropped to a gurgling whisper.

'One of their mongooses is missing!'

Alberta blinked.

'Goodness!' she said. 'That is – er – unexpected. But I wonder, Coco, shouldn't that be "mongeese"? "Mongooses" doesn't sound quite right.'

'I don't know, Alberta,' said Coco, shaking his head sadly. 'At the moment, all I know is that their most prized mongoose is missing. We must go to the Zoo right away!'

'Yes, of course,' agreed Alberta. 'Will we take your scooter?'

'Alas, my scooter is in the repair shop,' confessed Coco. 'I accidentally left an empanada in the motor, and it started making a strange noise. So we will have to take the bus. But not to worry! The buses in Buenos Aires are the wonder of the world. Vamos!'

The cousins scampered down the 206 steps and out onto the huge roundabout that surrounded the Obelisco. It took rather a long time to cross the road to the bus stop, as there were many lanes of traffic and not every driver was expert at spotting two small pedestrian guinea pigs.

But finally they reached the other side and looked up at all the signs with numbers displayed for all the different buses.

'Great carrots! There are so many to choose from!' said Alberta. 'Which one do we take, primo?'

'A ver,' said Coco, 'according to the Zookeeper, we need to take four different buses. She said it doesn't actually matter which ones, as long as all the numbers add up to two hundred and seventy-three.'

'That is a very strange system,' said Alberta. 'If I may say so.'

'Perhaps,' said Coco. 'But I can assure you, everyone always arrives at the right destination.'


Look at the back of the book for some tips to help you work it out.


Coco and Alberta managed to find four buses for the legendary Buenos Aires Zoo. The only problem was that all the stops and starts and curves and turns gave Coco terrible travel sickness.

'I can't wait till my scooter is fixed,' he said to Alberta as he staggered off the last bus in front of the Zoo. 'I am not strong enough for that much excitement.'

On the high silver gates was a large sign that read:



The Zookeeper, a striking beauty with multicoloured fur, rushed out of the gates to greet them.

'Señor Coco! I am so glad to see you!'

'Dear Señorita Zookeeper,' said Coco, putting on his most handsome face. 'Never fear! I am here now!'

'So am I,' mentioned Alberta.

'Yes, this is my cousin Alberta,' introduced Coco. 'She is a genius at solving mysteries.'

'Is that so?' said the Zookeeper.

'And Alberta, this is the Zookeeper,' continued Coco. 'She is a specialist in mongooses. She's always being interviewed about them on television.'

'That is quite amazing,' commented Alberta.

'Please come in,' said the Zookeeper, ushering them through the gates. 'As you see, we have closed the Zoo to the public on account of the catastrophe.'

They followed the Zookeeper inside. It was clear that all the animals were upset: there was the sound of mournful sobbing from every species.

'Let's sit down here,' said the Zookeeper, pointing to a bench next to a pond of bright blue water filled with weeping fairy penguins. 'I will tell you all about it.'

Luckily the fairy penguins did most of their crying underwater, so it was not too noisy for conversation.

'It happened this morning,' the Zookeeper began. 'There were so many visitors. We had all the usual school groups, of course, but there was also a busload of elderly guinea pigs from La Plata, a team of polo players and a delegation from Helsinki —'

'Goodness, what did they want?' asked Alberta, curiously.

'I never did find out,' replied the Zookeeper, 'as, alas, I speak no Finnish. In any case, I was extremely busy. I went to the Mongoose Mansion around lunchtime to make sure they had all had a good meal. And then I realised – our most prized mongoose was nowhere to be found. All that remains of him is this collar,' she added sorrowfully. 'I found it next to his bowl of brazil nuts.'

'Why is the mongoose so prized?' inquired Alberta.

'For his fluffy white tail, of course,' replied the Zookeeper, 'which, as you know, is not normal for mongooses.'

'Is that so?' said Alberta who, despite her large brain, did not actually know what was normal for mongooses.

'When did you last see him?' asked Coco.

'Let me think.' The Zookeeper strained to remember. 'I may have seen something running down to Rhino Ranch straight after morning tea, but really I can't be sure.'

'Are not the animals kept in cages?' asked Alberta, noticing with some alarm a large lion that seemed to be coming their way.

'This is a free zoo,' said the Zookeeper in a surprised voice. 'The animals are free to wander around as they please. It is our policy. The only exception is the Cats' Cradle, where we do insist our newborn kittens stay in bed. In fact, we have just welcomed a most valuable litter of leopards.'

'It seems to me,' said Alberta, 'that your missing mongoose has probably been eaten by one of the other – er – carnivorous animals.'

The Zookeeper looked horrified. 'I can assure you, none of our animals would dream of doing such a thing!' she exclaimed. 'It is against our policy!'

'They may not need to dream of it,' suggested Alberta, 'they might just actually do it.'

She was relieved to see the lion turn a corner and disappear from sight.

'Please, Alberta, you're upsetting her,' muttered Coco. In a louder voice he said, 'Señorita, I think the little mongoose is probably just hiding somewhere. You know how playful these creatures can be.'

'I suppose it's possible,' said the Zookeeper, sounding unconvinced. 'You don't think it's more likely to be a case of kidnapping? There has been so much in the news lately about such things.'

'Let's not think the worst first, senorita,' said Coco, turning pale under his fur, as he did not at all like the sound of that. 'What we must now do is conduct a thorough search of the grounds, calling out the mongoose's name. That's sure to – er – ferret him out.'

'What a splendid idea!' said the Zookeeper, standing up. 'You are so clever, Señor Coco. Now I must leave you. There's a television reporter waiting to interview me for the afternoon news. Good luck!'

And she took off at a rapid pace through a flock of flamingos, her lovely rainbow fur glinting in the sunlight.

'What a fine person!' sighed Coco, watching her go. 'So committed to mongooses.'

'Yes, yes, marvellous,' said Alberta, a little impatiently. 'Now, about your plan, primo. It's excellent, but there's just one problem.'

'What's that?' said Coco, stepping out of his dream.

'We don't know the mongoose's name,' said Alberta. 'So how can we call it out?'

'Oh dear,' said Coco. But then he brightened. 'Wait a minute – what about the collar? Perhaps his name is marked on it.'

He picked the collar up and inspected it carefully. Sure enough, there along the inside edge was a row of little letters.


There was a silence.

'I wonder how it is pronounced?' said Coco eventually.

Alberta's brain thumped. PING!

'Wait a minute, Coco,' she said. 'Look – each of the letters is fixed to the collar with glue. I think the letters must have fallen off and someone has simply stuck them back on without looking at the order they go in.'

'You mean —' '

I mean, this is not the mongoose's name, just the letters of it. If we rearrange the letters, we'll find his real name.'

'I don't know, Alberta,' said Coco, frowning. 'The Zookeeper would surely have told us if something like that had happened. I mean ...' He paused. 'ENGOMOI'SOMA is probably quite a common name in – um – wherever mongooses come from. I think if we roam the Zoo calling it out, the little mongoose is sure to come running.'

Alberta sighed. She did not believe for a moment that the mongoose's name was ENGOMOI'SOMA but she could see that Coco was hopelessly captivated by the glamorous Zookeeper. There was little she could do but agree to the plan.


If you need help, turn to the back of the book.



'ENGOMOI'SOMA!' hollered Alberta.

The two guinea pigs scurried along the twisting pathways of the Zoo, from the Penguin Pond to the Lion Lodge, past the Gorilla Grange, the Vulture Villa and the Cockatoo Castle.

In keeping with Zoo policy, most of the animals were not in their expected homes. It was a peculiar experience to peer into the Kangaroo Korner and see a camel deep in conversation with a giraffe. But in every place, the animals lifted their heads and gazed solemnly, silently wishing Alberta and Coco good luck in their quest for the little mongoose.



On they went, past the Alligator Alhambra and the Tiger Taj Mahal, which was occupied by a family of white rabbits. Past the Cats' Cradle with its sign 'Shh! Nursing Mothers' but not a cat or kitten in sight.


Past the Elephant Estate, the Dromedary Domicile and the Hippo Haven. The hippos, who were sunning themselves in the pool by the Panda Palace, raised three cheers for the Chief of Police – 'Hip-hipporay!' – which Coco found very touching.

But there was not a single sound or sight of the missing mongoose.

'I don't understand,' said Coco, mystified. 'Where could Engomoi'soma be?'

In Alberta's opinion, the mongoose was currently in the stomach of a large toothy animal. But she merely said:

'We haven't tried the Nocturnal Nook yet.'

Coco shuddered. The Nocturnal Nook was a special enclosure for animals that only came out at night. There were no windows, and only a small door leading in or out. Coco had never been inside it – he had never had the courage. Who knew what might happen to a guinea pig in there?

'Um, is it far away?' he asked in a quavering voice.

'No,' said Alberta. 'Actually, it's right here.'

Indeed it was. The forbidding, spiky building, which looked like several triangles that had fallen on top of each other, was directly in front of them, casting a long shadow.

'It is fate!' croaked Coco bravely. 'We must go in and seek Engomoi'soma!'

He pushed open the swinging door of the Nocturnal Nook and felt his way in, Alberta right beside him. It was so dark they could see nothing at all, let alone a mongoose. But they felt night creatures moving around them, the fluttering of wings, the scratching of dirt, short shallow breaths.

Neither of them wanted to call out the mongoose's name. What if there was some unseen owl with a curved beak and cruel claw nearby, ready to dive and pounce?

'I hope the Zookeeper is right,' thought Alberta, 'that none of the animals would dream of doing anything against the policy.'

They both stiffened. From somewhere deep in the darkness, they could hear whispered voices. They stood still as statues and listened.

'Sew weave court thee kit ends. Wadder wee doon ow?' said the first voice.

'Weaken high dam inn sighed won ov thee Ann knee Mal play says four a why lentil nigh thyme,' came the reply.

'Hmm. Witch won? Theirs oh men knee.'

'Um, eye dough no. Yew gotten knee eye deers?'

'Eye no! Thatch imp pansy play sin them idyll! It spur fact.'

'Write. Grate. Eye yule fall oh ewe. Let scat ow toff hear!'

The whispering stopped. There was a scrabbling sound of feet moving quickly, as well as a kind of dragging, as though something was being pulled along the ground. The swing door flapped open and closed again.

'Alberta,' said Coco, trembling. 'What on earth was that?'

'I don't know,' replied Alberta. 'But whatever it was, I think my brain could think about it much better outside!'

And the two guinea pigs clambered out of the Nocturnal Nook as fast as they could, back into the bright daylight.


You will find some hints at the back of the book.


Once they were safely outside, Coco and Alberta crouched for a moment in the shade of a huge bush covered with white flowers, waiting for their heartbeats to slow down. Alberta was just about to ask Coco what he intended to do next, when she felt something slap against her shoulder.


'What is it, prima?' asked Coco, startled. 'What's wrong?'

'It's very strange, Coco,' said Alberta, slowly, 'but I think that flower just hit me.'

She pointed to the middle of the bush, where a long, fluffy white flower was flapping about in the air. It moved, as though it was about to slap Alberta again. She leaned forward and grabbed it, giving it a yank.

'Great carrots, Alberta!' said Coco, in astonishment. 'That's not a flower —'

'It's a tail!' declared Alberta, pulling it right out of the bush.

It was a tail! A thick, fluffy white tail. And at the end of the tail something else emerged from the green depths of the leaves.

There stood the missing mongoose.

'Engomoi'soma! We've found you at last!'

Coco threw his arms around the little lost creature in delight.

'Qué raro!' said Alberta. 'What on earth was it doing in there?'

The mongoose squirmed out of Coco's embrace, his eyes glinting and alert.

'Euyouweuuuuuu!' came the sound of a long, drawn-out yawn.

The bush moved again. Now something else was pushing its way out of the green thickness. Not something. Someone. A small brown, black and white guinea pig, with a face that was annoyingly familiar.


Excerpted from The Cryptic Casebook of Coco Carlomagno (and Alberta) by Ursula Dubosarsky, Terry Denton. Copyright © 2013 Ursula Dubosarsky. Excerpted by permission of Allen & Unwin.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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