The Crab with the Golden Claws is a relatively early entry in the Tintin series by Herge. Tintin, our intrepid reporter, gets pulled into an opium smuggling caper and makes the acquaintance of Captain Haddock, the tipsy companion who becomes a mainstay of the series in later volumes. There is the usual amount of slapstick comedy and outrageous coincidences, and the bumbling detectives Thomson and Thompson make an appearance as well, complicating things as usual.
Tintin runs into the smuggling ring quite by accident- he happens to come across a label from a crab tin that his dog Snowy finds in the trash. When a similar label turns up in the belongings of a man found dead at sea, Tintin makes a connection. His curiosity soon earns him the ire of the smugglers, and he finds himself imprisoned on a freighter. Escaping with Captain Haddock, they soon find themselves adrift in a lifeboat, stranded in the
Sahara desert and then
matching wits with the smugglers in an exotic Moroccan port.
The action is fast and furious and this one reads fast, with lots of narrow escapes. It's breezy fun, but This is not one of my favorite Tintin books, for various reasons. It’s very fast paced, which is good, but we seem to careen from event to event a bit much, even by the standards of this series. The story is a little less sophisticated than some of the later installments, and even the art seems a little less polished. Part of the problem could be that I recently read Tintin in
Tibet and The Castafiore Emerald-
both are later entries in the series and quite good, so this one may have just
suffered by comparison.
The other issue I have is Captain Haddock. This is his first appearance, and while he is portrayed in later volumes as a lovable oaf, here he was just downright unlikeable, at least for me. He’s always been known for his fondness for drink, but here is a drunkard and a buffoon. He even attacks Tintin on several occasions! Not the most reliable ally…
Still, this is worth a read if you like the Tintin series, or just want a graphic novel style adventure with exotic locales that is suitable for both adults and children. I would not recommend this as the place to start though. While these can all be read as standalones, some are better entry points than others, and I think this one is of average quality in the series as a whole.