The Case Files of Perry Mason by Erle Stanley Gardner
October 22, 2016
Considering my insatiable appetite for good reads, space and budgetary constraints, I decided to try out Kindle Unlimited. The KU subscription gives users access to over one million titles in the Kindle Store. While quantity is not as issue, quality definitely is. You have to go through a lot of pebbles to discover a jewel. Sounds like another fun day in the store for a book lover. :) In case you need a shortcut, you can also visit ‘I Love My Kindle’ blog for a few reading suggestions. The blog is from 2014 but it is a good starting point.
While browsing the KU collection, I came across the Perry Mason series by Erle Stanley Gardner. Mr Gardner was a proliferate writer, penning more than 500 works, in addition to 82 Perry Mason novels, between 1920 and 1969. Perry Mason is a criminal defense lawyer who enjoys taking on challenging, unwinnable cases. His maverick strategy involves identifying the real culprit to exonerate his client, barely staying within ethical and legal boundaries. By his side always are his loyal secretary Della Street and workaholic private investigator Paul Drake. The mysteries follow a predictable, repetitive arc - Mason takes an impossible case, complicated by the undeniable evidence or not-so-innocent clients, gets into trouble protecting his client, has a showdown with the district attorney and barely gets away with a win (and a stretch of imagination). This is pulp fiction at its best! The plots are ingenious, the conversations witty, the romance campy and the settings reminiscent of simpler times. You just can’t wait for Perry to come out with guns blazing, glorious and victorious. Whodunnit and courtroom drama all rolled into one neat package. No wonder the series is the longest running lawyer show in American television history. I ended up devouring all twenty one books in record time (bringing back memories of binge-reading Nancy Drew during school days). Here are five Perry Mason novels available on Kindle Unlimited that you should try out:
#1 The Case of the Howling Dog
Published in 1934, this is the fourth book in the Perry Mason series. It was also made into a movie in 1934 and remade as an episode for the popular TV series in 1959. Arthur Cartright approaches Perry Mason to take up a harassment case against his neighbour Clinton Foley whose dog is driving him insane with the barking. Mason, reluctant to take up the case, is intrigued when Cartright also seeks his advice on drawing up a will with the neighbour’s wife as the sole beneficiary. Mason finds himself at the centre of a murder case when his client disappears with the neighbour’s wife leaving in his wake a dead neighbour and a dead dog. The main plot element seems inspired by a Sherlock Holmes mystery in an inverted sense.
#2 The Case of the Dangerous Dowager
This 1937 book is the tenth Perry Mason novel. A feisty widow Mathilda Benson seeks Mason’s assistance in recovering IOUs for gambling debts incurred by her granddaughter Sylvia. The seemingly simple case becomes complicated when Mason walks on to a dead body, automatically becoming the prime suspect much to the delight of the district attorney. While there is no courtroom action, there is no dearth of legal banter and twists with all involved parties confusing the case with their self-centred behaviour. I couldn’t stop visualising Dame Helen Mirren as the cigar-smoking titular character.
#3 The Case of the Rolling Bones
For his fifteenth case published in 1939, Perry Mason is hired by Emily Milicant to protect the interests of Alden Leeds, a millionaire who earned his fortune in the Klondike gold rush. Leeds’ greedy relatives forcibly commit him to a sanatorium, fearing loss of inheritance once Leeds marries Emily. The case becomes murkier when Emily’s brother John is found murdered, with evidence pointing to Mason’s client. It takes all of Mason’s resourcefulness to uncover the truth and save his client’s neck along with his fortune.
#4 The Case of the Drowning Duck
Did you know ducks could drown? John Witherspoon initiates an investigation into the background of his daughter’s fiancé Marvin Adams after witnessing strange experiment involving drowning ducks. On finding the great Perry Mason on vacation in the vicinity, Witherspoon seeks his advice as to whether his to-be son-in-law is a potential murderer. Much to his chagrin, Mason finds himself in the limelight again when he discovers the hired investigator murdered in his apartment. In this 1942 potboiler, Mason races against time to save his client and reputation by solving a twenty year old murder. Another fun Mason mystery from the time when detergent was a novelty!
#5 The Case of the Spurious Spinster
It is 1961 and nothing has changed in the Mason universe. Susan Fisher, a secretary at Corning mine interests, reaches out to Mason when her boss's seven-year-old son hands her a shoebox stuffed with hundred-dollar bills for safekeeping. Concerned that her boss is involved in some shady activities and afraid that she may be accused of embezzlement, on Mason’s advice she approaches the wealthy owner Amelia Corning with the truth. Without any evidence to back her truth, Susan finds herself accused of murder. Mason has to use all his legal shenanigans to extricate his client from a devious trap.
Although not flawless, a Perry Mason mystery seems a good choice for days when all you want is a quick read with a dashing hero and his trusty team saving the day, replete with sass and intrigue. For your reference, here’s a list of all the Perry Mason novels available on Kindle Unlimited: