No more goat babies to report as of yet, but in the meantime here are my thoughts on my latest read…
The American Mystery Classic series has reprinted this title and looking online this is the synopsis they give this book:
‘Helen Kendal’s woes begin when she receives a phone call from her vanished uncle Franklin, long presumed dead, who urges her to make contact with criminal defense attorney Perry Mason; soon after, she finds herself the main suspect in the murder of an unfamiliar man. Her kitten has just survived a poisoning attempt, as has her aunt Matilda, the woman who always maintained that Franklin was alive in spite of his disappearance.
Lucky that Helen took her uncle’s advice and contacted Perry Mason–he immediately takes her as a client. But while it’s clear that all the occurrences are connected, and that their connection will prove her innocence, the links in the case are too obscure to be recognized even by the attorney’s brilliantly deductive mind. Risking disbarment for his unorthodox methods, he endeavours to outwit the police and solve the puzzle himself, enlisting the help of his secretary Della Street, his private eye Paul Drake, and the unlikely but invaluable aid of a careless but very clever kitten in the process.’
All seems reasonable enough, yet this is another review by me in which I take a synopsis to task and in this case I wonder whether the person writing it, has actually read the novel. Helen is the starting point for this book, receiving the phone call, attending to her poisoned kitten, going out to the rendezvous with Perry Mason and Della Street etc., yet after these events her presence and role in the book is very minimal. At no point, despite having a motive, is she seriously considered a suspect in the murder, in fact out of all the suspects, Lieutenant Tragg treats her the kindest. Nowhere in the book is Perry Mason trying to defend her rights or prove her innocence. His energies are very much directed elsewhere, taking on another uncle of Helen’s, as a client instead – as well having to get Della Street and himself out of a very tight corner. So I am at a loss as to why the blurb is so misleading. I wondered whether such a blurb, with its heroine in jeopardy, makes the book more marketable?
Inaccurate blurbs aside, what did I make of the actual mystery Gardner was offering?
Most of the book takes place during an 18-hour period, so the pace is pleasingly frenetic, as more criminous events unfold, and the action never lags. Little does Perry Mason realise what he is getting into when he enthusiastically says: ‘Come on, Della, we’re on the trail of another adventure in crime.’ I think reading Gardner’s work this year, I am getting more into the grove of what his mysteries offer, as in times gone by, I have been far more lukewarm. These books are not traditional puzzle clue mysteries, as there is a great deal the reader has no hope of figuring out, but at the same time this is not a legal thriller lacking in deductions, inferences and thinking things through. The reader is encouraged to ponder certain questions and discrepancies which Perry Mason brings to our attention. Assessing known information is very much part of the narrative.
The kitten, named Amber Eyes, is deployed well within the novel, setting off the drama at the beginning and making significant appearances later, which put our sleuths in hot water, as well as provide elucidation to the mystery as a whole.
Placing Perry and Della into a difficult predicament two thirds of the way through was a good move on Gardner’s part, as the tension levels are cranked up a notch or two and propel the plot to the finish in a gripping fashion.
So all in all a good read!