by Erle Stanley Gardner, © 1935, edition read: Pocket Books, 1962 paperback – Perry Mason # 7
the 42nd in my series of Forgotten Books.
This, the seventh of Gardner’s Perry Mason novels, has possibly the most convoluted plot of the books in the series so far.
In his will, Peter Laxter guaranteed his faithful caretaker a job and a place to live for life. But Laxter’s grandson Sam says the deal doesn’t include the caretaker’s cat. On a whim, Perry Mason takes the case, against the advice of his assistant and his secretary, Della Street. Mason’s reply is “A man only has a lease on life. All that really counts is a man’s ability to live, to get the most out of it as he goes through it. I get a kick out of playing a no-limit game.”
What is at stake in this one isn’t just whether a cat can stay in a house, there’s more: a million dollars in cash and some diamonds. Mason finds a web of greed and treachery among the heirs, and has to put up with a most repulsive attorney who represents some of them. Who murdered Laxiter? What has the cat got to do with it? The answers are both less and more than the unsuspecting reader might expect, and certainly Mason makes a very unusual move in the courtroom near the end of the book, one that just might win him the case, or might end up in his being disbarred.
This Mason novel, while interesting and having an unusual ending, contains some illogical motives, unlikely actions and a couple of red herrings so obvious they hardly deserve the name. This is perhaps the weakest of the first dozen Mason novels, though I have read opinions to the contrary. You be the judge.
~ ~ ~ ~