forgotten book: The Case of the Caretaker’s Cat

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.

~  ~  ~  ~

Series organizer Patti Abbott hosts more Friday Forgotten Book reviews
at her own blog, and
posts a complete list of participating blogs.

About Richard Robinson

Enjoying life in Portland, OR
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15 Responses to forgotten book: The Case of the Caretaker’s Cat

  1. Jeff Meyerson says:

    I remember it only vaguely, just the outline of the cat storyline. But then, I read it in 1973 – from May to August of that year I read 28 of his books, all but 5 of them Masons.

    I’ve been meaning to go back and read one of the Masons I haven’t read. All I have on hand at the moment, however, are a number of the Cool & Lam books. Maybe I’ll check the library.

  2. Richard says:

    Of the Mason’s I’ve read so far, about a dozen of them, TCOT Amorous Aunt may be my favorite.

  3. I remember reading TCOT Caretaker’s Cat back in the Sixties. I actually started reading all the Perry Masons in order. I quit after a dozen or so books.

  4. Richard says:

    Just got tired of them, decided you didn’t care for them, or… ?

  5. Todd Mason says:

    Old Cousin Perry was a hellion, no doubt about it. Or was that Cousin Hal? They all run together…which, I gather, is the problem with the Mason novels…

  6. Carl V. says:

    Seeing that cover makes me want to run out to all the local used bookshops to go book hunting. Sorry it wasn’t as enjoyable as the others you’ve read.

  7. Patti Abbott says:

    As I have noted, these were the books in my house growing up. The Bible and Perry Mason.

  8. Richard says:

    Todd – I won’t say it’s a problem with them, there are bound to be similarities when each one is about a Los Angeles criminal attorney, his secretary and P.I. mainstay in battle with (usually) the same D.A. in murder trials. Gardner got better at the plotting, but the character got more tame as time went on. Each is a slice of southland crime fiction and I’m enjoying each, I just felt this one was a little obvious in spots. Still, this did not leave me feeling half as incredulous as most of the Ellery Queen stories and novels I have read.

  9. Richard says:

    Carl – going to a bunch of used book stores is always a good idea.

    Patti – Some might say the Mason novels ARE the Bible, of the legal mystery/crime genre, anyway.

  10. Evan Lewis says:

    I lasted a little longer than George on the Mason trail. I think I read about thirty before I got distracted. Don’t remember this one in particular, but they all went down as easy as potato chips.

  11. Jeff Meyerson says:

    Like Patti, I started reading Gardners because they were in the house when I was growing up. As mentioned, I went through I big Gardner phase in 1973. One week in June of 1976 I read 7 of his books, including three in one day. I guess that cured me as I didn’t read another one for over 20 years.

    I hope Crippen & Landru will continue reprinting his old pulp stories (including the westerns) because I’ve found them very entertaining.

  12. When you’re writing that many books in so short a time, the formula becomes obvious, Rick. After a dozen straight Perry Masons, I knew what was going to happen. The element of suspense was gone. Since then, I read Perry Mason novels one at a time, about a year apart.

  13. Richard says:

    Jeff – Even with peanuts or potato chips, too many at once can put you off. I’m reading about 3 or 4 a year, and it’s fine. I hope C&L continues with that too.

    George – though the setting and setup are the same, the plots do differ.

  14. I would enjoy this. I’ve read four in the Mason series and each one was hands down brilliant.

  15. Carl V. says:

    That is true. 🙂

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