FFB: The Case of the Substitute Face by Erle Stanley Gardner

this is the 104th in my series of forgotten or seldom read books

The Case of the Substitute Face by Erle Stanley Gardner © date 1938, this edition: Ballantine Books 1987 mass market paperback – mystery – Perry Mason 12th (by publication date) in series

Case of Substitute Face

When Perry Mason meets Mrs. Carl Newberry on a vacation cruise, she is a woman desperately interested in saving face. For she and her husband are newcomers to the ranks of the rich, and they’re sparing no expense at helping their daughter, Belle, make a successful splash in the right social circles. But Mrs. Newberry suspects that her husband embezzled the company he worked for and their new-gotten fortune is illegal. She turns to Mason for legal advice, and mentions during the interview that a signed portrait of their daughter, who looks quite similar to a well-known movie star, has been stolen from her suitcase. When Mr. Newberry dies suddenly and his wife is left holding his hefty money belt, Perry wonders if his grieving client is really a black widow. . . .

This is a good but perhaps not great Mason novel, which shouldn’t put you off from reading it, as there are enough twists and reveals to keep any Mason fan satisfied. The Perry Mason television show broadcast this as episode 31 on May 10, 1958 titled “The Case of the Substitute Face” with the plot slightly rewritten but substantially the same. For example, the cruise ship is coming from Vancouver, not Hawaii.

While I still don’t have all of the Perry Mason novels and story collections, I’m working on it, picking one up occasionally on BookSwap or eBay as I come across them. One of these days…


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The rest of the Friday Forgotten Book posts
can be found at Patti Abbott’s blog Pattinaise

About Rick Robinson

Enjoying life in Portland, OR
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15 Responses to FFB: The Case of the Substitute Face by Erle Stanley Gardner

  1. Richard, I have been re-reading Perry Mason novels for the past few years, having first read all of them in college. Not all of the novels hold now, as they probably did the first time, perhaps owing to the plots that seem a little clichéd. I do, however, enjoy the court cases and especially Mason’s run-ins with Hamilton Burger. I remember watching some episodes of the TV series with Raymond Burr as Perry Mason. He looked the part.

  2. cgramlich says:

    I did use to watch the Raymond Burr Perry Mason, though not regularly.

  3. Perry Mason books used to be common in used book stores and thrift stores. I have about 100 ESG books and occasionally read one. Like Prashant, I find some of the Perry Mason books are dated. But the highlight of Perry Mason’s novels are those clashes with Hamilton Burger.

  4. Jeff Meyerson says:

    Well, I know I read this because I’ve read all the Masons published in the 1930’s but I can’t say I remember it. I keep meaning to go back and pick up where I left off reading him but haven’t lately. The only Gardners I’ve read in the last decade or so are the collections Crippen & Landru has done and some of the other short story collections (westerns, I believe), plus a couple of the A. A. Fair Cool & Lam books.

  5. Richard says:

    Every time I read one I think I want to read another; they’re like eating peanuts. But I always have so many other things lined up it takes me a while to get to the next one.

    George, if I can put it together, I’ll send you a list of “wants”.

  6. John says:

    Rick – Please send your want lists too! I have dozens of duplicate Gardners and a few hardcovers w/ DJ that I would be more than willing to send you. I still find them by the boxful out here. I’ve read a few of the early ones and some of the 50s and 60s titles ages ago when I was a teen. I like the tougher Mason of the 30s and 40s before the courtroom shenanigans became the focus of the books. I still have yet to read any of the Doug Selby books. TCOT SILENT PARTNER I recently read elsewhere on the ‘net is supposed to be one of his best.

  7. Richard says:

    It’s in the email, John.

  8. So of the ones you’ve read, which is your favorite Perry Mason novel?

  9. Jeff Meyerson says:

    The Doug Selby books were quite readable, as you’d expect from Gardner. I always thought television did one thing really right when they made the TV movie version of THE D.A. DRAWS A CIRCLE (as THEY CALL IT MURDER). That was casting the wonderfully sleazy Lloyd Bochner as odious defense lawyer A. B. Carr. Jim Hutton was Selby.

  10. Patti Abbott says:

    And what would be the best of them? I have never read any.

  11. Richard says:

    I’m not sure I’ve yet read enough of them to pick a “best”. One of my favorites is The Case of the Fan Dancer’s Horse (1947).

  12. Todd Mason says:

    GIven his popularity, and how the Detective Book Club consistently offered standalone volumes of Perry Mason as an incentive to join for at least a decade, I’d be surprised if John and others will be tapped out any year soon…

  13. I’ll be sending you a box of Perry Masons next week, Rick. You can sort the books John and I send you: keep the ones in the best condition. Find a home for the ones you reject. There’s a rumor Evan Lewis likes Perry Mason novels…

  14. John says:

    This may be too late but I recommend these titles: VELVET CLAWS, HOWLING DOG, SULKY GIRL, PERJURED PARROT, CROOKED CANDLE and to get an idea of Gardner’s obsession with gun tricks LONG LEGGED MODELS which confused the heck out of me when I was teen.

  15. Richard says:

    John, sounds good to me.

    George, thanks, looking forward to getting them. The check would be in the mail, but I need a number.

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