Friday, December 28, 2012

The Case of the Velvet Claws by Erle Stanley Gardner

Like so many of Perry Mason's clients, a young beautiful woman calls on Perry in his office. She is in big trouble, she is married and was caught in an inn with another man, who happens to be a rising politician.
If this information leaks to the press both there reputations would be sullied for life. As luck would have it, a nosey newspaper which is infamous for blackmailing has got involved. Now this woman wants Perry to circumvent her from this precarious predicament.

Perry Mason pays Belter, the owner, of the ignoble newspaper a visit and threatens him with unpleasant consequences if he tries to dig more in this story. As Mason is exiting Belter's home, he bumps into his wife, who turns out to be the same woman who visited Mason in his office.

Mrs Belter calls Perry in the dead of the night, she says that it is an emergency and Mason drives up to her on a rainy night. He finds her a little distance from her home, soaked wet, the woman is hysterical she says that she heard her husband arguing with someone on the top floor in her husband's room. Later she heard the same person shoot her husband and then run away in a car. Perry is shocked and starts to haggle with Mrs Belter on finding out more about the killer, Mrs Belter tells him that she did recognize a familiar voice, she thinks that the person who was arguing with her husband and then shot him was Perry Mason!


The most famous fictional attorney in the world returns on my humble little blog, this is the debut novel of the hard boiled attorney cum sleuth and what a debut it is. Gardner gives Mason a fitting debut in a tightly plotted mystery with memorable characters.

The characters are very engaging and interesting, especially of Mrs Belter, she is the centerpiece of this book and steals the show from Perry Mason, a pathological liar it becomes a mystery in itself to figure out when she is telling the truth and when she is lying. Perry Mason on the other hand seems too hard boiled, he acts like a smooth operator in many instances and in other instances acts like a complete fool. I guess the author was trying to create a very strong and assertive character, but ends up creating an unreasonable person who will defend the same person who accuses of him of murder.

The Mystery is a nice one and the red herring keeps throwing the reader on the wrong tracks, but I did not particularly like the revelation of how the murder was performed, it left a few questions answered and I felt the explanation was very vague. It almost felt like the murderer was pinned without any proof, I'm sure that no jury would convict the accused based on the evidence that Perry Mason gave.

The writing style of Gardner is world famous, he wastes no time in superfluous details and immediately gets the ball rolling, you can read this 190 page book in 3-4 hours and won't once feel bored or tired.

For a price of less than Rs 90 this is a strongly recommended. 3.5 stars out of 5.

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