This, the twenty-first of the Perry Mason books, was certainly a complicated one and a very interesting read, even though the end, or rather the denouement, done differently from usual, was a touch confusing as well, I wasn’t quite sure at first if I understood it right.
This one opens with Helen Kendal, a young woman of twenty-four, who gets a phone call from a man claiming to be her uncle Franklin Shore who had vanished (of his own accord) ten years ago, leaving behind all his wealth, an embittered wife, Matilda (rather a tyrant), a brother Gerald (who had his own law practice) and young Helen. Franklin asks Helen to contact Perry Mason and come see him with Mason and no one else. In the meantime, her little kitten Amber Eyes, who she has been playing with falls ill and is found to have been poisoned. Was it an accident? After getting the kitten treated, Helen who has revealed the phone call to her uncle contacts Perry through him, but when they arrive at the appointed place, with Gerald and Della in tow, more complications await them in the form of a message from Franklin which leads them to finding a dead body. But where is Franklin? Did he commit the murder, and if so, why? Mason of course solves it all, but not before another attempted poisoning, a shooting, and hints of dubious dealings. Everyone has a story to tell or secret to hide.
This is somewhat different from the usual Perry Mason tales for although the matter goes to court, and an arrest is made, we spend only a little time in court and it isn’t Perry’s client who is arrested or charged. In fact, Hamilton Burger, having decided perhaps that Perry needs to be taught a lesson, targets Della, and she ends up being produced in court (having already been arrested by Tragg). Burger tries to ‘remind’ Perry that solving the murder isn’t his job, and so Perry decides to take him at his word and not tell him any of what he finds out or deduces, so at the end while we the readers know the solution, Burger and Tragg are left to find out for themselves. One very much doubts that they do.
The explanation of whodunit and why was one I certainly didn’t see coming and with all of the twists in the plot, even after it was given I had to go back and forth a little to see if I understood it right. But despite that, overall I thought the book was good fun, and kept me reading because I had no idea how things would turn out.
And now to the most important part of the book—Amber Eyes, the kitten. This is the case of the careless kitten, after all, and the kitten is certainly at the centre of things. And she is careless, getting into a fair bit of trouble (may be a little too much, even). But her antics do also provide Perry with important clues as to what happened, especially her typically kitty behaviour.
A very enjoyable one with lots happening, twists and turns, and a totally unexpected outcome.
[p.s. As this was a wartime publication (1942), there is some anti-Japanese sentiment reflected.]
Have you read this one? How did you like it? Looking forward to your thoughts!
Find Kate’s review of the book on Crossexamining Crime here.