It’s been a long ride since “The Case Of The Velvet Claws” in 1933. Perry started out as a tough guy but calmed down by the late 30’s, early 40’s to using his brain more than his brawn. It was never said but it was obvious that Perry and Della Street were more than boss and secretary, The series does not have to be read in any order but it is interesting to read the first few to see how the character began. Gardner died in 1970. This book and “The Case Of The Fenced-In Woman” were published after his death. Thomas Chastain tried his hand at Perry Mason in the 80’s with two books. Although I like his work I couldn’t bring myself to read them. Not after over eighty Gardner books.
As usual Perry’s client lies to him. Mae Farr says she’s her sister. They’re from a small Northern California town. Turns out Mae is wanted for forging a check. Mae is a hostess on Penn Wentworth’s yacht. He’s a wealthy bookie and likes to throw big parties. His signature was on the check. It was forged.
Later on board the yacht Mae is trying to keep Penn off of her when a flash occurs through the skylight. Looks like someone shot Penn. Mae’s wanna be boyfriend from home, rancher Harold Anders is outside with a gun. He slipped and fell into the water. They go to Della Street’s apartment. Perry knows what to do and takes Mae back to the yacht. It’s gone.
Harold tossed the gun in a remote area during the rain. Perry, along with Della and Paul Drake go to look for it. The police searched the area and couldn’t find it. He tosses a gun to see how far it’ll go and then follows its path. Showing up is Perry’s nemesis Sgt.Holcomb who wants to arrest all of them for planting evidence. Perry laughs him off and he and his friends leave.
The yacht is found cruising along by itself. Penn had installed an automatic steering device called an Iron-Mike. When he assaulted Mae he was in his underwear. Now he’s fully dressed and very dead with a bullet in the head. So how do he get there? Complicating things are his soon to be ex wife, the temperamental Juanita and her rich boyfriend Sid Eversel. He’s a pilot and an amateur photographer who lives in a country mansion.
Penn was partners with the sleazy Frank who tries to get Perry to suppress evidence. Frank’s babe Hazel Tooms tries to hit Perry up for enough money to get to disappear for a while. Mae is charged with Penn’s murder and Perry may be up on burglary charges.
Like most of the books there’s a preliminary heari8ng as opposed to a jury trial. This one is different from all the others. The judge is a Justice of the Peace who was grandfathered into office. He doesn’t have a legal background and didn’t even finish high school He wants no long winded cross examinations and not too much technical detail. It’s a fun segment.
This one may have been a manuscript that Gardner had put aside years ago for future editing. No matter. It’s an entertaining entry in the series and well worth reading. I’ve read the entire series twice and except for 1945’s “The Case Of The Gold Digger’s Purse”, which I found to be a total bore, I enjoyed them all.