The Case Of The Careless Kitten (1942) by Erle Stanley Gardner

Helen Kendal’s uncle Franklin was long presumed dead, but when he phones her, telling her to contact defence attorney Perry Mason. No sooner than she has hung up the phone, some murderous miscreant who deserves everything they get tries to poison her kitten! How dare they!

Pretty soon, Perry and Della Street find themselves entangled in a complex case. Who is the dead man found shot to death in a car at a rendezvous arranged by her missing uncle. As suspicion falls on Helen’s brother, Gerald, Perry finds himself in trouble – as well as saving his client, he’s going to have to save himself and Della too… Luckily he has a kitten to help out…

Just a quick review here – a bit pressed for time due to family stuff squared and my first attempt at sort-of proof reading a novel for someone – so I’ll just say that this is probably the best Perry Mason book that I’ve read.

It hooked me from the start, something that the Shoplifter’s Shoe never did, and the plot is really fast-paced, twisting all over the place before coming to a satisfactory conclusion. There’s some nice clear differentiation between the role of detective and the role of defence attorney, and the dynamic between Perry and Della keeps the book fresh and lively.

Three things – whoever wrote the blurb for the American Mystery Classics really hasn’t read the book. The first edition cover is clearly showing an adult cat. And Amber Eyes is a bloody stupid name for a cat. Other than that, this one is definitely worth your time.

7 comments

  1. These days when I think of Gardner I’m always reminded of Stephen King’s comment that he was a terrible writer, even though his mother read all of him. I’m glad to know at least one book Gardner wrote is worthwhile!

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  2. Ha ha ha; but I did love Amber Eyes’ role in the plot–Gardner used kitty behaviour well. I also liked that this took a different route than the usual Mason books in terms of the ‘trial’ as well as how the denouement comes about.

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  3. “Blurber hasn’t read the book” is quite a common syndrome – particularly with House of Stratus’s reprints of R. Austin Freeman (eg the blurber for Shadow of the Wolf thinks it’s a set of short stories, when it’s really a novel). However, it’s probably preferable to “blurber has read the book, but doesn’t understand the concept of spoilers”.

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    • Oh definitely. My favourite is Cover Artist Hasn’t Read The Book and guessed the content from the title. For example The Crime At The Crossways depicts a dead body under a crossroads roadsign – despite The Crossways being a country house…

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