Friday, June 27, 2014

Vintage Mystery #19

I read this book for the Vintage Mystery Bingo Reading Challenge 2014. The challenge is to read 6 or more Vintage Mysteries. All novels must have been originally written before 1960 and be from the mystery category.

I read this for G-4: Locked Room Mystery. Okay, the crime occurs on a boat, good enough, I hope!!

The Case of the Crooked Candle -  Erle Stanley Gardner, 1944

Very light on characterization and the wartime atmosphere of 1944 but heavy on the absorbing puzzle. Lawyer Perry Mason has reconcile the position of the murder victim, the action of tides, the crook of a candle, and the stories of his clients. Intellectually engaging without being dismayingly complicated.

At roughly 25% of the book, Chapter 16, day one of the preliminary hearing, could very well be Gardner's longest courtroom chapter. In Chapter 18, Perry falls asleep with his head in his secretary Della Street's lap, which creates a relaxed moment of tenderness between familiar characters. In Chapter 19, Gardner somewhat humanizes homicide detective Lt. Tragg by having him offer an olive branch to Mason.

Written during WWII, Gardner hints about butter rationing, a period touch, along with jump seats in taxis, whatever those might have been. I'm not sure I'd suggest this one to a Mason newbie but aficionados will like it.

1 comment:

  1. FYI - A jump seat on a airplane is the one that folds down right by the main entrance/exit at the front of the plane. It's meant to be a temporary seat for the flight crew while the plane takes off. It's also a place where airline personnel can sit for the duration of a flight when travelling without a ticket. A jump seat in a taxi cab is similar -- a fold down seat that is stowed on the rear of the driver's seat. Most older cabs were designed only for two or three passengers in the rear. Jump seats allowed for up to five passengers. No one sat next to the driver back in the day.

    This book is one of the few Perry Mason mysteries that Jacques Barzun felt was a genuine detective novel. I've read many of the early Mason books from the 30s but they read more like thrillers and not one had a courtroom sequence.