I read this book for the Mount TBR reading challenge 2014.
The Case of the Negligent Nymph – Erle Stanley Gardner, 1959
This 1959 mystery starts with the usual working girl – beautiful, naturally; full of moxie, of course – encountering lawyer Perry Mason as she finds herself in a classic jam. Perry is in a canoe scoping out a millionaire’s island on behalf of another client in a real estate case. The naked nymph, pursued by a savage dobie, swims up to the canoe so Perry saves her and takes her to her own rickety yacht.
The next day Perry finds out that the game and canny hottie he rescued is wanted by the cops on suspicion of stealing $50K worth of gems from the millionaire’s island mansion. She is apprehended and bound over for trial for grand theft. Like the other books in which there is a smaller hearing, Perry sets off legal fireworks during a cross-examination and gets her bail whittled down to a manageable $2,500.00.
Things start looking up for the comely accused, but, self-sufficient to a fault, she makes errors in judgment, the worst of which are not following Perry’s legal advice and then lying to him. Perry ends up defending her on the inevitable murder charge. He finds his back up against the proverbial wall yet again since he faces as many legal woes as his client does if he doesn’t find out the truth. Perry kicks himself for letting impulse rule him and helping the lying brat in the first place, but he defends with all he’s got. Perry acknowledges his own fallibility and is thus compassionate about the frailties and foibles of others.
Usual. Of course. Inevitable. Why return again and again to the Perry Mason stories that invariably feature damsels in distress, the powerful exploiting the vulnerable, and the cunning and resourceful hero who combines wise tactics and hot-headed action to make everything right in the end? Because these irresistible elements, the stuff of heroic myth, possess endless appeal. Sure, everybody wants an honest, loyal and efficient lawyer that will fight when the going gets rough. But even more, everybody wants a supporter, an advocate who knows their weaknesses and messed-up choices but pleads their case eloquently and shrewdly anyway.