January 1 – December 31, 2015. The challenge is to read books that you already own.
The Case of the Half-Wakened Wife – Erle Stanley Gardner
This Perry Mason novel from 1945, the 27th outing featuring this hero, is a tad longer than usual. The reason is that Gardner provides more exposition on the background of the inevitable murder. He also characterizes at length Ellen Bedson Cushing as the attractive, shrewd businesswoman that knows her way around, the kind of professional female that Gardner respected.
The characterization and description of the real estate chiseling and scheming, while interesting, somewhat delay the appearance of crack lawyer Perry Mason, his trusty confidential assistant Della Street, and his put-upon PI Paul Drake. Gardner also includes a funny scene in which Detective Tragg speeds through LA at a breakneck pace with Perry and Paul being shaken about in the back of the police car. Paul, in contrast to his usual imperturbable and suave self, acts like a nervous wreck when he’s not driving.
One upside is that Perry really bungles the case when dealing with his worthy adversary Tragg, such that Tragg ironically calls him “Sherlock.” As a downside, Gardner skips whodunit conventions by not really playing fair with information. The reveal seems complicated beyond what an intelligent reader would be expected to comprehend.