First published in 1935, this is a very early entry in the Perry Mason series, back in the day when there were still cuspidors in the courtroom and when both the police and the lawyers could still cut the kind of corners that would get them arrested, disbarred and jailed in this day and age.
Perry is fresh off an exhausting murder case when Charles Ashton, a cantankerous, frail, elderly caretaker comes into the office and insists on seeing him. Curious, Perry sees the man who wants him to defend his cat, Clinker. Ashton's employer has recently died in a fire, but the employer's will provides that the caretaker has a job for life, looking after the place.
The dead employer's grandchildren move into the home, but one of them hates the cat and insists that the caretaker get rid of it. Otherwise, the snotty grandkid says he will poison it. The will does not specify that the caretaker gets to keep the cat, who is, naturally, the caretaker's best friend in the world.
Of course Perry will take the case; of course, someone will soon be murdered; of course the case will be convoluted beyond all belief; of course Clinker the Cat will turn out to be the most important witness, and of course just when Perry's client seems headed for a certain date with the hangman, Perry will pull a rabbit out of the hat and save the day.
If you've ever read any of these books, you'd expect nothing less and you won't be disappointed. These earlier books are among my favorites of the eighty-five novels that would ultimately detail Perry's adventures. The characters and the formula were still new, and Perry had a lot more freedom to maneuver, with his skeleton keys and a lot of other devices that the law and the Bar Association prohibited him from using in later years. The Case of the Caretaker's Cat is a quick, fun read and an enjoyable trip back to the early days of pulp fiction crime.