Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Perry Mason Is Asking for Trouble When He Agrees to Represent a Mysterious Masked Client

On a cold, rainy night in 1940, Perry Mason is awakened out of a sound sleep by a man who offers to give Mason $1,000.00 if he'll come into his office immediately. They guy gives Perry a name that the lawyer immediately recognizes is phony and after Mason agrees to come in, he calls the Drake Detective Agency and gets them on the job. Drake's people are so efficient that by the time Perry gets to his office, he knows that the mysterious caller is actually an architect named Robert Peltham.

Peltham is accompanied by a mysterious young woman who is wearing a mask and who refuses to speak, making it impossible for Mason to identify her. Peltham wants the woman to be protected against any legal danger. He removes a $10,000.00 bill from his wallet, cuts a piece off of it and gives it to Mason as a retainer. He gives the other piece to the woman and says that if she ever needs Mason's services, she will give him the rest of the bill.

Adjusted for inflation, the $10,000.00 bill would be worth just under $175,000.00 in 2018. (Actually, $174,847.14, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, but who's going to quibble over a hundred and fifty bucks or so?) Still, Mason initially refuses the case, pointing out all the problems involved in attempting to represent the interests of a client he can't even recognize. But in the end he agrees to the proposition.

Over the next several days, Mason sits around the office waiting for the other shoe to drop. In the meantime, he takes on a couple of other clients and before long, bodies are dropping, people are suing, and Mason still doesn't know what, if anything he should be doing. 

The setup alone makes this among the most entertaining novels in this series. It's a lot of fun watching Perry trying to figure out what in the world is going on here and what he should be doing. In addition to a murder or two, there's also a scheming would-be heiress and a complicated stock sale that gives Perry an opportunity to trot out the Law of Agency, something that always spices up any mystery novel.

This is one of the few novels in the series that does not wind up in a courtroom. Things move so dramatically and so quickly, that Perry never even gets a chance to cross-examine anyone and expose them as lying fools on the stand. Still, it's a lot of fun and will appeal to anyone who enjoys this series.

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