Monday, January 6, 2020

Perry Mason Tackles a Complex Case Involving a Drowning Duck

This is the twentieth Perry Mason novel, about a quarter of the way through the series. It's set in 1942, just as the U.S. has entered the Second World War, and as always, reflects the standards and the attitudes of its time.

As the book opens, Perry and his secretary are away from the office on vacation in Palm Springs. Why Perry and Della are vacationing together is something that the author doesn't bother to explain, but it turns out to be fortuitous when Mason is approached by a very wealthy local man, named Witherspoon, who has a strange request.

Witherspoon's daughter has fallen in love with a young, penniless college student named Marvin, who will soon be going off to fight in the war. Marvin and the daughter believe that he was kidnapped as a baby and was raised by the woman he thought was his mother, until she died making a deathbed confession about the kidnapping. However Witherspoon has conducted an investigation and knows that the story was false. The boy's father was hanged for murder years earlier and the mother made up the lie to spare the boy the embarrassment of knowing that he was the son of a convicted killer.

Witherspoon is determined to protect his family's good name at all cost and is determined that his daughter will not marry the son of a man rightfully convicted of murder. He has a copy of the trial transcript and wants Mason to review it. If Mason can convince Witherspoon that the man was wrongly convicted, Witherspoon will say nothing and will allow his daughter to marry Marvin. But if there's even a breath of suspicion left, Witherspoon will expose the secret and forbid the marriage.

Mason thus faces several seemingly impossible tasks, the most important of which is saving the young lovers from the stupidity and narrow-mindedness of the girl's father. It won't be easy. More people are going to die, a poor little duck is going to be put in mortal danger, and in the end, only Perry Mason could sort out all the complex strands of this mystery.

All in all, it's a fairly typical Mason story, save for the fact that it does not take place in L.A. Perry will not see all that much time in court, but will ultimately wind up in a judge's chamber trying to explain all the evidence in a way that won't leave the judge and the readers shaking their heads in dismay. A fun read.

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