|Paperback edition from 1963|
First published 1933 / Kindle edition, 261 pages
In this first entry in Erle Stanley Gardner's long-running mystery series, California lawyer Perry Mason is hired by the stunning Eva Belter (characterized as "all velvet and claws" by Perry's secretary Della Street). Eva has been caught in the company of a prominent congressman, during a bungled robbery at a fancy hotel, and is now being blackmailed by a sleazy tabloid. To protect her companion and keep her wealthy husband in the dark, Eva is ready to pay the hush money, and wants Mason to take care of the mechanics of the deal. But Mason doesn't fully believe Eva, and has other ideas about how to handle her problem. When he starts his sleuthing (along with private detective Paul Drake), he uncovers secrets, twists, and turns that no one saw coming. Eva's husband ends up dead, and Perry could be facing a murder charge.
Originally, I thought this was going to be a re-read, but none of it seemed familiar, so I guess I was wrong about that. It was enjoyable, and a little surprising -- I guess I was expecting it to be more like the old TV show. Raymond Burr was a little more suave and sophisticated than the Perry Mason in the book, and the relationship between Mason and Della Street is a little more romantic in the book. Also, the Mason in the novel is not above breaking a few laws (including doing a little quiet blackmail work) if it gets him what he wants. But it's a really long-running series, and I'm sure the characters develop over the years. I'll definitely be reading more books in the series.