Book Review: Heads You Win

The Case of Caretaker's Cat

I grew up on the novels of James Hadley Chase and Erle Stanley Gardener before I was old enough to understand them!  So I was quite excited when I got hold of The Case of Caretaker's Cat, a Perry Mason novel by Erle Stanley Gardener.
Peter Laxter is a miser who lived with his grandchildren.  He left in his will that his caretaker Ashton be taken care of.  He also left out his grand-daughter Winifred, while dividing his property among his two grand children, Sam Laxter and Frank Oafley.  The problem?  Ashton's sole companion is Clinker - his persian cat and Sam cannot stand it.  Sam wants Ashton to get rid of it.  So Ashton seeks Perry Mason's help.

His secretary Della Street feels this is not a case worthy of Perry Mason's attention and instead he should take a cruise to Orient.  But Perry Mason is curious.  He enlists the help of Paul Drake, who runs Drake detective agency to gather details of the case.

Perry Mason sends a legal notice to the grandchildren stating that when Peter Laxter said that his caretaker be taken care of, it included his cat.  He thought that that would be the end of it.  But the grandchildren have their lawyer meet Perry Mason accusing him of trying to contest the will.

It emerges that Peter Laxter was killed in a fire in his house.  There were others in the house, including his nurse, Edith DeVoe who was taking care of him.  But they couldn't save him. Winifred has a boyfriend Douglas Keene.  Both don't care about Winifred being disinherited.

It also appeared that Peter Laxter may have a million dollars in cash and diamonds hidden away before his death  No one knew where they were.

As Perry Mason starts talking to various parties involved the case, it looks like Peter Laxter's death may not be an accident.  But who would have killed him and why?  To compound things, Ashton gets  killed as does Edith.  Douglas Keene is accused of both the death.

What started out as a case of the cat, now turns out to be a murder mystery and Perry Mason must solve it to clear his client, Douglas Keene.

Though written in 1935, the book is unputdownable  The only things that sounds weird in today's world is the absence of cell phones (most of the phone calls being made from phone booths)!  Perry Mason is not a conventional lawyer.  He likes to get his hands dirty, even if it means rubbing the law enforcement the wrong way.   Boston Legal may be a good watch thanks to James Spader but Perry Mason is a better read.   A Sunday well-spent!