The Case of the Queenly Contestant by Erle Stanley Gardner
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Typical fun read with Perry Mason and his sidekick Della Street. No spoilers!
A woman with a regal baring comes to Mason to retain him. She tells him that the newspaper for her local town wants to find her whereabouts and she at all costs wants to remain anonymous.
Twenty years ago she left her small town after winning a beauty contest and headed for Hollywood. Life did not go as planned and for reasons she's not willing to divulge even to her lawyer she is desperate to keep the newspaper and the townsfolk from knowing her whereabouts.
Mason must find out her secret. He must also find out why the local newspaper wants to discover what happened to her. Is it really just idle curiosity over a local or is there a more sinister reason?
The fact that two Private Investigators from the town are shadowing Mason make him believe the latter.
The story moved at a good pace, kept my attention and piqued my curiosity. Gardner knows how to structure a plot line without any unnecessary events or conversation that would congest the overall arch.
Not a deep or profound story, Gardner's no Dostoevsky but he's enjoyable to read the same way eating a handful of Hershey Kisses tastes great. Just don't make an exclusive diet of it. Perfect for a weekend curl up.
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Widows Wear Weeds by A.A. Fair
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
A.A. Fair is a pseudonym for Eric Stanley Gardner who wrote the Perry Mason series. Out of curiosity I bought a collection of books that he wrote under a different name about two different sort of mystery solvers.
I think there is a book that writes about the meeting of the two protagonists but I wasn't sure if I had it so I plunged in with the first book I plucked off my shelf.
A.A. Fair's mysteries involve an oddball couple: Bertha Cool and Donald Lam. Together they run a private detective agency. How they met, I don't know but they took up shop together and at least in this mystery the arrangement works.
Bertha Cool is no Della Street. She is built like a cement truck and carries all the finesse and charm of one. She's rough, crude and gets what she wants, which is to make sure they get paid well for their casework.
Donald Lam, a slender handsome man of smallish stature, is the one on the streets doing the actual investigating. He also seems to be the one with the most brains. Other than finances, Bertha Cool doesn't seem to have a whole lot of foresight, a trait that is starkly demonstrated in this story.
The story: Nicholas Baffin, a local restaurant owner, comes to Lam and Cool because he is being blackmailed. He wants Lam to meet the blackmailer with him and pay him off. Lam informs Baffin that blackmailers have a way of demanding more and more money and the worst thing one could do is pay them.
No, no, Nicholas Baffin insists. We need to pay him off and be done with it. It's not for him, understand, but for the famous movie star that he has compromised and, in fact, it is her money that is going to the blackmailer.
Things sound sketchy to Donald but Baffin is paying well and Bertha's eyes go "kaching!" so they take the case. Everything seems weird from the get go and afterwards, Lam discovers that the blackmail scheme was a set up, but why? Why would a man risk his marriage by pretending to be having an affair and being blackmailed?
Another strange incident: Nicholas Baffin invites Lam, Cool and the Chief of Police to eat at his restaurant. They are placed at a table where they are in the spotlight. Obviously, Baffin wants everyone to know they are there. What happens next (no spoiler!) compromises them all and sets a turgid series of events that makes it tempting to all involved to disengage in dishonest practices so as not to be incriminated to a horrible crime.
This was a very quick read and just as fun as the Perry Mason novels. I am impressed that Gardner was able to adeptly write mystery novels in a way that did not imitate his other novels. Lam and Cool are very different people, as I said, and the story line, at least in this book was developed in a different way than the Mason mysteries.
Good, old school reading.
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Eric Stanley Gardner