Erle Stanley Gardner introduced the famous character of Perry Mason in 1933’s The Case of the Velvet Claws. A woman visits lawyer Perry Mason using the name Eva Griffin and asking for help because Spicy Bits, a scandal sheet known to be a conduit for blackmail is trying to shake her down. Perry follows the trail of Spicy Bits to its secret owner, a man considered to be a respectable member of society. Then, the man’s wife walks into the room, changing everything. She is Perry’s client, named not Eva Griffin but Eva Belter. Back at his office, Perry interrogates Mrs. Belter, exposing every statement of hers to him as a lie.
Then in the earliest hours of the morning, Perry gets a phone call from Eva that her husband has been murdered. When he goes to meet Eva, he asks her what happened and is startled to hear her say that she recognized the voice of the man who shot her husband and that the voice belonged to Perry. From now on, Perry must engage in a game of wits to find the real murderer while staying out of jail himself.
This book demonstrates why the name of Perry Mason continues to be famous, even among those who have never even known that the series was a set of books before becoming made famous by Raymond Burr as a television series. The plot kept moving rapidly, with such creative twists and turns that I found myself unable to guess where the book was going next.
The three main characters in this series make regular appearances as fully formed characters, though other friends don’t appear until later books. We get a clear sense of Perry as the suave lawyer who isn’t afraid to take risks and is juggling many balls in the air at any given time. We see Della Street as the competent secretary eager to go beyond the call of duty out of loyalty, but also with a hint of love towards her boss. And Paul Drake serves both as Perry’s detective on specific issues and loyal friend ready to back him up as needed.
Alexander Cendese performs the audio edition of this book. With his deep voice, he sounds so realistically like I imagine Perry to sound, and he narrates the book very effectively and bringing an already lively book even more to life.
I really enjoyed The Case of the Velvet Claws. It has been ten years or more since I last read any of the Perry Mason books, and I didn’t remember their being so well- written and exciting. The narration of Cendese just adds all the more to the experience of enjoying this book. I give the book five stars!
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