Going for the Golden: “The Case of the Sulky Girl” by Erle Stanley Gardner


 The Case of the Sulky GirlSecretary Della Street informs her boss, Perry Mason, that a young woman looking either scared or sulky is waiting to consult him in Erle Stanley Gardner’s second Perry Mason book The Case of the Sulky Girl. Frances Celane has been living under a trust controlled by her uncle for the last two years that gives him extreme discretion with her vast fortune. One detail is that if she marries before the age of 25, her uncle can choose to give her only $5,000 and donate the rest to charities. But the 23-year-old Fran wants to marry now. She arranges a meeting for Mason with her uncle that shows Perry how unreasonable the man is, leaving the lawyer determined to best the man.

Then that night, as Perry is pouring over his law references to try to find a way to best the other man, he gets a call from Fran that her uncle, Edward Norton, has been murdered. Perry needs to come to the home she has shared with her uncle. The police have arrested the chauffeur, but Perry thinks this is a set-up. Despite the fact that he represents Frances Celane and not the chauffeur, Perry is determined to get to the truth of the matter, even though it may lead to the arrest of Frances. This leads Perry down a road of lies, blackmail, and corruption.

The second half of The Case of the Sulky Girl is taken up with a trial during which Perry seems to be letting the prosecution get away with anything. It is clear that Gardner did his research into legal terms and procedures. And it is just while Perry seems ready to lose that he pulls off a miracle, as usual.

This book does a fantastic job of making us fall for an illusion set up in the right hand while the trick is pulled off in the left. The solution is not completely hidden from us throughout the book, though it came as a big surprise to me at the conclusion.

Only the most significant characters in this book have much development of their personae. Perry comes across as round and complete, wily and clever. We don’t get to know as well his secretary Della Street and detective Paul Drake, whom we met in the first book, The Case of the Velvet Claws. Frances does get built up, as we see her fiery temper and means of trying to manipulate the situation on her own.

The audio edition of this book is narrated by Alexander Cendese. He does a great job of performing this book, with his deep voice well suited to the character of Perry. He adds a lot to the experience of listening to this book.

I really enjoyed The Case of the Sulky Girl. I especially enjoyed getting to see Perry work in the courtroom, a setting we didn’t see in the previous book. The mystery was well- crafted and clever. I give the book five stars.

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