In which Perry Mason is introduced to the mystery readers of the world
Jan 6, 2010
A sultry, slinky blonde (to whom Mason's secretary, a young, attractive and starry-eyed Della Street takes an instant visceral dislike) enters the office and introduces herself as Eva Griffin.
Griffin tells the story of a robbery gone dreadfully wrong at a local hotel. During the course of the investigation of this robbery, police have determined that she had been stepping out with Harrison Burke, a high profile political figure whose career will be devastated if his public becomes aware of his philandering.
Somehow Frank Locke, the editor of a notorious blackmailing scandal sheet called "Spicy Bits", has also become aware of Burke's and Griffin's little tête-à-tête. In spite of Della Street's urgent protestations that Mason should stay away from this potential client who is clearly an accomplished liar with a spectacular aversion for any form of the truth, Eva Griffin engages Mason who has the reputation of "fighting" for his clients.
Mason's job is to ensure that Locke and "Spicy Bits" are persuaded to refrain from publishing the story and destroying Burke's fast-rising political career.
In rather short order, Mason's investigations reveal that Eva Griffin is, in fact, Eva Belter, wife of George Belter, the irascible and filthy rich owner of "Spicy Bits". When George Belter is shot in his study a few nights later, the mystery ratchets into high gear as everyone in sight, Mason included, is counted as a possible suspect in the murder.
"The Case of the Velvet Claws", first published in 1933, is of no little historical interest as it served to introduce Perry Mason to the reading public. The franchise, of course, lasts to this day and is most memorable as the fecund ground which birthed Raymond Burke's television portrayal of the gritty lawyer.
The plot is fabulous - a first rate, complex, highly believable mystery with all the requisite clues, twists and turns and red herrings that one would expect from a well-constructed mystery. In this regard, Erle Stanley Gardner does himself proud and competes neck and neck with his more famous colleague, Dame Agatha Christie.
But that characterization and dialogue. My, my, my ... in modern terms, they are so "B-movie", so over-written, so cartoonish and stereotyped, and so trite as to be utterly laughable! Any author that wrote that way today would be rejected by the publishing houses so quickly that they wouldn't even be given the doubtful privilege of receiving a bad review!
Four to five stars for the mystery contrasted with an exceptionally weak one to two stars for the characters and the dialogue average out at a three star mystery that is still worthy of being read because of its historical interest.
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