Saturday, March 04, 2023

21. The Case of the Sun Bather's Diary by Erle Stanley Gardner

I can't remember where I found this and it is somewhat beat-up, with a nice warp to it.  This curvature and the silver pocket book edge on the binding side, made me not appreciate the cover until I was about halfway through.  It's a great, classic 50s babe on the beach painting with really fun typography, as the title is the sun and I assume hand-done as well. 

The story starts out fun, with a woman phoning Perry Mason from a phone on the 17th hole of a private golf course.  She is completely naked and needs rescuing.  How she got in that situation is soon revealed: she lived in a trailer in a hidden area in the forest behind the golf course and enjoys nude sunbathing.  While out getting a tan, somebody stole her trailer and her car.  Well things get much more complicated quickly when we learn that her father is in prison for stealing $300,000 from an armoured car transfer.  She is convinced he is innocent, as there is only circumstantial evidence in what seems like an impossible theft, given all the security protocols (the package that arrived at the destination bank contained old cheques; somehow the money had been swapped out along the way or beforehand).  Oddly, she is quite flush as her car and trailer were both new and good quality and she has ready cash to pay Mason.  And she refuses to reveal where her money comes from.

It's a neat set-up as Mason (using Paul Drake) is trying to find out the whole story at the same time as the cops and perhaps one other party while the woman keeps disappearing and being involved in suspicious situations that seem to suggest her dad did steal the money.  Halfway through, one of the suspects of the original theft is murdered and Mason and his client are both potential suspects.

It was a fun read, though the middle with a lot of Mason asking Drake questions was a bit too tell-y rather than show-y.  Also, Perry Mason himself was kind of annoying with his letter and not spirit of the law tactics to bamboozle fiery D.A. Hamilton Burger.  It almost bordered on unethical.

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