Friday, March 30, 2012

The Case of the Grinning Gorilla: Review

Okay. So, for years I've been saying I don't care much for Perry Mason books. Perhaps it was the influence of the TV show with Raymond Burr which I took exception to at a young age. I'm not sure. But I'm here to eat humble pie. I picked up several Erle Stanley Gardner books over the past year--all those tempting little pocket-sized editions that I just can't resist. And I thought, just maybe, I ought to try reading one. I just finished The Case of the Grinning Gorilla--and it was good. Not the most awesome thing I ever read, but a good story. And, mostly, I love Della Street. I love how she sums up people succinctly and accurately for her boss. I love how she interacts with Mason. She's just a top-notch character.

But...the book. Mason is passing an auction held by the public administrator, and on a whim bids on the "Private personal belongings, matter of the Estate of Helen Cadmus." He didn't expect his bid to be the only one and is surprised to find himself in possession of the package to the tune of $5.00. Helen Cadmus had been the private secretary to Benjamin Addicks, an eccentric millionaire with the usual rich man's toys, including a private yacht. It was from the yacht that Helen Cadmus disappeared and the assumption was made that she had jumped overboard and committed suicide.

Once word gets out that the famous lawyer has acquired the materials, he finds that there seems to be an inordinate amount of interest in whether or not the effects includes Helen's diaries. As a matter of fact, they do. And that's when Mason gets interested himself. He gets involved at first out of curiosity. He and Della sit down and read through the diaries and are left feeling that this was a young woman who was anything but suicidal. As he tries to get more information on what really happened during that fateful yachting trip, he finds that the millionaire's household has more secrets than anyone suspected--from a small zoo full of gorillas and chimpanzees to Addicks' shifty legmen to an accusation of theft against the millionaire's former housekeeper. Before it's over, Addicks will be murdered and Mason will confront an apparently hypnotized and murderous grinning gorilla.

As I mentioned, this is a good read. Plenty of action and the narrative moves right along. For whatever reason, I thought the books were more hard-boiled than this one turned out to be. A little on the pulpy side...but in a very fun and light way. I will definitely be sampling more of the Gardner books sitting there on my shelf. Three and a half stars.

**One of the interesting bits in this novel: In the foreward, Gardner talks about his friend Dr. R. B. H. Gradwohl, a pioneer in the field of legal medicine. Dr. Gradwohl gets a mention (as himself) in this story. And the backstory on Gradwohl is very nice.


Rishi Arora said...

these days I'm also going through those pocket sized mason books. thoroughly entertaining. also may I make a suggestion for your next read: do try the case of the crooked candle.

Debbie Rodgers said...

I've never read ESG either, Bev, although my dad did, voraciously - and I didn't have any negative feelings about the tv series. I shall have to give him a try since I've had the ESG 'casebook' on my shelves for years.

Major said...

I thought this was a rocker. First for the pulpy action, settings, and antsy ambiance. Second, in the climax in two characters attempt to murder Perry Mason, which is unusual since Gardner usually kept violence off stage. Third, Gardner seldom went beyond the usual motivations of love, hate, lust, and greed. However, he actually spends a little time, for once, building the characters of Benjamin Addicks, a tangled guy, almost a mad scientist type with his psychological experiments on gorillas.