James Thane's Reviews > The Case of the Substitute Face

The Case of the Substitute Face by Erle Stanley Gardner
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Jan 17, 2016

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bookshelves: crime-fiction, erle-stanley-gardner, perry-mason
Read in January, 2016

Immediately after Perry Mason's triumph in The Case of the Lame Canary, his secretary, Della Street, persuades him that the two of them should take a long ocean voyage together--an enforced vacation where no client could possibly reach Perry. (Naturally, they're in separate cabins. Perry and Della would never, ever... Don't even go there!)

The last stop on the voyage is Hawaii and by now, Perry is itching to get back into harness and deal with an exciting case. Fortunately, he doesn't have to wait long because as soon as the ship leaves port, a woman named Mrs. Newberry approaches him with a problem. She's traveling back to the mainland with her husband, Carl, and her daughter by her first marriage, Belle, who is in her early twenties.

Mrs. Newberry is worried about her husband's behavior. Two months ago, her husband quit his job as a bookkeeper at a large company and changed the family name. He's also suddenly come into a good deal of money, which is financing the family's vacation. Mr. Newberry, whose real name is Carl Moar, insists that he won the money in a lottery, but Mrs. Newberry isn't sure she believes him. She confesses to Mason the fear that her husband might have embezzled the $25,000, he's been carrying around in a money belt. And, of course, in 1938, $25,000 was no small amount.

Mrs. Newberry is most concerned about her daughter who is, naturally, young, beautiful, intelligent, outgoing and delightful. Belle has taken an interest in the son of a very wealthy family and the son, in turn, is quite interested in Belle. She's also a plucky girl, but naturally is way below the young man's station in life, which will become readily apparent when the ship docks in San Francisco. Mrs. Newberry doesn't want Belle to be embarrassed when it becomes apparent that the two families don't really move in the same social circle, and she really doesn't want Belle to suffer if it turns out that her stepfather is a crook.

Mason agrees to look into the matter and is soon burning up the airwaves with ship-to-shore telegrams. Sure enough, the company that Carl Newberry worked for seems to be short $25,000 and the company is looking for him. In a twist of fate, the president of the company is also on board the ship with Perry, Della and the Newberrys. Even more ironically, the young man that Belle is enamored of is the son of the company president!

Well, before very long a huge storm blows up; someone goes overboard and all of a sudden, someone else is accused of murder and appeals to Perry for help. It's a huge complex mess, of course, and things look awfully dark for virtually everyone involved. One can only hope that Perry can somehow work out a solution. (Does anyone really doubt that he will???)

This is another fun entry from the earliest days of this series and certainly an enjoyable way to lose an evening.
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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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message 1: by Monnie (new)

Monnie One of these days, I've got to re-read a couple of these. They were all SO good!


message 2: by Barbara (new)

Barbara I'm reminded how much I love the Perry Mason books. I might just have to check out a few from the library.


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