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Perry Mason #50

The Case of the Gilded Lily

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Stewart G. Bedford loves his wife Ann, and cooperates with blackmailer Binney Denham. But he wakes from a drugged drink to find Binney shot, his gun missing, and his blonde escort "Gerry, for short" missing. Binney claimed an accomplice, and somebody beats up Gerry. California lawyer Perry Mason, secretary Della Street, and PI Paul Drake team up for answers.

188 pages, Mass Market Paperback

First published July 1, 1956

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About the author

Erle Stanley Gardner

1,427 books689 followers
Erle Stanley Gardner was an American lawyer and author of detective stories who also published under the pseudonyms A.A. Fair, Kyle Corning, Charles M. Green, Carleton Kendrake, Charles J. Kenny, Les Tillray, and Robert Parr.

Innovative and restless in his nature, he was bored by the routine of legal practice, the only part of which he enjoyed was trial work and the development of trial strategy. In his spare time, he began to write for pulp magazines, which also fostered the early careers of Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler. He created many different series characters for the pulps, including the ingenious Lester Leith, a "gentleman thief" in the tradition of Raffles, and Ken Corning, a crusading lawyer who was the archetype of his most successful creation, the fictional lawyer and crime-solver Perry Mason, about whom he wrote more than eighty novels. With the success of Perry Mason, he gradually reduced his contributions to the pulp magazines, eventually withdrawing from the medium entirely, except for non-fiction articles on travel, Western history, and forensic science.

See more at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erle_Sta...

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 71 reviews
Profile Image for Tim Blackburn.
264 reviews2 followers
February 11, 2021
Decent Perry Mason mystery. Nice to relax to the familiar and comfortable characters of Perry, Della Street, and Paul Drake.
Profile Image for Freya .
163 reviews79 followers
March 6, 2015
I didn't see the end coming. This one was one of the better Perry Mason's I have read. A combination of a difficult client, an interfering Secretary, lots of instances where it seems Perry is on the wrong side of the law and a conclusion that's a bolt out of the blue. This was a good one!
Profile Image for Phil Noble.
77 reviews4 followers
January 21, 2021
Great twisty plot. I had forgotten how much I like Erle Stanley Gardner's writing until I picked up this book by accident.
113 reviews7 followers
July 2, 2021
I've been reading Gardner's Perry Mason books off and on for a long time. Many years ago, I was an intense fan of the series, and read them all, at least once. Now, after a lot of water over the dam, I'm looking at them again.

Those who are used to really fine mystery writers may find Gardner's writing style a bit stiff and mechanical. Nonetheless, I still love the general setting: the characters of Perry, Della, Paul, Lt. Tragg, and Hamilton Berger. That, and the ingenious plots, are why I read Perry Mason.

On the whole, the ones written by around 1953 are the best. This one was written in 1956, just before the TV series started. It reads like a TV drama or B-movie of that era.

Stewart Bedford is a wealthy fifty-ish man who recently married the much younger Ann Roann, a sophisticated intelligent woman who unfortunately was once involved in an insurance scam. This has been discovered by a professional blackmailer named Binney Denham. He has fingerprint evidence that it really is Ann Roann who was involved. He claims to be acting as the agent of the real mastermind, a mysterious person named Delbert. Bedford is aghast, and agrees to pay him $20000 in traveler's checks.

The handover of the money is arranged at a motel where Bedford is kept occupied by a sexy young woman named Geraldine Corning. Eventually they have some whiskey that is drugged. When Bedford wakes up, he is alone (surprise, surprise) with the corpse of Binney Denham.

At this point we are 24% of the way into the book with no mention of Perry Mason! Surely this is a record. (In The Empty Tin, Perry is first mentioned 7% of the way in. Usually, of course, he is mentioned on page 1.) But it turns out that Perry has done work for Bedford before, so soon Bedford and his very competent secretary, Elsa Giffin, arrive to get advice. Unusually, Elsa has taken a correspondence course in detective work and knows how to lift latent fingerprints. Perry makes use of her skill.

Who or what is the "gilded lilly"? It refers to (one of) the perpetrator(s) trying too hard.

This is a good, mid-level story. The fingerprint juggling is a noteworthy touch. Hamilton Burger is sure that Perry has gone too far this time, switching evidence. Average use of Della and Paul Drake.

The courtroom cross examinations are quite good. There is a lot of drama when one of the women is cross-examined.

Recurring theme: a hotel or motel where various people go in and out and some are witnessed.

Some use of Sgt. Holcomb, a little of Lt. Tragg. There are no interesting little embellishments. No exotic locations. No romance between Perry and Della. Unlike "The Screaming Woman," written only a year later, the writing here is rather dry and uninspired.

Recommended, with reservations. There are better Perry Mason books. On the other hand, the logic of the resolution (the "reveal") is sound. I don't see any loose ends. It's a very good plot. It does not involve people doing very unlikely things.

The cast:

Stewart Bedford, wealthy fifty-ish man who recently married the younger
Ann Roann, lovely woman with a past.
Elsa Griffin, devoted secretary to Stewart Bedford.
Binney Denham, smarmy blackmailer.
Delbert, mysterious mastermind behind blackmailing schemes.
Geraldine Corning, sexy young woman who gets around.
Morrison Brems, manager of the Staylonger Motel.
Harry Elston, another mysterious acquaintance of Binney Denham.
Profile Image for Simon.
809 reviews103 followers
July 13, 2020
First Perry Mason reread during the quarantine whose plot seemed familiar to me this time around. However, I couldn't remember who did it. And although I ultimately missed the actual murderer, I did twig to the plot twist. Gardner plays fair here. The twist is clean, not a deus ex machina. The characters are a bit better than his usual wooden folks, and for a change the women are somewhat believable. This is still a universe in which Della Street is the only good one, though. It is amazing that Gardner's career overlapped with Rex Stout's. Just for comparison, I reread Stout's Prisoner's Base. This time I remembered the murderer. The plot was complicated, but Stout peopled it with terrific characters and the dialogue is fresh even now. Gardner's world is far more dated.

Profile Image for Fredrick Danysh.
6,844 reviews158 followers
August 18, 2020
To protect his wife, Stewart Bedford agrees to help a blackmailer. He wakes up to find the blackmailer killed with his own gun. He will need the aid of Perry Mason. Gardner follows his usual storyline.
Profile Image for Bev.
2,899 reviews258 followers
July 20, 2022
Full confession. I didn't read every word of this one because, unfortunately, the story just did not grab me. I started it for a challenge I was doing, but had to change my selection (for the challenge) because I knew I was going to be skimming. And I did--skim that is. Just so I could actually use it for a few other challenges and so I can move it permanently off the TBR pile.

I have an on-again, off-again relationship with Perry Mason. When I was younger, I didn't care for the TV show and, later, when I started collecting the pulp-era, digest-size mysteries I seemed to run across tons of Erle Stanley Gardner books. Probably because he wrote tons of them. So, I decided to give Perry a chance in print and have found that I have to be in the right mood for him. I don't think I am right now--the whole Burger & company objecting to everything Perry does in the courtroom thing seemed really irritating this time. Especially when I knew Perry was going to win.

The story line isn't all that compelling either. Rich older guy marries beautiful, younger woman. Woman has shady past. Bad guys decide to blackmail the rich guy based on the little woman's tarnished halo. Blackmailer gets bumped off and the rich guy is suspect number one and on trial. Perry's his lawyer--so you know he's going to get off and there will be a surprise reveal at the end about who really did it. And the real culprit was a real disappointment. At least to me--I would have found it much more satisfying if But no. Definitely not one of my favorite Perry Masons.

First posted on my blog My Reader's Block.
Profile Image for Becky.
5,200 reviews102 followers
September 7, 2017
First sentence: Stewart G. Bedford entered his private office, hung up his hat, walked across to the huge walnut desk which had been a birthday present from his wife a year ago, and eased himself into the swivel chair.

Premise/plot: The first four chapters introduce us to the major players, and in addition gives us a glimpse of the crime scene. Perry Mason enters into the novel in chapter five--after the crime has been committed but before the police have been called.

The basics: Stewart G. Bedford is a happily married man. His wife, Ann Roann, is twenty years younger than him, and incredibly beautiful and a real charmer. His secretary, Elsa Griffin, considers herself an amateur detective. She reads true crime magazines a bit obsessively. So when a man, Binney Denham, comes to Bedford's business to blackmail him, his secretary is FULL of ideas on how to stop him. Her response frightens him a bit. But the problem of blackmail remains. How does a sane, reasonable man respond to the threat of blackmail when he loves his wife and would do anything to protect her from being hurt?

My thoughts: I love reading Perry Mason almost as much as I love watching Perry Mason. It is impossible for me to read Perry Mason and not hear Raymond Burr. That's not a bad thing. If anything it makes for a fun reading experience. I definitely recommend the series, and this one is a nice addition to it.
Profile Image for Amit Bikram.
51 reviews1 follower
April 8, 2023
Unlike most cases involving Mason, this one doesn't have an immediate entry for the criminal defense lawyer and his secretary. There's a man being blackmailed owing to some sordid past in his wife's life. Eventually, the man ends up being accused of murder. The blackmailing and murder events are dragged out long enough for me to wonder if it is at all a Mason movie or if the fumbling, scared accused would solve the case with the help of his secretary. As it turns out, Mason was absolutely needed and he managed to pull the accused and his wife out of the pot without letting them drop into the fire.

It is a slow-moving case, with action coming quite late into the book. Even then, it doesn't feel like there's a lot of jeopardy in the actions that Mason takes, unlike the earlier written books of the 30s and the 40s. This Mason is far more restrained, with the vindicative DA eager to trap him for any minor infraction.

What I like about the book is the simplicity of the plan hatched by the criminal(s), which is made confusing by the presence of multiple red herrings, and one witness lying to protect themselves. Once the possibility of any other witness lying is eliminated, it is obvious who the murderer could be.
Profile Image for Richa.
474 reviews44 followers
October 23, 2017
Too convenient an end. All nicely tied up. But this is one of those books where Mason plays around with the evidence, luckily which turns out alright at the end.
The only good part was the lovely court room argument back and forth, over technicalities.
Profile Image for Stven.
1,251 reviews25 followers
April 26, 2020
A long opening sequence describing the situation and cast of characters that will give us our murder is not the best approach to a Perry Mason book since we're all waiting to see what Perry himself is going to get up to. Once we got rolling, it was a pretty good story.
Profile Image for Z.
25 reviews1 follower
June 29, 2021
i was definitely shocked by the ending and was 100% not expecting it. the writer made me suspicious of so many people yet it was the one person i didnt suspect. although it was a very good book there wasn't anything that made it different than any other mystery books but if you are into murder mystery books i definitely recommend this, it was very interesting trying to figure out who the murderer was!!
1,255 reviews28 followers
January 16, 2023
NOT a romance novel.

This book was published in 1956, when the author was 67 years old and decades into his marriage with his first wife, which ended when she died. I'm going to assume it was a happy marriage because it's the polite thing to do and because a lawyer who wants a divorce knows how to get one. I'd call his philosophy of marriage (as outlined in this book) realistic, but you may call it cynical.

Stewart Bedford is a nondescript 50-something businessman. His wife Ann is a flashy-in-a-classy-way socialite who's 20 years younger than her husband. Mr Bedford is dazzled by his wife, so when a blackmailer threatens to reveal a felony conviction in her past, he's prepared to pay anything to keep the information quiet. Never having rubbed elbows with professional criminals, he fails to realize that turning over the $20,000 won't be as simple as he thinks.

There's a rental car and a motel and a curvy blonde to keep tabs on Mr Bedford while her blackmailer boss cashes those travelers checks. Being very familiar with professional criminals (in books) I figured they were working the old badger scam on him and planning to blackmail him twice. I was wrong, too. The blonde pours scotch and it's been doped. Perry's soon-to-be client wakes up with a bad headache, a dead body in the room, and lots of fingerprints for the cops to find. Some of them are his.

Lt Tragg is his usual smooth, reasonable self. He suggests that Perry have his client plead guilty and bargain with the D.A. for a light sentence. After all, there's sympathy for those who are being blackmailed and none for the blackmailer. Perry doesn't think his client is guilty (they never are) and doesn't like his chances bargaining with D.A. Hamilton Burger, a long-time enemy. So off to the courtroom we go.

There are a couple of interesting twists to this one. The lovely Mrs Bedford isn't the only woman in her husband's life. Like Perry Mason, he has an intelligent, loyal secretary. She's fascinated with criminal investigation and she'd do anything to help her boss. Perhaps she'd do anything to get rid of his wife.

Then there's the blackmailer. He claims to be a nice guy working for a dangerous criminal and simply following orders. The smart money says Binney is the whole show and his partner is a myth. But Binney couldn't have cleaned out the safe deposit box or beaten up the blonde. Who is Mr X and can Perry find him before the trial is over?

The unusual relationship between Mr and Mrs Bedford is a complicating factor. Passionate about his gorgeous young wife, Bedford is prepared to do anything to protect her, even if it means offering himself up as the sacrificial goat. Not for the first time, Perry must contend with a client who's ignoring his legal advice and charting his own course.

Then there's Mrs Bedford. Is she a cold-hearted gold-digger? Does she want to be rid of her middle-aged husband? Did she leave crime behind her after her first slip or is she still willing to play with the Bad Boys to get what she wants?

Perry's heart-to-heart talk with Ann Bedford impresses him deeply. She's a straight-shooter and a completely realistic woman. She values her husband for the expensive life he can give her. She knows he values her as an enviable possession. There's some affection (more on his side than on hers) but basically it's a marriage that works because the partners meet each others' needs. Not romantic, but perhaps more sustainable in the long run.

The trial is a pip, with Mason and Burger in top form and a smart judge who knows how to keep both of them in line. There are lots of fingerprints and it's hard to keep them straight. Della fears that something isn't kosher, but Perry knows how far he can push the law. And when a witness for the defense has her own agenda, he's ready to play hardball to discredit her.

By 1956, Gardner hadn't practiced law for decades, but he still cared about justice and about criminal investigations. Of the Perry Mason books I've ready recently, three are dedicated to pioneers in the field of criminal forensics. In this book the honoree is Dr Walter Camp, an MD/PHD who wrote a ground-breaking text on forensics. He pushed the science of investigation forward and made sure that new techniques were available to law enforcement as soon as possible.

Gardner may have been famous for creating a hard-hitting, push-the-envelope defense lawyer, but he knew that a thorough investigation of a crime benefits the innocent as well as the guilty. This is a good detective story and a good novel.
Profile Image for Jane.
1,052 reviews8 followers
January 6, 2021
A businessman named Stewart G. Bedford is being blackmailed by a man named Binney Denham who comes to him with a proposition from his associate named Delbert: Delbert needs twenty thousand dollars to finance a venture of his. He’s promised to pay back the money within six months.

But Bedford tells him he has no idea who Delbert is. Then Binney threatens him with his wife's criminal records. He knows little about His wife Ann Roann who’s much younger than he is beside the fact that she’s a victim of an unhappy marriage plus her husband’s suicide.

Then Binney presents a mugshot of his wife and adds that she was arrested for insurance fraud. He then threatens to take the shot to a magazine that would be willing to pay just as much to dig up dirt on her. Binney demands traveler's checks which Bedford pays.

At the motel where he does the exchange, Binney turns up dead and his female companion vanishes into thin air. Bedford has little collection of what took place because he was drugged. He shares his ordeal with his secretary Elsa Griffin who hires a famous trial lawyer named Perry Mason to look into the case.

Perry Mason in turn enlists the help of a Paul Drake of the Drake Detective Agency. His secretary Della Street is also there to assist. A good read.
Profile Image for Lyn.
Author 115 books532 followers
November 8, 2021
I'm really enjoying these vintage mysteries by a courtroom expert Perry Mason written by a lawyer Erle Stanley Gardner. I'm happy that they are releasing these as ebooks now. I've long been a fan of Perry Mason and am happy to say this continues. In this case, I had to skim past the first few chapters because I just can't put up with people (like the "future" defendant in this case) who lets himself get in over his head in a situation. This continues even after his loyal secretary drags him to Perry Mason's office. A few times--I along with Perry--was ready to "bean" the guy over the head (whatever that means!) Anyway as usual Perry outsmarts not only the DA but also the culprit AND his own client and solves it all and brings it off with flair. Perry in his summation to Della smooths over one character's motives which I clearly saw from early chapters, but that's okay. Perry is always a gentleman!
Profile Image for Justin Partridge.
141 reviews2 followers
May 11, 2023
“What do you mean, they are DISCOVERING a body?”
“Present participle,” Mason said.”

HELL YEAH! This one was so good I read it in like two days! (And also because I have to give it back to the library soon) BUT YEAH! Finally my first like real deal Classic Perry Mason!

It’s got a tremendous set up (a neat twist on usual blackmail plot kick offs), is chock full of nutty and totally snotty side characters (I particularly loved the lady who thinks she’s like Nathan Heller because she took a correspondence course that she won’t shut up about. It was hilarious), AND is just a total belter of a mystery!

I feel like from this point on, these are gonna get really really clicky and functionally fun. Even more so than they already were. We’ve got the voices pretty well established now, we’ve got the format solid too, so now we just get to have bonkers characters and plots filtered through them. I can’t wait to get more.
Profile Image for Patrick Hayes.
462 reviews7 followers
January 1, 2023
Businessman Stewart Bedford is being blackmailed over his twenty years younger wife's past. He agrees to pay, but is taken to a hotel by the shore and "monitored" by an attractive blonde. He doesn't make a move on her, though she's more than willing to play. Within twenty-four hours, Bedford is given a mickey and wakes up alone, well, except for the body of the man of who's blackmailing him. How is he going to escape being sent to the chair?

This is another exception Perry Mason mystery. I've yet to be disappointed in any of Gardner's novels. The characters are fantastic, the dialogue perfect, the twists wonderful, and the reveal is not until the final four pages.

I admit to being halfway right as to who was behind the murder, but I didn't guess the motive and who the mastermind was.

I cannot wait to read another of Mason's exploits.
Profile Image for Glenn.
Author 6 books94 followers
August 30, 2020
Pretty ginchy. Gardner kits out this one to make the reader think they've figured it out early. And the reader has indeed figured something out early, while ignoring the aspects of the case that are needed to supply the coherent, complete solution. Very nice sleight of hand and fast as hell. This is my fourth Mason novel and the guy does spend a lot of time, it seems, defending rich businessmen. He's propping up the patriarchal capitalist hegemony! I won't stand for it! Etc.
Profile Image for Christopher.
35 reviews14 followers
October 31, 2020
I would rate this Perry Mason in the very upper echelon of the ESG books, even though it is a latish entry in the series. The plot is relatively easy to follow, without many of the detours and red herrings that are characteristic of many of the other Mason novels. Burger is puffed up and bellicose, which makes his inevitable comeuppance all the more satisfying. It’s a quick read with a satisfying conclusion.
Profile Image for Eric.
1,308 reviews31 followers
February 22, 2023
This has many of the usual elements of a Perry Mason mystery. Here a wealthy businessman is blackmailed and becomes involved in a slightly convoluted murder.

Perry defends his client in his own inimitable way and finds the truth, emerging unscathed, despite the efforts of the DA .

There is a lot of fun with fingerprints and the usual quota of beautiful women and courtroom bickering.

Easy reading to pass a few idle hours.

3.25 stars.
Profile Image for Kate Picher.
176 reviews2 followers
April 17, 2019
The writing is more procedural than some of Gardner's other Perry Mason books. And I wasn't sure how Mason figured out who the murderer was. He seemed to base too much on chance. I was glad my library had it though.
Profile Image for Evan Peterson.
204 reviews10 followers
September 5, 2019
As always..a formulaic, but fun escapist read. This one only got three stars as the solution to the mystery relied almost completely on Perry Mason's super power of split second lie detecting. ( He can tell almost instantly if anyone is telling the truth or lying)
Profile Image for James Vest.
125 reviews
February 8, 2020
A man is thrusted into a blackmail scheme so deep, he lands right in the middle of an open and shut murder rap. Though the story loses a lot its sparkle on the way to the climatic courtroom finale, the opener deserves credit for being pure dynamite—one of the best in the series.
Profile Image for Jon.
1,114 reviews5 followers
July 27, 2020
"Well," he said, "let's get on some ground we can talk about. What did you do before you met that character?"
"Corespondent," she said.
"You mean, a professional corespondent?"
"That's right. Go to a hotel with a man, take my clothes off wait for the raiding party."
163 reviews2 followers
April 28, 2021
These translated to TV a lot better than they read (I realize I'm generalizing, having only read this one, but I'm unlikely to read any others). Both language and plot recapitulation were very repetitive, especially during the courtroom scenes.
148 reviews
March 22, 2023
Perry Mason solves another

The Case of the Gilded Lily has some nice courtroom scenes. The battle with Hamilton Burger is heated and technical. There a lot of objections that are sustained and overruled. I liked the ending.
Profile Image for Jason.
82 reviews1 follower
March 31, 2023
Long setup prior to Mason entering. Setup made defendant look foolish and made me uncomfortable. Recovered with good red herring and enjoyable storytelling, although was a bit of a jump to the resolution.
Profile Image for Serena.
3,259 reviews69 followers
July 27, 2017
My Rating System:
* couldn't finish, ** wouldn't recommend, *** would recommend, **** would read again, ***** have read again.
Profile Image for CarolynAnn.
528 reviews1 follower
April 28, 2018
Loved this series as a teenager; can't remember much of this but know it wasn't one of my favs
Displaying 1 - 30 of 71 reviews

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