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Perry Mason #81

The Case of the Fenced-in Woman

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Finding an unwelcome guest in the person of the ex-wife of his dream house's contractor, who claims that the property is half hers, Morley Eden calls upon Perry Mason to resolve a turbulent dispute that is linked to murder.

224 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1972

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About the author

Erle Stanley Gardner

1,555 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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5 stars
99 (22%)
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161 (36%)
3 stars
153 (34%)
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25 (5%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 32 reviews
Profile Image for Lisa.
1,210 reviews
February 7, 2019
A very enjoyable Perry Mason mystery / legal drama.

The ending is a bit messy but I don't really care and I did really enjoy this one - plenty of sass and running around in Vegas and swimming pools and winning seemingly impossible legal battles (not really a spoiler!)

Two quotes that tickled me:-

"The young woman who had her back toward him was wearing a glittering, dark gown which fitted her like the skin of an onion"

"It takes a woman to undo the machinations of another woman. A man is helpless as a fly trapped in the gossamer of a spider web"

I'm not even sure I like Perry that much, it's the staging of the stories and the representation of the time period that I really enjoy. I do like Della and Paul - they both put up with a lot of shit from Perry!
Profile Image for Richa.
474 reviews44 followers
November 6, 2018
This case was built up and explained at the very end. I wouldn't call this a proper mystery since very few facts or clues were given. The court scene was also very fortituous. Moreover, the narrative was too repetitive. Gardner relied majorly on sex appeal to sell this one.
Profile Image for Newly Wardell.
455 reviews
August 26, 2021
I really wish he had gotten the chance to polish this one. This woman goes through a divorce and her husband is hiding his wealth so she cant claim it. He sells and builds a house on a property that a judge decrees is half her's to a third party. Before the third party can move into the house, the ex-wife splits the property with a barded wire fence. The court also grants her a restraining order so that if the owner breeches the fence she can file charges. This case is different because it shows how much thought goes into a Perry Mason novel. This was published posthumously and it shows but I think it's kinda charming because of that.
299 reviews2 followers
August 11, 2021
After Erle Stanley Gardner died, two complete Perry Mason novels were found in his papers. His publishers decided to publish them anyway - with a warning about the lack of editing and checks that Gardner usually did before publication.

This is the first of those 2 novels and the 81st Perry Mason novel to be published. It is unclear when exactly the novel was written - it was set aside at at unmentioned time so it could have been an earlier novel. The lack of editing shows in places - both in Mason's character (while he had always had an appreciation of the female form, some of his remarks here are borderline disturbing) and in the dialogue (I wonder if some of it would not have ended up cut or reassigned - Mason explaining the intricacies of a certain law provision to Della and Paul in the middle of a courtroom is a bit out of character for example). But despite the somewhat rough beginning and some weirdness later in the book, the story is actually interesting.

Morley Eden buys two plots from the same man, Loring Carson, and hires him to build a house straddling both lots. Except that it turns out that one of the lots did not belong to the developer - a divorce judge awarded it to his ex-wife, Vivian after Carson smeared her name publicly by having a private detective follow a different woman and using what he found in his divorce paper (why he did not even look at the pictures before submitting them is unclear and makes you strongly believe that the mix-up was intentional). Vivian decides to annoy Loring and cause issues with him so she takes possession of half of the house - after stringing barbed wire across the whole property - driveway, house, pool and all.

That's how the novel opens - Eden comes to Perry Mason to ask him to file a suit against Loring for deceiving him about the property's ownership. Perry decides to get involved and before long he is called to defend Morley Eden in court - Loring Carson is killed and the suspicion falls on our unfortunate house-buyer.

There are more beautiful women than you count - both in Los Angeles and in Las Vegas where a lot of the action happens, Lt. Tragg ends up chasing Mason across state lines and somewhere in there the truth starts emerging - everyone seems to have wanted to kill the man - frauds and concealing his wealth had apparently been normal for him.

The only one missing from the usual cast is Hamilton Burger - he sends a deputy instead (which as usual means that there will be a big blunder somewhere in the courtroom - not that Burger did not make a lot of blunders but his were rarely as spectacular as the ones of his deputies).

It is one of the novels where a reader can actually figure out the solution - there are no legal tricks or crazy ideas that pay off. It is not obvious but the clues are all there.

Overall a good addition to the series, despite the somewhat weird beginning of the story. And that leaves only one novel in the complete series (if we do not count the two in Thomas Chastain continuation 2 decades later).
2,550 reviews33 followers
June 10, 2019
This Perry Mason tale is different from most of the others as there is no real dramatic courtroom scene where all is revealed. In this case, the identity of the murderer is not revealed during the trial and not completely resolved by Mason at the end. Of course, when Perry Mason makes a statement about what he believes to be the truth at the end, the reader is inclined to agree.
The plot device of a house being fenced down the middle as a consequence of a divorce action has been used before. Loring Carson is a builder and a horrible husband and there are divorce proceedings between him and his wife Vivian. Given the difference in ownership rights, Vivian is entitled to exactly one physical half of the house.
Loring Carson has been disingenuous with Morley Eden, convincing him that there is no problem with Vivian’s ownership until he comes home and finds a barbed wire fence through the house, including the swimming pool. Eden is forced to live in the other half of the house. Furthermore, Vivian Carson is a former model and she tries to get Eden to violate her space so that she can get a contempt of court citation. Skimpy bikinis by the pool and a lingerie demonstration party are two of her tactics.
All this changes when Loring Carson is found stabbed to death in the house and Morley Eden and Vivian Carson are put on trial for his murder. It is a case that sends Mason to Las Vegas where he gambles and plays the game with the women that work in the casinos so that he can obtain the information he desires.
One very good aspect of this Mason story is that the adversarial relationship between Mason and Lieutenant Tragg is severely downplayed. Tragg even gives Mason praise for his honesty and seeks out his advice when the case seems unsolvable. Since both men want the truth to be discovered, they really should work together more than they do. There was also no appearance by fall-guy district attorney Hamilton Burger. That is always a plus as well.
Profile Image for Samyuktha jayaprakash.
222 reviews9 followers
August 7, 2020
Perry’s charm is still intact. However I found the story too shallow and wildly concocted. Murdered stripping down in nude really? Like the civil suit aspects. And technical nibble - even if mason is forced to go in blind he would already have access to pleadings and evidence of the witnesses before hand since it is a jury trial and not preliminary hearings. I just found the story too unbelievable.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Walt Carlson.
36 reviews
July 8, 2020
A fine Perry Mason mystery, but I do like to think it would have been a bit more polished if Erle Stanley Gardner had lived to edit it. And I’m always a bit disappointed when the crux of the mystery is because Mason’s clients are holding out on him. But it was still enjoyable, of course.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Deborah Fassel.
497 reviews4 followers
October 10, 2021
I grabbed this out of the pile at random, needing something formulaic as a comfort read while I battled a nosebleed episode.
It is paired with "The Theft of Magna Carta' by John Creasey, another of my favourite authors, in the Detective Book Club edition of 1972-73.
Profile Image for Kieran McAndrew.
1,803 reviews11 followers
January 1, 2022
An unwanted houseguest may hold the information Perry Mason's client needs to escape a murder charge.

Gardner's penultimate case for his hardboiled defense attorney is just as exciting as its predecessors and turns on a fine distinction in the law, which is audacious in the extreme.
Profile Image for James Vest.
125 reviews
June 3, 2017
A slow start and bizarre setup, the plot acrobatics doesn’t really start until the courtroom, and even then, the end is a twist that rings the fabric of the story dry.
Profile Image for Mrs. Flores.
17 reviews
August 18, 2017
Funny, witty, mystery. What can go grown when a model decides to take literally half your house?
30 reviews
April 13, 2018
When Morley Eden comes to Mason with such a bizarre predicament, the lawyer is drawn to our as much as I am.

The first thing I knew about this book when I started reading it is that I had already read it years ago and loved it. I remembered only that someone has put a fence across a house, therefore I was intrigued, but it didn't spoil the fun of reading it again. I was as interested as Mason to hear the story.

Eden buys a house from a contractor named Carson, but he doesn't have the rights to the full land. In divorce action the judge awards half of it to his wife, therefore, she ends up putting a fence across the house and moves in. She's also given restraining order prohibiting anyone interfering with her property. Naturally, luring Mr. Eden to cross the border is her goal and she's dedicated to it.

The book has some humor in it and lovely Tragg Mason bromance. Gardner managed to slip a few similar suspects, and I haven't guessed whodunit. The main trial work at 64%.
113 reviews7 followers
August 15, 2015
I've been reading Gardner's Perry Mason books off and on for decades. 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 (in the literary sense), such as Ross Macdonald, may find the writing style here off-putting. It can be 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 1954 are the best. This one was published in 1972, and is one of the very last. By the mid 1960s, Gardner was crafting and overseeing the stories, but most of the actual writing was done by helpers. It shows. Though the plot is ingenious, as always, the book is not very good, and will seem dated to many.

The plot centers on a shady businessman, Loring Carson, and his wife Vivian, who are getting a nasty divorce. The man had hired a detective, who accidentally shadowed the wrong woman, thereby involving another, innocent young woman, Nadine Palmer, in some nasty publicity. Meanwhile, Carson has sold a large house to Morley Eden. Problem is the house stradles two lots, one of which is actually owned by Vivian. To get revenge and pressure her husband, Vivian has a barbed wire fence built right through the house on the boundary. It cuts through the living room and a swimming pool, though it's possible to duck down and swim under the fence. Morely Eden comes to Mason to get some kind of legal redress.

As you might guess, it's not long before Carson is found murdered in the house, right next to the fence. A clever hiding place is nearby and may have held a great amount of money and securities. Mason pursues clues that lead him to Nadine Palmer and then to various casino hostesses in Las Vegas. While in Las Vegas, someone tries to frame Perry by putting a brief case full of the missing securities in his hotel room!

The book is dated in its handling of divorce, and in its many attempts to be titilating with descriptions of nubile young women in and around the swimming pool. It reminds me of some of those B-movies from the early 1960s.

Della Street and Paul Drake are in it only briefly. No Hamilton Burger, although there are pretty good courtroom scenes with an assistant DA.

Recurring characters or themes: Perry gambling in Las Vegas; car is parked next to a hydrant and gets a ticket; witness watches the scene of the murder from a hillside overlook.

Good Tragg; no Hamilton Burger; pretty good courtroom scenes. Possibly unique: The case actually goes to the jury and the defendents are found not guilty. Recommended only for clever plot and the early-mid 1960s atmosphere.
June 4, 2016
Morley Eden visits Perry Mason about his problem. A beautiful woman has run a barbed wire fence through the middle of his house! Morley Eden paid a contractor to build a house on a lot, but half the lot belonged to his wife, and now she has claimed her share. Chapter One explains how this happened. Perry visits Judge Goodwin to learn about his decision in this case. The Judge hopes to use this conflict against the contractor Loring Carson. Perry Mason visits Nadine Palmer to tell her about Morley Eden's suit against Loring Carson. Nadine was wrongly accused in Loring's divorce suit, and she will get unwanted publicity (Chapter Five). When the press conference is held inside Morley Eden's part of the house they find the dead body of Loring Carson. The reporters cluster around the body like sharks in a feeding frenzy.

Perry calls the police, then Paul Drake so he can trace Nadine Palmer. Vivian Carson arrives home and is shocked to hear of the murder on the other side of the house. Perry questions Morley about his whereabouts. Lt. Tragg questions Vivian about her activities, then searches around the house and pool. Perry catches a plane to Las Vegas to talk to the woman who knew Loring Carson. Genevieve explains the policies of gambling (Chapter Ten). [Good advice for everyone!] Perry finds Nadine and talks to her until someone official shows up.

In Chapter Eleven Perry finds a briefcase planted in his hotel room, and tries to neutralize it, then returns to the gambling tables. Perry finds that Genevieve just got back from Los Angeles. Then the police arrive to question Perry about a trip. The police don't believe his answers and advise him to leave. So Perry returns to Los Angeles. "The best defense to circumstantial evidence ... is the truth" (Chapter Twelve). Morley and Vivian will be charged with the murder of Loring.

The newspapers report on this case of sex, mystery, drama, missing money, and an unusual setting. The high point is when Nadine testifies to what she saw at Morley Eden's house on the day of the murder (Chapter Thirteen). The cross-examination of Nadine begins in Chapter Fifteen. Perry asks a question that results in Nadine's fingerprints being taken. Perry calls Lt. Tragg to testify about the briefcase found in Perry's room and the unknown fingerprints on it. In his closing argument Perry uses the facts to arrive at a different explanation from the prosecution's theory. Finding fingerprints of a person will not tell you when they were made. Perry asks the jury to compare the sets of fingerprints and decide for themselves. The jury returned with a not guilty verdict. Chapter Sixteen provides a conclusion to this mystery.
5,200 reviews53 followers
January 30, 2015
#81 in the Perry Mason series. A Publisher's Note reads: "The manuscript for The Case of the Fenced-In Woman was one of two full-length Perry Mason novels left in Erle Stanley Gardner's pending file at the time of his death in 1970. Although the work was written a few years earlier and set aside, the publishers believe it was ready for publication. But it should be noted that the author had not done his usual final-draft polishing and checking." I kept the note in mind as I read the novel and thought the author had lapsed when, during the trial, Perry refers to a trial exhibit as potentially bearing fingerprints which it shouldn't have since that exhibit had never ben shown at the trial. Perry's client is acquitted (no surprise, and hardly a spoiler). During the post mortem with Lt. Tragg in attendance, Perry presents him with the hidden evidence and points him on the trail of the real murderer. The author hadn't lapsed after all.

Perry Mason series - Perry Mason becomes enmeshed in a bitter divorce and property dispute when Morely Eden and Vivian Carson end up as co-inhabitants of a house that is divided by a barbed wire fence through the living room. The strange case takes a more sinister twist when a dead body is found in the house.

Profile Image for Les Anderson.
55 reviews
July 25, 2016
I'm nearing the end of my commitment to read the entire run of Perry Mason mysteries. it's interesting to consider the changes that have taken place over the years, especially considering the content of this story. The actions of Mrs. Carson, while enjoyed in the early 70s, would have been scandalous in the 30s, when the first Mason mystery was published. It also seems like Mason and Della's relationship has suffered from the cultural change. The boss/secretary relationship is not nearly as accepted as it once was, thus Perry and Della's intimacy is gone.

The mystery itself is interesting, and the real murderer not easily spotted. Sure, there's a kind of ridiculous premise to start things off, but once you get past that part it's fast-paced and fun.
Profile Image for Panu Mäkinen.
332 reviews3 followers
April 5, 2014
Jännittävä oikeussalidraama, jossa asianajaja Perry Mason puolustaa asiakastaan Morley Edeniä, jonka asunnosta löytyy murhattu mies. Alkuasetelma on eriskummallinen: Morley Eden on ostanut talon, jonka toista puoliskoa asuttaakin yllättäen myyjän vaimo. Tämä on teettänyt tontin ja talon halki piikkilanka-aidan, joka jakaa koko kiinteistön kahtia. Kun tapaukseen liittyy vielä murha, tarvitaan Perry Masonin nokkeluutta tapauksen ratkaisemiseksi.
78 reviews1 follower
October 6, 2019
This is one of two full-length novels published after Erle Stanley Gardner's death in 1970, the publisher note says it was written earlier and set aside, but the author had not done his final-draft polishing. I believe this book is a little unpolished, but still a very good read with the usual lying defendants and the police keeping evidence from Perry. Not too much of Della or Paul, it's mostly Mason and the cast of characters.
Profile Image for Jure.
28 reviews1 follower
September 10, 2011
A nice little book I listened to as audiobook. A bit nerve-bending on some places as the police twists Mason in a very irritating way, but when one gets through it one is happy at the end :)
Profile Image for Mark Stratton.
Author 6 books31 followers
March 15, 2013
Not one of the better Mason novels, but we were warned that this wasn't polished by Gardner before he passed. Still, I know some writers who'd be thrilled with this as a final draft.
December 17, 2015
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