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Perry Mason #58

The Case of the Singing Skirt

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Ellen Robb does more than just sing for her supper — she also dances and sells cigarettes in a two-bit gambling parlor in a one-horse town. But when she hits a sour note with her scheming employer by refusing to help fleece a fat-cat customer in a crooked card game, she finds herself out of all three jobs. That's when she sings her song of woe to Perry Mason, who promises to turn her blues into greenbacks with the help of his crack team, Della Street and Paul Drake, and a hefty lawsuit.

Things are humming along just fine — until murder interrupts the merry melody of Mason's crafty legal maneuvers. When the vindictive wife of Ellen Robb's not-so-secret lover turns up shot to death, Mason is certain it's a frame-up — and that his songbird client's belligerent boss is to blame. Until his own gun is found at the scene. The cocksure Mason will have to change his tune — and do some quick thinking — or else this case could be his swan song.

The Perry Mason Novels

Criminal lawyer and all-time #1 mystery author Erle Stanley Gardner wrote close to 150 novels that have sold 300 million copies worldwide. Today, the great Gardner tradition continues with many of his classics back in print, as well as brand-new additions to the ever-popular series starring the incomparable Perry Mason.

198 pages, Mass Market Paperback

First published January 1, 1959

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About the author

Erle Stanley Gardner

1,500 books688 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
220 (29%)
4 stars
278 (37%)
3 stars
195 (26%)
2 stars
33 (4%)
1 star
10 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 57 reviews
1,512 reviews8 followers
October 4, 2020
Mason tries some old already used tactics from previous stories to protect his client They all backfire and the DA is again hot to condemn him. Burger once again seems more interested to discredit Mason in court than to solve a murder. While Mason struggles to clear his client the clues add up. We figure out early who does the murder but not until the last ew pages does the sequence make it clear
Profile Image for Kurt Reichenbaugh.
Author 6 books61 followers
July 24, 2013
I have this one in a two-fer with The Case of the Black-Eyed Blond. Singing Skirt is entertaining enough. Two too many guns get involved in a murder, and Hamilton Burger raises hell in the court by complaining that every time Mason gets his hands on murder weapons he "juggles them around and just confuses everyone!"

No shit, Counselor!

Profile Image for Alyson.
212 reviews18 followers
June 13, 2017
I like this one because Perry takes on a bully (though that is left a bit unresolved, honestly), and because there is some epic gun juggling happening in this book. Tragg and the DA aren't wrong - When Perry Mason gets involved, there is often just a few too many smith & wessons that show up...

Aside from that, I was pleasantly surprised to find myself surprised at the end (I was remembering the TV episode more than the book, and while very similar they do vary in a few key ways).

One major downside, Della comes across quite catty in this one. ESG's take on women is one of the things I find most inconsistent in the Perry Mason books. Sometimes he seems to have no respect for the female gender, and other times the books imply he values women's contributions to the world and views them as intelligent, responsible creatures. In this installment, Della is far too petty (and jealous?) regarding Perry's client, and the client is simply poorly developed and unconvincingly inconsistent in her behavior.
Profile Image for Stven.
1,251 reviews25 followers
October 26, 2017
A good read, as practically all the Perry Mason stories are, but I think a different emphasis on some of the aspects of this case could have made it more entertaining. A little less legal mumbo jumbo and a little more how did that boat wind up on the other side of Catalina. Figuring out how the different guns had gotten to different places at different times was fun. Gardner seemed to neglect the personalities of Mason's defendants in some of the later books, and that shortfall is felt here.
Profile Image for Danny.
Author 14 books11 followers
February 3, 2019
Great premise kind of falls apart for a very routine feeling finale. It is pretty hard to believe that someone comes into Perry Mason’s office at this point, 60 books in, with a spent cartridge and he doesn’t immediately assume murder. Come on, dude.
Profile Image for Erin *Proud Book Hoarder*.
2,429 reviews1,060 followers
April 4, 2022
4.5 - A great Mason. Tense in the courtoom, not too complicated to where it's confusing (besides the guns, these eventually get confusing), and a sympathetic client with an unconventional job with abuse.
Profile Image for Kieran McAndrew.
1,798 reviews11 followers
October 13, 2020
When a client finds her employer's gun in her bags after she's been fired, Perry Mason substitutes the weapon on the suspicion that it was placed there to frame her. However, Mason finds himself hip deep in trouble when the weapon he gave his client is found to have been used to murder someone.

As always, Gardner's plot pulls readers through at such a pace that they enjoy the thrills without focusing too heavily on the sheer weights of coincidences that it relies on.
Profile Image for Charles.
254 reviews
November 27, 2022
This is the first Perry Mason book I have read. I thought it was good and enjoyed reading and following the characters I remembered from the old tv series. Perry finds himself in a situation that could put him in jail but with the help of Della and Drake he figures out how the crime was committed and how he could prove it. Perry has to deal with District Attorney Hamilton Burger, but as always Perry prevails in the end.
Profile Image for Donna.
495 reviews6 followers
November 27, 2022
This book has quite an unusual premise on which Perry Mason defends his client! There are so many guns, and no one but Perry seems to be interested in which gun and which bullet was the murder weapon! The case focuses on a young woman, exploited by her employer, and a customer who wishes to be more than just a customer. But, when a murder is committed, Perry's simple case becomes a race to find the right gun and the perpetrator of the crime. This is a fast-paced book, with numerous twists. I am a long time Perry Mason fan and I enjoyed the book!
Profile Image for Freya .
163 reviews79 followers
March 27, 2015
Lots of twists and complications in this one. An interesting nugget of the law is explored that covers someone being shot by two bullets from two different guns. Which gun and shooter is responsible for the murder?

For the first time I found Gardner slip up. There is one point in the story that is swept under by the DA Hamilton Burger. He does not dig into how a gun makes it from Mason to the murderer.

It felt like Gardner could not explain it away so he escaped it! :(
Profile Image for False.
2,262 reviews10 followers
September 26, 2022
It's the same old stuff but with many more typos. Are editors on strike? Getting bogged down in law (gambling,) Perry eats his steak dinner with baked potato while Paul Drake eats "greasy hamburger sandwiches."

Ellen Robb is a young woman who has "been around" as they used to say in the 1950s. She works as a singer/ cigarette girl in a night club/ gambling hall. She refuses to take part in her boss's plan to cheat a customer so he fires her. Later she finds a gun planted in her suitcase and suspects that her vengeful boss will accuse her of stealing it and send her to jail. She goes to Perry Mason for help and after leaning over his desk in her low cut blouse he is very much interested in helping her, much to Della Street's amusement. She knows her boss so well.

Perry soon sets things right and it is the boss who is on the defensive facing a defamation law suit and a legal technicality that may mean a severe loss to his business. All is well until the jealous wife of one of the patrons turns up shot to death and the murder weapon appears to be the gun that Ellen had in her possession. Now she faces a murder charge.

As I started to read this novel I was impressed that after two decades of writing Perry Mason mysteries, the author could still come up with an interesting and different murder plot. Once again it seems that Perry, in trying to help his client, has gone way out on a limb and faces disbarment and perhaps jail time. I could not see how he could possibly get out of the situation that he was in. Hamilton Burger had him cold and dead to rights. Worse yet, his client seemed to be guilty - Paul Drake thought so and even ever loyal Della Street thought so. Frankly, I couldn't see how it could be anyone else based on the facts of the case.

The ending was a bit weak. Perry Mason came up with a theory of how the murder might have been committed that he put forth in court and the murderer was named and soon confessed, much like the endings in the TV series. A few facts had been omitted early in the book which would have helped the reader to solve the mystery. These facts were just brought up at the end as part of Perry's theory of why the murder was committed and by whom. That was a very disappointing ending. I felt like I was dragging myself to the finish line.
Profile Image for Amit Bikram.
50 reviews1 follower
March 22, 2023
So deeply conflicted on whether to rate the book a 2, 3 or a 4.
Firstly, the things I liked most about the book. It stressed a lot on the ethical dilemma faced by an attorney while taking on such trial cases, and how it is essential to not waver on your morals and ethics in such situations. Mason indeed bends the law as much as he possibly can at every opportunity that he gets, and yet never ever does something that goes against his client's best interests. Having been pushed to the limits in this case, and surviving by the skin of his teeth, he still managed to stick by his client, refusing to throw her under the bus. (Phew, now that's out of the way)

Coming to the plot, it certainly had a fair share of red herrings (almost entirely in the form of guns), thus complicating the case. The laws and their peculiarities mentioned in the case were interesting as well.

Now, to the negatives. Once the crime has been committed and the action comes thick and fast, it is quite clear who is the major liar in the case, and which lie would completely throw out the prosecution's case—having identified the same, it is easy to find out the major culprit. My problem was understanding how they could have carried it out. The explanation at the end was just not convincing enough for me.

The next big issue I have with the story is the way the courtroom scene has been written. It is so bland and definitely, not the way, a witness' examination would go on in a real court. It is also quite different from the way Gardner had developed the courtroom scenes in previous cases.

Certainly, not a memorable case, but a one-time read for those hooked on to Perry Mason and his unconventional procedures.
Profile Image for Nira Ramachandran.
Author 2 books5 followers
May 30, 2021
Even the redoubtable Perry Mason is taken aback as a vision of voluptuous beauty and short skirts walks in. Ellen Robb, former beauty queen, aspiring Hollywood starlet and current singer in a gambling club, has been publicly slighted and thrown out of her job and residence at night on a trumped- up charge of stealing, which she attributes to her refusal to help the management rig a game of cards, earlier in the evening. Mason and secretary Della Street drive down to the one- horse town, which survives on gambling joints to make a settlement with the owner or sue him for slander and unlawful dismissal. There they run into the irate Mrs. Ellis, who has come to recover the ten thousand dollars, which she claims that her husband has lost due to shady practices in the joint. Much to the surprise of the owner and his cronies, who laugh off her claims, Mason tells the lady of a case where the judgement on the loss of community property, was in favour of the wife, and suggests that she sees a lawyer. Then the pace picks up. Ellen Robb is back the next day with a gun, which she found in her bag after she quit the club. Mason takes appropriate action, but soon receives another visitor, Mr. Ellis, who fears that his wife, mad with jealousy, is out to harm Ellen for enticing her husband to play cards. Things begin to get complicated, and Mason is faced with a case, which may well end his own career. One of the most tense court cases, where the suspense continues to the very last page.
Profile Image for Avinash K.
179 reviews30 followers
August 26, 2017
I really enjoyed the book. The story begins with Mason citing a few interesting verdicts and you have a feeling some of them might come into play. Mason nearly get bushwhacked by his own smartness or over smartness. The plot is well crafted with enough twists and turns like a California freeway, but the author has complete control. There are a few open ends when the story finishes, but one saves Mason's skin and another, well, while the fan would have wanted a KO by Mason, it just dissolves into a nothing. Guess the author decided not to unnecessarily complicate it. So err... hmmm..ok..
But definitely a book worth reading, a real zinger.
Profile Image for Rupesh Goenka.
597 reviews17 followers
January 26, 2020
Story -- Ellen Robb who works in a Casino as a singer, dancer and cigarette girl is asked by the owner to help in cheating a customer in a Poker game. Ellen refuses to get embroiled in the situation and is thrown out. Mason helps her to put the Boss in place. Ellen is then accused of killing her said to be lover's wife. Mason once again comes to her rescue & fights her case. Though not the best of Perry Mason mystery it is a one time read. FAIR.
Profile Image for Simon.
809 reviews104 followers
August 18, 2020
Hilariously non-pc, to put it mildly. In fact, Ellen isn't a "singing skirt." She is a "singing leotard", which seems to be the height of depravity. The plot is vintage Gardner, i.e. so complicated that it requires pages of explanation to explain how the actual killer pulled off the murder.
February 19, 2021
Perry Mason series can be compared to Hercule Poirot series. Absolutely classic.

One of the best classic suspense thriller book. Unpredictable till the end. Crisp and precise. You will fall in love with the key characters namely Perry Mason, Della Street and Paul Drake.

Totally recommend it.
21 reviews
August 18, 2021
A little far-fetched but quite a good yarn

Perry Mason gets himself in trouble trying to shield a client and the only way he can extricate himself is by solving the case. Two interesting cases are brought up here - can a man gamble away property owned jointly and can a murder be comitted after a person is already dead. The ending is a little slipshod but it's quite a ride.
Profile Image for Martin.
928 reviews12 followers
November 26, 2021
58th book featuring Perry Mason. This one is a little too cute, with a puzzle that can be worked out, but with a couple of clues that don't fit the narrative. That feels rushed, and it probably was.

The narrator is OK. He does a distinctive voice for each character. A few of these voices are annoying, while his voice for the DA adds to the story.
Profile Image for Jeff J..
1,939 reviews13 followers
October 17, 2020
#58 in the Perry Mason series. It was the hell of good intentions. Mason attempts to protect a client from being framed for theft, and ends up with his handgun being found at the scene of a murder. Some adroit scrambling is needed to resolve this case.
Profile Image for C.M. Stultz.
Author 6 books
November 23, 2021
One of the better Perry Mason novels of the 1950s. An exceptionally beautiful young woman involves Mason in an ever-more-complicated case that takes him perilously close to the edge of the law, and questioning his own judgement.
Profile Image for Kevin.
602 reviews20 followers
May 17, 2022
My, my this entry has more twists and turns than a den of snakes. Throw in a number of possibilities for the murder weapon, plus Mason nearly getting himself disbarred and we have quite the page turner. Definitely recommended
148 reviews
April 17, 2023
Plenty of twists

There are plenty of twists in TCOT Singing Skirt. And there a couple of legal citations to add to the mix. Finally, there is enough courtroom drama to fill two Perry Mason books. The ending is complicated but satisfying.
Profile Image for Jon Koebrick.
864 reviews8 followers
March 11, 2020
Earle Stanley Gardner was a most clever writer and attorney. This mystery legal thriller is well written with a tight plot and excellent dialogue now over sixty years old.
Profile Image for Iammred.
60 reviews
June 13, 2020
Great, easy, fun read. Love the Perry Mason novels. This one does not disappoint.
April 10, 2021
Complicated Reasoning

Another cliffhanger Perry Mason ending, with tortuous reasoning that makes it
difficult to follow. Not one of the best in the series.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 57 reviews

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