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Perry Mason #64

The Case of the Spurious Spinster

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A shoebox full of cash and an elderly mine owner who disappears, wheelchair and all, leave a secretary charged with murder.

179 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1961

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About the author

Erle Stanley Gardner

1,495 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
216 (30%)
4 stars
293 (40%)
3 stars
178 (24%)
2 stars
27 (3%)
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6 (<1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 38 reviews
Profile Image for Richa.
474 reviews44 followers
August 9, 2015
A good mystery. Though, Mr Gardner did not put up all the clues fairly. Only at the end were they logically given. Still, good whodunit.
I did not appreciate Paul Drake's attitude in this one.. Not of a good friend. Overly pessimistic. In contrast, was simply charmed by Della Street!
Profile Image for Newly Wardell.
455 reviews
January 15, 2019
Okay, so this mystery was a real head scratcher! So an out of town billionaire arrives two days early to investigate a problem in the Mojave Mine. She is wheel chair bound and losing her sight. She then disappears! The next day the same woman comes in a day early to investigate the same problem and she vanishes from the hotel. A secretary is setup to take the wrap for embezzlement and (dun dun dun) murder. Luckily she calls Perry Mason.
Profile Image for Kieran McAndrew.
1,798 reviews11 followers
November 20, 2020
A seven year old child with a shoebox full of hundred dollar bills leads to one of Perry Mason's most interesting cases and intrigue and murder are, as ever, not far behind.

Gardner's fine sense of plotting and characterisation pulls readers inexorably to a stunning conclusion.
Profile Image for False.
2,262 reviews10 followers
July 29, 2017
I've been reading my way through Perry Mason books for the past two years. Some are incredibly hard to find, even using an interlibrary loan system. This book features the ever present curvy young innocent woman in trouble. She turns to Perry and it's off to the races. There is one character, the spinster and owner of a mine, that is wheelchair bound and wearing blue glasses for her blindness. For whatever reason my mind went this way, I thought about how this book was published in 1961 (I read the first edition) and yet in his many descriptions of automobiles, I continued to see 1940's roadsters (or even earlier) versions of cars. People were driving Corvettes in 1961! I also thought about blue glasses, which no one would be wearing in 1961, yet six years later the youth revolution was full blown, it was the Summer of Love, and young people were wearing crystal faceted blue glasses, or "Trip Glasses" as they were called to produce alternative visions. It's hard to believe such a radical shift in six years, and yet Gardner was all "twenty-three skiddo." Listen to the antiquated (even for 1961) speech patterns that Gardner uses, and keep in mind, he didn't write the books but used a Dictaphone. Every book strongly needs editorship, but I think at this stage of his life, the publisher was thinking, "Why mess with the golden cow (hamburger?)"

Paul Drake finally got some food in him during this adventure. Usually, he's stuck at the phone eating "soggy hamburgers."

"Well," Della Street said, "I don't know about you folks but I'm going to eat."

Drake sighed. "I think I better take aboard some groceries while the moment is opportune. Sad experience teaches me that these cases take unexpected twists, subsequent developments always result in greasy, soggy, hamburger sandwiches in place of well-cooked meals. This time I'm going to fool everyone." And he does eat, and they do eat in silence for twenty minutes.

Who in 1961 or even 1951 or 1941 even said "take aboard groceries" to mean "eat." "soggy hamburger sandwiches?" NO ONE said hamburger sandwich by 1961. Maybe 1921. His language dips into Victoriana. The groceries comment turns up in the next book as well, and it's my first noting it's usage, and I've read since the beginning, so why pull this old chestnut out of the fire? Only to put a fresh hamburger sandwich on it, I guess.
Profile Image for R.W. Clark.
Author 4 books3 followers
October 17, 2015
Bust in the Dust

Played out mine. Cowboy willing to please. Owner home from Argentina. Young boy with thousands stuffed into a shoebox. Faithful governess and her nurse friend. Boorish boss.

And the dedicated secretary framed for murder, with Mason and Della standing over the corpse made ready for burning.

A rather ordinary story.
Profile Image for Stven.
1,251 reviews25 followers
February 25, 2016
This Perry Mason story really is about twice as good as the one I finished earlier this week, The Case of the Green-Eyed Sister. It hits the ground running and keeps us on our toes the whole way... which is probably a poor choice of figures of speech since a pivotal scene is about meeting a lady in a wheelchair at the airport... but I'll let it stand. (*groan*)
Profile Image for Jeremy.
58 reviews1 follower
September 17, 2018
This was a standout entry in the Perry Mason series. Impersonations, con games, and a slick frame-up are all features here, plus as I recall, this was one where Della got a chance to show how smart and effective she is (her characterization across the books is inconsistent, but my favorites are when she gets to be a badass).
Profile Image for Sherry.
10 reviews6 followers
August 14, 2015
I truly love all Perry Mason novels by Erle Stanley Gardner. This is one of my particular favorites which I reread for fun. A glass of iced tea, some string cheese, and Perry and Della - my idea of a relaxing afternoon.
Profile Image for Les Anderson.
55 reviews
June 23, 2016
I would never have figured this one out. Mason uses some clever tricks before the trial but it isn't until he determines who is lying on the stand that he is able to tie everything together. Possibly, one of the most devious murderers that Mason has ever caught.
Profile Image for Jeffrey Marks.
Author 38 books99 followers
July 20, 2011
Good use of the impostor crime. I wasn't quite sure about the ending though...
Profile Image for NancyS.
164 reviews4 followers
July 3, 2013
Very enjoyable. I had forgotten how timeless and well written this author's works are.
113 reviews7 followers
September 6, 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. 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 Burger. 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 1961, in the middle of the long run of the TV series. It's very good and very clever. The writing is not so dry and repetitious as is often the case in the late books, perhaps because it appeared as a serial in the Saturday Evening Post.

The story begins with Sue Fisher, young secretary to Endicott Campbell, working at the office on a Saturday morning. This is very unusual. Campbell runs the L.A. office of a mining company owned by Amelia Corning, a middle aged domineering wealthy woman (a "spinster") who is confined to a wheel chair. Campbell received a telegram saying Miss Corning was on her way from South America for a surprise visit to the L.A. company and to get certain papers ready for her. They expect her to arrive Monday.

Also at the office that Saturday is Campbell's seven year old son, Carleton, and his governess, Elizabeth Dow. Carelton likes Sue Fisher and wants to play a game involving treasure boxes. He says he has a treasure in a shoe box from his father. Sue plays along but glances in the box and is astounded to see bundles of hundred dollar bills! Neither Carelton nor Miss Dow seem to have any idea of the significance of the "treasure." Sue manages to get the box away from Carleton and into the office safe. She tries to contact Endicott Campbell but can't reach him. Elizabeth Dow is beginning to wonder why Sue seems to be anxious and upset.

If that's not stressful enough, suddenly a phone call comes in from the airport. Amelia Corning has arrived today, Saturday, just to surprise everyone! She wants a pickup. Sue leaves for the airport and finds the domineering irascible woman in a wheel chair. She brings her back to the office where they examine various records of the company, especially those related to a mine the company owns called the Mojave Monarch. Something shady has been going on there.

Eventually Amelia Corning goes off in a cab to investigate elsewhere. Sue finally contacts Endicott Campbell and tells him all that has been going on, including the shoe box full of money. He refuses to believe his son could have had any such thing, and seems to be accusing Sue of lying.

Sue Fisher thinks it's time to contact Perry Mason! There is not much he can do now, but the plot thickens when they realize that Amelia Corning has disappeared. The next day a second "Amelia Corning" arrives, resembling the first in many ways, and soon people suspect that the first was an imposter, a "spurious spinster." Endicott Campbell says there never was a first one at all, Sue made it all up to cover her embezzlements. Soon the manager of the Mojave Monarch mine is murdered and Sue is arrested.

This is a complex and intriguing plot, which I won't summarize any more. It's a well-written page turner of a book. Unfortunately, there are several plot holes, and upon calm reflection, it really doesn't hold together.

No Sgt. Holcomb, good Lt. Tragg, excellent Hamilton Burger. Average use of Della and Drake. Mason plays a clever trick concerning fingerprints in a rented car. At the conclusion, Burger is remarkably gracious in dropping charges against Sue Fisher.

Recurring themes: Mining; mine in the desert. "Square-shooting" outdoorsman.

A character is introduced very late. There aren't many suspects. I thought the basic idea was pretty easy to guess, though I did not anticipate all the details.

Recommended, in spite of plot holes. I debated giving it three or four stars, finally settled on four.

The cast:

Sue Fisher, young secretary for
Endicott Campbell, Los Angeles manager of a mining company owned by
Amelia Corning, irascible but clever businesswoman. But there are two! Who is the "Spurious Spinster?"
Carleton Campbell, seven year old son of Endicott.
Elizabeth Dow, governess for Carleton Campbell.
Ken Lowry, trusting, square-shooting manager for a phantom mine.
Sophia Elliott, sister of Amelia Corning.
Alfredo Gomez, business agent for Amelia Corning.
Cindy Hastings, friend of Elizabeth Dow.
Profile Image for Rick Mills.
443 reviews5 followers
February 23, 2023
Major characters:
Amelia Corning, wheelchair-bound primary stockholder of Corning Mining
Endicott Campbell, manager of Corning Mining
Carleton Campbell, his 7-year old son
Elizabeth Dow, Carleton's governess
Sue Fisher, his secretary
Ken Lowry, manager of the Mojave Monarch mine
Sophia Elliott, Amelia's sister
Alfredo Gomez, South American agent for Corning Mining
Cindy Hastings, a nurse

Locale: Los Angeles and the nearby desert region

Synopsis: Secretary Sue Fisher is working on a Saturday to prepare for the visit of the Corning Mining's principal stockholder, Amelia Corning. She is typing reports for her boss, manager Endicott Campbell; some of which deal with the frenzied activities at their Mojave Monarch mine.  Endicott has a 7-year old son, Carleton Campbell, who drops in with his governess, Elizabeth Dow. Carleton is holding a tied-up shoebox he took from his father. Sue peeks inside to find it full of 100-dollar bills. Shocked at this discovery, she locks the box in the office safe for safekeeping.

Sue takes a ride out to look at the Mojave Monarch mine, and is shocked to find it abandoned with no sign of activity, just being cared for by local manager Ken Lowry.

Amelia Corning arrives from South America - in her wheelchair - sooner than expected. Endicott cannot be located, and she has Sue provide her records from the office which she removes to her hotel. Everything looks fishy, and Sue hires Perry Mason to protect her interests. 

Amelia Corning checks herself out of the hotel and disappears with the records. Then a second Amelia - apparently the real one - arrives. Endicott is enraged that Sue let a fake Amelia run off with the records, and now the box of cash is missing too.

Mason goes looking for Sue Fisher - to find her returning home, wearing men's clothing. She had been out in a rented car, and when Mason follows her trail, finds a dead body instead.

Review: This is, as usual, a fast moving Mason story. It was easy to follow, as the cast of characters is small. Gardner is writing of his favorite environment - mining activities in the desert. We don't spend a lot of time in the desert - just a quick look-see. The victim (there is only one) was a surprise to me. 

Gardner sets us up with a couple of easy suspects - but the joke is on the reader. They disappear as soon as they appear, and the real murderer doesn't appear in the book until near the end - unfair to the reader.

A discontinuity: Everyone thinks Amelia Corning has made off with the shoebox full of cash when no one was looking - but how could she? It was locked in the safe before she even arrived. 

Profile Image for PoligirlReads.
535 reviews8 followers
January 4, 2020
Oh the year is off to a good start with this one! I'm a fan of Perry Mason, so I thought a nice cozy way to begin 2020 would be with one of his books. ESG was on top of things with this one. Crafty adversaries and lots of twists and turns, with lots of folks looking guilty. I like it when Lt. Tragg and Perry work together (even with Tragg following along reluctantly the entire way).

The courtroom part doesn't happen until late in the story, and it's a hoot to see Burger all puffed up and convinced this was the time that Mason would lose...only to be deflated and defeated once again (and no, that's not a spoiler--that's just how things go in the world of Perry Mason.

ESG did such a great job with character development through dialogue. In just a sentence or two, you get a good sense of each character and how they're distinctly different from one another. I liked that a disabled woman was featured (near-blind and in a wheelchair), but ESG made sure that she was far from helpless. This one was a winner--definitely worth a re-read.
Profile Image for کارآگاه.
25 reviews3 followers
May 27, 2019
جالب، خوشخوان.
پری میسون شخصیت جالب توجهی دارد. یک وکیل دعاوی باهوش و خبره که توسط قلم یک وکیل دعاوی جان گرفته.
شاید نویسنده، خیلی از نظر نویسندگی قوی نباشد، اما بهرحال پایه و ستون محکمیست بر بنایی که طی سالیان بعد سکوی پرتاب جان گریشام و دیگر جنایی نویسان سبک حقوقی دیگر شد و سالها بعد، مایکل کانلی شخصیت میکی هالر را در وکیل لینکولن سوار بسیار بر پایه همین شخصیت خلق کرده باشد.
داستان هم مطابق معمول ژانر نوآر، در لس آنجلس و هالیوود میگذرد و سیر خوب و روانی دارد.
نه آنچنان جذاب که نتوان کتاب را زمین گذاشت (که در کل، زیرشاخه حقوقی توفیق متنی جذاب و تشنه کننده پر از غافلگیری های مختلف را به سختی کسب میکند) اما کل کتاب با سرزندگی پیش میرود و واضح است که قبل از نگارش کتاب، نویسنده کارش با خودش و کتاب دویست، دویست و پنجاه صفحه ای که میخواست بنویسد، کاملا معلوم و مشخص بوده.
ترجمه آشکارا شتابزده بود. اما عصبی کننده و سردرگم کننده نبود. ای کاش کتاب یک بار ویرایش میشد.
992 reviews19 followers
December 22, 2020
My first time reading a Perry Mason. I enjoyed it, despite the gentle sexism and the strange habit the author had of calling Della Street by her full name, every time. In the prose, that is. Like, never Della, never Street (as Perry Mason is almost always referred to as Mason), not even Miss Street. Strange.
The mystery was tight. I feel like I should have guessed the twist, and I sort of did, but I didn't trust my instincts and fell for it.
A quick, fun read that felt a little like a time capsule.
Profile Image for Tony Piazza.
Author 14 books20 followers
September 24, 2019
Perry Mason Wins Again!

Excellent story with enough twists to keep you guessing. For Perry, this looks like one case he might lose, but in brilliant Mason fashion he... well, you have to read the book to find out the rest. Enjoyed the characters and the drama of the courtroom in this story. Definitely worth five stars!
Profile Image for James Vest.
125 reviews
March 22, 2023
A late entry that can only count the finale as truly great. Here's the setup: Drake reads Mason his rites at lunch. They come back to the courthouse and Mason sits quietly, looking out the window as the prosecution wraps up the perfect case against him and his client. Mason jumps to attention as the judge addresses him. What happens next is truly electrifying.
Profile Image for Pat Camalliere.
Author 6 books36 followers
March 6, 2022
Been a long time since I’ve read a Perry Mason mystery, but it’s what started my life-long fascination for mystery and legal reading. He still doesn’t disappoint. Definitely light reading, but totally entertaining. This one was about an office assistant who got caught up in an embezzlement scheme that resulted in murder. Impersonation and character identification was a big part of the plot, but the writer handled what could have been a confusing plot with his usual expertise. Think I’m hooked all over again.
Profile Image for Dheeraj Sankar.
25 reviews
January 5, 2020
A Perry Mason thriller. Holds you tight in the seat until you finish the entire book. A great read!
Profile Image for Danny.
Author 14 books11 followers
January 7, 2020
Not one of the better Mason mysteries, but enjoyable nonetheless.
Profile Image for Jeff J..
1,939 reviews13 followers
April 27, 2021
#64 in the Perry Mason series. Another impossible murder case which Perry solves at the last minute.
403 reviews3 followers
September 27, 2014
This was the first Perry Mason novel I've read - I picked up a paperback copy at a rummage sale. The book was written in the early 1960s. A secretary is implicated in a murder and calls on PM to help her. The head of the company for which she works comes to town and gets the secretary's help to investigate possible embezzling involving a mine, then the company owner disappears. After another woman shows up claiming to be the president, and then a man is murdered, the secretary is blamed. A mysterious shoebox full of hundred dollar bills is also involved. Perry Mason and his crack team of Paul Drake and Della Street are a step ahead of the police most of the time. Even though the book read quickly, I found the writing to be rather poor - there was lots of repetition, for example, Paul Drake would say that he was going to put a man on surveillance, and then pick up the phone and repeat the same thing. Also, the book definitely shows its age and that it was written before the women's liberation movement (Della gets a reluctant witness to open up by showing a flash of leg when getting into the car, etc.). The novel was pretty short but provided some light entertainment.
Profile Image for Tania.
1,292 reviews29 followers
May 13, 2016
Who doesn't love a good mystery? If you do, then The Case of the Spurious Spinster is an excellent choice. As famous as the character of Perry Mason is, I can't say that I've read any of that series before now. But this book happened upon me (it's been on my shelf waiting to be read for years) so I took the opportunity to acquaint myself with him. I was delighted at what I found - which is quick wit, a thirst for the truth and justice, and not a little mystery surrounding the who-done-it part of this novel.

Perry Mason, attorney, Della Street, secretary, and Paul Drake, private detective, make a fantastic trio of crime-solvers. No one is convinced of the truth until they find it, and each of them uses all the skills at their disposal to do so. Susan Fisher could not have asked for a better team on her side when she found herself embroiled in embezzlement and murder charges at the hands of her employer. Just who did one, who is who, and where they all end up is not to be determined until the last few pages of this mystery, which will keep you on the edge of your seat until then.
5,200 reviews53 followers
January 9, 2015
#64 in the Perry Mason series. Perry gets involved in the problem of a secretary who was storing a box received from her boss's son. The box was stuffed with $100 dollar bills. She can't reach her boss, the owner is coming to inspect the books, and it appears a money draining mine is not even active. The owner arrives early takes the books (and perhaps the box) and disappears. The boss arrives, denies there was a box of money and accuses the secretary of embezzlement. A second woman claiming to be the owner arrives and then she disappears. The body needed for a murder mystery appears and is a complete surprise. Perry's brainstorm during the trial is in an unexpected direction but the clues had appeared.

Perry Mason series - Wealthy Amelia Corning, owner of the Corning mine interests, might be an old lady in a wheelchair but she doesn't miss a trick. Secretary Susan Fisher has to call in Perry Mason when she finds her boss's seven-year-old son holding a shoebox stuffed with hundred-dollar bills. Then Miss Corning's life is at risk.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 38 reviews

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