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Perry Mason #70

The Case Of The Stepdaughter's Secret

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Harlow Bissenger Bancroft is head of a corporate empire and happily married. None of his lawyers can help him however when a blackmailer threatens his family’s future. After he calls upon Perry Mason for help, the blackmailer is found dead.

192 pages, Paperback

First published December 31, 1963

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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
95 (20%)
4 stars
168 (36%)
3 stars
164 (35%)
2 stars
28 (6%)
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6 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 43 reviews
Profile Image for Gilbert Stack.
Author 61 books52 followers
January 7, 2023
A wealthy businessman comes to Perry Mason because his stepdaughter is being blackmailed with what he believes to be a sin from his past. The stepdaughter is engaged to marry a socially prominent man and the businessman is worried about the marriage being spoiled. He hires Mason to handle the problem for him and the lawyer goes to work with his normal flair. It’s a creative solution made more complicated by the hostility of the stepdaughter and the discovery that there are more secrets out there that are the subject of blackmail.

Then one of the blackmailers is murdered and the businessman’s wife is charged with the crime and the book moves into the typical Perry Mason courtroom drama. There’s a lot of snappy cross examination and a classic Mason gambit—all leading up to a very satisfying solution.
113 reviews7 followers
March 23, 2017
I've been reading Gardner's Perry Mason books off and on for many years. Those who are used to really fine mystery writers (in the literary sense), such as Ross Macdonald, may find the writing style here a bit dry. Sometiems it's 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 about 1953 are the best. This is one of the last ones, written in 1963. The plot is interesting and creative. But like many late books, written after the TV series became a huge hit, there isn't much in the way of embellishment or descriptive detail.

Harlan Bancroft is a wealthy man who comes to Perry Mason because he thinks his family is being blackmailed. A blackmail note was sent to his stepdaughter, who is about to marry a socially prominent young man. Bancroft has read it and is sure that the secret threatened to be revealed is the fact that as a youth he was wild and went to prison for a year. The prison chaplain turned him around, and he later became hard working and wealthy. Should this be revealed now before the wedding, his beloved stepdaughter's future would be destroyed.

Mason reads the note and gets an idea of how to put the blackmailers on the defensive. It involves Paul Drake boating on a lake with some "bathing beauty" waterskiers to intercept the blackmail payoff. It works. One of the beautiful skiers, Eve Amory, is an aspiring actress who turns the money over to the police, saying that they just happened to find it while waterskiing. She gets a big writeup in the papers, valuable publicity for her.

But soon the plot thickens and rethickens as first the stepdaughter, then Bancroft's wife, and then Eve Amory all report that they have been contacted by blackmailers or shady characters. Was Harlan Bancroft's early life really what this is all about? Hmm. Several other people have secrets. And what about that gun that has suddenly disappeared?

Mason confronts a blackmailer in a tense scene reminiscent of the 1930s hard-boiled Perry Mason. A murder occurs on Bancroft's yacht moored in a harbor, and Mrs. Bancroft is arrested. Mason has an ingenious idea to trap the real perpetrator.

Good use of Paul Drake. No Lt. Tragg or Hamilton Burger.

Recurring theme: action aboard a yacht moored in a harbor also happens in the Case of the Crooked Candle.

The basic plot is tight and holds together well. Unfortunately there aren't too many real suspects.

Still, one of the better late novels, and definitely recommended.
Profile Image for Stven.
1,253 reviews25 followers
October 28, 2013
This little caper is from 1963, very late in Perry Mason's career. We don't get as much about our favorite characters' personal lives as we might like, but we do get a clever case that gets moving right from page one and takes some nice little zigs and zags along the way. It's crisp, rapid-fire, fun, and all over too quickly.
Profile Image for Richa.
474 reviews44 followers
July 15, 2015
Good book. The methods were... different. It really got me wondering! Kind of like chess, making moves anticipating, in fact, almost driving certain counter moves.
Profile Image for Tita.
1,921 reviews183 followers
January 12, 2020
Nesta história, Perry Mason é contactado por um homem com alguma posição e dinheiro mas há algo no seu passado que esconde, no entanto, a sua enteada recebeu uma carta de chantagem, precisamente pelo passado deste homem.
Temos um policial à moda antiga, numa história com chantagistas, crime e detectives privados. Apesar de curta, está uma história bem desenvolvida e bastante sólida.

Vejam a minha opinião mais detalhada em vídeo, AQUI.
Profile Image for Karen.
Author 9 books121 followers
December 31, 2010
Read this as an example of how using cliched expressions typical of the day, slang that sounds oh so cool at the time but then it goes out of style and leaves the reader laughing, when it's not supposed to be a funny story. Still, I enjoyed the story, the mystery, the courtroom scenes, and even the slang. I'll read a few more of the Perry Mason series and see how far it goes before predictability and boredom sets in.
249 reviews2 followers
July 24, 2011
This was an average Perry Mason story. He was defending a millionaires wife and had unlimited resources, so it was just a matter of how he put together the events of the murder. That's the fun part of the book. Plus there's a blackmail plot involved and everyone in the family thought they were the target of the blackmail. A family with a lot of secrets. There are better books in the Perry Mason series. I'd say this one was average.
Profile Image for Bailey Marissa.
1,105 reviews51 followers
October 8, 2017
This mystery involves a family that doesn't communicate, so that's fun. *Sarcasm* Even though this story is a little more routine, it still has the Mason flair.

Recommended 12+ for murder, violence, blackmail, and language.
Profile Image for Freya .
163 reviews79 followers
April 19, 2015
I quite enjoyed this one. Knew mid way who the killer was but hadn't figured out how he did it.
1,084 reviews20 followers
December 27, 2018
Gardner always works well when I'm in the mood for some light reading. The mysteries are usually not overly involved, after all, it is usually about Mason outguessing either the prosecution or some other bad guys. This one is no different. Mostly about the massive maneuvers Mason goes to in order to get the drop on a blackmailer AND keep his client from being convicted of a crime. The story mostly unfolds in dialogue and therefore makes for short reading.

A good pulpy read without being too ridiculously overblown. I do imagine, however, that despite his genius, Mason wouldn't have very many return clients if he really spoke to them in the manner that Gardner forces upon his lead character. It is also hard to imagine the actual killer owning up so easily to the crimes he has committed and therefore exonerating Mason's client so clearly! That's why I consider it light reading. Nice for a touch of nostalgia.
Profile Image for Kieran McAndrew.
1,806 reviews11 followers
February 1, 2021
Blackmail turns to murder when a plan to trap the blackmailers created by Perry Mason is ignored by his clients.

Gardner's fast pace and style helps sweep the readers through this excellent scheme as the courtroom stands centre stage for this cunning plot.
Profile Image for Erin *Proud Book Hoarder*.
2,435 reviews1,060 followers
June 23, 2020
Almost 5 star. Clever and twists. Not as intense as some of his other stories ultimately, so I'll leave a 4 on here. The only side character that was fleshed out was the husband Harlowe, and he was my favorite of the family that refuses to talk to each other.
Profile Image for Scoats.
283 reviews6 followers
June 23, 2017
Accumulating cheap used books over the years, I ended up with 6 Perry Mason books. When I finally got around to reading our Erle Stanley Gardner books last year, I was pleasantly surprised at how great they are. I have now read all 6 that we own and they are all equally enjoyable. As with many great things, I am unable to fully pinpoint what makes Gardner's writing so great. Everything just comes together perfectly - plot, pacing, settings, economy of verbiage.

From this Webpage, I see that is Perry Mason #70. This one follows the format of the other 6 I've read and likely the format of the 60some others too. I guess if it works, don't mess with it. And it works. Though I don't know exactly how. Perry and Della remain two dimensional people who have no personality outside of work. The writing is pretty humorless, though not dry. Somehow it all just works.

I won't write about the plot because with 70 books, it doesn't really matter. Like all Perry Masons, it's interesting, rock solid and well paced, and that's all that's worth saying about it.
5,200 reviews53 followers
January 24, 2015
#70 in the Perry Mason series. Perry's client has found a blackmail note in his stepdaughter's room and is convinced she has somehow discovered his secret and will pay blackmail to keep it. Perry's advise to go to the police is ignored so he comes up with a scheme to intercept the blackmail money and confuse the blackmailer. Complex - scheme, plot, characters - but enjoyable.

#70 Perry Mason series - Harlow Bissenger Bancroft is head of a corporate empire and happily married. None of his lawyers can help him however when a blackmailer threatens his family's future. After he calls upon Perry Mason for help, the blackmailer is found dead.
403 reviews1 follower
June 10, 2015
In a time when people hid their family's dirty laundry, blackmail was easy. In this story, it seems like everyone has something to hide and they are all doing it to protect the rest of their family. Since it is a Perry Mason novel, there is a court room scene but much of the action takes place before they enter court. Of course, as Perry always does, the real truth comes out in a startling way at the very end. I think what I liked most about this one was the clever ways that the blackmailers behave and how others react.
Profile Image for Chazzi.
988 reviews6 followers
February 4, 2016
This one had a few more twists, but still was good. There were enough clues to come up with a possible solution, but there was still some doubt. Of course there was the dramatic courtroom scene with Perry taking control.

I enjoyed the mention of some of the areas that really do exist and the references to places that do exist but are given different names. Local colour.

Perry Mason is a favourite of mine and a good escape and quick read. Old friends.
Profile Image for Vincent Darlage.
Author 23 books46 followers
December 8, 2013
Not the best Perry Mason novel, but not too bad. He pulled a neat trick to expose the murderer. The premise was nice, but somehow I just didn't care much about the characters. This is one of the weaker books. It didn't have the usual passion in it that many of the others have.
Profile Image for Rupesh Goenka.
598 reviews17 followers
June 5, 2017
An average-merit Perry Mason murder mystery. The defense attorney whose methods of saving his clients are both daring & unconventional, but eventually they pay off.
Perry Mason dialogue - ''If you want a lawyer who doesn't take chances, get someone else...''
Profile Image for Athul Raj.
293 reviews5 followers
July 12, 2011
An average thriller/ mystery. Not as exciting as Chase novels.
Profile Image for Les Anderson.
55 reviews
June 30, 2016
What a great story. Mason's legal maneuvers, even before the murder, are good and quick. I'm not sure how Mason knew the truth though.
Profile Image for False.
2,262 reviews10 followers
July 24, 2022
The Perry Mason novels have the same pattern you see in the TV series; the complicated, not-too-gory homicide, involving a host of suspects including at least one beautiful woman, followed by a trial that ends with Mason exposing the true culprit. Paul Drake and Della Street are like you see them on TV, but Mason is a much livelier character than Raymond Burr's rather monolithic and staid portrayal. This Mason grins a lot - Burr never managed more than a wry smile - and freely uses words like "Hell" and "damn". In the earliest Mason books, he was always using his fists.

Also, in this story, there is no Tragg or Hamilton Burger, but per usual, Paul Drake is used to the point of abuse--missed meals, long nights, underpaid and exposed to all sorts of weather conditions.

"The Case of the Stepdaughter's Secret", a case of murder aboard a private yacht, is standard fare, with a not particularly elegant solution but a good central idea. Stop and think hard about what actually happened on the boat and you should get it. It is odd how the courtroom procedure goes from realistic to farcical - just as in the TV series - as Mason gets away with evidence tampering and inadmissible testimony. To enjoy a Perry Mason story you just have to tolerate those liberties.
Profile Image for Rob Smith, Jr..
1,140 reviews18 followers
July 9, 2021
Just before this read a Gardner 'Cool and Lam' entry. That was light stuff in plotting compared to #70. Yet, #70 is very light where the Cool and Lam book was meatier. Gardner handles Mason, Street as assumed cardboard cut-outs and the rest of the cast are mere tissue. Whereas the Cool and Lam book (#27) illustrates the strong characters of the duo.

Somehow I've managed to read a series of books with blackmail in them. The last few get into the mechanics of the blackmail. This one is mostly about playing against the scheme and around it. A lot of shell games. That would be neat if not for, to me, the obvious conclusion.

Too bad Gardner didn't invest more time into something else left fallow, the settings. a critical part of how Gardner writes the tale. It's so loosey goosey, the settings could've been anywhere. Especially Mason's office.

I've usually been left guessing who-dun-it. This one was too easy and poorly written.

Bottom line: i don't recommend this book. 4 out of ten points.
30 reviews
October 25, 2017
When a serious businessman, Harlow Bamcroft, who has bunch of his own lawyer on standby, telephones in to get the first possible appointment with the criminal lawyer, even Della Street can't focus on work. Mason finds himself explaining the four ways to deal with a blackmail. Since simply paying off, going to the police or murdering the blackmailer won't work, there is only one possible solution. The businessman had a double life when he was young which could turn out to be very problematic for his step-daughter engaged to be married (into rich family.) He gives Mason free hand to do whatever's best.

The action takes place outside of LA county don't encounter llt. Tragg or DA Burger around. Drake has time of his life; Mason does some investigation on his own, and I must admit I didn't know what he had in mind doing all those things. I loved how bold and unapologetic he is in court. Generally, I enjoyed it; a typical good Gardner story
Profile Image for Kakha.
548 reviews
September 26, 2021
This is one of the latest books by our beloved author, former American lawyer, master of detective stories, featuring legendary fictional hero, criminal defense lawyer Perry Mason.
In general, I would very much like Erle Stanley Gardner to have at least twice as many books... After all, I would have had to read these incomparable books for twice as long and the pleasure would be correspondingly twice as much! But unfortunately, there are less than a hundred books ...
This particular novel tells an interesting story about how the stepdaughter of a wealthy client of Perry Mason, is being blackmailed. And soon, after all, the wedding of the girl, and the disclosure of the dark secrets of the past is extremely undesirable for both families. And all the rest and extremely interesting the reader will savor himself.
Profile Image for Christopher.
35 reviews14 followers
November 14, 2021
I read, i.e. reread, most of this one in the middle of the night during an overnight excursion to a haunted castle. There were no spirits afoot, nor was ESG’s game afoot in this latish entry in the Mason canon. There was much discussion of tides and their possible effect on the disposition of items thrown overboard from a yacht. My eyes glazed over with such minutiae in the Crooked Candle and the result was the same here.

I still award three stars for the interplay between Perry, Paul and Della and the quaintness of mid-century sensibilities on display. In these days of dubious moral choices being brandished as virtues, ESG is refreshing.
Profile Image for PoligirlReads.
535 reviews8 followers
July 10, 2020
Eh, this was not my favorite Perry Mason book. The setup felt pretty contrived; a lot could've been addressed had the Bancroft family just bothered to speak to one another.

Parts felt repetitive, which really stands out because the book is so thin. At the same time, there's a lot that feels missing. Some characters appear and disappear, with just the thinnest of reasons for their presence. Everything was wrapped up just a little too neatly by the end. And worst of all--no Hamilton!!

Profile Image for Pharmacdon.
33 reviews
April 2, 2023
Typical Perry Mason. Nothing like the current HBO series. I watched the television series when I was younger and this story reads more like the early series. Perry Mason is ahead of the game and is smarter than the criminal, DA and the sheriff.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 43 reviews

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