Book Review: The Case of the Cautious Coquette by Erle Stanley Gardner (1949)

Synopsis: While investigating a hit-and-run case for a client, Perry Mason receives an anonymous tip indicating the evidence he was searching for was located in the apartment of Lucille Barton. When the tipster provides him with a key and suggests he enters while Lucille is away, Mason suspects a trap and proceeds with caution. However, that doesn't stop him from getting involved in yet another murder case and, this time, his fingerprint is on the murder weapon.

Review: It usually takes me less than a week to get through a Perry Mason mystery. This particular one, however, took quite a bit longer than that. I did finally finish it last night and, while I didn't hate it, I also wouldn't list it as one of my favorites.

I think my biggest problem with this mystery was the decision to make Mason one of the primary suspects in the murder case. This resulted in quite a bit of filler, mostly geared toward Mason trying to cast doubt on a witnesses' identification, and caused an otherwise potentially interesting mystery to lose some steam.

Had the book focused solely on his client, Lucille Barton, and the murder accusations against her, I think it would have been much more interesting. On one hand, the gun was hers, she was once married to the victim and she made an attempt to conceal evidence. If you throw in the part about her potential involvement with a hit-and-run accident (either as a witness or something else), it would have made her case all that much more interesting because there would at least be some doubt about her committing the murder.

In comparison, we know Mason didn't commit the crime and, while the book seemed to hint the district attorney wanted to prove he was involved, they never actually formally charged him (despite having fingerprint evidence that is never fully explained). I'm not even sure why the book bothered.

Final Opinion: It's an OK mystery that had the potential to be memorable if the author hadn't tried to do too much by making Mason one of the suspects.

My Grade: C


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