Book Review: The Case of the Ice-Cold Hands by Erle Stanley Gardner (1962)
Synopsis: Nancy Banks hires Perry Mason to go to the horse track and collect the money she won betting on a longshot then use some of that money to bail out her brother, Rodney, who has been arrested for embezzlement. Mason carries out the job and seeks to distance himself from his client. However, when Marvin Fremont, the man who accused her brother, is found murdered in her motel room shower, ends up defending Nancy against the charges.
Review: I had a little bit of free time over the weekend and managed to sit down to read this book during that time. While I think the book fell a bit short of being one of my favorite Perry Mason mysteries, it was definitely better than some of the ones I've read recently.
I think the thing I liked most about this book was the way his client just didn't seem to be anywhere near as innocent as she was claiming to be. She tried to trick Mason into believing he was the first person to find the body and even admitted to hiding evidence. While I wasn't convinced she was the killer, I did wonder if she was somehow involved, especially since her brother seemed to be the person with the most motive.
I especially liked how Lt. Tragg (still one of my favorites) managed to stay a couple steps ahead of Mason, first finding evidence Mason didn't even know existed and even knowing Nancy's next move (attempting to re-hide the evidence) before Mason realized it. I've found Mason's best cases are the ones where he has a formidable opponent who can challenge him even without trying to do something underhanded.
I thought Mason's courtroom tactic involving the use of another lawyer and Nancy's brother was pretty clever. It put the prosecution in a tough spot that essentially ensured his client would be acquitted regardless of what happened next. It also made his big reveal about the real killer a lot more unexpected.
Final Opinion: Many later Perry Mason novels just aren't as good as the ones written in the 1950s but there are some exceptions to that, and this book is one of them. I'd recommend it.
My Grade: A-