cover image The Case of the Baited Hook

The Case of the Baited Hook

Erle Stanley Gardner. Penzler, $25.95 (264p) ISBN 978-1-6131-6174-6

At the start of this fast-paced entry in the American Mystery Classics series, first published in 1940, Perry Mason rushes to his L.A. office to meet a potential client after a stranger awakens him in the middle of the night with an urgent phone call. At the office, the man offers Mason a retainer of two $1,000 bills. His mysterious companion, a trench-coated woman in a domino mask, sits silently by his side. To bait the hook, the man hands Mason one-third of a $10,000 bill to be used “to protect her interests”—someday, he assures the lawyer, a woman will hand over the larger part of the bill and ask for Mason’s legal services. Acting like a private eye, Mason quickly discovers a corpse. Series regulars Della Street and Paul Drake perform their usual duties, Mason interrogates practically every person he speaks to like they’re on the stand, and the question of whodunit, as always, gets an unexpected answer. This is a good starting point for those new to Gardner’s celebrated attorney, even though he never once enters a courtroom. (June)