Her uncle was healthy, but in order to get wealthy did she plot his demise? Is there evil in the heir?
Frances Celane has good reason to pout. Thanks to a provision in her late father's will administered by her uncle, she's caught in the middle of a family feud between matrimony and money. If she chooses marriage, she loses a million. But beautiful young Frances has a strong will of her own that she's not afraid to use. One way or another, she means to hear wedding bells and cash registers making beautiful music together. Her first move: hire Perry Mason to orchestrate things.
Unfortunately, stubbornness runs in Frances Celane's family, as Mason discovers when he confronts her Uncle Edward Norton. After Perry's powers of persuasion fail to penetrate his hard head, someone decides the only way of cashing in is by bashing in the uncooperative uncle's skull. But when the blood spills, so do the secrets. Then it's Mason's turn to brood, as he tries to figure out if a girl as pretty as his client could have a hand in something so ugly....
Secretary Della Street informs her boss, Perry Mason, that a young woman looking either scared or sulky is waiting to consult him in Erle Stanley Gardner's second Perry Mason book The Case of the Sulky Girl. Frances Celane has been living under a trust controlled by her uncle for the last two years that gives him extreme discretion with her vast fortune. One detail is that if she marries before the age of 25, her uncle can choose to give her only $5,000 and donate the rest to charities. But the 23-year-old Fran wants to marry now. She arranges a meeting for Mason with her uncle that shows Perry how unreasonable the man is, leaving the lawyer determined to best the man.
Then that night, as Perry is pouring over his law references to try to find a way to best the other man, he gets a call from Fran that her uncle, Edward Norton, has been murdered. Perry needs to come to the home she has shared with her uncle. The police have arrested the chauffeur, but Perry thinks this is a set-up. Despite the fact that he represents Frances Celane and not the chauffeur, Perry is determined to get to the truth of the matter, even though it may lead to the arrest of Frances. This leads Perry down a road of lies, blackmail, and corruption.
The second half of The Case of the Sulky Girl is taken up with a trial during which Perry seems to be letting the prosecution get away with anything. It is clear that Gardner did his research into legal terms and procedures. And it is just while Perry seems ready to lose that he pulls off a miracle, as usual.
This book does a fantastic job of making us fall for an illusion set up in the right hand while the trick is pulled off in the left. The solution is not completely hidden from us throughout the book, though it came as a big surprise to me at the conclusion.
Only the most significant characters in this book have much development of their personae. Perry comes across as round and complete, wily and clever. We don't get to know as well his secretary Della Street and detective Paul Drake, whom we met in the first book, The Case of the Velvet Claws. Frances does get built up, as we see her fiery temper and means of trying to manipulate the situation on her own.
The audio edition of this book is narrated by Alexander Cendese. He does a great job of performing this book, with his deep voice well suited to the character of Perry. He adds a lot to the experience of listening to this book.
I really enjoyed The Case of the Sulky Girl. I especially enjoyed getting to see Perry work in the courtroom, a setting we didn't see in the previous book. The mystery was well- crafted and clever. I give the book five stars.
If you enjoy Phillip Marlowe, Mike Hammer, Mike Shane, and the other hard boiled detectives you will enjoy the Perry Mason series of mysteries. This is not the Perry Mason you may know from the television series. This Perry Mason is s tough, no hold bared, lawyer/detective. Think Phillip Marlow or Mike Hammer with a law degree and you got the idea.
Excellent story with a great plot and characters. The voice for women is quite distinguish in a strange way. The plot followed well; definitely will continue to listen to the series
The writing style is horribly dated. Gardner was big on "telling" and not "showing", something that would never pass an editor today. He also uses phrases repeatedly, and I think Mason hooked his fingers into the armholes of his vest 3 times in the first 3 chapters. The case was a good one, not horribly complicated (but made more so by Mason's clients, who lied a lot). Cendese is growing on me as a narrator. He does amazing voices for men, each totally different. He just can't do women's voices. They all sound like chipmunks on helium. Mason's client, in particular, was bad. When Cendese did her "angry" voice, it was laughable.
What would have made The Case of the Sulky Girl better?
Nothing. It's great historical reading from the 30's and the plots grip me.
What other book might you compare The Case of the Sulky Girl to and why?
N/A so far - nothing else I've read sounds like Gardner
How did the narrator detract from the book?
Female parts read by Cendeses sounded like all the women were drag queens. Very distracting while trying to enjoy the story. English accent a little over the top.
If you could play editor, what scene or scenes would you have cut from The Case of the Sulky Girl?
None of it needed to be cut. Love what little of the Perry Mason books I've read so far. Just not impressed by them as audio books because you don't have much variety in narrators.
The performance of the book makes Perry Mason sound mad and like a cheap gangster instead of the thoughtful attorney portrayed by Raymond Burr. Some is also the writing and the terms used at the time the books were written, but the performance sends it over the top.