I've never read or seen a Perry Mason mystery until today. I would never even have picked this book up had it not been for the store's mystery book club. As it was, when I went to sign a copy out on Monday afternoon, there were none available. I thought I had got off scot free. But today, when I stopped by the store to attend the teen book club (it's becoming a habit and I have to admit that listening in is invaluable), I noticed a copy was back on the shelf just as I was about to leave. Guilt is any unhappy emotion, invented by pietists, in order to exploit the human race*: I took it home and set aside my other, current reading in favour of it. Gardner style is rather awful, truth be told. He choses an objective third person point of view, then throws away any advantages that choice allows him. Rather than give a description of a suspect's house through the objective narrator, he puts the description into dialogue, which would be fine if that dialogue sounded like natural conversation and developed character, but instead he's left with execrably stilted dialogue that detracts from character and adds little to the setting. My interest was piqued when a certain social issue was raised. It was prevalent in the 1950s and still is today, so for a while I was impressed that Gardner was choosing to tackle it so proactively. It seems I was casting my own libetarrian views onto his words, as he suddenly and shockingly bowed to prejudice with a single line of dialogue from Mason. One point I will allow Gardner. By the last third of the book, the puzzle had got firm hold of my interest and I really started turning the pages. Things that seemed red herrings earlier turned out to be important clues. Important clues turned out to be red herrings. And -- which will always impress me -- he didn't pull a Sherlock Holmes.