Introducing Perry Mason, a lawyer unlike any other you will encounter in books, or even in real life. A passionate believer in the law, a crazy risk-taker, a fighter, an inveterate optimist, a supporter of people in trouble… adjectives fail me in describing the man! Perry Mason is the central character in 82 books by Erle Stanley Gardner. Each book is a murder mystery, and the plots are unlike any you will find anywhere.
Most murder mysteries begin with the murder and follow the investigation. Not so in Perry Mason mysteries! The plot usually opens with a small, almost ludicrous situation that unexpectedly explodes into a murder, leaving Perry’s client holding the bag and in an almost hopeless situation. That is the standard format, and yet the treatment of each story is so different that the reader is stuck to the book till the last page! Perry Mason is one of the widest read characters in the whodunit genre of Fiction books, and is in a class of its own
The Perry Mason books have been penned by Erle Stanley Gardner, who was a practising criminal lawyer in the USA. That brings authenticy to the legal points and forensic points that are highlighted in the series. In addition, the plots and storylines are superb and unique, and contain many elements to draw the reader. For example:
- Unlike most murder stories, forensic details like size of entry wound, bullet striations, body temperature, time of death, rate of body cooling etc are specifically explained in such a manner in court scenes that even a layman can understand
- The stories are superbly laid out, with a stunning twist every few pages that leave you gasping for breath
- Legal points in relation to evidence are clearly and lucidly explained
- Witness examination and cross examination – where liars are exposed, sometimes simply by deduction are engrossing material
- Each story and each plot is unique – a parrot or a gorrilla, a buried clock at the murder site, 3 guns at the murder site, a man shot twice by 2 people – both shots could be the fatal shot; so who is the killer?; A witness trying to get a goldfish etc etc.
- Fascinating plots – and each very very believable. What at first seems outlandish turns out to be both logical and clear
- Enmity with the inefficient local police, who are paradoxically led by a very capable Police Officer
- Constant efforts of the police to trap Mason, who has broken no law!
Yet, beyond all of this, it is the endearing character of Perry Mason that is the drawing factor. Perry Mason has a series of qualities that mark him as almost a superhuman in a very believably human form. At no point do you get a feeling of disbelief, of unreality regarding the central character. He provides the attraction point in the serious background of murder.
The main character trait of Mason is his judgment of people and risk taking – he takes risks for his clients. The basis of his risk-taking is a spot-on judgement of the client, a belief that each person is innocent until proven guilty, his trust in the clients’ innocence and an encyclopedic knowledge of the law. Having made such a judgement, Mason stops at nothing to prove innocence – sometimes even stretching the law to do so. Mason has an encyclopaedic knowledge of the law, forensics and firearms, and proves the official statements regarding cause of death, time of death, weapon etc to be wrong on a regular basis. These interchanges are the stuff of legend, and are a superb read that will draw your breath. But most of all, the most vital aspect of Mason is his detective ability with the courts, judges and police all accepting his detection abilities as paramount.
The icing on the cake is in 2 forms- the first being Mason’s nature of fighting for the down-trodden by fighting cases for free / fighting cases for poor clients and even spending his own money / taking on the giants of society and defeating them. This imparts an aura around the character of Perry Mason, who becomes not just a successful lawyer but also a very nice and warm person. The second is a lovely, classic and bitter-sweet love relationship with his secretary, a relationship which grows steadily in each novel till it reaches enduring levels.
Both Perry Mason and Della Street are unmarried, enigmas in a sense – and it is this engimatic nature of the Hero and the Heroine that make the novels the stuff of legend…
Do take a look at the novels- they are short (180 pages aprox) but pack a tremendous punch!