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The Case of the Baited Hook (1940)

by Erle Stanley Gardner

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Perry Mason Novels (Book 16)

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2731095,799 (3.88)11
The bait is half of a $10,000 bill, delivered to Perry Mason by a man who promises the second half of the note should his companion, a silent masked woman, ever require the lawyer's services. When a dead body is discovered soon after, Mason feels the hook--but how can one prove the innocence of a person whose identity is unknown?… (more)

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Perry Mason & the Mystery Client
Review of the American Mystery Classics Kindle eBook (2020) of the William Morrow & Company hardcover original (1940)

Considering my love of mystery classics it is perhaps surprising that I'd never previously read a Perry Mason novel. I picked up the 16th of the series The Case of the Baited Hook in a 2023 Kindle Deal of the Day and also saw that it was part of an American Mystery Classics reprint series. I can see how the various complications of the case made it a candidate as a "classic" as selected by editor/publisher Otto Penzler.

Lawyer Perry Mason is called out in the middle of the night to accept a case where he is asked to defend a possible future client. The "bait" in the case is that Mason's fee is 1/2 of a $10,000 bill. He will only collect the other half when it is presented to him by his client if and when she calls on him. The catch (or the "hook") is that the client is a masked woman who prefers to not reveal her identity.

Later the next day, it becomes evident that the crime involved is a murder. Mason must not only find the killer in order to solve the crime, he also has to determine who his client is and what was the reason for the elaborate method of his hiring. His trusted secretary Della Street and right hand man private detective Paul Drake are there to back him up.

See cover at https://pictures.abebooks.com/inventory/19371309871.jpg
The front cover the original 1940 William Morrow & Company hardcover. Image sourced from AbeBooks.

Overall, this left a good impression and it was somewhat of the hard-boiled school, with Mason playing more of a detective role than a lawyer. There are no courtroom scenes. In fact I think I read somewhere that in the original books, the cases never get to court but are always solved through the preliminary investigations with Mason & company often in conflict with the District Attorney and the police force. I plan to read several more Perry Masons and American Mystery Classics.

The Opening and Closing Themes for the original Perry Mason TV series were composed by Fred Steiner and you can hear them at this YouTube clip. The composition was actually called Park Avenue Beat and you can read about it further at Wikipedia.

Trivia and Links
The Case of the Baited Hook was adapted for television in the original Perry Mason TV series (1957-1966) which starred Raymond Burr as the lawyer/detective. The adaptation was broadcast as Season 1 Episode 14 on December 21, 1957.

This edition of The Case of the Baited Hook is part of the Otto Penzler American Mystery Classics series (2018-ongoing). There is a related Goodreads Listopia here with 55 books listed as of early January 2024. There are currently 68 titles listed at the Mysterious Press online bookshop. The official website for the series at Penzler Publishers seems to show only the most recent and upcoming titles. ( )
  alanteder | Jan 8, 2024 |
Two persons in the city had the number of Perry Mason's private, unlisted telephone. One was Della Street, Mason's secretary, and the other was Paul Drake, head of the Drake Detective Agency.
  taurus27 | Nov 9, 2023 |
3.5* ( )
  leslie.98 | Jun 27, 2023 |
Note: I accessed a digital review copy of this book through Edelweiss.
  fernandie | Sep 15, 2022 |
"I christened her Cleopatra Circe Tump. I guess it embarrassed her to death, but at least she wasn't chained to a life of mediocrity by having names that were a millstone of conventional respectability around her neck." ( )
  Jon_Hansen | Aug 29, 2020 |
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» Add other authors (8 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Erle Stanley Gardnerprimary authorall editionscalculated
Fabian, ErwinCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Wikipedia in English


The bait is half of a $10,000 bill, delivered to Perry Mason by a man who promises the second half of the note should his companion, a silent masked woman, ever require the lawyer's services. When a dead body is discovered soon after, Mason feels the hook--but how can one prove the innocence of a person whose identity is unknown?

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Book description
Perry Mason, le grand spécialiste des affaires criminelles, était dans une bien étrange situation.

Une jolie femme masquée, que personne ne devait connaître, faisait danser devant lui la moitié d'un billet de dix mille dollars. II ne pouvait rien savoir d'elle. Pourtant il se saisit de l'appât durant une nuit pluvieuse, et, dès le lendemain matin, le crime était commis, crime auquel était mêlée la belle femme masquée. Avant de découvrir qui avait la seconde moitié du billet, qui avait tiré le coup de feu meurtrier, Perry Mason était déjà si compromis aux yeux de la police qu'un mandat d'arrêt fut lancé contre lui.

La solution de cette histoire est certainement la réussite la plus complète de E. S. Gardner, et cette fois encore Perry Mason l'échappa belle, pour sauver son client.
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