The Case of the Drowning Duck - Erle Stanley Gardner I picked up a bunch of old Perry Mason mysteries and thought I’d try one. I fondly remember reading several when I was a kid and they hold up well. There are the usual archaic references to contemporary technology, and one very jarring reference to a Red River Valley in California where there were large cotton farms. That was a bit ungeographical. Not to mention the constant cigarette smoking . It was just a given that everyone smoked. And women were to be good-looking and useful.

Nevertheless, interesting plot lines. A wealthy blue-blood, John Witherspoon approaches Mason and asks him to look into the background of his daughter’s fiance, Marvin Adams. Supposedly, Marvin had been kidnapped as a child and brought up by the kidnappers. Withersppon had hired detectives who contrarily learned the boy’s father had been convicted of murder and Witherspoon, overly genetically inclined, is sure those evil traits might have been passed down from father to son. He wants Mason to read the trial transcript, see if the conviction was representative of the truth, and if so he will devise a test involving murder that will show Marvin’s true colors. And the key to it all is a drowning duck.

True to the formula (this is not a negative,) Mason arrogantly bends the law, manipulates the evidence, pulls rabbits out of his hat, even switches ducks. It’s hardly a spoiler to reveal that he again gets his client (always innocent) off and reveals the identity of the killer in court.

Not as sophisticated as many of the currently published legal thrillers, there is still an undercurrent of criticism of the legal system that surprised me.