The Case of the Howling Dog

So, this book came to me in a very cool and interesting way indeed. My friends bought me a subscription to a company that send you a vintage book, a stack of greetings cards and a sachet of tea every month for my 21st birthday. Isn’t that amazing? The Case was my first book, the copy is from 1960, and frankly I felt incredibly cool reading it. It’s a Perry Mason book. ‘Huh?’ I hear those of you under the age of 40 ask. Well, Perry Mason was our modern day Benedict-Cumberbatch-Sherlock-Holmes. He’s a crime detective that Erle Stanley Gardner wrote about in various books, and I was lucky enough to be introduced to him through one of his most popular. It is part of a series of books about Detective Mason, but they are pretty much stand-alone. A bit like Midsomer Murders- you don’t need to know what Barnaby and Joyce have been up to in the previous episode (yawn, probably going to a village fete if Joyce had anything to do with it) because the crime part of the story is on its own and starts and finishes all in one book.

The blurb reads: A dog howled by night in the quiet of Milpas Drive, and drove Arthur Cartwright crazy with terror. He begged lawyer Perry Mason (oops, he’s a lawyer not a detective… although he obviously is detecting in the book) to bring a warrant against his owner, who, he said, had taught the dog how to howl in order to drive him mad. According to superstition the howling meant a death in the neighbourhood, and Cartwright appeared to believe it.

I have left out the last part of the blurb because it actually gives loads away and that’s just rubbish and very much not the point of blurbs, is it? Also, the blurb sounds a bit drab (new word of the day) and is actually not anywhere near suggestive enough of the interesting and specific details that go into this crime story to make it so captivating.

I give this book 5/5 for how put-down-able it was. It’s a very short book and it has you interested from page one. The story is complex and thrilling. Also, it was a super old copy and I like to think I looked very indy and cool reading it around the place.

This book gets 3/5 for characters. Now, this is the only downside to reading a book in the middle of the series… I don’t know anything about Perry Mason. Of course, it’s not imperative to know his background but it does make his character slightly 2D. The other characters were very interesting but I felt that because the book was so short, I didn’t really have time to get to know anyone properly (obviously not including those who died… spoiler!).

The book gets 5/5 for originality. As with most crime books, it’s a story of a new nature and plays on feelings and plots in a new way. Gardner has done a very good job of making a murder (oh come on, you guessed that already) have a new plot line. The story doesn’t unfold in the obvious way, but twists wherever Mason’s mind is. It’s almost Sherlock Holmes-ish in the way that the little details you think mean nothing come back to mean everything, and Mason has worked that out long before anyone else.

Overall I give The Case 4/5. The characters were slightly 2D and that lost serious points with me, but I loved the fluidity of the story and the way it was something completely new. I look forward to reading more Mason books in the future and would really recommend this book as a way to get into Gardner!

Thank you for reading! The next review will be a collection of books because, again, there were so many in the series that it would be ridiculous to list them all separately!


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