The Case of the Horrified Heirs
"Murder is a product of greed, avarice, hate, revenge, or perhaps fear." [No mention of love or sex here.] Lauretta Trent is in the hospital because of stomach problems. The Trent residence is a big house with Lauretta's sisters and husbands, plus housekeeper, maid, cook, chauffeur, and nurse. Lauretta's Doctor Alton warns her that gastroenteric upsets can damage her heart. Virginia Baxter arrives at the airport. The police got a tip, opened her baggage, and found narcotics! So she calls Perry Mason. The presence of a photographer makes this a lot more sinister. Virginia did not give permission for the search. More important, the contraband narcotics put her bags over the recorded weight limit! Judge Albert dismisses the case. More photographs are take to give publicity to the dismissal. Perry learns that Virginia refused to give her husband a divorce, and advises her to wipe the slate clean. But a stranger asks questions about her former law firm, and the story takes a new turn. When Virginia learns of interest shown in the records from her former law firm, she calls Perry Mason again. [This story is a lead-in to Lauretta Trent.]
This story will tell you about when a copy of a will can be used for the original. Also why the symptoms of arsenic poisoning are often overlooked (Chapter 9). Perry has surmised the intent of "George Menard", and Virginia takes part in setting a trap. When Dr. Alton gets samples the test for arsenic is positive. They travel to warn Lauretta Trent, but she has gone away on a ride with her chauffeur. Virginia is lured away to a Malibu motel, but no one shows up. Then we learn that Lauretta Trent's car was hit and fell over a cliff into the ocean; her body wasn't found. The smashed fender on Virginia's car links her to this accident. And so Virginia Baxter is arrested for murder. In Chapter 19 Perry steps back to try to look at the big picture on Virginia Baxter. The questions here have obvious answers, but are they the right answers?
Perry Mason explains the difference between a doctor and a lawyer. A doctor can't get too wrapped up in his patients, some have incurable diseases. But a lawyer can better his client if he knew exactly what to do (Chapter 20). The discussion between Perry and Della leads Perry to think of another reason to frame Virginia. Perry's hunch and investigation lead to a solution from the person involved in the frame-ups (Chapter 22). [It also tells something about the informer system.] In the last chapter the missing pieces of the puzzle come together. This is a good story, but the ending is a little too cute or forced. Like most of Gardner's novels, it will keep you in suspense to the end.