The Case of the Stuttering Bishop Mass Market Paperback – Nov 13 1988
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From the Publisher
Okay, Perry Mason, Della Street and Paul Drake. You think of them in black and white and let's be honest, a tad stiff. That's the TV show. In the books this threesome is pretty hot. So, Perry still always wins, but it's how he does it that will make you read more and more of these titles. He's smart, Paul is cool, and Della does a lot more than just hand Perry his files.
Amelia Zalcman, Director, Contracts Administration
About the Author
Erle Stanley Gardner (1889-1970) is the master of American mystery fiction. A civil rights lawyer, his mysteries contain intricate, ever-twisting plots. Challenging and full of surprises, these are whodunits in the best tradition. He wrote 146 books, 85 of which feature Perry Mason. The fictional attorney became the basis of a number of television series (reputedly 271 episodes), and achieved an enviable record for winning his cases. Erle Stanley Gardner has an amazing sales record: at the height of his popularity in the mid-1960s he was selling an average of 26,000 copies of his novels a day, making him one of the world's best selling author's, easily outstripping at the time Agatha Christie and Barbara Cartland combined. Born in Malden, Massachusetts, Gardner went on to attend Law School in Indiana, but this only lasted for around a month, being suspended because of various distractions to his studies, especially boxing. He moved to California and became a self-taught attorney before opening his own law office. However, being bored with this he ended up working in sales for five years. Returning to the law in 1921, he created another law firm, but again was not really enthusiastic, other than when acting as a trial lawyer. Writing was his great passion and eventually he gave up the law completely to pursue a full time writing career. In this he was prodigious, setting himself a target of 66,000 words per week. His output under various pseudonyms, as well as his own, went wider than Perry Mason and also extended to non-fiction. He became an expert on the early Mexican exploitation of California. In later life, law did play a significant part in his life once again. With friends, he set up what they termed 'The Court of Last Resort', aimed at investigating and attempting to reverse what they perceived as miscarriages of justice because of poor legal representation, or evidential problems. Gardner himself once wrote: 'I want to make my hero a fighter, not by having him be ruthless to women and underlings, but by creating a character who, with infinite patience jockeys his enemies into a position where he can deliver one good knockout punch.' --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
Top Customer Reviews
Before Mason can determine the answer to that question, the bishop is attacked in his hotel room and then disappears, apparently into thin air, while boarding a ship. At the same time, Mason is trying to track down the various parties and to determine who's who. When the wealthy grandfather is murdered, though, it appears that Mason has his first guilty client.
Unlike many Perry Mason novels, "The Case of the Stuttering Bishop" does not end up in a dramatic court confrontation, and it therefore deviates somewhat from form. The case here is also significantly more convoluted than that in many of the Perry Mason novels. Because of this change of form, I found the novel less satisfying than the other Perry Mason novels I've read. The name Perry Mason, after all, connotes brilliant lawyering, and the emphasis on the detective work here left me disappointed.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Those who are used to really fine mystery writers (in the literary sense), such as Ross Macdonald, may find Gardner's writing style off-putting. It can be stiff and mechanical. Nonetheless, I still love the general setting: the characters of Perry, Della, Paul, Lt. Tragg, and Hamilton Berger. That, and the ingenious plots, are why I read Perry Mason.
On the whole, the ones written by 1954 are the best. This one was published in 1936, and is a prime example of Gardner's early, gritty, film noir stage, which lasted until around 1941. It is superb!
The story begins when Anglican Bishop Mallory from Australia calls on Perry Mason. He tells a story of a chain of events of twenty-two years ago. Briefly, back then in LA, the elder son of a wealthy man named Renwold Brownley impetuously married a woman "beneath him" named Julia. Renwold Brownley hated her. The two young folks went to Australia where a baby girl was born. It was put up for adoption. The bishop was then a pastor who helped in the adoption. The young man soon returned to the US; his wife did not. In a few more years the young man died, and the young woman (Julia) faded from sight.
About three years before the present, the wealthy man, now old, wants to find his lost granddaughter. He spends a lot of money on detectives, who find the young woman -- or "a" young woman. She comes to live in the old man's mansion, where there is also living a grandson, who is the son of Brownley's other son, who is also now deceased.
So what's the problem? Bishop Mallory, who was coming to the US anyway, is convinced the young woman living with Brownley is an imposter. He wants to right this wrong. Furthermore, he says he knows where Julia is, and where the real granddaughter is! Both are in the US. But Mason is suspicious: the bishop stutters. A real bishop wouldn't do that, as public speaking is important to those who rise to that rank. Maybe Mallory is the imposter?
Soon Julia shows up and becomes Mason's client. The bishop mysteriously drops from sight, old man Brownley is murdered, Julia is arrested, and the race is on to find out what really happened. As usual, Mason skates around the edge of the law. He sets up a ruse involving Della Street as decoy to try to flush some of the people into the open. As a result, Della is almost murdered!
Hamilton Burger takes a personal interest in the case. Burger is out to get Mason! He says Mason has gone too far this time, and he is going to get him disbarred!
Like many of the stories early in the Perry Mason opus, this is an exotic romantic story. It's a real page turner, full of tense scenes. There is a bit of violence. I love it!
Good points: sympathetc client, Perry in jeopardy for his career, Della in jeopardy. Good use of Paul Drake, great use of Burger. No Lt. Tragg.
This is one of my favorite Mason stories. Highly recommended.
Negative points: coincidence of Mallory being on the same ship as the young woman "imposter." Without giving away a spoiler, I'll just say that the actions of some of the people (the imposters) seem a bit unreal.
This story is somewhat similar to the Careless Kitten: something happened at least ten years ago in a wealthy family involving a disappearance. At least one innocent young person today is affected, as is the ownwership of all that money.
It is very similar to Ross Macdonald's The Galton Case. I have to wonder if this was not the inspiration for the Galton Case.
A stuttering bishop from Australia appears in Perry's office one afternoon, hinting at an injustice that began twenty-two years earlier when a millionaire, angry because his son had married against his wishes, conspires to make the son's new bride a fugitive from justice, fleeing from a trumped-up manslaughter charge. Now the son has died and it turns out that before divorcing his wife on Dad's orders, the wife got pregnant and had a daughter. After the son dies, Grandad takes the twenty-year-old daughter into his home.
The bishop can't or won't give Perry the full story and says Perry will have to puzzle it out for himself and see that justice is served. Perry is very suspicious because he can't imagine a stutterer rising to the rank of a bishop. But Mason loves a good mystery above all else and so dives in with both feet. Inevitably, someone's going to die and the case will take all sorts of complicated twists and turns.
Reading this book, one is again particularly impressed with the abilities of Mason's detective, Paul Drake, and the size of the agency that Drake runs. Paul is always there when Perry calls; he's never out of the office, and he never has to tell Perry that he's busy with another case and will get back to him next week. And he's virtually never short of manpower.
The second the bishop leaves the office, Perry is on the horn to Paul, wanting every last scrap of information about the bishop and several other people. And of course he wants it immediately. This would be virtually impossible, even in the age of the Internet, but it poses no problem for Paul. Perry also instructs Drake to track down the bishop and have him followed. Perry also wants Paul to follow everyone who contacts the bishop. Again, this appears to be no problem and Paul will dispatch several of the thirty or forty operatives who are apparently hanging around the office and ready to go to work.
My father loved these books and they were the first "adult" novels I ever read as a child, thus I've always had a soft spot in my heart for them. It's always fun to pull one off the shelf and turn back the clock to the days of my youth. As implausible as Perry's cases always are, they never fail to entertain me.
However, despite the fact that you probably won't solve this one on the clues, it is still a fascinating and entertaining mystery and book. The witty banter between Mason, Drake, and Street is all there in spades, and a LOT is going on in this story. Perry has some tense confrontations that are above the norm for these books, and as always his performance in the courtroom is impressive and satisfying.
Bishop William Mallory of Sydney, Australia visits Perry Mason about a manslaughter case. Could a sudden emotional shock cause stuttering? Perry calls Paul Drake to see if the bishop is genuine (Chapter I). They find where Mallory is staying, but there is a mysterious attack on Mallory in his hotel room. An ambulance came for him, then another ambulance came for him! They track down the woman who visited him (Chapter II). Her story about a personal ad checks out (Chapter III). But the bishop got on a ship bound for Australia (Chapter IV). Julia Branner, formerly Mrs. Oscar Brownley, visits Perry and tells of her past life and what she wants (Chapter V). Perry visits Renwold C. Brownley and they discuss the case (Chapter VI). An early morning phone call wakes Perry with the message that a woman has shot and killed Renwold C. Brownley (Chapter VII)!
Perry finds that Julia Branner had gone to the waterfront, and saw another woman shoot Brownley. Perry tells her to not answer questions and he’ll try to help her (Chapter VIII). Julia Branner was arrested for murder, Mallory disappeared from his ship (Chapter IX). Della’s impersonation of Janice Seaton draws out two private investigators (Chapter X). Perry meets the granddaughter of Brownley, and finds Victor Stockton, one of the two private investigators, with a scheme that will trap Perry in a crime! Perry meets Philip Brownley, the grandson, who tells what he knows (this substantiates what a witness saw). When Perry interviews Julia Branner in jail he gets an unpleasant surprise. Paul Drake found a yachtsman who visited Mallory (Chapter XII).
Perry visits Hamilton Burger to explain his actions. Burger gives Perry little time to justify his story. It doesn’t look good for Perry and his client (ChapterXIII). The preliminary examination of Julia Branner begins in Chapter XIV, this reviews the known facts about the shooting. Perry notes the strange facts: if the shooter ran away, and Brownley was dead, who drove the car off the wharf? Perry is in an impossible situation. If Brownley drove off the wharf, he was not shot dead by Julia Branner (Chapter XV). A chance remark by Della Street puts a new light on one person’s activities the night of the murder. Perry plays this hand and it pays off (Chapter XVI). They find out what happened to Bishop Mallory (Chapter XVII). Perry explained what happened, and why Julia Branner refused to talk (Chapter XVIII). The next chapter concludes this case.
In this story Perry was very close to jail and disbarment. He was involved in more action than in other stories. This 1936 novel reflects the outlook of its day.