The Case of the Empty Tin, Erle Stanley Gardner (El Caso de la Lata Vacia)
Chapter 1 tells about the Gentrie family who rent out a room and their garage. Why was there an empty tin among the preserves? Florence Gentrie heard a noise in the night. Her husband Arthur said the wind blew a door shut (Chapter 2). Rodney Wenston visits Perry Mason because of a nearby gunshot (Chapter 3). His stepfather Elston Karr wants an attorney because of the murder downstairs. Karr was an importer in China and now keeps out of sight for fear of murder. Hocksley the downstairs tenant had some kind of phoney exporting business. Perry goes to question the neighbors, the Gentries (Chapter 4). Perry learns about the empty tin and goes to look at Hocksley's garage. Perry looks at the cover of that tin can and finds a coded message on the inside lid. That coded message is a book code (Chapter 7). Hocksley's housekeeper Sarah Perlin calls Perry with information (Chapter 8). Could it be a trap? Perry keeps the appointment but Sarah Perlin will not talk. A woman also called Opal Sunley to the same house at the same hour. Perry questions her.
Paul Drake tells what happened (Chapter 9). Both Hocksley and Karr seem mysterious (Chapter 10). Chapter 13 has a meeting where historical facts emerge. Perry and Della fly to San Francisco to investigate (Chapter 14). Perry shows his driving skills. Perry and Della go to inspect the Luceman home (Chapter 15). There is suspense and humor there. Then they find the Gentrie's roomer, but he will not talk. Perry and Della return to the Gentrie home to look around (Chapter 17). Perry gets an early telephone call with a surprise (Chapter 18)! He calls Lt. Tragg and they rush to the Gentrie's house. The trap springs shut on the guilty party. The last chapter ties up the loose ends.
This is a very complicated story that requires acceptance of its premises. Would someone who does business in San Francisco hide out in Los Angeles? Does the story seem reasonable? This story seems more political (past foreign involvement) than other stories in this series. Some of the facts in the background are now quite dated. War-time shortages put an end to tin cans for home canning; glass jars replaced them. The early "Perry Mason" was more of a private detective than a courtroom wizard.