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George Kelley Paperback & Pulp Fiction Collection

The Case of the Careless Kitten

cover image By: Gardner, Erle Stanley (male)
Publisher: Pocket Books, Inc. (724)
Place of Publication: New York, NY
Catalog #: Kelley Box 248: PS3513 .A6322 C226 1950
Contributor: P. Ruggiero


Era: 1940s Author as on Cover: Erle Stanley Gardner Geographic Locale: Los Angeles, California Date of Publication: 1950  |  Original Date: 1942 Setting: urban and suburban Los Angeles Motives: murders for money and blackmail

Plot Summary

Helen Kendal finds that her kitten has been poisoned shortly after she receives a call from her long-missing Uncle Franklin. He instructs her to hire Perry Mason to accompany her while meeting his friend at a seedy hotel. Unfortunately, they find Franklin's representative dead. This is just the beginning in a series of murders, attempted murders, and past murders that Perry must solve with the help of his devoted secretary, Della Street, and a kitten who is passed around to different caretakers. Della finds herself behind bars for spiriting away a witness, but the jury finds her not guilty due to a remark by Perry concerning the kitten's instincts. He refuses to explain what he and the jury know about cats to the mystified prosecutor. In this case, Perry does not solve the murders in court, but he leaves it to the District Attorney and Lieutenant Tragg to unravel as he and Della leave town for a little relaxation.

Major Characters

Perry Mason "Chief", adult male, tall, granite-featured, defense attorney

Matilda Shore adult female, middle-aged, big-boned, heavy, stooped shoulders, pouches under her eyes, was wife of wealthy banker

Thomas Lunk adult male, middle aged, weather beaten, blue eyes, stoop shoulders, long arms, gardener

Franklin Shore adult male, middle-aged, tall, gray eyes, banker

Della Street adult female, attractive, intelligent, Perry Mason's legal secretary

Paul Drake adult male, tall, lanky, private investigator, owner of the Drake Detective Agency

Lieutenant Tragg adult male, thin, medium height, police officer

Helen Kendal adult female, 24 years old, slim, pretty, violet eyes, blonde


gun, car, poison

Level of Violence

violence is not explicit. Cat is poisoned, others are assumed to be poisoned. Two are shot fatally, one is hit by a car. Description of violence is not dwelt on.


no sexually explicit scenes; more romantic

Gender Roles

traditional for both male and female. The men protect women. Women get into trouble when acting on their own, especially the perpetrator.


racism against the Japanese houseboy is shown by nearly everyone except the police, lawyer, secretary and heroine. When this novel was originally published, the country was at war with Japan, and all Japanese were suspect.

Alcohol/Drug Abuse

no drugs. There is little social drinking. Everyone smokes cigarettes or cigars or pipes. There are detailed scenes of lighting and offering cigarettes throughout the novel. Makes smoking look like a desirable trait.

Law Enforcement

described as doing the best they can, but with focus on people believed guilty until proven innocent. Although the prosecutor insists he does not prosecute the innocent, Perry thinks they have lulled the public into feeling confident that no innocent person is ever prosecuted. His character doesn't think citizens receive the rights they're entitled to, and he says, "Trial by jury is guaranteed by the Constitution and should be insisted on."

Added Features

a kitten helps solve the crime by using its instincts and by Perry Mason's ability to read the animal's nature. Frequent use of slang words and phrases popular during the 1940s include "hell's bells," "square deal," "swell," "scared the boots off me," "being game," "acting square," and "mighty white of you."

Subject Headings

Detectives, Private/ California - Los Angeles/ Law and Lawyers/ Mason, Perry/ Cats/ Public Prosecutors/ Trials/ Guilt/ Paranoia

Psychological Elements

moods are of guilt and paranoia. The guilty knowledge of a murder committed and the paranoia of being caught which, in turn, leads to other murders.