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George Kelley Paperback & Pulp Fiction Collection

The Case of the Demure Defendant

cover image By: Gardner, Erle Stanley (male)
Publisher: Pocket Books, Inc. (Cardinal edition C-323)
Place of Publication: New York, NY
Catalog #: Kelley Box 249: PS3513 .A6322 C236 1959
Contributor: S. Roe


Era: 1950s Author as on Cover: Erle Stanley Gardner Geographic Locale: southern California Date of Publication: 1959  |  Original Date: 1956 Setting: small town by the ocean; lake area not specified Motives: desire to retire; see justice done

Plot Summary

A girl under the care of her physician is given a truth serum drug and she confesses to murder! However, she isn't the only one who had reason to kill Mosher Higley. What really happened, and why has more than one bottle of poison been found at the bottom of the lake? Can the doctor and Perry Mason resolve the case without being indicted themselves by district attorney Hamilton Burger? What did the window washer see? The legal battle includes arguments dealing with confidential communications and the admissability of tape recordings made by the doctor.

Major Characters

Perry Mason "Chief", adult male, defense attorney

Della Street adult female, 30s, pretty, smart, Perry Mason's legal secretary

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

Nadine Farr adult female, very good looking, a real knockout, student and housekeeper for Mosher Higley until his death

Captain Hugo adult male, middle-aged, abnormally thin, high cheekbones, pointed jaw and sloping forehead, bushy white eyebrows, bald head, worked for Mosher Higley for 30 years as a cook, housekeeper, chauffeur, handyman, chore boy and general factotum

Mosher Higley adult male, 60s, cruel, overbearing, obstinate; already dead three months when the story opens

John Avington Locke adult male, slender, quick-moving, handsome, chemist and boyfriend of Nadine Farr

Hamilton Burger adult male, big, barrel-chested, district attorney

Jackson Newburn adult male, slender, well-knit man, penetrating gray eyes and the quick step of an athlete

Mrs. Jackson Newburn adult female, 30s, well-tailored, well-groomed, a voice with a well-modulated timbre customarily associated with good breeding, Mosher Higley's niece


poison, truth serum

Level of Violence

the only violence is the death of Uncle Mosher Higley which occurred three months previously; brief description of how he died (originally determined to be natural causes)

Gender Roles

traditional sexist attitudes; inclusion of the inevitable female with a nervous condition. Example: "She'd have to be diabolically clever to have thought all that up," Mason said, his manner thoughtful. "Well," Della Street told him, "there are clever women, you know."

Law Enforcement

local police, private detective

Subject Headings

California/ Public Prosecutors/ Law and Lawyers/ Mason, Perry/ Murder/ Trials

Psychological Elements

Nadine is being treated for depression when the story opens, and is later found to have been suicidal