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George Kelley Paperback & Pulp Fiction Collection

The Case of the Moth-Eaten Mink

cover image By: Gardner, Erle Stanley (male)
Publisher: Pocket Books, Inc. (1107)
Place of Publication: New York, NY
Catalog #: Kelley Box 251: PS3513 .A6322 C26 1956
Contributor: D. Hartman


Era: 1950s Author as on Cover: Erle Stanley Gardner Geographic Locale: California, presumably Los Angeles Date of Publication: 1956  |  Original Date: 1952 Setting: urban; several scenes in and around Mason's office building, a low-class hotel, and the courthouse Motives: murder

Plot Summary

When Dixie Dayton disappears in the middle of her waitressing shift, leaving behind her paycheck and a slightly moth-eaten mink coat, her boss, Morris Alburg, retains Perry Mason to find out why. Mason takes charge of the mink and in its lining he finds a ticket from a Seattle pawn shop. The plot thickens when police find out that Dixie pawned not only a diamond ring, but a gun as well, and the gun matches the weapon that was used to kill police officer Robert Claremont. Dixie's boyfriend, Thomas Sedgwick, is the prime suspect in the Claremont murder, but Dixie and Alburg find themselves in need of a lawyer when they are implicated in the murder of a bookie named George Fayette. Mason takes them on as clients, and the courtroom scene gets a little bizarre when Mason doubles as counsel for the defense and witness for the prosecution.

Major Characters

Perry Mason adult male, middle-aged, brilliant lawyer with tremendous detective skills

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

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

Dixie Dayton (an alias, her real name is never given), adult female, waitress and owner of the moth-eaten mink

Morris Alburg adult male, owner of Alburg's restaurant; half-brother to Thomas Sedgwick

Minerva Hamlin adult female, night switchboard operator at the Drake Detective Agency

Lieutenant Tragg adult male, tough cop who spends a fair amount of his time on cases concerning Mason's clients

Hamilton Burger adult male, district attorney who frequently finds himself in confrontation with Mason

George Fayette adult male, a bookie who is out to kill Dayton and Alburg; he ends up as a murder victim instead

Robert Claremont adult male, young, dedicated police officer (killed in the line of duty)

Thomas Sedgwick adult male, suspected bookmaker and cop killer; half-brother to Alburg and romantically involved with Dixie Dayton; suffers from tuberculosis

Sergeant Jaffrey adult male, a bad cop in charge of the vice detail; a tie-in with Claremont's murder brought him into the case; killed by Tragg at the end of the novel

Frank Hoxie adult male, hotel desk clerk with a photographic memory



Level of Violence

three people are shot to death; brief description of the murder of Officer Claremont; no description (beyond that they were shot to death) is given for the other two murders


slight hint of a romantic attachment between Mason and Della Street; Sedgwick and Dayton live together but are not married; the novel contains no sex scenes

Gender Roles

male/female gender roles reflect typical 1950s attitudes


not evident

Alcohol/Drug Abuse

no drugs; Mason and Della Street have cocktails with dinner, but no other scenes deal with alcohol; Mason and Street smoke cigarettes and Tragg and Jaffrey smoke cigars

Law Enforcement

Jaffrey is a bad cop who gets wealthy abusing his authority, but Officer Claremont is described as a hardworking, dedicated policeman. Tragg is tough and sarcastic, but is depicted as competent and well-intentioned.

Subject Headings

California - Los Angeles/ Mason, Perry/ Murder/ Public Prosecutors/ Police/ Law and Lawyers