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George Kelley Paperback & Pulp Fiction Collection

The Case of the Negligent Nymph

cover image By: Gardner, Erle Stanley (male)
Publisher: Pocket Books, Inc. (1029) - 1st printing
Place of Publication: New York, NY
Catalog #: Kelley Box 252: PS3513 .A6322 C266 1954
Contributor: K. Quinlivan


Era: 1950s Author as on Cover: Erle Stanley Gardner Geographic Locale: California (presumably Los Angeles and surrounding towns) Date of Publication: 1954  |  Original Date: 1950 Setting: urban and suburban; coastal waters off the shore of southern California; law offices, courtroom, homes and workplaces of various witnesses; wealthy island owner's mansion Motives: theft, greed, murder

Plot Summary

Dorothy Fenner swims off in haste from the island mansion of wealthy businessman George Alder with a glass bottle in her hand. This beautiful young woman is rescued by attorney Perry Mason, and she tells him that she has removed this particular bottle from Alder's house because it contains a note that reveals important information about the death of a woman who apparently drowned while aboard Alder's yacht several months earlier. Mason is called upon to defend Dorothy, first in a bail hearing for stealing $50,000 in jewelry from the Alder mansion, and later in a jury trial when she stands accused of murdering Alder. Mason confounds the opposing district attorney by means of his trademark skilled legal maneuverings and the well-timed unveiling of important evidence in the courtroom.

Major Characters

Perry Mason "Chief," adult male, middle-aged, (minimal description of Mason's physical characteristics), well-known trial attorney

George S. Alder adult male, wealthy yachtsman who owns an island

Dorothy Fenner adult female, attractive, young, secretary accused of burglary and eventually murder

Della Street adult female, attractive, confidential secretary to Perry Mason, well-versed in the law

Paul Drake adult male, middle-aged, head of the Drake Detective Agency, coordinates the efforts of his numerous operatives as they dig up the facts to strengthen Mason's case

Corinne Lansing adult female, George Alder's stepdaughter, suffers from a nervous condition, missing and presumed dead

Dorley Alder adult male, George Alder's uncle, middle-aged, powerful stockholder in Alder Associates, Inc., he stands to profit very nicely after his nephew is murdered

Carmen Monterrey adult female, Hispanic, former maid now working as a fortuneteller, holds a few shares of stock in Alder's company

Claud Gloster adult male, "a careful, logical, dangerous courtroom antagonist," but he proves no match for Perry Mason when it comes to courtroom technique

Leonard Keddie adult male, tall, raw-boned, slow-speaking sheriff; his testimony is continually torn apart in court by Mason


.38 caliber revolver

Level of Violence

very brief descriptions of the murder scene and apparent drowning


there are a few mild passing references to the attraction between Della Street and Perry Mason. Dorothy Fenner tries to impress Mason with her physical attributes on several occasions, but she does not make a lasting impression on him.

Gender Roles

traditional; female characters are generally secretaries, typists, stenographers or maids, but they are depicted as intelligent and clever.


not a factor; all characters are presumably caucasian; there is one scene in a Mexican restaurant that incorporates stereotypical Hispanic accents.

Alcohol/Drug Abuse

most of the main characters smoke cigarettes and occasionally indulge in moderate social drinking. This is presented as an accepted custom in social settings.

Law Enforcement

the county sheriff's office plays a background role; officers are generally described as competent, but they do overlook important evidence when searching the murder scene.

Added Features

the legal system is well-documented, and Gardner provides detailed descriptions of the bail hearing and the trial. The outcome of the court case is never in doubt -- it is only a question of how Perry Mason will present the evidence and what legal strategies he will employ to prove the innocence of his client.

Subject Headings

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

Psychological Elements

Corinne Lansing is said to suffer from amnesia, hallucinations, and symptoms of manic-depressive disorder.