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George Kelley Paperback & Pulp Fiction Collection

The Case of the Haunted Husband

cover image By: Gardner, Erle Stanley (male)
Publisher: Pocket Books, Inc. (Cardinal edition C-325)
Place of Publication: New York, NY
Catalog #: Kelley Box 250: PS3513 .A6322 C2485 1959
Contributor: P. Ruggiero

General

Era: 1940s Author as on Cover: Erle Stanley Gardner Geographic Locale: Los Angeles, California Date of Publication: 1959  |  Original Date: 1941 Setting: urban and suburban Motives: murder to cover up adultery and bigamy

Plot Summary

Hitchhiking to Los Angeles, Stephane Crane is picked up by a man wearing a tuxedo, who drives with one hand and drinks with the other. After a horrifying accident, she regains consciousness to find herself alone behind the wheel of the demolished car. Her friend Hortense believes she needs an attorney and enlists the aid of Perry Mason. With the help of his secretary, Della Street, and private detective Paul Drake, Perry sets out to acquit her of manslaughter charges. They must untangle the disappearance of witnesses along with the double life of a murder victim. The suspects include a well-known Hollywood producer with a lot of power, a mysterious man who is heard but not seen, a wife whose missing husband is supposed to be in prison, and various outsiders who seem to know more than they're saying. A lipstick-stained shirt provides a clue along with a bogus telephone call and a ring of keys. But the evidence of a feather that points to Perry himself helps in determining the killer's identity.


Major Characters

Perry Mason "Chief," adult male, defense attorney

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

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

Jules Homan adult male, balding, glasses, movie producer

Horace Homan adult male, dark eyes, wavy black hair, playboy brother of Jules Homan

Daphne Greeley adult female, pretty, businessman's wife

Adler Greeley/Mr. Spinney adult male, dark eyes, black mustache, businessman

Ernest Tanner adult male, handsome, chauffeur

Lieutenant Tragg adult male, high forehead, wavy black hair, clean-cut features, thoughtful eyes, homicide detective


Weapons

gun


Level of Violence

not explicit; description of wounds is very vague except for the area of the body shot. Very little is written about blood. Both murders are by gunshot.


Sexuality

no sexually explicit scenes; only flirting and implied adultery


Gender Roles

traditional for both male and female characters. There is harassment of the heroine by her boss which leads her into her predicament


Ethnicity

not evident


Alcohol/Drug Abuse

no drugs; alcohol causes the car accident and all that follows. The main characters go for drinks and dinner: Perry, Della Street, Paul Drake and Lt. Tragg. A witness gets drunk and is murdered. People are always offering drinks. It is usually the good guys who can handle their alcohol and know when to stop. The criminals who overindulge get in trouble.


Law Enforcement

Lt. Tragg does not always trust Perry's motives and thinks he turns up too many corpses, but he respects the attorney. Tragg is dedicated to finding criminals and bringing them to justice. He is fair and honest.


Added Features

Gardner's writing reflects the way society behaved in his day. The men were in charge and the women were to be protected, although they sometimes got the upper hand. Gardner places remarks about police and prosecutors in the mouths of his characters. These do not seem too different than the feelings of many today. Prosecutors want to win and they expect the police to back them up. Rich people have pull, but Mason helps the downtrodden and penniless who are accused. In many of his stories, including this one, there are descriptions of rainy nights, and he makes the reader feel the downpour or sprinkle on their heads as the characters rush to a sheltered restaurant or office.


Subject Headings

Law and Lawyers/ Mason, Perry/ Murder/ California - Los Angeles/ Motion Picture Producers and Directors/ Accidents


Psychological Elements

the overlying emotions are fear and love; fear of being exposed as adulterers or bigamists because of falling in love.