Thursday, July 03, 2008

Master of the Jigsaw!

There are a few names which are synonymous with Mystery, Detectives, Thrillers and the like.
As soon as you come to the suspense section in your library, Erle Stanley Gardner's Perry Mason and Agatha Christie are the most likely to leap at you!

I started reading detective stories long long ago with Sherlock Holmes. Then came 'Murder on the Orient Express' followed by quite a few Christie's stories. However, the lack of a 'Hero' (Poirot is only in a few of her novels) made them slightly unappealing.
Then came Gardner with his brilliantly simple characterizations and intrigue which usually ends in the courtroom.

If you've read a few book reviews i've written, you'll know that i love court-room thrillers. And i love mysteries. The Perry Mason series are a mix of both!
This is probably the 7th or 8th Mason book that i'm reading, and all of them are absolutely top-notch!
Gardner is a master. He does not create big complex characters, so that you don't need to turn back the pages in the middle of your story to refresh your mind about some quirk of the antagonist.
The primary cast in all of Gardner's mysteries are Perry Mason - The Lawyer, Della Street - His Assistant, Paul Drake - Detective and friend and a couple of police officers like Lt Tragg and Sgt Holcomb. The rest of the characters change with each story, but these simple, endearing and very very intelligent characters are an absolute pleasure.

In none of the novels does Gardner take us into the personal life of any of them. In fact, even after reading many of his novels, i know next to nothing about Mason, where he lives, who are his family, and so on!
The usual skeleton plot for many of Gardner's novels is the same - Someone rushes into Mason's Law office asking him to take up a case. Before Mason completely agrees, something happens, which makes his client the number one accused in a murder case. Mason, Street and Drake try to find evidence which points otherwise, sometimes stepping over the line of the law. In most of the stories, Mason himself gets embroiled with the law. Finally in a court-room showdown, they manage to produce some fantastic evidence, which proves that his client is actually innocent and also gets the real culprit behind bars.
The beautiful part is that though we know the story is going to head up that way, we are still engrossed in each page!! It is sort of like Yashraj Films. We know where the story is heading, but still we watch it!

One thing i found out while reading 'The case of the lonely heiress' was that this one was written in 1958!! In fact, when i looked up mason on wikipedia, i saw that most of these mysteries are from the late 30's to the 60's. So, that's another big wow for Gardner!
Even after 50 years, if a book can keep a reader glued from the beginning to the finish - especially when it is a mystery, the author must be considered a master!
Gardner sure is one.
A master of the Jigsaw.

If you've read any of his mysteries, do drop in a comment.

1 comment:

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