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The Case of the Substitute Face

The Case of the Substitute Face - Erle Stanley Gardner

Perry Mason seems to belong to a highly valuable (from employers’ point of view) type of people – workaholics. Despite the fact that he has a private practice and thus works for himself he really cannot enjoy life while not working. In the end of previous book his secretary managed to send him on a vacation in exotic places – along with herself. By its end the famous lawyer was desperate for a work and lucky for him work he found right on the ship upon its returning to the port of origin. A woman passenger came to him asking for an advice in a fairly complicated situation.


Starting from this point on the amount of red herrings thrown around was enough to keep a small group of killer whales well-fed for a year. For this reason it is really hard to say what that woman wanted from Mason while making it brief and at least partially comprehensible. I am sorry for the longish explanation that follows.


The woman’s name was Mrs. Newberry. She was in her second marriage with a daughter from the first one, Belle. Her current husband Carl Moar suddenly quit his job of a humble clerk in an investment company and took the family on a high-class cruise using $25,000 in hard cold cash which suddenly appeared from nowhere. May I remind you the book takes place at the time when this kind of money meant something? Add to this sudden wealth the fact that the guy took his wife’s last name for the duration of the cruise and you came to the same conclusion as his wife: he embezzled the money from his company.


Still with me? This is only just a very beginning. Belle was leading high-class life on the ship and as a part of it developed a crush on a guy completely out of her league – from a social standing point of view. The problem was, the guy was already in sights of a woman from his class: a spoiled entitled girl who used to get what she wants. She also happened to be on the ship and was not crazy at all about the new romance. The spoiled brat was accompanied by her father who was a president of the company Carl Moar was employee of.


If you managed to understand all of these, I have more. Belle happens to resemble a popular Hollywood actress and she did everything to increase the resemblance: she duplicated the actress’ hairdo, her makeup, and other things. She also made a picture with the same pose and lightning as those on the latest publicity picture of the celebrity.

Elvis Presley and his double

That picture of Belle was in her parents’ luggage, but one day Mrs. Newberry discovered the picture of her daughter was substituted for that of the original actress. This prompted her to involved Mason in her problems.


If you are still not confused after my explanations you deserve some kind of medal. If you are not confused and decided you know exactly how all of these facts fit together, let me assure you: you cannot be further from the truth. As I said this barely scratches the surface and later developments only complicate the plot even more.


Have you noticed in the modern times we somehow managed to create very special snowflakes who consider their sacred duty to be offended by literally anything and letting the whole world know about it? The type that gets their PTSD triggered by everything that does not fit their views.

A very special snowflake

Have you ever wondered where these come from? Look no further than this book: the way Belle is treated by everybody including Mason, she cannot help but becoming such.


By the middle of the book if you manage to recognize all the red herrings for what they are it is quite possible to figure out at least part of what is going on. This and the idea that at one point Mason possessed a fact which was not shown to readers made me lower the rating by one star from my usual one for an installment of the series. Oh, and Della Street acted really boneheaded here; she is usually much more intelligent than that.