One of the really good ones
Over the last thirty-five years i've read all of the mason novels at least once, and most several times. this is one of the best. it was written during the war years, one of gardner's best eras. the film-noir feel of the early novels (1934 - 39) was fading. mason (and gardner) were mellowing. mason was no longer the dogged fighter in a world of men scrambling for money and power. he didn't always skate around and over the edge of the law. gardner was never a really good writer in the literary sense, but at least during this era he could write good descriptions and set the scene. here is an example: "the coupe purred up the winding highway. adele blane's dark eyes, usually so expressive, were now held in a hard focus of intense concentrations as she guided the car around the curves. ... a few hundred feet below the car, jumping from foam-flecked rocks to dark, cool pools, a mountain stream churned over boulders, laughed back the sunlight in sparkling reflections, filled the canyon with the sound of tumbling waters." not bad. after around 1954, one would be hard pressed indeed to find anything like that in gardner's writing, as it became quite mechanical and stilted. but the plots were always very good. the plot here mostly occurs high in the mountains not too far from la, one of gardner's favorite locales. the story concerns a wounded soldier, home from wwii, his girl friend adele, her sister, and the sister's husband jack, who has been embezzling money from his rich father-in-law. jack is soon found murdered in a mountain cabin. jack's widow is eventually arrested for the crime. later, quite a few other characters are introduced. one thing i did not like was that some significant characaters were introduced rather late in the story. eventually found not too far away is a buried alarm clock, which seems to be 25 minutes slow. or is there a more mysterious explanation for the time it is keeping? who would bury an alarm clock in a virtual wilderness environment? twenty-first century readers may not remember the old type of alarm clock. they were wound up, needing no electricity. when they went off, a mechanical rod swung back and forth between two bells, making the noise. also, during wwii there was rationing of many items, including tires. a car having two brand new tires was rare. cameras then were, of course, film cameras. furthermore, the best ones had one large piece of film (or negative) good for one high quality photo. this is one of my favorite mason novels. i love the appealing mountain setting. mason is not really in command of things as the complicated story unfolds. he does not trick witnesses or mix up the evidence -- but a character named dr. macon does! there are excellent court room scenes. it is one of the most complex and ingenious of all the mason stories, yet reasonable when all is revealed at the end. highly recommended.