Friday, March 6, 2020

The D.A. Cooks a Goose by Erle Stanley Gardner (1942)

#5 of 9 in the Doug Selby series. The full series is:
  1. The D.A. Calls It Murder (1937) 
  2. The D.A. Holds a Candle (1938)
  3. The D.A. Draws a Circle (1939)
  4. The D.A. Goes to Trial (1940)
  5. The D.A. Cooks a Goose (1942)
  6. The D.A. Calls a Turn (1944)
  7. The D.A. Breaks a Seal (1946)
  8. The D.A. Takes a Chance (1948)
  9. The D.A. Breaks an Egg (1949)

 Major characters:

  • Mrs. --- Hunter, a widow, in a car accident
  • Baby Mary Hunter, her infant daughter, died in the accident
  • Terry Blossten of Louisiana, owner of the car which hit the Hunters
  • Mrs. Sadie Grolley Blossten, his wife
  • Ezra Grolley, miser hermit, Sadie's Grolley's brother
  • Alice Grolley, Ezra's wife for a short period, then a murder victim
  • Baby Ruth Grolley, their infant daughter, left in the bus station
  • Jackson Teel
  • Margaret Faye, hitchhiker, was in the Hunter car

  • Doug Selby, D.A.
  • Sheriff Rex Baldwin, 
  • Otto Larkin, Chief of Police
  • Sylvia Martin, crime reporter for The Clarion 
  • Inez Stapleton, Selby's old girlfriend, now attorney for Sadie Grolley
  • A.B. Carr, attorney for Mrs. Hunter and Alice Grolley

 Locale: Madison City, California 

Synopsis: Mrs. -- Hunter, her baby daughter Mary, and hitchhiker Margaret Faye are riding on a mountain road when their car is hit by another. The Hunter car rolls down an embankment, and baby Mary dies.

The car which hit them was reported stolen. It belongs to Terry and Sadie Blossten of Louisiana. They are in the area to visit Sadie's ailing hermit brother, Ezra Grolley. Ezra is separated from his young wife Alice and their infant daughter Ruth. Ezra passes away in the hospital.

Alice and Ruth were waiting in a bus station when Ruth is called to the phone. She is apparently abducted, leaving the baby behind. D. A. Doug Selby and Sheriff Rex Baldwin enlists the help of Baldwin's wife to care for the baby while they search for Alice. Alice is eventually discovered murdered.

Ezra's shack is found ransacked, and it appears he had hidden away a fortune, now missing, but leaving behind a suspicious will. 

Mrs. Hunter and Sadie Grolley lawyer up. Hunter retains sleazy A. B. Carr, and Sadie Grolley Blossten retains Inez Stapleton, Selby's former flame and current grudge-holder.

A fight over Ezra's will is looming between his sister (Sadie) and - now that his wife is dead - his infant daughter who would be next to inherit. It appears the car accident may have been staged in an estate grab.

Review: I have read that this Doug Selby series offers more of an experience than the Perry Masons - more character development and depth than the assembly line Masons, and I agree. The D.A. Selby is our protagonist, quite the opposite of the Masons, and he is more thoughtful, well rounded, and less likely to be the tough guy. And he certainly is not in a position to juggle evidence like you-know-who.

Whenever ESG goes off on technical details of investigations, it is always fascinating and has the ring of truth for technology of the time. In this series, Selby has the opportunity to introduce technical subjects - while in the Masons, they are usually placed in the Foreword as a dedication to a particular person. Here we have two technical topics explored: how an Examiner of Questioned Documents works, and how blood spatters tell a story.

Whenever a ESG story has two similar-appearing people, or twins, you can always tell the old switcheroo is coming, and this story - with two similar women each having a same-age baby, is no exception.

One cringe-worthy element, though: this is the second time in the Selby series we have Inez Stapleton crying, an unnecessary stereotype.

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