I Dreamed I Married Perry Mason

I Dreamed I Married Perry Mason

3.5 7
by Susan Kandel

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I Dreamed I Married Perry Mason is the debut novel in a hip, sexy, smart and, yes, cozy mystery series with a great hook. Think Sex and the City collides with Murder, She Wrote.

All that writer Cece Caruso really wants to do is complete her biography of mystery legend Erle Stanley Gardner, find a vintage 1970s Ossie Clark gown to add to

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I Dreamed I Married Perry Mason is the debut novel in a hip, sexy, smart and, yes, cozy mystery series with a great hook. Think Sex and the City collides with Murder, She Wrote.

All that writer Cece Caruso really wants to do is complete her biography of mystery legend Erle Stanley Gardner, find a vintage 1970s Ossie Clark gown to add to her collection, and fix the doorknob on her picturesque West Hollywood bungalow. Then a chance visit with a prison inmate who knew Gardner lands her right in the middle of a 40–year–old murder and another case where the blood is still warm. In fact, Cece finds the body. This brings her into irresistible contact with her inner personal sleuth and shows how crime and greed can reverberate through several generations of a single family.

Editorial Reviews

Marilyn Stasio
… Cece's bright personality, along with her clever analysis of Gardner's classic mysteries, make future adventures a promising prospect.
The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
All former Jersey beauty queen Cece Caruso really wants to do is finish her biography of Erle Stanley Gardner, "creator of the brilliant, unflappable Perry Mason," but in art journalist Kandel's entertaining, often witty debut, she must contend with a few distractions, including murder. Once he became a famous writer, Gardner for a while took on "hopeless cases." In the Gardner archives, Cece stumbles across a misfiled 1958 letter from Joseph Albacco, who had recently been convicted and imprisoned for murdering his wife. Claiming his innocence, Albacco begged Gardner to intervene and track down the real killer, but the author never did. Intrigued, Cece is determined to find the truth in a scenario complicated enough to challenge Perry Mason himself, and soon finds herself involved in a fresh murder linked to the long-ago crime. Meanwhile, she worries about her daughter Annie, whose marriage seems about to implode, and never misses a chance to add to her sizeable collection of vintage clothing. Though the denouement is a bit over-the-top, readers should give Cece a warm welcome to the legion of perky female sleuths. Agent, Sandra Dijkstra. (June 1) Forecast: The words "Perry Mason" in the title are sure to attract older browsers who fondly remember the popular TV show starring Raymond Burr, not to mention Gardner fans. Blurbs from Carolyn Hart and Rochelle Krich won't hurt. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Los Angeles denizen and vintage clothing collector Cece Caruso writes biographies of mystery authors. While working on a life of Erle Stanley Gardner, she discovers an old letter that involves her in a 1950s murder case-for which a man may have been wrongfully incarcerated. Cece's adventures take her from prison to a Montecito mansion, from wronged prisoner to lustfully attractive house restorer. When murder strikes a woman closely connected to the case, Cece's search becomes desperate. This lively and slightly idiosyncratic heroine, the sometimes exotic California surrounds, and the complicated plotting make this series debut essential. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal
Adult/High School-Cece Caruso is an entertaining amateur detective who writes biographies of mystery writers for a living, collects vintage clothing, and lives in a West Hollywood bungalow. Thirty-nine and divorced, she has a 21-year-old daughter who works on a "Star Trek clone" TV show, as well as two brothers ("both cops") and a quirky mother living nearby. Her current project is a biography of Earl Stanley Gardner, who besides being a writer was a Southern California lawyer specializing in strangely marginal cases. In the process of going through some of his documents, Cece discovers what appears to be an unsolved case that has left an innocent man in jail since the 1950s. While investigating this case and researching her book, she travels the Southern California highways. One of Kandel's strengths is her ability to bring back to life the lost towns, social scenes, and landscapes of the past. Cece's knowledge of the area's social and economic history turns out to be a key in unraveling the long-dormant mystery. The protagonist is bright, funny, and hip, with upscale but unconventional tastes and a literary talent. This is an author and a heroine who will appeal to fans of Jennifer Crusie and Janet Evanovich, and to those who enjoy the California settings and lighter aspects of Sue Grafton's mysteries.-Christine C. Menefee, Fairfax County Public Library, VA Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Witty "biography" of the creator of America's favorite lawyer lands a former beauty queen in big legal trouble. Since leaving her male chauvinist ex ("the world's second-most-renowned James Fenimore Cooper scholar"), Cece Caruso has made her way in the world by chronicling the lives of famous mystery writers. In the middle of her Erle Stanley Gardner volume, though, Cece hits a brick wall. Not only does she have writer's block, but her daughter Annie's marriage to fellow Trekkie Vincent recently foundered when a pre-Annie fling resurfaced with toddler in tow. To jump-start her stalled book, Cece leaves her 1932 West Hollywood bungalow for Ventura, where Gardner established his Court of Last Resort, taking time from his law practice to research the cases of the wrongly convicted. One client captures her attention: Joseph Albacco, currently doing life at Tehachapi for stabbing his wife Jean to death on their first anniversary. Talking with Theresa Flynn, Jean's sister, and socialite Meredith Allen, Albacco's lover, convinces Cece that there's more to the case than meets the eye. And former classmate Elspeth Galloway confirms Cece's suspicion that Jean may not have been above a little blackmail. But reopening the decades-old case may just add Cece's name to the growing list of corpses. The verdict: thumbs up to newcomer Kandel's series for its snappy dialogue and carefully worked-out plot. Agent: Sandra Dijkstra/Dijkstra Literary Agency

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HarperCollins Publishers
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CeCe Caruso Mysteries , #1
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I Dreamed I Married Perry Mason

A Cece Caruso Mystery
By Kandel, Susan


ISBN: 0060581050

Chapter One

What a pity my vintage Maud Frizon pumps didn't come with steel-reinforced toes. Lace stilettoes are not the best defense against a case of gourmet cat food moving inexorably toward zero-degree gravity. Why on earth did I ever buy in bulk?

"You okay?" asked my gardener, Javier, who was fixing a downed sprinkler head on my small but velvety front lawn.

"I'm fine, just ignore me," I moaned, rubbing what was left of my foot. "What about the snails?"

Javier checked the bowl of beer I had put out last night. I wasn't being a good hostess (I drew the line at cheese and crackers), but I had tried everything else, including mailorder carnivorous snails bred to destroy their herbivorous cousins. I'd been ready to give up entirely on my ornamental cabbages when I'd heard the mere smell of beer lured the monsters to their deaths.

"Sorry. No bodies."

I kicked the door open with my good foot, greeted Mimi, the cat indirectly responsible for my suffering, and Buster, my teacup poodle, dumped the grocery bags on the kitchen table, and upset a half-drunk cup of cold coffee. I decided against wiping it up just then (that would mean finding the paper towels) and hit the button on the answering machine.

BEEP. "Hi, it's Lael. You won't believe it -- "

Actually, I would. Lael was my best friend in the world and an extraordinary person, but she had a unique talent for disaster. I'd listen to the rest after a shower and perhaps some meditation. I don't meditate, but I keep thinking I should start.

Sidestepping the coffee now dripping onto the floor, I went into the bedroom and took off my favorite suit, a black Joan Crawford–esque number I'd found at an estate sale with Lael, who'd zeroed in on an almost complete and barely chipped set of Wedgwood lusterware. She'd tried to talk me into removing the suit's shoulder pads, but I liked the linebacker/diva effect -- not to mention that you don't mess around with a classic silhouette. But I suppose Lael and I are different that way. I am obsessed with clothes, and she is the kind of beautiful woman who doesn't need to be.

I picked my robe up off the bathroom floor and turned on the water, which took precisely three and a half minutes to warm up.

My West Hollywood bungalow, purchased nine years ago with the proceeds from my divorce settlement, was like a Stradivarius -- the 1932 Spanish had amazing art deco details, but woe to she disrespectful of its myriad quirks. Like the temperamental plumbing, for one thing. Or the sloping floor in the kitchen, which meant that anything heated on the stove top would migrate to the right side of the pot. Or the front door's inlaid brass knob, which pulled off pretty much every time you tried to open the door from the inside. Visitors seemed to find this latter idiosyncrasy particularly unnerving.

BEEP. "This is George at Kleiner's. The new motor for your fountain is in. Listen, the old one was really filthy. You have to clean it out twice a week like I told you, especially when the Santa Anas are blowing all that muck around."

What George didn't know was that my fountain was of the same vintage as my house, and equally volatile. Also, that the portentous Santa Ana winds were invented by Raymond Chandler purely for literary purposes.

BEEP. "Call your mother."

BEEP. "Please call your mother, dear. I have no idea where you are."

BEEP. "Cece, it's Richie. Call Mom, for god's sake. She's cleaning the attic again, and doesn't know what to do with your stuff. Do you want to keep your crown? Joanne and the kids send their love."

Like all good Italian boys, my brothers, Richie and James Jr., worshiped their mother. I was somewhat more ambivalent. This the boys understood from an early age, which meant I'd spent my childhood at the mercy of a pair of pintsize enforcers. They became cops, just like our dad. I became a beauty queen. But for the record, my reign as Miss Asbury Park, New Jersey, was short-lived and utterly lamentable. Mom could use my crown to plunge the toilet for all I cared. More likely she'd wear it to a church potluck. She'd always harbored the belief that she'd been switched at birth and was really royalty, or Frank Sinatra's sister at least.

BEEP. "Hello, I'm returning Cece's call. Listen, Cece, if you're there, I have a vagabond virgin, a negligent nymph, a hesitant hostess, and a borrowed brunette for you. So, are you a madam or a mystery buff ? But seriously, folks, they're five dollars apiece, paperback reprints."

Everyone's a comedian.

"I've got a first edition of The Case of the Sleepwalker's Niece, but I don't think you want it. There's some water damage on the sleeve, but it's still pretty pricey. Ditto The Case of the Curious Bride, which is one of the better prewar Masons, not that I'm an expert, like some people. You can order on-line or by phone. We're here until eight p.m., thanks to folks like yourself."

I suppose that made it official. Even the bozo working the desk at the Mystery Manor could see that Perry Mason had stolen my life. Yes, that would be Perry Mason, the worldfamous and much-beloved attorney-at-law.

To wit: I could tell you under what circumstances Perry could be persuaded to take a case (a natural blonde in distress was always a plus); his favorite expletive ("the deuce!"); how he liked his steak (broiled rare); and what he drank when he had to drive (soda water just flavored with Scotch) -- in short, as much as Della Street, his perfect jewel of a secretary, ever could. I go to bed marveling at his courtroom moves and wake up mulling his situational ethics. Some might say I'm obsessed. My answer would be it's purely business ...


Excerpted from I Dreamed I Married Perry Mason by Kandel, Susan Excerpted by permission.
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