Saturday, April 20, 2013

The Case of the Buried Clock

In The Case of the Buried Clock, Gardner makes his only reference to World War II where one of the main characters is recuperating from an arm injury received during combat. Unlike his other two series, Gardner made very few concessions to the war in the Mason books. He wanted to keep the stories as timeless as possible. In doing so, all references to historical events of significance were kept to a minimum. While both Donald Lam and Doug Selby would enlist for their country, Perry Mason remained behind with
no explanation of why he had not been drafted or enlisted to fight. This decision has probably lengthened the life of the series since there are no historical markers to tie the books to a particular era.
 He goes to a cabin in the woods in order to convalesce after his wartime service and hears the ticking of a clock outside. He finds the clock and noticed that the clock is not set to the current time. When his romantic interest’s brother-in-law is found dead in the cabin and the victim’s wife is seen throwing a gun off the side of the road leading to the cabin, Perry Mason agrees to help the victim’s wife. Gardner does a good job of showing how the police tend to stop investigating when they have found a viable suspect. In court, Mason makes the point that the police, having found a gun they suspected was the murder weapon, didn't search any further for the weapon thrown from the road. Gardner states through his character:

“They sincerely believe that everything they do has a tendency to uncover the truth, that anything they are stopped from doing is a monkey-wrench in the machinery. Therefore they look on all laws which are passed to protect the citizens as being obstacles thrown in front of the police.”[i]

The objectives of the police versus that of the citizenry is a theme that Gardner will repeat, especially when he begins work with the Court of Last Resort. In this book, too much is made of the clue of the clock and the use of sidereal time as an explanation for the clock’s timing.

[i] Gardner, Erle Stanley. The Case of the Buried Clock. New York: William Morrow & Co, 1943. page 55. 


  1. Love the Perry Mason books, but haven't had a chance to read this one yet.

  2. Your observations on Perry and WW2 make sense. It hadn't really occurred to me. But I had been thinking there was something different about the original TV episode THE CASE OF THE SARCASTIC SERGEANT, which takes place on an army base and involves soldiers who served on Corregidor. (Of course, this was a post-war story.)