California history, biographical information on the creator of Perry Mason and haute couture from the 1940s makes up the backbone of Susan Kandelís debut Cece Caruso mystery, I Dreamed I Married Perry Mason. Cece, a sassy biographer in her late thirties, is working on a biography of Erle Stanley Gardner, the creator of Perry Mason. As sheís conducting research, she comes upon a letter to Gardner from a prisoner, begging the writer to help him with his case. The convicted murderer, Joseph Albacco, says that heís innocent in the murder of his wife but that he canít reveal his alibi because it would hurt someone he loves.
Intrigued and convinced that this is the angle she needs to give her biography an edge, Cece goes to visit Albacco in prison. After listening to his story and talking with the chaplain, who is also convinced of Albaccoís innocence, Cece finds herself promising the inmate that she will try to find out who really killed his wife. Her investigation takes her through a maze of old oil money, a famed clothes maven and plenty of dark, dirty secrets.
Kandelís heroine, the funny and smart Cece Caruso, is a joy to follow through the pages of this satisfying first novel. Her obsession with vintage clothes adds a nice dimension to the story, as well as her distant daughter and man-obsessed best friend. Cece has believable motivations, a colorful thought-process and plenty of quirks to make her the perfect protagonist. While the plot is entertaining, it bogs down in the end with a few too many intricate details and ends a bit too abruptly. However, this takes little away from this amusing and fast-moving first novel in what one hopes is a long series starring Cece Caruso.