Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Finished two

 I typically like Lawrence Sanders books. "The Sixth Commandment" wasn't typical for him. Frankly, that title could apply to any murder mystery, so I was expecting something superb to really knock that "Thou shalt not kill" out of the park. It was more like a slow roller to the second baseman. (It's baseball season, ya know.)

The Bingham Foundation is one of the most important scientific charities in the country, giving grants that can make or break a researcher’s career. When they get a proposal that seems too good to be true, they send hardened investigator Samuel Todd to confirm that the science holds up. A cynical detective with a sixth sense for deception and a bad habit of committing adultery, Todd has never met a liar he couldn’t crack. But he’s never met anyone like T. G. Thorndecker.

Thorndecker won the Nobel Prize in his thirties, and his work continues to push the outer limits of modern technology. After years of secret research, he claims to have made a breakthrough in the war against aging. When he requests a million-dollar grant from the Bingham Foundation, Todd goes to find out if he’s on the level. As he digs into the demise of Thorndecker’s first wife and late-night happenings in the lab, Todd comes face to face with a medical mystery that blurs the line between life and death.

Written in 1978, it did have some clever verbage and deep thoughts I enjoyed:

"The effete youth was first to react to my entrance. He jerked to his feet and glared at me, not knowing whether to shit, go blind, or wind his watch."

On an overly made up, poorly-aged woman: "She looked like she had been picked up by the heels and dipped in age."

Regarding a windy pastor's sermon: "He gave a fifteen-minute catalogue of human sins of the flesh, listened to attentively by the congregation who, I figured, wanted to find out if they had missed any."

"Human character runs the gamut from slug to saint."

"I waved a hand and kept going. Women like that scare me. I have visions of them cracking my bones and sucking the marrow."

"Few of us act from the motive we profess. The worm is always there, deep and squirming. A man might say he wishes to work with and counsel young boys, to give them the benefit of his knowledge and experience, to keep them from delinquency, to help them through the agonies of adolescence. That may all be true. It may also be true that he simply loves young boys."

Amazonians gave it a 4.1 of 5, much more generous than my 6 of 10.

** The other I finished was Lisa Scottoline's "Dirty Blonde." It was unique and I liked it for the most part, but the ending ruined it for me. SPOILER ALERT: I hate when the "who-done-it" turns out to be some minor character barely mentioned forty chapters earlier. A lot of the loose ends were tied up in too convenient of a manner, intended to be big surprises but ended up just being corny, like: Look what I did there!

Lawyer Cate Fante, who is attractive, sexy, and tough-minded, has just been appointed to the federal bench in Philadelphia. With her new status in the elite meritocracy that is the federal judiciary, she often feels like an imposter because of her working-class background. For instance, at a fancy dinner, she’s more likely to joke with the waiters than her colleagues. Divorced, Cate also has a secret sex life. She’s attracted to bad boys and working-class men, like the ones she grew up with in the former coal-mining town of Centralia in northeastern Pennsylvania.

Cate is presiding over a high-profile multi-million dollar breach-of-contract lawsuit in which a former Philly ADA is suing the producer of a highly successful TV series for stealing his ideas. All true, but the verbal contract isn’t enforceable. As difficult as it is, this means that Cate has to make a ruling that ends the lawsuit in the sleazy TV guy’s favor. Cate learns that being a judge doesn’t always mean that she can do justice.

Upset over the ruling she had to make, Cate heads for a bar and there meets a good-looking rough-hewn leather-jacketed hunk and goes off with him to a nearby motel. Cate quickly realizes she’s made a mistake, apologizes and turns to leave, but the guy becomes aggressive and Cate barely manages to get out of the room. At home, she turns on the local news to learn that the TV producer from her court case has been shot to death outside a local restaurant. Not only that, but she soon also finds out that a man has been found dead after a fall from a motel’s exterior staircase. A stricken Cate recognizes instantly the pictures of the leather-jacketed man who’d attacked her at the hotel.

Things go from bad to worse in a hurry, and amazingly Cate finds her private life splashed all over the papers and her job in jeopardy. Her only hope is to clear her name and find a murderer.

Amazonians gave it a 4.3 of 5. Me a 6+ of 10.

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