I read this book for the Vintage Mystery Bingo Reading Challenge 2015. The challenge is to read 6 or more Vintage Mysteries. All novels must have been originally written between 1960 and 1989 inclusive and be from the mystery category.
I read this for category S-5, “Medical Mystery.”
A Stitch in Time – Emma Lathen, 1968
Lathen’s smart stylish mysteries take aim at large institutions. She lampooned our diplomats in the State Department in Murder Against the Grain, racists on Wall Street in Death Shall Overcome, the auto industry in Murder Makes the Wheels Go Round, university professors and top administrators in Come to Dust. In this one, her target is the medical system, suburban hospitals, and the pharmaceutical industry. Sure, the book is dated – people smoke in hospitals, unreal – but commentary on why medications cost so much frickin’ money and how that presents a financial burden on working class people still ring true after all these years.
In this novel, shady medical practices are revealed during a law suit. The patient died on the operating table but the suit questions whether the cause of death was a bullet by his own hand or the seven hemostats left inside him after the round’s removal. Her portrait of the conceited doctors, brow-beaten nurses, and wary staff circling the wagons to protect their jobs and the reputation of the hospital sears with serio-comic denunciation of cover-ups. So much for the Hippocratic oath in the aftermath of the murder of an egocentric surgeon (is that redundant?).
This was this seventh of John Putnam Thatcher’s cases. Lathen’s construction of a puzzle is better in this outing than usual. There is a large number of suspects so the perp is not obvious. The best point is the interesting setting and witty prose.