Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Sick to Death: Review

Sick to Death (1971) is the fifth book in Douglas Clark's Masters and Green series of police procedurals. It takes me back to the earlier days of the working relationship Detective Chief Inspector George Masters and Detective Bill Green--well before the two men become friends. The team (including their assistants, Hill and Brant) is still settling in with one another. Green doesn't quite trust Masters' apparent ease with forensic specialists and his seemingly random methods of questioning suspects and following up leads. Masters thinks Green trusts police routine a little too much. They haven't quite figured out how well they complement each other even as their methods seem to be in competition. As the opening says:

Detective Chief Inspector Masters and Detective Inspector Green were not on speaking terms. They rarely were. The pleasure each one took in his job was soured by the knowledge that in all major cases it was now accepted that they were paired to work in tandem. Paradoxically, they were a successful team. Know-alls, speculating on their success, attributed it to the fact that each set out to beat the other at every turn. Inevitably, it was said, they were both kept so much on their toes by this exercise that they exerted maximum effort at all times: the basic ingredient of success.

This case takes them to Gloucester to investigate the death of Sally Bowker, a pretty young woman who was apparently admired and loved by all, and, yet, someone hastened her death through the effects of her diabetes. Sally died from a diabetic coma after trying to counteract the symptoms with what proved to be a useless bottle of insulin. But how does a killer make a bottle of insulin a means of murder without adding poison? Masters and Green will have to learn a great deal about insulin dependency and the life-style of a young diabetic before they can answer that question. And they will have to discover which admiring face masks the mark of a murderer.

Despite the opening and the general feel of unease between Master and Green, it's easy (especially for those of us who are reading the series in a totally random order) to see the seeds of the friendship and comfortable relationship that will develop. Green tries very hard in later books to maintain his prickly exterior, but we all know that he respects his Chief. 

The murder was a particularly interesting one for me--my husband is diabetic and I grew up watching my grandpa deal with diabetes--in a manner very like that described in this book from the 70s. Things have changed a bit since then, but not in any way vital to the plot. Being familiar with diabetic treatment certainly helps the reader to solve the mystery themselves, but it's not strictly necessary. The clues are there and Clark plays pretty fair. An interesting case in a series that I thoroughly enjoy.  ★★and a half.

++Also posted for the 1971 Crime Classics at Past Offences 


fredamans said...

The cover made me think instantly it could pass for a movie poster. Not sure I would get past the beginning, and being diabetic, this story may hit real close to home with me too. Great review!

BooksPlease said...

Interesting - my father was diabetic. I haven't read any of Douglas Clark's Masters and Green books - maybe my library has some ...

Sergio (Tipping My Fedora) said...

A new series for me Bev - thanks, rather sounds like my cup of tea!