Tuesday, February 17, 2015

A Stitch in Time: Review

A Stitch in Time (1968) by Emma Lathen is the seventh mystery featuring John  Putnam Thatcher, Wall Street Banker and amateur sleuth. The book opens in court with the Freebody vs. Altantic Mutual case. Pemberton Freebody, a wealthy elderly man had been diagnosed with cancer. Rather than face such a dreadful death, he decides to go to the woods with a shotgun and end it all in his own way. A good Samaritan happens to find him and takes him to the Southport Memorial Hospital where Dr. Wendell Martin operates on Freebody and it looks like he'll survive. But four days later, Freebody dies and now the insurance company is balking at a pay-out of the beneficiary's $100,000 claim. Atlantic Mutual cites the suicide clause (which invalidates the claim) but it's just not that simple. An autopsy reveals that Martin left seven hemostatic clips in Freebody and the lawyers for the claimant submit that the old gentleman didn't die from the gunshot wound but from a botched operation.

Thatcher's bank, the Sloan Guaranty Trust, is the trustee for the beneficiary and Thatcher is interested in the case. The more he sees in court, the more sure he is that the hospital staff are covering up. And when Martin is murdered after a few unwise comments to the press Thatcher is even more sure. But is malpractice the only thing Southport Memorial is trying to sweep under the carpet? The next big reveal is that there is money missing from Martin's estate...and money, after all, is what Thatcher does. His search for the missing money will dig up all the secrets those doctors at Southport Memorial hope to keep buried.

This was my first Emma Lathen mystery. Lathen is the pen name for two American businesswomen, Mary Jane Latsis and Martha Henissart. And it's apparent even from my small sampling of their work that these ladies knew their way around the business world. Financial interactions ring true and Thatcher's character is well-developed and grounded--and likeable. I particularly enjoyed his interactions with Benjamin Edes, an older banker in the Southport area who enjoys tracking down financial skulduggery for Thatcher and who gives us a different view of the "stuffy old banker in the three-piece suit." 

Lathen plays fair with the reader. There are plenty of pointers to the culprit and opportunities for the reader to sort out what is really going on behind the scenes at the hospital. A good solid introduction to Thatcher's world and it did not seem to matter that I started well into the series. I enjoyed meeting Thatcher and characters whom I am certain are recurring. I look forward to hunting down further adventures. ★★

This fulfills the "Pseudonymous Author" square on the Silver Vintage Bingo card.


Q said...

Thanks for sharing. This novel looks interesting...!

Gram said...

I read this series years ago and loved it. I think they are also R. B. Dominic. I enjoyed those books as well.

fredamans said...

I just don't think I would get into this one. But love your review.

Bev Hankins said...

Gram: You are right--there is another series with Dominic.

helenjean@midgetgemquilts said...

sounds a fun read, must check it out

Major said...

Last year I read two by Lathen and enjoyed them both, both for story and nostalgia

Murder Makes the Wheels Go Round

Come to Dust