Thursday, May 23, 2024

The Tenth Life

 The Tenth Life (1977) by Richard Lockridge

 When M. L. & Susan Heimrich's Great Dane Colonel falls ill, they take him to Dr. Adrian Barton's veterinary clinic. His assistant Carol Arnold tells them that the doctor is finishing up a surgery and will be right with them. But after time goes by and no doctor, Inspector Heimrich asks Carol to check how much longer it will be.'s going to be quite a long time because the doctor is dead. It looks like the middle-aged Barton has had a stroke or a heart attack or perhaps a diabetic coma, but all of Heimrich's police alarm bells are going off and he's not so sure. And when the analyst finds curare in the syringe discovered under Barton's body, it winds up his alarm bells were ringing out murder.

But who wanted the veterinarian dead? Did his wife think he was messing around with the pretty young Carol Arnold and decide death was better than divorce? Did Carol's young man decide the "old" vet was too interested in his young assistant. Did one of the pet owners decide to take revenge for their pet's death? Are any of these motives strong enough to warrant murder? Apparently someone had a grievance strong enough to kill over, but will Heimrich find the right one before the killer strikes again? 

This is the last of the Heimrich novels and it was good to see the Inspector and Lieutenant Charley Forniss and Corporal Purvis in one last outing. The mystery is pretty straightforward and it shouldn't be difficult for those well-acquainted with the series to spot the killer. But I don't really read these for intricate plots. I enjoy the comfortable characters who behave in ways I've grown accustomed to and whom I live very much. Heimrich has been at this long enough that he knows when murder has occurred, even when it's not immediately obvious. And I've been reading the Lockridge books long enough that I know which characters are the most likely villains no matter how many red herrings he tries to throw my way. It was interesting to see curare used as the murder method in a modern mystery (pardon me, my Gen X card is showing--the seventies don't seem like they should be 50 years ago...). I thought everyone had given up the "obscure" South American poison long before then. But it does fit with the veterinary setting since it was used at one time (in very small doses) to immobilize animals for treatment. While this isn't the strongest of the Lockridge books, it was a nice comfortable read and a solid ending for the series. ★★★

First line: It was a few minutes after six in the afternoon, and the afternoon was in mid-July.

Last line: "And no stud fee," Susan said, and picked up the tray.

Deaths = 4 (one poisoned; three natural)

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