Attention conservation notice: genre fiction from decades ago
Emma Lathen wrote a long series of light mystery novels starring John Putnam Thatcher, the senior vice president of a large investment bank. This was back in the days when investment bankers didn’t have the same Gilded-Age-Vampire-Squid associations, and the contrast with modern views of bankers is probably the way they’ve dated most.
As the books were written by two women with professional careers, they have been visited by the Suck Fairy less than one might fear1. The books are notable for the cast of recurring minor characters and for the authors’ and characters’ respect for recondite technical expertise. The same authors wrote another series as R. B. Dominic, with a congressman as the primary character; these were less successful and the only one I’d look out for is The Attending Physician, about Medicare and Medicaid fraud.
Lathen’s books have been out of print for a long time, but most of them (and at least one R. B. Dominic book) have been reissued as e-books. There are also some ‘new’ books. One of the two original authors was dead when they were written, and there isn’t any claim the other one was involved, so it wouldn’t be surprising if they failed to measure up. And, boy, do they.
The transfer to e-books is of uneven quality. In addition to the usual typos and font changes, Murder Makes the Wheels Go ‘Round (Detroit anti-trust and price-fixing) has the main character referred to as ‘John’ rather than ‘Thatcher’ on a bunch of occasions. By Hook or by Crook (Persian rugs) becomes almost unreadable by renaming the victim, an elderly Armenian woman, from ‘Veron’ to ‘Vernon’. Death Shall Overcome (racism in stockbroking) actually makes an improvement by changing the (appropriate at the time) ‘Negro’ to ‘Black’.
Where to start? I’d recommend A Stitch in Time (medical fraud) or Murder To Go (franchise fast-food) or Something in the Air (post-deregulation airlines)
- the homophobia in Come To Dust is an exception [return]