Director of media relations Bert Swain is called in to solve a murder at the Krinsky Research Center’s sister hospital
A man has been poisoned on the premises, and as far as Westside General Hospital is concerned, bad publicity is not better than no publicity. When the law enforcement can’t catch the killer, officials have no choice but to turn to accidental sleuth Bert Swain, who quickly learns that the victim had been involved in a scandalous child-abuse case years before and suspects this might be the reason for the murder.
Like its predecessor, Protocol for Murder, this second mystery by PW's Rights columnist involving Bert Swain, PR chief at a Manhattan medical research center, is a sprightly performance with charm to burn. Here, Swain is asked to investigate the death of lawyer Donald Jarrell, whose fatal poisoning in his hospital bed remains a case unsolved by the police. It turns out that as a child Jarrell had been the lead witness in the prosecution of a couple who ran a country day-care center, accusing them of sexual abuse of the children. Apparently he had come to regret his role, and had begun planning a book; but who would want him dead? With the aid of his cheerful lover, Eve, Bert asks around among the dead man's friends, relatives and law partners, and comes up with a theory. But then Bert begins to suspect that he, or his 12-year-old daughter visiting form Canada, may be in danger. The solution is a bit perfunctory, and Bert and his daughter don't seem in real peril, but the narrative style is brisk, Bert is amusingly self-deprecating and the transcripts from the ancient child-abuse trial are riveting.