Friday’s Forgotten Book: Body Scissors by Jerome Doolittle

Body Scissors by Jerome Doolittle (Pocket Books, 1990) is the first of six political thrillers released between 1990 and 1995 featuring Tom Bethany, a former member of the Olympic wrestling team and a Vietnam vet, who describes himself as a security consultant but operates more often as a private investigator. Bethany has a profound distrust of the Government and lives as much off the grid as anyone can do in the heart of Boston. His telephone is in someone else’s name, his landlord has never heard of Tom Bethany, he operates on a cash and money order basis, and he opens and closes bank accounts regularly in multiple names.

He is retained by a Massachusetts senator running for president to thoroughly check the background of the senator’s choice for Secretary of State. J. Alden Kellicott appears to be an impeccable choice for the job: he’s a Harvard professor with years of public service and he has a socially prominent wife. The only possible flaw is the death of a daughter that is still considered by the police to be an open homicide investigation.

Bethany is curious enough about the unsolved murder to dig a little deeper and soon after his initial inquiries is approached by a stranger with a knife intent on doing permanent damage to Bethany. His wrestling skills kick in and the attacker becomes the victim in short order, giving Bethany another mystery to investigate.

In view of the recent circus of confirmation hearings for multiple nominees to high Government positions, this book will read as if it is fresh off the pages of the Washington Post. Elements of the plot now seem predictable, I don’t remember reacting that way initially. I don’t know whether that’s attributable to my cynical old age or the changes in society in the 30 years since the book was released. The characters still ring authentic and fresh; I particularly like the owner of the Tasty, the hole-in-the-wall diner that Bethany treats as his office. Doolittle’s skepticism about various former political powerhouses is entertaining, and I can see that I need to read the remaining books in the series again.

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