Count Your Enemies

Along with Paul Nathan’s two previous mysteries, PROTOCOL FOR MURDER (1994) and NO GOOD DEED (1995), COUNT YOUR ENEMIES features Bert Swain, the head of public relations in a research facility connected to a hospital in New York. In COUNT YOUR ENEMIES, Swain is asked to investigate threats made against Anne DeVilliers, the director of the Gaia World Institute (GWI), a pro-environment outfit in New Jersey. Since DeVilliers’ brother is on the board of directors of Swain’s hospital, Swain has little choice.

Swain immediately finds himself faced with many problems. First, Peter (or Glad) Hood, an employee of GWI, gives a speech in support of logging interests, and shortly thereafter is found drowned. Then Bernard Mainz, who runs GWI’s laboratory, a lab which turns South American plants into useful drugs, is shot to death.

At the same time, Swain worries about his teenage daughter Paula because she has gotten a job as a chambermaid at GWI in order to practice being a sleuth like her father. Also, Swain is having a difficult time facing his fiftieth birthday. He ends up cheating on his lover Eve, even though DeVilliers, with whom he had the tryst, drugged him first.

The main question Swain has to answer is motive. Oil companies and the like could certainly do without the interference of GWI. DeVilliers’ large family—the result of five marriages—wants the money she spends on the institute, while some of those who work there want to promote themselves at DeVilliers’ expense.

Swain manages to resolve the mysterious drowning of Hood and discover who killed Mainz by interviewing many of the characters. Yet the book does not build suspense because it relies too much on repetition, and Swain’s relationship to the women around him, including his daughter, does not necessarily intensify the plot. COUNT YOUR ENEMIES, however, is complex enough to be attractive as a mystery.