The Fourth Deadly Sin

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

On a rainy night in November, Dr. Simon Ellerbee is working late when an unexpected visitor uses a hammer to crush his skull. It is a savage crime, the victim is socially prominent, and the New York Police Department is under intense pressure to clear the books on the case. An additional complication stems from the fact that First Deputy Commissioner Ivar Thorsen wishes to see a Puerto Rican appointed as chief of detectives. Yet, Puerto Rican Ramon Suarez will not get the job unless he can find a solution to the murder of Dr. Ellerbee, and Ivar Thorsen will suffer a loss in terms of departmental politics that will place his own career in jeopardy.

Thorsen calls on his old friend Edward X. Delaney, chief of detectives, retired, to solve the case, bring the killer to justice, and provide Thorsen with a political triumph. Delaney assembles a team of detectives and begins the methodical task of checking the alibis of those among Ellerbee’s patients deemed capable of violence.

A tiresome process to be sure, but one which leads Delaney to determine the identity of the killer--a killer who can never be tried or convicted. Delaney, however, cares not for the law, but for justice, and in an ingenious twist all is made right with the world according to Delaney.

Lawrence Sanders evokes the ambience of urban life in New York City with accuracy and verve, while his descriptions of Delaney’s culinary masterpieces, in the fashion of the Earl of Sandwich, are strikingly beautiful indeed. Finally, Sanders writes about people rather than procedure, and Delaney’s family life is covered as thoroughly as that of the various suspects.