THE SIXTH COMMANDMENT
The erratic Mr. Sanders is at his tackiest here, hyping up this slow tale out of two borrowed, stale formulas. The plot formula is the old horror-movie one about the (secretly) mad scientist with the outwardly respectable laboratory-hospital in a scared, creepy little town. And the formula narrator-hero is our old friend, the hard-boiled detective, here in the uninspired person of Sam Todd, 32, field investigator for the Bingham Foundation--and weak imitator of Philip Marlowe and Lew Archer. Sam is assigned to get the inside story on Dr. T. G. Thorndecker, Nobel Prize winner, who wants a million-dollar Bingham grant to study the cause of aging in mammalian cells (or so he says). Thorndecker runs a lush rest home and adjoining research lab in upstate N.Y., so Sam is soon trying to get some gossip from the locals--who, except for old Al Coburn, have nothing but praise for dear Dr. T. And, though Sam's real suspicious, convinced that there are secrets a-lurking, he succumbs somewhat to Dr. T.'s incredible charisma--not to mention the charisma of the doc's sexy young wife (who's playing around with a local cop and others). But then Sam spots a patient being buried at midnight (yes, that old scene) and old Al Colburn turns up dead--so a late-night raid on the lab seems to be the only way to learn the truth. And as usual, the truth isn't shocking enough to warrant all that build-up; plus, in this case, it's medically unconvincing. Although Sanders pads like crazy--with Sam repeating his suspicions over and over, as well as with some divertingly vulgar sideshows--it's always apparent that this is a moderately lively genre pulp (far less fully developed than the author's Deadly Sin crime stories) masquerading as a best-seller. If not for the Sanders by-line, it wouldn't have a prayer.