A Penile Dagger?

Death Benefits (Rachel Gold Mystery) - Michael A. Kahn

Excellent story. I am becoming a big fan of Michael Kahn and Rachel Gold. In this second of the series, Rachel is again hired by her old firm to represent one of their clients since they have a potential conflict of interest. The firm's St. Louis managing partner, Stoddard Anderson, committed suicide, his body having been found in a hotel near the airport following a four day period when he was completely missing.


There is a quirk in Missouri law that prevents an insurance company from not paying out a life insurance claim in case of suicide, but the insurance company need not pay an accidental death rider if the deceased was sane at the time of his death. If he was ruled insane, or not in his right mind, then the death could be ruled accidental so Rachel has the difficult task of deciding for the widow, her client, if Anderson was insane at the time when he slit his wrists. His firm certainly does not want the possibility that their managing partner was insane raised in the press. That might not go well with clients. The insurance policy had a triple indemnity rider in case of accidental death. “If he was insane at the time he committed suicide, then his death would be deemed an accident under Missouri law, and the carrier would have to pay an additional one-point-four million dollars in death benefits.” The case gets even more bizarre when Rachel discovers that Stoddard might have been instrumental in smuggling an ancient Mexican artifact worth millions.


I love Kahn’s cynical view of the law. Here’s his take on insurance law: “There are trial lawyers out there—thousands—who make their living litigating the meaning of terms in insurance policies. One of the mysteries of the law is the way that basic words—words as hard and precise as cut diamonds—become warm saltwater taffy when inserted at critical points in insurance policies. Because millions of dollars can hinge on a court's explication of one of the Four Horsemen of the Insuring Clause—“sudden,” “unexpected,” “occurrence,” and “loss”—entire law firms have been built on the legal fees paid by insurance companies, to say nothing of the cottage industry of legal publishers and law school professors that have been feasting at the insurance trough for years.”


Benny is a great character who adds a nice scatological and humorous touch, and Rachel has a wonderful no-nonsense view of things. The way she handles two guys in a Porsche who hit on her is priceless.


Interestingly, in each of the Rachel Gold books I have read so far, there is a code that Rachel must solve to get to the bottom of the mystery. My only complaint, and it’s a small one, is that there is more mystery than legal drama, but I quibble. Good series.