Reading The Sandler Inquiry, one has the sense of stepping into the dark shadows of an old film noir and standing beside Humphrey Bogart as he steps through a mystery that is filled with many twists and turns. The book, originally published in 1977, has as its main character Thomas Daniels, a New York City attorney who is weary of being an attorney, a profession he acquired more to please his father than himself. In short order a man who resembles very much Tom Daniels, is killed outside the entrance to Daniels' building, and Daniels' offices are burned out through an act of arson. Who'd want to burn him out? Why?
Into his burned-out office appears Leslie McAdam, the epitome of the mysterious, independent woman. She wants to hire Daniels to represent her in a claim against the Sandler estate. Victoria Sandler, an eccentric octogenarian with a love for privacy and dogs named Andy, has passed on, leaving behind the considerable Sandler fortune to which Leslie wants now to claim ownership. She is, she tells Daniels, the illegitimate daughter of Arthur Sandler, long deceased. Now that his sister, Victoria, is gone, and there is no other Sandler to whom the estate can pass, it rightfully belongs to her. She reveals to Thomas the scars across her throat, an attempt to have her killed when she was a young child. She has been very careful about preserving her life ever since.
Fraud or rightful heir? That is the question Tom Daniels must answer. Also, there is one other little nagging inquiry which must hold his interest: Who is trying to kill him, and why? Does it have anything to do with his own father, and the life that man chose to lead? A life of lies, perhaps?
Daniels is now as much private detective as lawyer as he delves into the mystery of Leslie McAdam and her claim against the Sandler estate, a mystery which has its roots deep in the intrigue and blood of World War II and the attempts by some to undermine the Allied economy by counterfeiting false pound notes in England. The Sandler fortune apparently owes its existence more to betrayal and crime than hard work.
Leslie very soon proves herself to be a capable protector to Tom instead of the other way around. On more than one occasion, it is she who, through quick action, saves his life. This is the case when he and Leslie enter an art gallery elevator together with a man with a brown scarf. They cannot know that danger has stepped onto the elevator with them. When they get off,
Thomas stepped out of the elevator. Then at the same instant that he heard the doors start to close, the brown scarf suddenly looped downward over his head. It caught him around the throat and yanked him backward toward the elevator. He gagged and fell against the closed door of the elevator, his hands and fingers digging at his throat...The elevator began to rise.
Leslie neither screams nor panics. As though seeing someone almost get murdered is an every day occurrence in her mysterious life, she rather coolly withdraws a knife from her purse and cuts him loose, nearly cutting off his ear in the process. It is a few moments before Tom can catch his breath.
Who and what is this woman, really? That is as much a part of this mystery as is the history of the Sandler fortune. As Daniels falls increasingly in love with this mysterious stranger, it is a question he must answer to his satisfaction if he and Leslie are to have any future together.
A word of caution to some, this is a very complex mystery (perhaps unnecessarily so, to some degree) and, as a result, there is much exposition toward the end of the book. It is necessary to explain the complexities of the story but for those who are raised on action movies and similar types of books the wordiness here might prove to be a bit of a turnoff. For those others who like intelligent, well-written Sam-Spade type mysteries, this is the book for you.