Death Benefits

Death Benefits

A Novel

Book - 2001
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Publisher: New York : Random House, c2001
Edition: 1st ed
ISBN: 9780804115421
0804115427
9780679453055
0679453059
Branch Call Number: FICTION PERRY THOMAS
Characteristics: 383 p. ; 24 cm
Alternative Title: Death benefits

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j
jimg2000
Feb 08, 2018

She had been training herself not to take anything for granted since she was nine years old, and she was twenty-four now. Not to anticipate problems was to invite them.
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Taking a few simple, habitual precautions was usually enough to keep her from lying in bed at night worrying about lost opportunity, failure, and humiliation.
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She had no illusion that she was engaged in anything but an act of dissimulation. It was conscious, studied, and practiced, and anything less than a flawless performance would be a disaster.
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But it was still an hour before the sun would be up, and even Pasadena could be a bit creepy in the darkness and silence.
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If somebody grabbed her, she must not rely on her neighbors’ altruism. She must yell “Fire!”
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The worst thing for a person to worry about was some decision she had made in the past.
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Everybody seemed to make a few mistakes after they looked grown up, and then really grew up while they were trying to make up for them.

j
jimg2000
Feb 08, 2018

What he had was the curious quality of conveying mass and solidity, as though he were something very large that had been compressed into a dense, volatile object.
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It would be very difficult for a stranger to make his way past the guards in the lobby, all the way to the seventh floor of the San Francisco office of McClaren Life and Casualty, without being asked some questions.
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‘What bear?’ huh? Good strategy, John. That’s why possums rule the earth.”
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“Take a look. Is that a computer geek? No. That’s what repressive governments send out if the general’s daughter doesn’t come home from the prom.”
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McClaren’s was the company that had insured clipper ships making tea runs to China, and had covered gold shipments coming down from the mountains to San Francisco banks.
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Examining the figures was like being a cabalist searching for messages about the future encoded in the Talmud.

j
jimg2000
Feb 08, 2018

“But those little cubbyhole things . . . ” He shook his head sympathetically. “The problem with them is that they’re insulting. You’re locked up, but there’s no door to close, so people can look in on you.” He paused. “Ever been in prison?”
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Walker said, “How do you know the owner didn’t have seagull brains sautéed in rancid yak butter?”
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“Life is too short to screw around trying to rediscover what somebody else knows already, so don’t waste your time with it. On the small stuff, find somebody who knows, and then give him the courtesy of humbly admitting it. That way you’ll avoid fifty years of heartburn and bad hangovers and stall-outs on freeways.”
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“I guess sometimes relationships go that way, and sometimes they don’t.”
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So far, the only thing I can think of that’s worth any unpleasantness at all is a woman who’s amenable to your favorite pastimes, and whose voice doesn’t set your teeth on edge.

j
jimg2000
Feb 08, 2018

I loved her. I even learned to make martinis for her—spent several evenings watching the bartender at the Mark Hopkins and asking him questions. It cost more than medical school on a per diem basis, and nearly ruined my liver.
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“Never judge people by what they have. That’s mostly luck. Judge them by what they want.”
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Insurance is just gambling, with the bets in writing.
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After a few paces, he noticed that something was wrong with his feet. They were moving faster than he had intended…
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A guy named Andrew Werfel bought a life insurance policy from McClaren’s in 1959. It was one of those policies that rich guys buy to pay the inheritance tax so the government doesn’t take everything when they die. The payoff was twelve million.
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She would concentrate on family stuff: life insurance gets bought by men, but the survivors are widows, and the minute there’s a payoff, they’re women with more money than their husbands had the day they died.

j
jimg2000
Feb 08, 2018

“That’s what everybody had before words like ‘cholesterol’ crept into the language. They’re all going to be surprised after a lifetime of deprivation when they die of nothing.”
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People who went to better colleges, and were just as bright and worked just as hard as she did.
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If she made a dollar, it’s more than an analyst gets.
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Then, if there’s a certain combination of circumstances, she could end up running the company. She didn’t say what the circumstances were.” “It would help if she changed her name to McClaren.”
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“I meant she was good, not that anybody else was bad.”
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I remember when I started college, everybody was alone in the same way, and people were desperate. There was a kind of hysteria in the first week to meet everybody you could. People walked the campus sending out smiles in all directions like SOS signals.

j
jimg2000
Feb 08, 2018

No matter how misguided the goal, we can’t help rooting for the determined little human animal who wants it. That’s why we watch people doing things like climbing Mount Everest—which, on the well-known one-to-ten Stanford-Binet stupidity scale weighs in at about a thirty—and actually, with shame and horror, admit to ourselves that we hope the little boogers make it.
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“What time is it?” asked Walker. His voice didn’t sound as though it belonged to him. He cleared his throat. “About nine. Don’t hurt yourself trying to roll the stone away from the tomb, though. We’ve got plenty of time.”
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“I wouldn’t make as much money, but at the end of my life I’d probably feel better than I do right now.” “I doubt it,” said Stillman. “At the end of your life you’re dying. Probably feels like shit.”

j
jimg2000
Feb 08, 2018

Rich people know other rich people. They go to the same two hundred private schools, then the same twenty-five colleges. They take vacations—more of them than other people do—in the same seventy-five spots on the earth, where they stay at the same seventy-five hotels. I’ll bet it’s sometimes hard for them to believe that the world contains six billion people, because they spend their whole lives bumping into the same six thousand. They won’t talk to anybody but each other.
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No matter how much a thief has, he still wants yours.
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“You said you liked her. Haven’t you ever noticed that on the TV news, every time a con artist gets arrested, they interview five or six old ladies who say, ‘She was such a nice, sweet girl. I would never have believed it.’ That’s why they call them that. They get your confidence.”

j
jimg2000
Feb 08, 2018

If I thought of something funny, I would save it, not tell anybody so she could be the one I told.
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“I don’t think so. I like girls.” Walker said uncomfortably, “We have something in common.”
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As he walked, he decided it was as though his body had been temporarily occupied by a deranged, destructive tenant who had abruptly departed, leaving it scraped, battered, and strained. The most remarkable sensation was exhaustion. When he lifted his right hand to investigate a tender swelling above his eyebrow, the weight of his arm surprised him.
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Nothing burns energy faster than disaster . . . except sex, of course. And whatever deity was in charge of printing up our agenda tonight seems to have slipped up and left that one out.
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You can’t pay pocket change and expect people to commit felonies for you.

j
jimg2000
Feb 08, 2018

“Stop trying so hard. Your impulses are good: we’re allowed to want sex.”
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“Now do you feel better?” He had hesitated, and she had brought her lips up to his. “In a minute you will.”
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“You might think twice before you get too involved with a woman with her technical skills. She can hunt you down like a mad dog without leaving her computer. It would take her a minute or two to destroy your credit, delete your driver’s license, and transfer somebody else’s arrest warrant to your name.”
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“But you were still in love with her, weren’t you?” Walker shook his head. “No. For a long time, I was: so long that I got attached to the idea, comfortable with it. I was always going to be this guy whose best shot at having a life was already over…”

j
jimg2000
Feb 08, 2018

People do business at lunch all the time. She would have jumped at that. She would have wanted him alone and in a spot where the other people in her office, like Winters, couldn’t snatch him away or screw up her pitch. A restaurant would give her a psychological advantage: no office furniture to remind him that she was just some stranger in a business. It would be special treatment to show him he was important, and so on. What he’s dealing with is an insurance company, but what he’s looking at is this pretty, soothing young woman going out of her way for him. And lunch takes time—maybe two hours—which gives her a hell of a long period to wear him down.
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We live on the business of wealthy individuals. If you won’t insure their houses, they won’t let you insure their lives, cars, jewelry, and art collections and sell them annuities.

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j
jimg2000
Feb 08, 2018

Read 8 of Perry’s books already and rated them 4 stars or better, i.e. all very good reads. This one is a ★★⅔, a disappointment though with interesting premises: insurance fraud, computer hacking (MCI-WorldCom was still conning Wall Street), “Yankee traders”, sinister small town and Genealogy. Unfortunately, the characters including the protagonist were listless as LauraSteinert commented. Wise that John Walker and his pals have not reappeared in Perry’s other novels.

l
LauraSteinert
Jun 19, 2016

I am absolutely the wrong audience for this book. Twenty-something paper-pusher meets private detective who takes him along on the search for the only girl he ever dated--who the detective claims stole $20M. Lots of boring talk, lots of boring reminiscing about "the girl who didn't love him back," buying and ruining expensive clothes, and endless driving around looking at stuff. The GOOD new is it put me to sleep after only 4 or 5 pages every night for weeks.

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