The Horse Book Review: by Chuck Greaves
Hush Money was a find. Literally. I found it one day while restocking display shelves at the library where I work. It’s Chuck Greaves’ first novel and any press for it clearly flew under my radar as I recognized neither the author nor the title. From the spine, I could tell it was a newer mystery and when I pulled it out I found a cover featuring a briefcase overflowing with money embossed with a show jumper. A show jumper! That caught my attention. As a big fan of both mysteries and show jumpers I made a fast decision. This book was not going on any display shelf. Instead it went straight to my desk so I could check it out.
Now, if you’re a fan of horses and mysteries, you’re probably making the same mental leap I did. I was expecting a very Dick Francis-like mystery set in the show jumping rather than racing world. But Greaves’ book is something quite different. It’s more of a noir thriller along the lines of The Maltese Falcon complete with the fast talking private investigator and a full cast of femmes fatale. But this is a modern book set in sunny Pasadena, California, and it’s not as dark as a classic Raymond Chandler or Dashiell Hammett. That said, Greaves does render the style well, especially its trademark witty dialogue and elements of danger and suspense.
Greaves’ detective is actually a lawyer. Jack McTaggert is a junior lawyer at the prestigious firm of Henley & Hargrove, where he was recruited by his longtime mentor Russ Dinsmoor. When a client of Jared Henley Jr.’s needs help while he’s away, McTaggert pulls the case. Socialite Sydney Everett’s horse is dead. But he’s not just any horse, he’s Hush Puppy, an Olympic contender. And the vet thinks he’s been poisoned. Turns out, he also isn’t the first of Everett’s horses to die under mysterious circumstances. So, who’s got the most to gain— Everett herself; her rider, Barbara Hauser; or Hauser’s main rival, Tara Flynn? As McTaggert delves deeper into the case he becomes a target himself and once Dinsmoor turns up dead, a suspect, too
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