Monday, July 8, 2013

Green-Eyed Lady: Chuck Greaves


From the summary at the author's website:
U.S. Senate candidate Warren Burkett has a history of marital infidelity. Three weeks before Election Day, Burkett comes to the aid of a beautiful green-eyed lady, only to find himself alone and naked in a stranger’s home from which a priceless painting is missing. As the resulting scandal threatens to tilt the election, the painting turns up in a most unexpected place . . . and so does a dead body.
And the cast of characters includes: "ruthless politicians, felonious art dealers, swarming paparazzi, the amorous wife of Burkett’s billionaire opponent, her mobbed-up brother, and a District Attorney with an old score to settle." The setting is Sierra Madre, California.

Jack MacTaggart, attorney, is hired to help Warren Burkett navigate his problems, turn the election back in his favor, and otherwise save the day. Well really, he is hired to defend Burkett in the criminal case but the ultimate goal is to get the election back on track. Marta "Mayday" Suarez is his law partner; Bernadette Catalano is their secretary. They hook up with Officer Regan Fife  of the Sierra Madre Police Department, and she unofficially helps them out.

Warren Burkett and his opponent in the Senatorial campaign, Larry Archer are polar opposites. Archer's politics are anti-tax, anti-union, and anti-regulation. Burkett's leanings are much more to the left. To make it more complicated, Archer's wife has ties to the art world and her brother is connected to the mafia.

MacTaggart starts getting messages on an Etch-a-Sketch screen. It isn't clear if these are intended to help, confuse or threaten.  Once a dead body shows up, with even stronger connections to Burkett, the situation becomes more complex and more serious.

From the start, I enjoyed the story. I am not sure how realistic it is. But fiction is not always supposed to mirror the real world, and in this case, any niggles I had were minor. I enjoyed being along for the ride. I liked the ending, especially some of the surprises along the way.

I liked the characters who were trying to clear up the disappearance of the painting and the resulting deaths. Some of the other characters were over the top, but in a fun way. I liked that the story is told in the first person by a very likeable narrator. There was just enough tension between the people MacTaggart works with to make it believable; they are all sterling individuals, but not too goody goody.

Plus he has a nice dog.

I might have preferred that the book take sides less in the Republicans vs. Democrats arena. Not because I was not in agreement with its leanings, but I like the issues to be covered in a more equitable way. On the other hand, neither one of the candidates is a very appealing character, which is very realistic, in my opinion.

The action in this book goes back and forth between Sierra Madre and Santa Barbara, California. Which was a bonus for me. If Greaves got Sierra Madre and other L.A. County locations down as well as he did Santa Barbara and surrounding areas, he did a really good job with the setting and atmosphere. The author practiced law in the L.A. area for many years.

This is the second book in a series. It is also unusual for me to start a series after the first book, so this was an experiment for me. In this case, I would have liked to have had the background of the first book, but it certainly did not lessen my enjoyment in reading the book. There was enough background thrown in to give a sense of the situation, but not so much as to pull the reader out of the story.

I liked this book well enough to seek out the first in the series, Hush Money. I would like to know a little more of MacTaggart's background, even though some of the story will already be known. That book has been nominated for the Private Eye Writers of America’s Shamus Award for Best First P.I. Novel, which is quite an honor.

This book was provided for review by the publisher.

14 comments:

  1. Tracy - What goes on 'behind the scenes' like that iin politics can make for a whole lot of crime-fiction-worthy intrigue and it sounds like this one has that sort of feel to it. I agree with you though that I prefer a more even-handed approach to controversial topics. I like to make up my own mind, so to speak. Still, this sounds interesting.

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    1. Margot, I did find the political and legal "behind the scenes" more interesting than I expected to. As far as leaning too far one way or the other in political philosophy, I would be afraid of driving away half the audience. It is an interesting and entertaining book.

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  2. Well reviewed, Tracy. This almost sounds like a real story, in some way reflective of political scandals in America and elsewhere particularly during election time. An attorney often also makes a good sleuth.

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    1. Thank you, Prashant. This is definitely not the setting I usually read about, and it was very interesting.

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  3. Hmm, I've never heard of this writer. Thanks for the review.

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    1. New to me also, Keishon. I took a chance and I enjoyed it.

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  4. Etch-a-sketch? Those were the days. I can't imagine today's children getting excited over this these days. Like Keishon I haven't heard of the author but I will look out for the book.

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    1. Sarah, I had not even thought of how much childhood experiences have changed since Etch-a-Sketch was big. Greaves has also written a depression-era thriller as C. Joseph Greaves.

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  5. It would be incredibly tedious leaving messages on an Etch-a-Sketch. Probably easier to do the old cutting-letters-out-of-a-newspaper trick :-)

    Thanks for the review Tracy

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    1. Rich, thanks for commenting. Not only hard to create the message, but it has to be handled carefully or you lose it. If I remember correctly. It has been a long time.

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  6. Not come across this one, but it sounds very good, I definitely like the sound of it and will seek it out - or perhaps the first one in the series? But I do really like a political scandal story...

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    1. Moira, I enjoyed the book a lot. I do not have much respect for politicians (unfortunately), but while I was reading this book, I was thinking surely they cannot be this scummy.

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  7. TracyK, you completely had me with the one line paragraph of yours, "Plus he has a nice dog" - thanks for that. If I get this one, this will be the real reason!

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    1. Thanks, Sergio. Not the type of book I would normally choose, and I am always happy to be surprised when I try new authors. Pets make a story feel real, sometimes.

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