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The Sirens of Suspense




Chuck Greaves spent 25 years as an L.A. trial lawyer before turning his attention to fiction. His debut novel HUSH MONEY (Minotaur), a legal mystery, won the SouthWest Writers' International Writing Contest, received starred reviews from both Publishers Weekly and Library Journal, and was a Critics' Pick from Kirkus Reviews. HUSH MONEY has been named a finalist for numerous national awards and honors, including the Rocky Award (Left-Coast Crime), the Reviewers' Choice Award (RT Book Reviews), the Shamus Award (P.I. Writers of America) and the Audie Award for Best Mystery audiobook of 2012 (Audio Publishers Association.)

GREEN-EYED LADY (Minotaur), the first sequel to HUSH MONEY, was published in June of 2013, and was promptly hailed by No. 1 New York Times bestselling author Douglas Preston as "the wickedest read of the year . . . Greaves is a master of the language. I loved this book." The third installment in the series, THE LAST HEIR (Minotaur), is in bookstores now.

In addition to his Jack MacTaggart series of legal mysteries, Chuck also writes literary fiction as C. Joseph Greaves. HARD TWISTED (Bloomsbury), his Depression-era saga of kidnapping and murder in the American Southwest, was called "a gritty, gripping read, and one that begs to be put on film" (Los Angeles Times) and a "taut and ingriguing thriller" (London Sunday Times), and was a finalist for the Oklahoma Book Award in Fiction.



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item1 IN VINO VERITAS item1

Since I’m both a vineyard owner and a life-long oenophile, I suppose it was inevitable that Jack MacTaggart – the irreverent lawyer/detective who stars in my L.A.-based series of legal mysteries – would find his way up to Napa Valley, which he finally does in THE LAST HEIR (June 24, from Minotaur).

It’s a standard trope of detective fiction for the blue-collar hero to suffer the condescension of his social betters, only to triumph by dint of his dogged pursuit of the truth. Chandler certainly used it, as have hundreds of mystery writers who’ve followed in his footsteps. In the MacTaggart novels, I always try to place Jack – a quintessential lunch-bucket kind of guy – into a tea party setting and allow him to break a little china. This not only makes for good conflict, it also creates space for small doses of humor and social commentary.

In HUSH MONEY, the first MacTaggart novel (and a Shamus Award finalist), Jack is hired to represent a wealthy socialite in prosecuting an insurance claim on the death of her champion show horse. In GREEN-EYED LADY, Jack is hired by a U.S. Senate candidate who’s been set up in a sex sting. Both conceits make Jack a fish out of water in a world of wealth and privilege, forcing him to overcome not only a murderous antagonist but also the societal currents that conspire to impede his progress.

In THE LAST HEIR, Philippe Giroux, the patriarch of a fabled California wine empire, hires Jack to defend a lawsuit brought by Giroux’s eldest son to declare his missing brother dead. With control of a family dynasty hanging in the balance, Jack is soon caught in a web of greed, estrangement, and murder, and when Giroux’s beautiful daughter – a woman with “her father’s nose, and what appeared to be Kate Moss’s body” – takes special interest in daddy’s new lawyer, you know that Jack is in for a wine education he won’t soon forget.

Life experience – most notably my 25 years as an L.A. trial lawyer – has always informed my fiction, and I’ve long wanted to introduce my readers to the wonderful world of wine. And what better introduction than a mystery that includes a body floating face-down in a vat of Pinot Noir?

So yes, I did train in the hunter/jumper equestrian discipline, and sit on the board of directors of a riding club not unlike the fictional Fieldstone Riding Club featured in HUSH MONEY. And yes, I served for many years as campaign treasurer to a California politician. And then there’s that vineyard . . .

When I traded my briefcase for a laptop in 2006, my wife (also a lawyer) and I sought a more bucolic lifestyle after a quarter-century spent in the high-speed blender that is L.A. Law. That the ranch we eventually found for our horses and dogs included five acres of Viognier and Pinot Noir grapes was icing on the cake. So now I spend my mornings writing and my afternoons puttering in that vineyard, tending not just my grapes but also my novel-in-progress. It’s where I go to think, and to plot, and to put my own personal spin on the ancient saying that in wine, there is truth.

I was visiting South Africa’s Cape Winelands recently where a winemaker told me, “I have the greatest job in the world. When I come home from work and don’t smell like wine, my wife demands to know where I’ve been.” I warned him I was going to steal that line, and my hope is that it and others like it imbue THE LAST HEIR with a verisimilitude that will distinguish it from the armchair authorship so often evident in today’s crime fiction.

So while I’m not entirely sure where Jack is headed next – I’m thinking a caper involving professional team sports – I’m confident that both mystery and wine lovers alike will savor THE LAST HEIR’s complex structure, its whimsical nose, and its plummy notes of jealousy, intrigue, and deception.

I know, because I crafted them with my own hands.

└ votre santÚ!



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