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HUSH MONEY by Chuck Greaves: Book Review

Hush Money/Hush Puppy–it’s the second word that makes all the difference.

Hush Puppy is the name of a champion horse belonging to Sydney Everett, a rich but crude widow who owns horses but doesn’t ride them. When Jack MacTaggart, a recent addition to the very white-shoe Los Angeles law firm of Henley & Hargrove, is asked to take over the insurance case involving the death of Mrs. Everett’s horse, Hush Puppy, he asks, “Why me?  I don’t know a fetlock from a half nelson.”  The reason is that the firm’s attorney who usually handles Mrs. Everett’s business is out of the country, so Jack has to hoof it over (forgive the pun) to the Fielding Riding Club to get the story.

Sydney Everett is the personification of the gauche, nouveau riche trophy wife/widow who is on the prowl for a replacement for her late husband.  Avoiding Sydney’s obvious interest in him, Jack learns from the riding club’s veterinarian, George Wells, that Hush Puppy died of cardiac failure of an unknown cause; it is later discovered that the cause of the heart failure is a virus that poisoned the animal.

Jack is working on another case as well.  His client, a low-income working man named Victor Tazerian, has leukemia that is currently in remission.   A proven treatment has been denied by Victor’s insurance carrier on the grounds that Victor is healthy at the moment. However, when (and it’s a when, not an if) his cancer returns, the treatment will not work.  Jack’s job is to convince the insurance company to pay for the treatment when Victor is healthy so it can be available when he gets ill again.  So far, the venerable Hartford Allied Insurance Company has not agreed to do this.  But Jack has always enjoyed a good fight.

The characters in Hush Money are terrific.  Jack is street-wise, not exactly a perfect fit for his law firm. The stable master he meets at the Fielding Riding Club, Tara Flynn, is an attractive, outgoing young woman; she’s not shy about telling Jack her opinion of everyone in the club, her bosses included.  Russ Dinsmoor, Jack’s mentor and a highly respected attorney in the California legal community, is uneasy about Jack’s deep research into Hush Puppy’s death.  Sydney Everett, Jack’s client, has a secret in her past that is impacting everything about the case.  And the senior partner in Jack’s firm, Morris Henley, and his son Jared are unlikeable in the extreme.  The former is an overbearing, arrogant man who thinks his every word must be obeyed, while the latter much prefers roaming the world to doing actual work at the law firm.

Chuck Greaves was an attorney in Los Angeles for twenty-five years, and the novel is filled with fascinating pieces of legal lore.  He obviously knows the ins-and-outs of the court system, and his writing makes it all accessible to his readers.  And his character Jack MacTaggart is, at times, laugh-out-loud funny.

You can read more about him at this web site.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Reads blog at this web site.