There’s something about a really well-written mystery that makes it a real pleasure to read. Such is the case with Stephen Greenleaf’s Tanner novels and False Conception is no exception.
Tanner is hired by his friend, Russell, an attorney, to investigate a surrogate. Seems some very wealthy clients of his, the Colberts, scions of a wealthy fashion empire, who wish to remain completely anonymous, want to implant an embryo in Stuart Colbert’s former secretary (for $100,000). At least that’s the story. It gets complicated because Russell must write up a contract without knowing the the law will be regarding surrogate rights and those of the biological parents. Russell needs Tanner to check out the former secretary without her knowledge and especially without her finding out who the the parents are of the child she will bear. The parents want to make sure no one will ever find out how the conception was brought to fruition, not realizing they are being manipulated by Stuart’s father.
As is axiomatic in Greenleaf and Ross MacDonald, the investigation turns over piles of corruption, hatred, and incest and once the links are connected hidden motives pop to the fore.
The reader is treated to passages such as this, “Because it was his office, Stuart Colbert looked comfortable and self-possessed and bursting with something to say. From the heat in his eyes and the flush to his face, I guessed it wouldn’t be pleasant. He was wiry and small, with an aesthete’s high forehead, a lizard’s bulbous eyes, and a languid smirk that declared he was master of all he surveyed. He struck me as a cold fish—judgmental, sanctimonious, arrogant, didactic—and a trifle jejune underneath. All to be expected, I suppose, given that his only source of early nourishment had come from a silver spoon. “
Excellent. Really hard to put this one down.