Poison: John Lescroart
There are many ways to mask the cause of a murder. The cause of death in this case was thought to be a heart attack. But one of the victim’s children thought otherwise and this would lead to a chain of events that would spiral out of control and the arrest of a close personal friend or lover of the victim. Abby Jarvis was a client of Dismas Hardy who was charged with vehicular homicide and served time in prison. Landing a position with Pipes and Valves plumbing as the bookkeeper for Grant Wagner the owner. When he suddenly dies it appears to be a heart attack but someone in his family disagrees and the investigation takes on a dangerous turn.
Dismas Hardy promised his wife, Frannie that he would not handle any more murder cases but when Abby Jarvis is arrested for the death of Grant Wagner, why does he rush to come to her aid? When Phyllis, his secretary calls him to tell him about her arrest he goes to the jail, tries to get into see her only to be blocked by the arresting officers who were not really interested in helping attorneys. Dealing with Grassilli who finally called intake, Hardy gets into the see Abby who seems to clink to him in more ways than one.
Grant Wagner was a wealthy man who was just 62 years of age and Abby was his bookkeeper that was left one million dollars in his will. Added to that his company was worth about 25 million dollars and they heirs wanted to put it on the open market for sale thinking it would go for between 75-100 million. Gary Wagner was the new CEO and he wants to put it on the market but what about Grace, Gloria and Gene, the G-Team.
Eric Waverly and his partner Ken Yamashiro were called for a 911-murder case as David Chang was killed. Two gunshots killed him and the end result was Eric’s anger flared up after dealing with the victim and the CSI team and he took is out on his wife and kids.
Gloria Wagner was sure that her father did not die of a heart attack and asked to have another tox screen done to learn he was poisoned but who, how, why? The poison used was called Aconite. Aconite has a long history as poison. Eating too much of it can cause serious problems with your cardio vascular and nervous systems. Grant Wagner had many varieties of tea and it was possible that when Abby prepare his team she might have included some of this wild plant. Severe aconite poisoning can occur after an accidental ingestion of too much of this herbal decoction made from aconite roots. Meeting an herbalist in this novel who literally sells this plant you learn that aconite roots are used only after processing to reduce the toxic alkaloid content.
Gene went to his father’s office to get on Abby’s computer and review the decisions made over the past few months and daily running of the office. Gene was sure he could get to the bottom of it and he was a licensed CPA and Abby and Gloria’s bookkeeping degrees he was the only one with a finance background. Gene learned that their salaries would increase but that Gary would come out, as CEO and his would increase by 250,000 dollars making it what he felt unfair.
Things would heat up even more as Frannie and Dismas would have their own falling out over this murder case, Eric and Ken would deal with not only David Chang but with two other cases as well as the link between Grant’s murder, David’s and one more comes into focus.
Abby’s arrest came under the title of specials and she was not going to be allowed bail or even a bail hearing although she had a daughter who is autistic and it would be hard for her mother to take care of Veronica for a long period of time. Eric Waverly was dealing with his on demons and anger issues plus PTSD and his actions and attitude towards his partner and other co-workers was taking a toll on not only him but his family and friends too. Pain pills for his injury made it worse and simmering rage that was uncontrollable made it necessary for others to often steer clear of him. David Chang’s murder was a homicide and meeting his friends would add to the suspect list.
Retirement seems out of the question and hoping to reconnect with Vincent and Rebecca his two children was his goal after recovering from two gunshot wounds. Grant Wagner’s murder ended that all as he gets deeper into the case and interviews his client, deals with her lawyer, hopes to get payment and then finds himself embroiled in his own tug of war not knowing if she is guilty or innocent. Abby has been receiving huge amounts of extra money from Grant’s company and although she claims he knew about it, that the money was given to her for a reason, his family was not aware or claimed they were not aware and yet Gloria her best friend at first does not believe she is guilty.
Dismas is nothing but thorough and delves into the finances, history and family composition of each Wagner member who it appears ha an alibi for the time of Grant’s death. But, Grant played the field and another interesting snag comes into play as we meet Stacy Holland his latest girlfriend who he breaks up with the month before his death. Women what want him for cash, family disloyalties, money, power, betrayals and the death of a young man named David Chang that just happens to be related to someone who could identify the killer and connect the dots with the aconite poison and how it was delivered to Grant. The trial is looming as he has requested time waived but Abby wants it cleared up before a year and his request and outstanding research present by Dismas Hardy as author John Lescroart explains why Abby should at least have bail hearing and the statues and laws which apply although the prosecution countermands him but in the end Dismas wins. Embezzlement, blackmail, deceptions and a killer hiding in plain sight as Abby is the prime suspect and when Grant found out about the money she was taking did she poison him? Enter my favorite PI Wyatt Hunt who develops his own mode of investigation and learns more about the G-Team, their not so wonderful family alliances, and the fact that they are in total opposition when it comes to selling the company as some feel they can keep it going while others especially one, wants out. Sara Chang was David’s sister and seemed to have a link to where the aconite came from and even more to more herbal cures to help Eric with his pain. But, not everything comes for free as he’s about to learn when he falls prey to what she really wants that could take everything including his family and job away from him if he’s not careful.
Abby is a single mom and her mother is unemployed and her daughter, Veronica is autistic and needs monitoring. Where did she get as a bookkeeper and extra 25 thousand dollars to pay Dismas his retainer and more to come? Gene and Gloria wanted to put the company up for sale whereas Grace did not. Grace was the sales and marketing director who was closer to Gary and would vote for anything he wanted. Their father’s death hit her harder than the rest and the funeral was coming up. Meet their half-brother or stepbrother Joey who has no vote but definitely an opinion so what is his stake?
Abby and Grant created this own special blend of the root of the aconite but the poison is in the root. Wyatt Grant presented this information to Dismas and he also learning that this is not a controlled substance and you can buy it in any herbal shop, which we will learn how this links to the murder of David Chang. Added in he is shot twice at home, and then Stacy Holland who we meet is the next victim also shot twice. The connection between Abby and Grant comes into play when we learn the truth about Veronica. There is one other person that stands to lose a lot if found out and when dealing with Gene created a plan to get the money targeted for Abby and hopefully save this person’s business and financial ruin.
The court case comes into play, the jury is about to be picked but a new lead from Hunt brings it all together but first Frannie and Dismas realize that Vincent was close with David, the group of friends that he was connected with and warn him that he might be next. The links are connected and someone chose to gain several millions of dollars from Grant’s death. Will Farrell is the DA and is sure that Abby is guilty and each time Dismas presents him with more evidence he declines the information until Eric, Ken and the team realize that they might have missed something. But, what? What about Eric and his anger will he get some help but first the need to catch a dangerous killer as Abe Glitsky presents information to Dismas that might set off a spark that will ignite more than who killed all three victims. When someone’s past comes into the present is it a motive for a copycat murder? Who killed Grant Wagner? Was he the innocent victim of a killer’s greed? Did Abby do it for money for her daughter? What will the fate of the G-Team be? Will the sell? What about Dismas Hardy will he really retire or will author John Lescroart find a reason to bring this amazing attorney back again to solve another murder. Beware before you take a sip of your next herbal connected tea if you are not the one to prepare it yourself. You might be the next victim of someone’s desire to use POISON!
Fran Lewis: Just reviews/MJ magazine