cover image False Conception: A John Marshall Tanner Novel

False Conception: A John Marshall Tanner Novel

Stephen Greenleaf. O. Penzler Books, $22 (273pp) ISBN 978-1-883402-87-7

John Marshall Tanner, San Francisco PI, is hired in his 10th outing, after Southern Cross, to complete a background check on Greta Hammond, the potential surrogate mother for wealthy Stuart and Millicent Colbert. While there are a few oddities in Hammond's life, Tanner finds ``no obvious problem in signing her up.'' The embryo transfer is done and a few weeks later, Hammond decamps, assuring Tanner by phone that she will deliver on her part of the contract. Former lawyer Tanner, a thoughtful and engaging protagonist, competently delves into the Colberts' cruel past, but he remains confused in his longtime relationship with Betty Fontaine and her need for commitment. Some of the other characters lean toward stereotypes, including ruthless businessman and patriarch Rutherford Colbert, whiny son Stuart and bitchy daughter Cynthia, who are vying for future control of the Colbert fashion empire. Wispy Millicent is better drawn but is still only a shadow of a woman obsessed by the desire for a child. A couple of final twists add depth to previous events, but the best part here remains Turner himself. (Nov.)