He's young. He's ambitious.
He's got less than a week to find the heirs to a $22 million estate.
Now everyone he sees is trying to kill him.
Welcome to the world of Nick Merchant, heir hunter.
Nick Merchant is in the business of finding heirs. As payment, the San Francisco-based private investigator gets a percentage of the estate. So when Gerald Jacobs is found dead in a creaky old house in upstate New York, Nick thinks he's about to score the payday of a lifetime.
Unfortunately, he's got some pretty stiff competition. Working with his partner -- and former girlfriend -- Alex Moreno, Nick races against the clock, narrowly eluding his rivals, dodging bullets, and unearthing a history a lot of people would rather keep buried.
Moving from San Francisco to New York, from Switzerland to Washington, D.C. -- and dozens of points in between -- they struggle to uncover the guilty secret behind a rich man's fortune. But as Nick and Alex close in on the truth, they are about to find out just how deadly this game can get....
An unclaimed $22-million estate is up for grabs in first-time novelist Larsgaard's ingenious thriller. Sexy attorney Alex Moreno-the Albany, N.Y.-based partner to former cop Nick Merchant who now specializes in finding heirs to unsettled estates-slips a county deputy attorney a $10,000 bribe to get a sneak preview of four probate files 10 days before the official release date. One of the files contains the mind-boggling multimillion-dollar legacy of Gerald Jacobs, an 87-year-old Hudson, N.Y., recluse who died with no apparent heirs. Since Nick's customary finder's fee averages about 30%, this represents the proverbial jackpot. Unfortunately, there is absolutely no record of the deceased's life earlier than his final three years at the Hudson address, so leads for Nick and Alex are meager. Unaware of clandestine forces working to quash any probe into the dead man's background, the intrepid heir hunters stage a daylight burglary of Jacobs's residence, but are interrupted by a mysterious intruder who shoots a cop investigating the reported break-in. Accused of attempted murder, Nick follows sketchy clues obtained in the burglary and winds up in Germany, where he finds an old lover of Jacobs and learns that the mysterious retiree was part of the FBI's witness protection program. The plot thickens and the chase picks up speed as Nick investigates in Iowa and Geneva. Grim reminders of the Holocaust and Swiss bankers' collusion with the Nazis--plus a sobering look at federal agencies operating outside the law--are well drawn, as is an artful undercurrent of sexual tension. If one forgives a brief lapse in the middle of the story that gives a bit too much plot away, and sporadic missteps from the fledgling author's earnest tendency to overwrite, this fine debut oozes authenticity and provides a fascinating glimpse into the quixotic and dangerous realm of high-stakes "assets recovery." 20-city satellite tour. (Feb.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Showing 1-1 of the 1 most recent reviews
1 . Another Good Read
Posted May 10, 2010 by kw , LaGrangeWas this ever a good story! Well written plus a unique education on a line of work. I have no idea if this heir hunting is a real line of work, but this story is so believable about business competition that it must be real. Great story with a good mix of believeable characters.
January 08, 2001
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Excerpt from The Heir Hunter by Chris Larsgaard
The pivotal moment of the negotiation had arrived, the point in the dialogue when pen was poised over contract. Nick Merchant studied his latest clients and felt his pulse drum at his temples. They were simple people, probably possessing no learning beyond the ninth grade, if that. They sat across from him -- Emma McClure in her faded floral dress and house slippers, and her son, a greasy, yellow-toothed biker named J.P. They huddled on their worn living room couch looking like two expectant parents. Nick expected their reaction to his forthcoming disclosure to be on a par with being told they held the winning lottery ticket. "Do you have any further questions, Mrs. McClure?" "I can't think of any." Nick leaned over the table and pointed to the blank line that read Client. J.P. looked over his mother's shoulder. "Sign it, Momma." "Quiet, J.P." "He wants you to sign it." "I told you to hush, boy!" she hissed. "Don't you be hanging over me like a vulture when I'm tryin' to think." Nick searched his mental data bank for the few properly placed words that would sway Emma McClure to give her autograph. Twelve thousand dollars hovered like the horseflies buzzing in the stagnant air of the McClure shack. He leaned forward and tried to speak soothingly. "You seem a bit unsure, Mrs. McClure. Is something unclear?" "Well, it's just that . . . well, things like this don't usually happen around here." "I understand," said Nick, with a smile. "I know this all seems a little strange. Do you have a copy of the yellow pages by chance? I'd like to show you something which may reassure you." J.P. rose from the couch at his mother's prompting and returned with the phone book. Nick took it and flipped through it till he came to the heading Private Investigators. "Here we are -- Merchant and Associates. Our firm is a completely legitimate, family-owned business. We've been licensed by the state of California as private investigators for the last twelve years now. Our reputation in the field is excellent. If you'd like to check into us, you can call the local Better Business Bureau. I'm sure they would be happy to tell you all about us. I encourage you to do that if it will ease your mind." "He's bein' honest, Momma," begged J.P., his voice almost frantic. "You pipe down!" she snapped. She turned to Nick. "I don't think I'll be needing to call 'em. I believe I can trust you, Mr. Merchant. You say your family owns this business?" Nick shifted in his chair a bit. He didn't want to lie to the old woman, but he felt it was best to shield her from the complete truth. "My father started the company, ma'am. He retired four years ago." Emma looked over at her son. "I suppose a family-owned business couldn't be all bad, huh, J.P.?" "Sure," replied J.P., happy to agree. Nick nodded earnestly. "Ma'am, I promise you -- there's nothing to be worried about. I wouldn't come into your home and lie to you. I guarantee you'll be very happy once you sign." He directed her gaze to the line requiring her endorsement. Mrs. McClure frowned. Her life had never been complicated by important matters such as this, but Nick Merchant had a boyish, honest face, and even though she hadn't been brave enough to admit to him that she didn't really understand half the things he had explained to her that past half hour, she did feel that she could trust him. She gave J.P. one last uncertain look and, seeing nothing but encouragement on his face, scrawled her signature across the line. She handed Nick the contract and his pen and sighed. Nick glanced over the signature and felt his saliva glands finally start working again. "Thank you, Mrs. McClure, and co