False Profits

( 8 )

Overview

In her stylish and suspenseful "Los Angeles Times" bestselling debut, Smiley introduces a heroine caught up in a roller-coaster adventure, where living by the law of the corporate jungle makes her fair game for a cutthroat killer.
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Overview

In her stylish and suspenseful "Los Angeles Times" bestselling debut, Smiley introduces a heroine caught up in a roller-coaster adventure, where living by the law of the corporate jungle makes her fair game for a cutthroat killer.
Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Paula Woods
Smiley's prose is like butter, and she depicts her major and minor characters with a keen eye for the telling detail (a human resources manager's pageboy haircut is "black and heavy-handed and seemed better suited for someone with a pierced tongue") while the plot hums along like Tucker in her snazzy Porsche Boxster. These elements plus a rich mélange of supporting characters make for an amusing and satisfying read.
— The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
An engaging, down-to-earth heroine-a successful L.A. management consultant with a charming weakness for her Porsche Boxster-more than compensates for a predictable story line in Smiley's first novel. When investors accuse Tucker Sinclair of doctoring a business plan, they approach Sinclair's boss and mentor, Gordon Aames, and demand their $11 million back. Sinclair goes in search of the plan's primary author, a brash neurologist, Milton Polk, and discovers not her elusive doctor but a policeman with a Polaroid of the dead Polk. In an unlikely scenario, Sinclair injects herself into a charity luncheon given by the highly suspicious Wade Covington, a powerful man connected both to Aames and the murder victim. Clarification of Covington's murky relationship to Polk and of a convoluted insurance scam take up most of Sinclair's energy, though she finds time for sparkless visits with her ex-husband and skirmishes with her Aunt Sylvia, who's determined to get her hands on Sinclair's beachfront cottage. A romantic interest appears on the horizon in the last few pages, a clear indicator that this book hopes to be the first in a series. With fresher devices and plot turns, it should be a pleasure to see Sinclair in action again. Agent, Scott Miller at Trident Media Group. (Nov. 22) Forecast: Blurbs from Janet Evanovich and Elizabeth George plus a California author tour should ensure a good start for this first-time author. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Tucker Sinclair must "sharpen all her skills to survive the deadly jungle of spreadsheets" and clear her name in the world of high-stakes business in this debut, which has already been praised by Janet Evanovich and Elizabeth George. Smiley lives in California. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
On the fast track to a corner office, financial analyst Tucker Sinclair finds more than her promotion in jeopardy when her latest client's body washes ashore by the Venice Beach pier. Milton Polk is more than your average Hollywood hotshot. The prominent neurologist had delusions that Aames & Associates would write a business plan to attract $25 million of venture capital for his fledgling NeuroMed Labs. When Tucker recommends a more modest $3 million, investors led by a dentist named Mo Whitener scream for her head because the plan they received did propose a $25 million initial investment, supported by obviously inflated profit estimates. When Tucker tries to show Gordon Aames her original report, she finds the entire NeuroMed file snatched from under the unwary eye of Eugene, her administrative assistant, who shamefacedly admits that he left her files unattended during lunch. A trip to the lab under the suspicious eye of Francine Chalmers, Polk's office manager, raises more questions than it answers. Instead of the missing file, Tucker finds insurance claims for a number of fictitious patients, including herself. She also finds Aames's good friend Wade Covington searching Polk's files. But a summons from the LAPD asking her to ID Polk's corpse kicks Tucker's investigation into high gear as she struggles to save both her job and her shapely butt. Romantic byplay with her ex Eric Bergstrom and sexy Detective Deegan provide Tucker scant distraction from sleuthing: a lively debut.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780446616478
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
  • Publication date: 5/1/2009
  • Series: Tucker Sinclair Ser.
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 1,015,948
  • Product dimensions: 4.25 (w) x 7.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Read an Excerpt

False Profits


By Patricia Smiley

Mysterious Press

Copyright © 2004 Patricia Smiley
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-892-96790-0


Chapter One

i woke up with a twenty-pound dog wrapped around my head like an Easter bonnet. His name is Muldoon, my mothers West Highland white terrier. She bought him used from new parents with an allergic baby, so you can understand why the little guy has abandonment issues that only a shrink could sort out. Unfortunately, he'd decided that sharing my pillow was all the therapy he needed. And who could blame him? Sometimes it seems we spend half our lives finding that pillow, and the other half trying to recover after it's yanked out from under us.

It was mid-November, on a Monday morning, golden with autumn sunlight. Muldoon and my mother were living with me in Zuma Beach, just north of Malibu, in one of the few beach cottages in the area that hadn't been replaced by a starter mansion. I inherited the place from my grandmother. It's not much, just a little brown shoebox on the sand, but I love it unconditionally.

My mother's stay was temporary-just until the owner of her Los Angeles apartment building repaired some old earthquake damage. A week or two. She'd promised. But that was three months earlier, and despite the mother-daughter bonding opportunities, she and Muldoon were feeling less like visitors and more like squatters.

It wasn't that I didn't like company in general, or my mother and Muldoon in particular, but I had my own psyche to worry about. I Wasn't concerned just because, at age thirty, I'd already been divorced for two years. No, I'd managed to downplay the failure of my marriage, because my ex and I were still friendly. It was my career that concerned me more than anything else.

For the past seven years, I'd been working in a downtown Los Angeles firm as a management consultant, a sort of business doctor handling everything from financial facelifts to red-ink bypasses. After what seemed like an eternity, I was finally being considered for a partnership in the firm, competing against two colleagues, both men. It was a make-or-break moment in my career: According to the law of the corporate jungle, the losers were expected to resign or fade into the wallpaper. Aames & Associates had been my first job out of business school, and the most stable thing in my life since my marriage had flatlined. I just wasn't prepared to flunk another of life's little tests. I wanted to stay with the firm as a partner, not as wallpaper.

The problem was, I had less seniority than my two competitors, and I took more risks. That made people nervous. And for at least one voting partner with a festering Napoleon complex, I was, at five feet nine, simply too tall to be a partner. I wasn't a stranger to uncertainty, but the situation at work had left me feeling more vulnerable than at any time in my career. So when I heard Muldoon's stomach gurgling in my ear, it was another solemn reminder that I could still wake up on a warm bed every morning, or, if I wasn't careful, on a burlap sack in the garage.

I was unsympathetic to the leg lifter's demands for more snooze time, because my hair smelled like the Green Room at the Westminster Kennel Club's dog show, and washing it would make me late for work. I rolled out of bed, showered, spritzed some lavender room deodorizer on my head, and put on a borderline prissy white blouse and a navy blue suit because looking corporate was important to my career right now. The skirt exposed a tad too much leg, but at least I'd never been criticized on that front. I completed the outfit with a pair of flat shoes, just for General Bonaparte.

In less than two hours, I was scheduled to meet with my boss, Gordon Aames, founding partner of Aames & Associates, for one last interview before the promotions committee announced its final decision. My performance had to be flawless. I'd overcome a lot of obstacles to get to this crossroads, including a few flaky clients, a streak of stubborn independence, and a neurologist named Dr. Milton Polk.

I'd first heard about a client named Polk in early August, after he sidestepped the customary chain of command at the firm. He'd called Gordon directly, dropped a couple of powerful names, and pushed his project to the head of the line. Polk was passionate about expanding his neurodiagnostic testing center. But expansion plans need more than passion. For starters, Polk needed money, and he wanted someone at Aames & Associates to give him the tools to raise it. He claimed that he'd already developed a group of potential investors through personal contacts and memberships in several medical organizations. Now he needed something in writing to convince them that his ideas were going to make them rich. Fortunately for him, our firm specializes in just that kind of writing.

In reality, the business plan Polk wanted us to research and write Wasn't difficult. It would have made a straightforward project for any ordinary consultant. However, when Polk whispered the names of those powerful people in Gordon Aames's ear, he got himself assigned not to an ordinary consultant but to a senior manager, and that senior manager turned out to be me, Tucker Sinclair.

I don't care much for people like Polk, who throw their weight around, but I'd dealt with individuals like him before. The truth was, not all clients came to us with a clear understanding of business or a grasp of adult behavior. Anyway, I could hardly have said no to Gordon. With a partnership hanging in the balance, there was too much at stake. At the time, Polk seemed like the final barrier in my quest for the Holy Grail.

So naturally, I called him immediately to set up a meeting. Polk suggested we get together for lunch at the Auberge, a restaurant in the trendy section of Melrose Avenue. The place reminded me of the cottage in the Alps where little Heidi idled away the days, yodeling and braiding her hair. I arrived early to make sure we got a good table, and found a gas fire hissing in the fireplace and the air conditioner cranked up to snow. In L.A., faux ambiance is everything, but give me a break-it was August, and that fire-air conditioner combo felt a little too bipolar for me. I asked for, and got us, a table on the patio.

That was a mistake. Midday August sun and a business suit turned out to be a bad combination. It must have been ninety degrees outside, with no trace of a breeze. Even under the table's umbrella, I felt the sun tattooing a new crop of freckles on my face and homing in on my dark hair like a heat-seeking missile. I waited forty-five minutes while an intermittent procession of Lexus convertibles, Range Rovers, and the odd Rolls Royce pulled up to the valet parking sign. Not one of the drivers was Polk.

I was getting ready to leave when a dusty blue Mercedes eased up to the curb. You rarely see a dirty car in L.A., especially an expensive dirty car, so this one caught my eye. I half expected to see a bumper sticker that read, My Other Car Is a Minivan. The chassis lifted visibly as a barrel-chested man somewhere in his fifties rolled out of the driver's seat. He was of medium height, with black hair, graying at the temples, and an impertinent grin on his face. He was wearing a chocolate brown polyester suit, and as he walked up the patio steps past my table, I noticed an unidentified yellow crumb clinging precariously to his matching brown and beige tie. I'm only a rookie in the fashion police, but I suspected that beneath all that polyester lurked a short-sleeved shirt. After a brief conversation with the maitre d', the guy strolled over to my table and sat down. For a brief moment he looked at me as if I were a tall, cold mug of beer.

"So," he said, drawing out the word. "You're Gordon's girl wonder."

I focused on the small crescent-shaped scar on his chin to keep myself from telling him that I might have been Gordon's girl wonder forty-five minutes ago, but after sitting in ninety- degree heat for the better part of an hour, I felt more like a moist towelette. Instead, I smiled and extended my hand. "Good to meet you, Dr. Polk."

"So, shall we get this show on the road?" Polk tried to get the waiter's attention by sweeping his arm back and forth like a windshield wiper, exposing a couple of snags on the arm of his jacket. I was actually enjoying the breeze he'd created until our waiter arrived with two menus and a stony smile. We ordered lunch. I had a salad, while Polk picked at but never finished an entree and several side dishes that looked like enough potluck for the entire nation of Namibia.

From the moment Polk sat down until well after the dishes had been cleared away, he regaled me with ideas for his business. I gathered from what he said, but mostly from what he didn't say, that he was in the process of frittering away his Sherman Oaks neurology practice through neglect. His passion for day-to-day patient care had shifted to a passion for expanding NeuroMed Diagnostic Center, a testing facility he'd opened the year before, where noninvasive tests were administered to patients with disorders of the brain, such as tumors, epilepsy, and learning disabilities.

Polk had a small administrative staff plus five technicians, but he wanted more. He loudly proclaimed high tech as the key to unlocking the secrets of neurological disorders. He seemed to feel he could conquer the world if only he had more floor space, more state-of-the-art equipment, and more centers all across the country, maybe across the world. It wouldn't have surprised me if he planned to go galactic.

I'd done some PubMed research before our meeting, but I hadn't run across any articles about the ultrahigh-tech testing equipment he was talking about. That made me nervous. Still, his ideas seemed coherent. And one or two of his claims sounded interesting.

Even after lunch, he continued drinking endless cups of coffee and droning on about brain stem auditory-evoked response and brain electrical activity mapping until I almost felt a tumor sprouting on my own frontal lobe.

"That all sounds very exotic," I said. "I'm envisioning some guy with a personal computer in Lard Lake, North Dakota, running a wand over his head while Internet software reads his brain and beams the diagnosis back to your office in L.A."

Polk stopped sipping his coffee and blankly stared at me. I wasn't sure if the sudden trickle of perspiration I felt running down my chest was from heat or panic. The last thing I wanted was for him to think I was poking fun at his ideas. It surprised me when he let out a wheezy chuckle that reached all the way to his eyes. For the first time, I noticed that they were brown, like mine. My grandpa Felder had always told me that my eyes were the color of Old Grand-Dad Kentucky bourbon. Polk's were darker, like Kahlua.

"That's good," he said. "At least Aames didn't stick me with some putz, did he?"

It was getting late, and I had to get back to the office, so I maneuvered the conversation around to the business plan. I told him it would basically be a sales pitch to investors, backed up by solid research and financial and statistical analyses aimed at convincing them to invest their money with him and not somebody else. The plan, I told him, was the key to raising the funds he needed, so it had to be convincing and it had to be credible, and for that I'd need his full cooperation.

"I've done some preliminary demographic research on NeuroMed's current location," I said. "The good news is that the potential patient population has grown by twenty-seven percent in the past five years. The bad news is that in the next three to six months, two major employers in the area are moving operations out of the state, which means unemployment, loss of health insurance, and a likely decrease in population. That will hurt you, even if the trend doesn't continue. I'll do similar studies on Newport Beach as well as the other locations you plan to open."

He frowned. "Hey, you're running up my tab with numbers that don't mean diddly-squat. You're guessing."

"Maybe so, Dr. Polk, but its educated guessing."

Business plans aren't very sexy for most people, and talking about statistics frequently makes a client's eyes roll up into the back of his head. With Polk, that discussion seemed to irritate rather than confuse him. I could tell by his fidgeting that he preferred to dwell in the abstract rather than the concrete. In my experience, that was generally not a good sign.

"I'll also need profiles of all your key management people," I told him.

"What for?"

What for? Either he was naive, or he hadn't listened very carefully to my pitch about cooperation. "Because investors want to know who they're dealing with," I said.

"My investors already know who they're dealing with. Listen, I'll tell you what I told them: I'm going to make them millionaires, Tuck. Can I call you Tuck?" He didn't wait for an answer. "When I get this equipment, patients will be clawing at my door."

As hard as it was to smile sweetly with my teeth clenched, I managed it. "I hope that's true, but we have to show them that your people have the depth of experience to handle everything, including rapid growth."

He motioned impatiently to the busboy for more coffee. "Okay, okay. What else?"

"As for your major competitors-"

He interrupted, clearly upset. "Let me educate you about something. Neurology as a specialty is a dead end. Everybody is coming out of the woodwork, horning in on our patients- chiropractors, massage therapists, you name it. Diagnostic testing is where the future is. That's where the money is, too. Like I said before, I'm going to get rich from it, and I plan to take a lot of people there with me. As for competitors, I don't have any. That's why I want to move on this now."

I barely kept the frustration from my voice. "Maybe you don't have competitors now, but you will. And as you well know, Dr. Polk, everyone in the health care industry is your rival for patient dollars."

His eyes were hyperalert, juiced up by caffeine and nervous tension, and his breathing was getting louder and faster. Maybe I was hitting him with too much too soon.

"Look," I went on, "why don't I outline a few issues for you to think about? Meanwhile, I'll do some further research, and then you and I can meet again in a week or so."

"I don't need a damn thesis. I need a marketing tool. Forget the research. I'll tell you what to write."

"It doesn't work that way, Dr. Polk."

"It works the way I want it to work."

My jaw muscles tensed. "You're not listening to me. Aames and Associates is respected in the industry because-"

"Jesus, how long have you been in this business?"

I had a creepy feeling that the question was rhetorical, but I answered anyway. "Seven years."

"Then you should know what the hell you're doing. I don't want outlines and issues. I want results."

"You'll get results, Dr. Polk, but I can't make this stuff up. I told you the research has to be credible. That takes time."

His eyes narrowed. "I've got news for you: I own you and your time."

Continues...


Excerpted from False Profits by Patricia Smiley Copyright © 2004 by Patricia Smiley. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 8 )
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Sort by: Showing 1 – 9 of 8 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 11, 2010

    Buy this in paperback for less

    Patricia Smiley is a good writer and the series is definately readable especially if you are into a nice beach read. I bought this one for Nook for about $10 which is too much money for a $7 read.

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  • Posted February 20, 2010

    Surprisingly enjoyable

    Smiley develops interesting characters within a believable plot.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 10, 2005

    Insurance Fraud Mystery

    Great character developed in Tucker Sinclair, an irreverent 30-year old financial consultant, recently divorced, she's reluctantly sharing her living quarters with her eccentric actress mother and is in danger of losing her beloved beach house to an aunt contesting Tucker's inheritance. Tucker must play detective after a prickly client turns up dead and clear her name of charges that she bilked investors and possibly murdered. Tucker is the kind of feisty heroine that is needed in more mysteries today.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 15, 2004

    Excellent amateur sleuth!

    <P> For seven years, 30-year-old divorcee Tucker Sinclair has worked for the financial advising firm Aames & Associates as a management consultant and is now being considered for a partnership. However, her risk taking methods make others within the firm somewhat nervous. Though since completing her work with Dr. Polk, a neurosurgeon, who was in need of capital expansion, Tucker feels confident she¿ll get it. <P> That is until the Doctor turns up missing, money can¿t be accounted for and the firm is being sued for 11 million dollars! <P> To make matters worse ¿ her original files, which prove the claim is incorrect, are missing, and her Aunt Sylvia who has conveniently moved in with her dog suddenly claims the Malibu beach cottage that Tucker¿s grandmother left to Tucker in her will, is hers! What Aunt Sylvia doesn¿t reveal is that the land the cottage sits on is worth about 2 million. <P> Faced by a wall of secrecy, Tucker has too many unanswered questions, leaving her with no choice but to investigate the crime or face criminal charges of fraud and embezzlement. She has one week in which to clear her name, identifying Polk¿s accomplice and the person who helped alter her business plan, while Mo Whitner threatens to turn her into the FBI, which could probably turn up an insurance scam as well. <P> Tucker isn¿t going to waste a second, and finds herself investigating the crime-desperately hunting for clues. Her amateur sleuth skills lead to a number of high-level individuals, as well as her ex-husband, Eric, her own staff, the doctor¿s insane receptionist, and confrontation with autopsy photos. <P> False Profits is not only the author¿s debut novel, but is well written, fast paced and fresh. The result is a book you have difficulty leaving once you begin its reading. Sinclair Tucker, the fiery heroine would make Jessica Fletcher proud! Patricia Smiley is a talented author, and certainly one to keep an eye on - in a sequel perhaps? <P> Reviewed by Betsie

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    fine amateur sleuth

    Her mother and her dog Muldoon live with financial planner Tucker Sinclair in her beach cottage in Los Angeles. Tucker expects to make partner in the firm Aames & Associates especially in light of her recently completed grueling work with Dr. Milton Polk, who needed capital to expand NeuroMed, a testing facility using cutting edge techniques. She expects this campaign to be very successful as was her previous assignment.--- When she enters the office of Gordon Aames, Tucker expects accolades and an offer, but instead is told that a NeuroMed investor is going to sue the firm as part of a class action suit for eleven million dollars. It is obvious that Polk copied and changed the prospectus and report, but Tucker cannot find the original. Not long afterward, Polk¿s body is found in the bay, an apparent suicide. Tucker believes her client was murdered; when one of her contacts is killed next, she realizes she must find the missing report before she joins the growing obituary list.--- The heroine of FALSE PROFIT not only does not want to be a sleuth, but feels uncomfortable in that role as her expertise is finance investigations. However, she also knows she has little choice, but to find the missing report or face FBI charges of fraud and embezzlement, which would mean jail time as conviction would be a certainty (at least in her analytical mind). Thus, this cleverly plotted debut amateur sleuth filled with quirky characters makes believers that a desperate Tucker would reluctantly search for the proof of her innocence as opposed to hiring a pro; this leads to readers admiring her spunk, determination, and will want more tales starring Tucker.--- Harriet Klausner

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 22, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 1, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted November 7, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted September 26, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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