FAMILY MONEY – A Novel by Chad Zunker

Money Talks. And It Also Kills.

In his newest thriller, FAMILY MONEY (Thomas & Mercer, 03/01/2022), author Chad Zunker takes inspiration from his own family to spin a tale of domestic suspense, prompting the question, “How well do you really know the ones you love?”

The Plot:

Alex Mahan is a successful businessman, a husband, and the father of two little girls. His father-in-law, Joe Dobson, has been a surrogate father to him since his own dad died when Alex was in high school.

Joe has always been the patriarch of the family. He gave Alex capital to start his flourishing software business, has always given Alex emotional support, and he adores his granddaughters. That’s why the facts surrounding Joe’s abduction are so strange.

The Mahan and Dobson families live in Austin, Texas, and plan a trip to Matamoros, Mexico, to help repair the Casa de Esperanza orphanage nearby. They realize Mexico can be dangerous but take all the necessary precautions, even staying in Brownsville, Texas — just over the border — and driving into Mexico every day. But that wasn’t the case.

During a trip to the market, Alex sees three Mexican men grab Joe, throw him inside a van, and drive away. As shocking as the kidnapping is, the thing that perplexes Alex was Joe mouthing the words “I’m sorry” as they dragged him away. If Alex didn’t know better, it seemed Joe almost expected the abduction.

The next day, the Matamoros police locate the burned-out van, along with a body inside. The only things that didn’t burn were a belt buckle and a ring. Both belonged to Joe.

It appears Joe’s kidnapping and death are just a tragic twist of misfortune, a product of the inherent danger while travelling in Mexico. But when someone named Greta sends a cryptic text to Joe’s phone — “Call me ASAP. I think we’ve been found out” — Alex isn’t so sure it was an accident. He’s compelled to find out what is going on.

As Alex investigates and pieces the clues together, he discovers a 35-year-old murder and Joe’s secret life that none of the family knows about; secrets that put the Mahan family in danger. Can Alex uncover the truth before someone else dies?

The Vibe:

Readers travel with Alex at high velocity from one clue to the next. One bit of information leads to another, then leads to another, taking Alex to multiple cities in Texas and then to Washington DC.

Although not a legal thriller, Zunker’s work is reminiscent of the fast-paced plots of Grisham, with a Texas flair.

The Art of Storytelling:

Alex is just an ordinary guy who’s stumbled into a crazy web of drug cartels and buried secrets, doing his best to uncover the truth with minimal investigative skills. After all, he owns a software company, not a detective agency. But Zunker convinces us that Alex’s thought processes make sense, and his resolve to uncover the mystery is the force that propels him to continue, regardless of his lack of fact-finding qualifications. Alex knows he’s not equipped to investigate a murder, but his willpower to uncover the truth convinces us it is the only option.

The Author:

Chad Zunker is a writer and entrepreneur living in Austin, Texas. He’s also an advocate for the Austin-based non-profit Mobile Loaves and Fishes, an organization that works with the homeless and has sponsored development of Community First! Village, a community of housing for the homeless.

FAMILY MONEY is his first standalone novel, a riveting addition to his David Adams and his Sam Callahan series.

What I Liked Best:

I loved the fast-paced narrative. Readers can trace the connections between one clue to the next, from one character to another. We can almost feel the synapses in Alex’s mind firing, connecting the dots. And of course, as a Texan myself, I love that FAMILY MONEY, and Zunker’s other novels, all happen in Texas.


Readers who love tales of an average guy doing above-average things will love this lightning-fast, I-have-to-know-what-happened thriller.