Pity the Sinner

Mark Daniel, Author
Mark Daniel, Author St. Martin's Press $22.95 (0p) ISBN 978-0-312-14027-4
Hardcover - 471 pages - 978-0-7505-0728-8
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Daniel (Sleek Bodies) doesn't give us the classic good man gone bad. Instead, he serves a slightly bad man gone a hell of a lot worse who tends to indulge in self-pity. Narrating Neil Munrow is a jockey nearing the end of a decent career in England. Not especially moral, he's been known to throw the odd race. Now he's strapped for cash as Katya, his piranha of an estranged wife, is trying to make off with his daughter and all his worldly assets. Naturally, Neil is suspicious when a solid chunk of money appears in his checking account. He wisely doesn't dip into it, but alas, Katya has no such qualms. Then Quinn, a nasty character operating on the shady margins of the racing circuit, applies the squeeze, and Neil, fearing for his child, starts to do his master's bidding. He throws races and, worse, throws colleagues from their mounts. The dialogue is lushly overblown, but often enjoyably so, as Daniel gives voice to a range of wicked or petty schemers. Narrative problems occur close to the end, as Quinn is revealed as less bad than we first guess and Katya proves to be much worse. Whether this exonerates Neil is doubtful. It's hard to like a guy who willingly breaks all the bones of a good friend. Sinners seldom prosper in mystery novels, but once in a while they appear to muddle through. (Apr.)
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