The Bold Thing

Mark Daniel, Author
Mark Daniel, Author Little Brown and Company $19.95 (279p) ISBN 978-0-316-17266-0
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This atmospheric mystery outdoes even the Dick Francis tales in its density of horse lore, but it fails to keep up a page-turning pace. Daniel ( The Devil to Pay ) slowly and cryptically reveals the events that have led to-the-manor-born Micky Brennan to his lowly position as a horse trainer at a farm in rural Ireland. There the owner's best asset, the breeding prowess of Sansovino, is endangered by blackmailers who may or may not have a political agenda. In the same way that his dad squandered his fortune, Micky has tossed his life away in a bad marriage, illegal substances and finally a prison term for vehicular manslaughter. Released, he tries selling animal feed supplements but is mainly cold-shouldered by old pals. Then he links up with the American woman who owns the old Brennan estate. Micky knows horses, he knows the land and he needs a job. He can't walk away when his boss determines to stand up to the blackmailers, who present the test of will that Micky must pass if he is to have any chance of redemption. Much fine crime fiction has recently been exported from Ireland, including John Brady's All Souls and Thomas Adcock's hallucinatory Drown All the Dogs . Daniel's characters are equally colorful, and his language suitably evocative. But his tale falls short of suspense, his moral imperatives are crudely hammered into place, and the crime itself seems curiously underpowered. (Mar.)
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