cover image BLIND SWITCH


John McEvoy, . . Poisoned Pen, $24.95 (278pp) ISBN 978-1-59058-095-0

This accomplished first novel set in the world of horse racing is bound to be compared to the novels of Dick Francis, though McEvoy may be a little broader and perhaps sunnier than Francis. Unemployed ad man Jack Doyle—so appealing he might be described as freewheeling instead of plain old irresponsible—decides to help gym acquaintance Moe Kellman, a tiny man with a Don King explosion of hair, fix a horse race. He finds the assignment interesting, though he's distinctly uncomfortable with its illegal nature. After the race, Doyle is not only relieved of his payoff by two erstwhile pals, but the FBI swoops in and threatens to prosecute him if he doesn't help them with another crime involving race horses. Doyle agrees, and is given a job on the estate of the evil Harvey Rexroth. Rexroth's eccentricities, insisting that a babe perpetually rollerblade on a track around his pool area, for example, are amusing if a little strained. Rexroth's farm manager, a good-hearted New Zealander, suspects that his boss is having horses killed—in ingenious ways that look like natural deaths—for insurance money. The denouement wobbles toward an ending that could have been stronger, but a mesmerizing, all-too-human protagonist, a playful tone and exceptionally lively language more than make up for any flaws. (July 15)

Forecast: As the former Midwest editor and senior correspondent for Daily Racing Form (and author of five nonfiction books on thoroughbred racing), McEvoy is in a good position to promote this book, starting with a signing at the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.