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Book Review

coverShedrow
By Dean M. DeLuke
Grey Swan Press, August 2010, 256 pages hardcover

Horse racing and organized crime have been connected throughout history, as is expected for any sport on which the results are used for gambling purposes. With this in mind, the sport lends itself well to mystery writing, used by the late Dick Francis as an author after retiring as a steeplechase jockey. In his first work of fiction, New York racehorse owner, surgeon, and marketing consultant Dean DeLuke follows in the footsteps of Dick Francis with Shedrow, putting to use his knowledge of medicine and the racing industry to create this story about how an innocent racehorse owner unwittingly found himself with the wrong crowd and had to save himself, his family, and his horse.

More than any other sport, horse racing brings together people from all walks of life towards a common goal, winning, at the betting windows, the winner's circle, or the breeding shed. The main character, Anthony Gianni, is a plastic surgeon from New York who gets involved in horse ownership through a partnership. The star horse in the stable, Chiefly Endeavour, shows signs that he might be Triple Crown material, which led to another investor buying out many of the partners, however Gianni refused to sell his share, preferring to retain it in hopes of visiting the Churchill Downs winner's circle. That decision proved to be a painful one, literally and figuratively, as the new majority owner, Chester Pawlak, has mob connections and owes the boss a large debt, intending to kill the horse to use the insurance money to cover the loan. Along with mob figures and medical personnel, DeLuke includes veterinary specialists, Kentucky rural folk, high society, and the racing elite, all of which tangle a web of connections that doesn't begin to unravel until the later stages of the book, as you would expect from a well-written mystery novel.

DeLuke not only brings in many interesting characters into the mix, he moves the story around to various locales. The NYRA circuit of Belmont, Saratoga, and Aqueduct as prominent, with some scenes taking place at Keeneland and Gulfstream Park (where the characters complain about how owner Frank Stronach demolished the original facility and rebuilt it), as well as darkened alleyways in Newark, a garbage dump in eastern Kentucky, the posh 21 Club and Gallagher's Steakhouse in Manhattan, and the Caribbean island of Saint Lucia. Dick Francis liked to use medical terminology in his mysteries, but DeLuke takes this to a new level, as a practicing surgeon describing accurately and in vivid detail what he would see during a typical shift at the hospital.

Shedrow is a fast-paced story which should satisfy Dick Francis fans looking for a made-in-America horse racing mystery. Even those who do not follow horse racing are quickly shown the ropes of the sport by DeLuke, who started with horses working on his father's farm in upstate New York and then years later, joining Dogwood Stable. Racing fans will enjoy the great accuracy used by the author to describe life at a stallion farm, the contrast in atmospheres between various racetracks, and the thrill of victory as shared by owners and bettors alike.

Thoroughbred Breeding has a list price of $28.95 and can be purchased from Amazon.com for $18.62.

Rating:     3.5/5

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