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FIRE HORSE by Bill Shoemaker

FIRE HORSE

By Bill Shoemaker

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-449-90596-9
Publisher: Ballantine

 Just follow my girlfriend and find out what she's up to, Johnny Rousseau tells his partner, ex-jockey Coley Killebrew (Stalking Horse, 1994); and in no time at all, Coley's up to his neck in murder, fraud, and (of course) horseflesh. Coley's not anxious to mess with the bratty daughter of popular conservative talk-show pundit Wilton Dresner, but Johnny makes him an offer he can't refuse: full title to the Horse's Neck, the restaurant they own together. So Coley settles into watching Paula Dresner from the rear of the pack, and she wastes no time in leading him to dead photographer Jerry Woo, a soon-to- be-dead jockey, two pairs of murderous thugs, and a far-flung plot to inflate the value of racehorses and then kill them (by fire, electrocution, lethal injection) for the insurance. By the time Coley can report all this back to Johnny, though, his partner's been arrested for killing Wilton Dresner hours after the obligatory high-profile quarrel. Their deal's done, Johnny insists chivalrously, but it isn't, partly because Coley's not ready to walk away from a murder plot just because the victims are equine, partly because the killers aren't about to let him walk away either. So a tale that started like Vertigo and segued into Ross Macdonald--say, The Barbarous Coast--comes down the stretch looking like The Big Sleep. Shoemaker continues to show a broader streak of fun than Dick Francis, and a more pronounced taste for intrigue--Coley spends more time bound and gagged than the Hardy Boys, and his story is plotted within an inch of its life (and we haven't even mentioned the bunco artists yet, or the philosophical bodyguard, or the dysfunctional family romance that sets the story in motion). Shoemaker's still tossing off plot twists like thrown horseshoes when the printers take the type away on the last page.