An also-ran about an innocent horse-barn builder wrongly jailed.
Ben Hemmings never saw it coming, the frame that stuck him with three years hard after going down. Difficult to blame him. John Jay Forchet, wheeler-dealer, gambler, Ben’s boyhood chum, wanted a barn built for his racehorses, so he hired Ben. What’s wrong with that? Building horse-barns, after all, was Ben’s business. The money he took from Forchet to start the project was drug tainted? How was Ben to know? Is it really customary for businessmen to require customers to detail their sources of income? Ben should have done exactly that, FBI Special Agent Don Partone, insists, and the next thing Ben knows he’s a convicted money-launderer. But of course there’s more to this than meets the eye. Partone’s plan is to use Ben to get next to several very bad people, a few of whom—no surprise here—turn out to be his prison-mates. Fat Reggie Shore, for instance, the spiderlike rackets boss who’s made a web out of the Federal Correction Institution where Ben is serving time, is one of Partone’s prime targets. Help him against Shore, Partone tells Ben, and go free. Refuse, and remain parted from beloved wife and kids for another ten years. To Ben, the choice is no choice. But soon enough he finds that helping Partone will pit him against some of the most powerful people in Atlanta’s horsey-set, and that in their velvet-glove fashion they can crush a man as easily as fat Reggie can. Or as Partone can, for that matter.
In his third time out (The Gravity of Shadows, 1998, etc.), Ramus is still getting it mostly wrong. His plotting is predictable, his writing pedestrian, his people the stuff of pulp fiction.